Aslan Did Not Say That (Lewis misquoted again)

[UPDATE below]

Literary Lewisians – that is, those who view his written texts and his recorded readings as the only things that qualify as Lewis quotes (as opposed to cinematic adapted one-liners and outlandish self-empowering slogans) – likely expend too much energy seething about the ever-growing corpus of non-Lewis quotes cluttering (even polluting) the digital universe.

I do, anyway.

And perhaps I should stop caring. Or stop blathering about it. Or stop calling it out.

But I think it matters immensely, far beyond anything that has to do with being a devoted Lewisian, medievalist, literarian, or would-be-Narnian. (For these reasons and these. Also these and these. And so many more.)

This is not merely about misquotes. It’s about being thoughtful, careful, precise, clear. Truthful, even.

But I am once again disheartened and confounded by the most recent misquote because it is in printin a bookabout Lewisthat perhaps many people will read, and so there’s very little chance of retracting this particular absolutely-not-a-quote (just like there is very little chance of properly recovering the correct order of the Chronicles of Narnia, yet another reason literary Lewisians gnash their teeth).

The newly released book Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis (by Patti Callahan; Thomas Nelson, 2018) ushers readers into Part I with this page:

Anyone who has read Lewis will recognize this “quote” of Aslan’s as not possibly having been written by Lewis, ever. It drips with modern self-actualization that appears nowhere in Lewis’s writings (who was thoroughly unmodern and utterly I-am-lost-without-my-Lord).

I suppose the cinematic-adapted CGI-leo might have uttered these words. But if so, the above quote should indicate such by 1) deleting C. S. Lewis as the intimated author and 2) clearly noting the cinematic-adapted-and-ravaged version as the actual source.

That seems only fair. And accurate. And clear. And precise. And factual.

I assume this “quote” comes from the cinematic-adapted scene wherein the Dawn Treader (“such a very Narnian ship”) enters the Darkness – a very real and very terrifying place of evil. A place wherein Aslan would never advise someone to defeat the darkness in oneself (which isn’t to say he denied inner darkness, or didn’t think it should be defeated). Those who know Aslan (and his earthly incarnated human-divine reality but please remember the Chronicles ARE NOT ALLEGORIES) know that when any of his children find themselves in the midst of evil danger – quivering hands, overwhelming despair, paralyzing fear – if that child has only enough strength to whisper, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now,” – well, even if that child would forget to say please or pretty please or by your mane – Aslan would never respond with: “Well, hmmm, okay. But first you must defeat the darkness in yourself.”

Never. Absolutely and unequivocally never.

Instead, after pleading hopeful words in the midst of palpable despair, something would begin to change inside the child, and inside all the other children on whose behalf she also whispered.

First, a tiny speck of light would appear up ahead.

And then a broad beam of light would fall upon the ship, even while it was still surrounded by darkness.

And then along the beam, the children (some young, some grown) would see what looked like a cross, then like an aeroplane, and then like a kite before finally arriving in a whirling rush of wings. It would be an albatross. It would circle around the mast three times before perching for just an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. And then it would spread its wings, rise, and begin to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little starboard, leading the whole shipload of children folk out into the warm and welcoming sunshine.

And the one who’d whispered for help back in the evil dark – rather than being chided for not first defeating her own inner darkness (blather) – would have heard these words from Aslan-as-albatross while still in the darkness:

 Courage, dear heart.

And as she heard the voice, she would also have felt a delicious smell breathe in her face – the breath of love, the breath of joy, the breath of presence, the breath of spirit, the breath of undeserved rescue.

And when finally out of the darkness, without knowing exactly when or how it happened, everyone would realize there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.

That is what Aslan would have done and said – because that is what he did and said in Chapter 12 of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

So, yes – misquotes matter.

Because though both Aslan and our Lord are in the business of forming humility and love and grace in their children while also helping them die-to-self each and every day, neither Aslan nor our Lord are in the business of self-help nonsense-babble that only leads to disappointment, despair, and emptiness. (And maybe also poisonous self-inflation.)

Words matter. Because behind the words are ideas, meaning, stories, and truth. At least that’s the hope.

