A way with worlds: 45 - Aslan Meets His Match: Theme versus Setting
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 2
Maybe you hadn't heard the
news - but HarperCollins apparently wants to write more Narnia
stories - but without the Christian influence.
Now, normally I don't cover
current events in this column, but this one is important to me,
and important to building and writing worlds.
Yes, there's debate over
this choice already. But I'm going to ignore:
- The religious debate.
I'm a Taoist anyway so I think I can be unbiased. Most
people never heard of my religion.
- The financial debate.
Yes, the company may own the rights. Fine.
- The ethical debate.
Personally, I find this appalling.
There, with that out of the
way, I'm going to aim for the writing debate. Besides, I'll be
more pleasant and civil that way. I'm not even a fan of C.S.
Lewis, and I don't like this.
The idea one can remove
Christianity from Narnia brings up a topic that is important to
world-builder and world-writers. Namely, if you have a major
theme in your stories, can you write about the world while not
writing about the theme?
Now, ideally, I feel the
theme of a story is separate from it's world. The world can go on
if other stories are told. Thus your setting may be a fantasy
world, but you can tell tales of romance or mystery, adventure or
But it's not an ideal world,
and ideal worlds are not often what we create - or sometimes we
create very ideal worlds and that's where this controversy
arises. Sometimes our worlds and stories are about ideals.
In the case of Narnia,
author C.S. Lewis is unapologetically recorded as saying it's
about Christianity. He makes no bones about it - he retold
classic Christian ideas in an entirely new setting. Maybe you
have talking animals, but the story is the same. Or, simply,
Aslan is Jesus, get over it.
Now to some, taking religion
out of Narnia may not seem any different than putting religion
into storylines - fanfics do it all the time. It's even a point
of contention for some people. I myself have seen it done, and
usually done quite poorly. I rather imagine attempts to
reverse-engineer a religious story would have exactly the same
However, religion or not, in
or out, the problem is some stories are about themes that are
core to their worlds. In the case of Narnia, that's the kind of
world you have - it is not about Christianity, it is based on a
Christian's world view. The story of Narnia therefore emanates
from the very core of it's continuity- which are Christian
concepts held by C.S. Lewis.
Some stories are about part
of a world - and some stories are about the very foundation of
the world. Your world may hold many possible themes, but when you
do a story that concerns the very way your world works, then
modifications to that story are extremely difficult to achieve.
Even attempts to tell other stories may be bounded by this
overarching story - anyone who's tried to write fanfic in a very
tight continuity has found this out.Next Page
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