I mentioned in my last post that I really want to write about Susan and explain her place in Lewis’s view of gender. I’ve realized that not only do I need to cover all the Pevensie kids to do that, but I should also take a look at the big picture of Lewis’s ideas of gender as represented in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So here goes!
As soon as I realized that cold and winter are associated with Mars and masculinity, it struck me that the White Witch, who is feminine, is imposing eternal winter, masculine, on Narnia. That is, for Lewis, an oxymoron. Real femininity is connected to spring, warmth, plenty, water. So the idea that a female being would bring winter shows us that something is off kilter – things are not as they should be. In addition, at the first appearance of the witch, she is described in masculine terms. ‘Her face was white—not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing-sugar, except for her very red mouth. It was a beautiful face in other respects, but proud and cold and stern.’ Her face is ‘white like snow’, ‘cold and stern’, and her mouth is ‘very red’. All those are characteristics associated with Mars, not Venus. So I think that Jadis is attempting to suppress her femininity in favor of imposing a kind of negative masculine domination – tyranny – over a country which is not under her authority by right.
And she succeeds. Tumnus and his house are described in non-feminine terms – it is made of reddish stone, as his face and scarf are red. There are chairs and a fire and a teapot, but none of them are described as warm or soft. While lulling Lucy to sleep, he describes a summer scene, dancing and plenty – feminine. But they are merely longed for, not present. Real femininity arrives with Tumnus’s sorrow for his sin – he weeps. And there are 6 words associated with water in two paragraphs. Tears, trickling and running and wet and making a damp patch. Lucy brings a tiny bit of femininity into this oppressively masculine world. And shortly after this, Tumnus chooses masculine protectiveness of Lucy, even believing that he’ll be captured and turned to stone. Tumnus has learned masculinity from Lucy’s femininity.
The Beaver’s house is a lovely example of my understanding that places of great growth have masculine and feminine components. The Beaver’s house is a mound or hill rising out of water – frozen water, but it’s green ice, described with words related to moving water, indicating femininity (spurting, trickling, water, wavy). It’s also made clear that there is water under the ice when Mr. Beaver and Peter go fishing. The house itself is made of wood, and the interior, like Tumnus’ house, is described without feminine warmth or softness – like having bunks rather than beds – in spite of being inhabited by Mrs. Beaver. As the fixed land on Perelandra, Meldilorn on Malacandra, and the garden in The Magician’s Nephew, places of great growth exhibit masculinity surrounded by femininity. And Mr. and Mrs. Beaver together tell the children about Aslan and the prophecies. The children’s growth is facilitated by masculine and feminine beings, in a masculine place surrounded by feminine water.
I’m still working through the specifics. I think that’s enough indication that Lewis was working this masculine and feminine imagery into the novel, so I’ll go ahead and get back to the big picture. There are four thrones at Cair Paravel, intended for two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve. I think Michael Ward is right when he writes in Planet Narnia that the book is about Jupiter, or Jove. But what Jupiter does at his coming is to restore the balance between masculinity and femininity that has been upset by the White Witch.
I’ll just go ahead and acknowledge here, too, that Michael Ward connects cold to Saturn rather than to Mars. I think Lewis associated cold with both Mars and Saturn, as cold things are often mentioned when he’s talking about both. The best reason for this I can think of is that both are traditionally planets with unfortunate influences. Mars is Infortuna Minor and Saturn is Infortuna Major. In The Discarded Image, Lewis makes it clear that he doesn’t think these planets are unfortunate in themselves, but their influence on a fallen world can be unfortunate due to the nature of the world that receives it. In the same way, cold and winter are beneficial in their place, but they can be unfortunate indeed when taken to extremes or when unrelieved by the appearance of spring.
Given this understanding, it would appear that the White Witch in Narnia is trying to impose an unfortunate influence of masculinity – unrelieved cold, without even the warmth brought by Christmas. The coming of Jupiter doesn’t do away with winter entirely, but rather restores the balance between the seasons by bringing the long overdue spring. Spring will be followed by summer and fall and then winter, in its proper time and place. Jupiter is the king, ruler of Mars and Venus, who ensures that ‘while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’
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