[UPDATE: 9 Oct 2018]

Turns out this is not just a misquote: it is a misattribution of a misquote. Aslan-of-the-screen did not say these words. Rather, Coriakin-of-the-screen did, per the Confirming C. S. Lewis Quotes page (CCSLQ) of the meticulously researched Essential C. S. Lewis site. I highly recommend it.

I don’t know if this makes things any better. Or worse. To misattribute a misquote is two too many missteps. To misattribute to a false Aslan something said by a false Coriakin is beyond reckoning. It’s Dufflepud-ish, if you will. It’s as difficult to imagine Coriakin saying these things as it is to imagine Aslan saying them.

Coriakin is, by his own estimation, the least of Aslan’s magicians. He oversees the Duffers, who would drive anyone mad. But he never once lays on them platitudes about overcoming inner darkness, pride, or stupidity. Nor does he presume to deliver supposed Aslan-esque platitudes to them regarding their petty and outlandish stubbornness, not even to the Chief Duffer, who would drive anyone sky-high-batty after just five minutes. Coriakin’s ethos and discourse runs more like this:

Lucy followed the great Lion out into the passage and at once she saw coming towards them an old man, barefoot, dressed in a red robe. His white hair was crowned with a chaplet of oak leaves, his beard fell to his girdle, and he supported himself with a curiously carved staff. When he saw Aslan he bowed low and said,

“Welcome, Sir, to the least of your houses.”

“Do  you grow weary, Coriakin, of ruling such foolish subjects as I have given you here?”

“No,” said the Magician, “they are very stupid but there is no real harm in them. I begin to grow rather fond of the creatures. Sometimes, perhaps I am a little impatient, waiting for the day when they can be governed by wisdom instead of this rough magic.”

“All in good time, Coriakin,” said Aslan.

“Yes, all in very good time, Sir,” was the answer. (Chapter 11, VDT)

Actual-Lewis’s actual-Coriakin is surely not someone who would blather about defeating inner darkness in order to defeat outer darkness. He knew better. Much better. The Chief Duffer, on the other hand…

 

New Old Things from C. S. Lewis

[Note: When a writer steps away from writing, for whatever reason (and there are usually several, and at least some of the several are usually very real and true), it is hard to step back into it for the simple reason that writing is work. Hard work. Fly-in-the-ointment work. Day-in-day-out-nose-to-the-grindstone work. No matter how much it is embedded in one’s blood, bones, heart and breath. But: it is good work. Glorious work. Real work. Meaningful work. True work. And so writers – if they step away, when they step back – must always step back into the work again. Because they can’t not. Because they must. It’s just a matter of when. Today, for example…]

It’s a big year for Lewisians across the world.

Today a new-found old letter hits the auction block. I read about it here first, on a delightful blog I discovered during my stepped-away-from-writing season.

The letter is delightful for several reasons.

  • It’s addressed to “My Dear Grittletonians.” We should all live in a world of such places and people.
  • You can see where Lewis’s fountain pen ran low on ink.
  • He capitalizes Sea Serpent and Dragon, indicating their true is-ness.
  • He specifically refers to three completed and four upcoming books as a unified series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • He writes about some of his favorite books, all of which would be found in the children’s section of a library, but which for him were never categorized by age.
  • He adds a P.S about more favorite books, because that kind of list has no end.
  • He talks about what he did when he was a boy, as though it were a vivid and recent memory.
  • He writes to children as though they are full-fledged human beings, i.e. he takes them seriously.
  • He crosses out a mistake in his writing.
  • And – perhaps most wondrously gratifying of all to those of us Lewisians who are book-order purists – he makes it unequivocally clear that the sixth book that “will go right back to the beginning and explain how there came to be that magic wardrobe in the Professor’s house” – i.e. The Magician’s Nephew is absolutely and intentionally and authoritatively the sixth, not the first, book in the series.

You can imagine how satisfying this is to people who’ve known it all along – known it not just in their own bones, but known it based on all the internal evidence of the books themselves (a critical literary practice that Lewis himself holds in high esteem).

CS Lewis letter 1

CS Lewis letter 2

But this new-found old letter is not the only Big Lewis News of the year. There are also two new-found old articles that have heretofore never been collected or anthologized. I don’t remember where I first got wind of these, but there were hints in the Lewis-sphere that The Strand Magazine might contain articles by Lewis that were not yet indexed in Lewis collections.

