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nor shunned the sight of God or angel [userpic]
not quite but basically down to the last minute
by nor shunned the sight of God or angel (metonomia)
at August 8th, 2011 (11:02 pm)

Title: The Eisegesis of Retelling: Susan Pevensie and the Power of Story-Telling
Author: metonomia
Summary/Abstract/Thesis Statement: Fan fic writers modify the characters and plots they seek to explore through their choices of what to keep, leave out, or change, and in animus_wyrmis’ Fairy Stories, Or Three Men Susan Never Loved, Susan does the same, modifying her own character in her updated versions of what happened in Narnia. These stories, and the surrounding presentation of Susan’s character, reflect the ways in which animus reads the Narnia series, and what she pulls from it.
Recipient and links to original fic: animus_wyrmis Fairy Stories, Or Three Men Susan Never Loved 

1162 words.  Thanks to lady_songsmith for glancing it over, and apologies to animus for the incoherence. As with all essays, I wish a) I procrastinated less and b) I had more time, because there is so much more I would love to look at.


In Fairy Stories, Or Three Men Susan Never Loved, animus_wyrmis creates an eisegesical retelling of key relationships in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, reflected in Susan Pevensie’s own retelling of her tales.  The fic highlights the most basic commonality among fan fiction writing; namely, revision of the source material through story-telling.  Fan fic writers modify the characters and plots they seek to explore through their choices of what to keep, leave out, or change, and in animus’ story, Susan does the same, modifying her own character in her updated versions of what happened in Narnia.  These stories, and the surrounding presentation of Susan’s character, reflect the ways in which animus reads the Narnia series, and what she pulls from it.

It is perhaps impossible to ever fully separate or conflate authorial voice from narrative voice - although certainly easier in fandom, where instant feedback and contact between writer and reader is integral - but in this story, it is easy to read Susan’s voice as that of animus.  Susan’s retelling of her encounters with Rabadash and Caspian are her own revisions, but ultimately come from animus, both creatively and sympathetically.  In an interview from earlier this year, animus says, “Susan is more interesting to me in terms of what she says about gender roles and fandom and religion than what she says about Susan herself”(1). Bearing this in mind, we may set aside a certain amount of concern over the conflation of author and narrative, and find much of animus’ own reading of Narnia in her rewriting of it.

Superficially or, more accurately, on a character level, Susan’s fairy stories based on her adventures in Narnia seem to act only as a fleshing out of her character.  Whereas the series, written in third person and never focusing much on Susan, rarely gives us her point of view, animus’ story looks back at the romantic events centered upon Susan and centers the narrative on Susan herself.  Susan’s retelling of them increase the romance - she uses flowery language and reshapes events to make happy endings and keep her listeners happy; whereas Lucy’s tales of Narnia are true, “Susan's stories were happier and safer, and the girls of St. Finbarr's liked them better for that” (2).  She presents her ultimately disastrous entanglement with Rabadash as perfect love at first sight, and her brief flirtation with Caspian as an epic true love in the style of Sleeping Beauty.  However, once we move a layer out from Susan’s stories to animus’ larger story, these supposed romances - one written by C.S. Lewis, one canonical only in the Prince Caspian movie, a fan-derivative work itself - become darker, more complicated, and more realistic than Lewis would ever have written them.

In this addition of Susan’s own feelings about events that, in the books, are barely touched upon by Lewis - who never gives her any other reaction to Rabadash other than one-dimensional handwringing over the revelation of his true nature - animus critiques such treatment of not only Susan’s character but of women in Narnia in general.  Whereas Lewis is content to leave Susan’s The Horse and His Boy role as a small, weak, one-dimensional presence, animus populates her story nearly entirely with girls, all as different as may be, and delves into Susan’s and, peripherally, Lucy’s views on the matter.  Susan and Lucy both understand the difference between fairy tales and real life; whereas Lewis glosses over adult matters and any sort of realistic romantic conflict, Susan and Lucy see that reality is more complicated.  Susan understands that stories are meant to end happily ever after, and so she twists her memories of Narnia to fit that bill, even as she privately derides the schoolgirls she tells them to for lacking imagination and maturity.  She is much more affected by the memory of Rabadash than she lets on in her fairy tale, and much more dismissive of Caspian.  Lurking beneath the changes she makes to her tales are the facts the reader of animus’ larger story know - the way that Rabadash was no knight in shining armor, the way that Susan and her siblings had to leave Narnia rather than staying with Caspian and ruling, the fact that Susan has lived as an adult and truly knows the exaggerations of fairy stories.  The modifications Susan makes reflect the ways in which remembering her true experiences in Narnia are painful and difficult - much more complicated, and this complexity and sadness reflects animus’ own thoughts about the sadness and difficulty of how Narnia affects and uses the Pevensies.

