Apropos of nothing: the Problem of Susan
Have I already blogged this, or mentioned it somewhere in the blogosphere? Probably. But anyway, I was just looking at old email, and recalled this fan video of Susan Pevensie in "The Last Battle" (played by an unsuspecting Liv Tyler) reacting to being told of the deaths of her siblings.
It's a piece of folk art -- that's what fan art is, you know -- which surpasses the commercial art it uses as its materials, taking the well-acted, but deeply reactionary and triumphalist scenes from the Narnia movies -- bowing to the lion, gleefully occupying one's new throne -- and putting them into a fresh and heartbreaking context, turning them, message-wise, on their heads.
(I also really liked Gaiman's story "The Problem of Susan".)
What I'm bitter about, you know, about the whole Susan thing, is not the Act of God that renders her a brotherless, sisterless, abandoned orphan, nor even the pretense that this is a Righteous Thing. I'm comfortable with divine brutality -- the Bible, after all, is full of God doing things which are unforgivably appalling if judged by human standards, and this seems if anything to me to be a strength of the text. The world is in fact full of horrors, after all, and therefore a Sunday-school Bible Stories redaction in which God doesn't go around doing awful things, simply severs the connection of the text to the world -- or ramps down its monotheism. If you are going to attempt monotheism at all, you are going to have to come up with some theodicy in which your God is the source of at least apparent evil.
Thus God, or Aslan, smashing the trains up and leaving Susan all alone, is entirely in character. I can imagine Lewis's thought being, that Susan requires this tragedy in order to learn what she needs to learn, and thus that from a God's-eye view it's part of the necessary pattern of her life.
What won't fly, though, is her siblings' dismissive reactions, their lack of anguish at her plight, their writing her off. They are human, and to be judged by human standards. They don't let the loss of their sister ruin their party in paradise, they don't rebel against it. When I first read that (I must have been not much older than Aviva is now) they lost any claim on my affections.
(Did you know there are no Google hits for the phrase "triumphalist theodicy"? Or not before now, anyway. Welcome, future readers who arrive searching for that phrase!)