Happily, my research institution maintains copies of Strand Magazine in its expansively mysterious repository. And after much dusty digging, sorting, and page-flipping, I found these:

CSLewis Christmas Sermon

CSLewis Cricket

“A Christmas Sermon for Pagans” will sound familiar to anyone who has read Mere Christianity and De Descriptione Temporum. The language, phrases, and ideas are recognizably Lewis. “Cricket’s Progress” is another thing altogether. Did Lewis – who wrote other things under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton – care about cricket? Did he hanker to be a sports writer? I haven’t pored over this article enough to make any sense of what’s going on, but I do find vague hints of Puddleglum in this narrated Cricketer’s quote:

“It’s a great game, but fast bowling takes too much out of a fellow,” he told me. “You want to be a nice, steady all-rounder, good for thirty years’ service…Keep one eye on the ball and the other on the future, and you’ll be all right. And above all, never let them get you down.”

It does rather sound like our favorite wiggle, doesn’t it?

“I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say – I mean, the other wiggles all say – that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this – a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has even seen – will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”

In a fascinating twist of literary nuance, the final page of “Cricket” features a footer quote by G. K. Chesterton. Curious indeed.

All of that to say – a new-found old letter and two new-found old articles are no small thing in the world of Lewis. And though there have been many, many reasons and moments and means to step back into the world of writing, these have proven to be the golden ticket.

In Lewis’s own words to the Dear Grittletonians:

“Do you write stories yourselves? I did at your age. It is the greatest fun.”

Or, modified for this specific juncture of life:

“Do you write? I do. It is the hardest work. And the greatest fun.”

 

The Twelfth Night of Christmas (the road goes ever on and on)

mountain hiking trail
(Wikimedia Commons)

Just like that, the Twelve Days-Nights of Christmas come to an end.

What, then, comes next – after the celebrating, reflecting, and remembering?

Perhaps we ought to live a Twelve-Days-of-Christmas life, in which we over and over contemplate the miracle of newness, the challenge of change, the trials of repetition, the joys of duplication, the power of obedience, the call to maturity, the charge to live joyous lives of hope.

Go back and contemplate the First Night through the Eleventh Night. Find the words that soothe you, push you, chafe you – and read them, think them, digest them. There is something we can all learn from days one through eleven.

And on this day – this twelfth and final day – let’s look ahead at a road that goes ever on and on, headed towards what we sometimes know but other times can’t see, towards what we sometimes anticipate but other times dread.

For a Christ-follower (those who choose the way in which the grown-crucified-resurrected babe’s footsteps lead), that particular road leads to deep, full, grown life — a life that is immersed in hope even when it drips with pain; a life that is infused with Love even when it is bloated with self; a life that is incarnated by the spiritual even when it is tied to the natural; a life that moves ever on and on — assuming we pick up our feet, set our faces forward, and walk.

Will I? Will you? Will we?

The world needs people who will trod that road daily, faithfully, humbly, joyfully, intentionally, boldly, quietly, long after the Twelfth Day-Night of Christmas.

Tomorrow is the First Day of the After-Twelfth-Day of Christmas. May we meet walking together on the road that Emmanuel has paved for us.

Amen and amen.

The Eleventh Night of Christmas (the trials and joys of duplication)

Tree farm
reddit.com

‘Tis Christmas night eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1).

For the first time in the twelve-day Christmas numerical celebration, we face repetition.

One (1). And another one (1). [Though one (1) of the ones (1)s is really a ten (10)…]

But we have already had a one. And a ten (which includes a numerical (1) one).

**Corporate communal confession: we love newness, updates, next-best-things. We do not love the same-old-same-old. And what is “11” – (one-another-one) – but a visual reminder of same-of-same-old-repetitive-not-newness? 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11.

Can we shift (seismically) from a “same-old-same-old-monotonous” mindset to a “known-beloved-tradition” mindset: from a “something-bigger-better” palate to a “remember-repeat-savor” palate?

Can we settle into a place of wonderment and joy about the day-in-day-out repeated elements of meaningful life?