In Susan’s modified tale of Prince Caspian, she conflates it with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, presenting Jadis’ Winter as occurring during the Pevensie’s reign, an event they work around by sending the kingdom into an enchanted sleep. As Susan tells it, Aslan comes and beats back the winter, but "when he had defeated the Witch, the Lion left again, the     same way he had come; and he did not wake the inhabitants, nor did they even sense his presence. Perhaps he meant to release them from their slumber, and merely forgot; perhaps he was punishing them for failing to protect the land he had given them. Perhaps he thought they were happier, dreaming enchanted dreams"(3)" In the story Susan tells, this is but a moment, and is swept away almost immediately by the bravery of Caspian and his romance with Susan.  In animus’ story, however, it becomes just as important as any romance.  Susan and Lucy debate her characterization of Aslan later, with Lucy feeling that she “made Aslan out to be cold and careless and mean,” but once again, Susan sees the world and her experiences as much more complex; she hopes that Aslan has always tried and meant to do right by Narnia and by the Pevensies, but notes that “it hurts all the same” (4).  In her interview, animus asks, “What kind of horrible god...is like, oh well, guess I’ll just plant a tree for awhile, and I’m sure this won’t go wrong?” (5).  She goes on to clarify, realizing more nuanced thoughts about the various ways in which Aslan could be seen as a cruel and capricious god or merely as someone less almighty than he often seems, but the crux of the matter is that in her view, the fairy story of Narnia as presented by C.S. Lewis - and the movie franchise - glosses over many questions and complexities which, when fleshed out in Susan’s retelling and animus’ own version, can provide a new eisegesis which pulls from and reads into the source material to create an alternate truth and a new way of looking at an old story.


1. AsCast Episode 14.5
2. Fairy Stories, Or Three Men Susan Never Loved
3. ibid.
4. ibid.
5. AsCast Episode 14.5

Comments

Posted by: animus_wyrmis (animus_wyrmis)
Posted at: August 10th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)

OMG LOOK AT YOU MAKING ME FEEL ALL BRILLIANT.

Real comment later omgggggggg <3333333333

Posted by: animus_wyrmis (animus_wyrmis)
Posted at: December 12th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)

Hiiii omg this is sooo late BUT I found this tab as I was cleaning my tabs and I wanted to say OMG METO YOU ARE THE GREATEST once more.

One of my favorite tropes EVER is the story that is told over the "real" story, where the audience within the story doesn't know there's another layer but we, the audience outside the story, we do know that there's another layer that isn't being told. And it's so, so hard to do in print (whereas something like The Fall or other movies can do it really well just by having a voiceover that doesn't really fit the story on screen), but in fic it's actually sometimes really perfect, and that was something I was going for here, with the reader able to do what Lucy can do, and read through the fairy tale and see that there are all these problematic elements, LEWIS.

And I didn't think about it at the time so much but you're right, I did make a really conscious decision to have this fic have almost all female characters, and that the male characters who do show up are either shaped by Susan's imagination or really forcibly removed from the narration by Lucy. ANd I think that's so important to the story, because the stories Susan tells are about how men come in and women fall in love with them and their worlds are changed, but the story itself is about how women can shape their own destinies. BECAUSE FEMINISM, LEWIS.

the fairy story of Narnia as presented by C.S. Lewis - and the movie franchise - glosses over many questions and complexities which, when fleshed out in Susan’s retelling and animus’ own version, can provide a new eisegesis which pulls from and reads into the source material to create an alternate truth and a new way of looking at an old story
Meto, can I just cart you around and ask your opinions on things??? :DDD

Posted by: nor shunned the sight of God or angel (metonomia)
Posted at: December 12th, 2012 09:22 pm (UTC)
into the utter east

oh goooosh wyrm you make me feel so happy! aksjaopiwepjaoij I still adore that story so so so much, it was so much fun to write about it.

and yes omg come steal me away to be a pocket-opinion, that is my new greatest ambition.

(also we should do this academic ficathon again, it was the bomb-diggity)

Posted by: animus_wyrmis (animus_wyrmis)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)

(actually yes we totally should, it was all kinds of awesome and I really enjoyed it!)

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