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) reminds me that duplication in daily life isn’t something to be avoided at all costs.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) challenges me that in the end, duplication is what God’s children are called to: that is, sharing the good news of Christmas (and its fuller narrative) with others so that they too may become a person who loves and follows Christ.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful repetitive earthly life.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful duplicating eternal life.

The Tenth Night of Christmas (double digits, deeper roots, higher functions, richer life)

‘Tis the tenth night of Christmas. Ten. One-zero. A full and finished number. Completeness. Double digits.

In the universe of old math:

For arithmetic, we start to carry numbers when we enter the world of double digits.

For subtraction, we start to borrow numbers when we enter the world of double digits.

For multiplication, we start to carry and cross and shift numbers when we enter the world of double digits.

But for life, what happens when we hit double digits? When our tasks, schedules, and responsibilities move beyond simple and straightforward single-digit-ness? When our wisdom, understanding, and discernment must follow suit with growth, depth, and expansion?

Do we panic? Do we forget how the numerical functions work? Do we freeze, tangle, lose our way? Do we carry when we should borrow, borrow when we should carry, cross in the wrong order, shift in the wrong direction?

As numbers grow in size, the options expand. So it is with us. We move beyond the simplicity of Ninth Night living – of wake, rise, eat, feed, bathe, eat, work, rest, feed, eat, sleep, repeat.

We are now grown. We are now double-digit-ed. And so our interactions, communications, relations, formulations, and adorations must move to the next frontier of mathematical faith functions.

We must begin to embrace complexity with care, joy, and anticipation. We must grow up. We must grow out. We must grow down.

It is the tenth night of Christmas, giving us a peek of a double-digit life. View it not as a chore or weight or inevitability. Rather, view it as the culmination of a Christmas well begun, for the double-tens of St. John’s Gospel remind us that Emmanuel came to give life in abundance. Our job is to embrace it and live it.

(John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I am come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. RSV)

 

 

The Ninth Night of Christmas (Emmanuel still is)

winter pathway
(Pexhere.com Creative Commons)

What happens now? When the celebrations are over, the parties are past, and the excitement has settled into everyday-everynight life?

The baby’s been born. The angel’s have proclaimed. The shepherd’s have visited. The baby’s been marked as a chosen child of God. The child’s been named.

Seemingly the momentous and miraculous elements are done and past. Now it is time to find our own way – to wake, rise, feed, bathe, eat, rest, work, feed, eat, sleep, repeat.

But how do we repeat the daily mundane (over and over and over and over and over and over) when there are no more angelic choruses? no more heart-stopping first breaths? no more heavenly pronouncements of good news for all the earth? no more supernatural visits? no more Emmanuel?

Ah: Think. Listen. Reason.

Even if the angelic choruses, first breaths, heavenly pronouncements, and supernatural visits are past, this will never pass:

EMMANUEL.

God with us. God as us. God for us. God in us.

Though he arrived at a specific moment in time, he still is. He still is God. He still is here. He still is Emmanuel.

And that means there is no such thing as everyday-everynight meaningless mundane life.

If Emmanuel, then rejoice.

If Emmanuel, then life.

If Emmanuel, then hope.

If Emmanuel, then love.

Night nine is not the ninth cycle of the same. It is a new cycle, just as each day and night is … because Emmanuel.

The Eighth Night of Christmas (pain, tears, sadness, a name)

Stained glass depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus

I wonder if Mary slept on this night – the night when her tiny babe perhaps whimpered and wept in lingering pain.

On this day, her babe was circumcised, formally marked as a Jew, one of God’s chosen people.

God himself, marked as belonging to himself. Our faith is a paradox in countless ways.

On this day, her babe was named, formally identified as Yeshua bar Joseph. Jesus, son of Joseph. His earthly name for his earthly identity, which was fully him.

But also this: Christos, the only begotten of God. Messiah son of God. His essential name for his divine identity, which was fully him. The paradoxes are indeed countless.

But on this night, for the young mother Mary cradling her newborn babe, the paradoxes of name and identity and purpose matter little. For her, the paradoxes are more earthy, more present, more immediate:

I love this child more than anything I have ever loved…yet he is but eight days old.

I am exhausted beyond words, tired to death, weary in body and soul…yet I would move a mountain to protect and love my child.

I am ill-equipped for this task, unable to provide what any babe needs…yet I am Mother and Mary and Me, ready for all that lies ahead.

I wonder what Mary called her babe before he was named on this day, what she breathed into his ears as she held him at her breast, what she sang in her mind as she celebrated his life?

My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.

I wonder what God calls us as he breathes into our souls while cradling us in his loving arms, what he sings in his heart as he celebrates our life?

My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.

It is the eighth night of Christmas. The Christ-child is now marked and named. Are we?

 

The Seventh Night of Christmas (celebrating all things new)

NYC ball drop
REUTERS Carlo Allegri (Business Insider 12/31/2015)

‘Tis the seventh night of Christmas, and the world is enamored with celebrating New Year’s Eve.

This is a night of endless promise as we look towards the magical tomorrow.

Tomorrow (fingers crossed) is a new start. Tomorrow (please, oh please, oh please) things will be better. Tomorrow (this year we really mean it) we will try harder.

Tomorrow we will be new people who eat better, stay organized, purge excess, read more, spend less.

We promise others. We plead with ourselves. We clench tight our fists and commit to sincere and lasting newness in this coming year.

It is our last best hope, this opportunity to start over, year after year after year after year after year.

OR

“Tis the seventh night of Christmas, and the world is enamored with celebrating New Life through Christ.

This is a night of endless promise as we look towards a faithful and forgiven tomorrow.

Every tomorrow (assuredly) is a new day. Every tomorrow (by God’s good pleasure) things will still be in his control. Every tomorrow (by surrendering our will) we will be further sanctified.

Every tomorrow we can be new people who love others more, worry about ourselves less, follow Christ more closely, worship God more fully.

We hold to God’s promises. We die to our desires. We open wide our hands and commit to selfless and spirit-filled renewal in this new moment and day and year.

It is our only hope, this gift of being made new, day after day after day after day after day.

 

The Sixth Night of Christmas (cold, snow, and Christmas still)

snowy_night_street

The sixth night of Christmas in the drowsy Midwest is perfectly cold (the kind of cold that bites into one’s bones) and beautifully snowy (the kind of snow that reflects in the night).

Christmas lights still flicker throughout the neighborhoods.

Christmas trees still stand, bare under the bottom branches.

Christmas cards pile high, some opened, some read, some set aside.

Christmas seasonal sections are swept aside – February 14th looms large.

Christmas music (except perhaps in the most festive of homes) is quiet.

Christmas leftovers are gone, chewed, swallowed, eaten right up.

Christmas – the extravaganza – has run its course and been boxed up for another year. We are now more interested in the wintry weather than the incarnated arrival.

But Christmas – the birth of Christ, the arrival of Emmanuel – has only just begun. It is less than one week old.

At six days old, a babe is still just an infant.

At six days in, Christmas is still just a breath – the first breath of good news, of real life, of God with us, of infinite breaths to come.

Breathe in the cold air. Feel it cleanse your lungs, freeze your worry, and clear your soul.

Look at the snow. See it blink in the night, light the dark, and dance in the wind.

And then start celebrating Christmas again, for infinite breaths to come.

 

 

 

 

The Fifth Night of Christmas (counting fingers, toes, and joy)

family hands

Over and over and over she counts them –

  • 1-2-3-4-5 fingers
  • 1-2-3-4-5 fingers
  • 1-2-3-4-5 toes
  • 1-2-3-4-5 toes

– kissing each one gently, joyfully, with her mother lips.

Each one accounted for. Each one warm with life. Each one astonishing, a miniature digit, marvelously made, wonderfully formed.

1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5.

Twenty breathtaking glimpses of glory. Twenty unique prints of divinity. Twenty brilliant points of life.

Could anything be more earthy, more human, more formed-of-dust than baby fingers and toes? Could anything be more delicate, more humble, more knit-together-in-a-mother’s-womb than baby fingers and toes? Could anything be more amazing, more astounding, more woven-together-in-the-dark-of-the-womb than baby fingers and toes?

Baby fingers and toes – whether on the incarnate God or each infant created in his image – reveal the true heart of the Almighty Father, a heart that counts and knows every finger, every toe, every hair, every cell, every child.