Blasphemous Aslan


I was amused to find in the old forums of Into the Wardrobe a thread which discusses Pauline Baynes Narnia illustrations. I know many people find the illustrations charming, for sure I prefer her style of sketching over horrid cartoonish images. But Lewis apparently had some issue with them, and wrote to his friend Dorthy Sayers that he agreed with her assessment that sometimes Baynes’s illustrations are blasphemous. Lewis particularly disliked and found blasphemous the frontpiece of LWW:

This illustration is, objectively, pretty bad. I think Aslan is supposed to be dancing, but it looks like he is a deranged escapee from a Hawaiian zoo who has his paw up to take a swipe at Lucy, who is running away in terror, and Susan has her arms up trying to head him off.

Lewis’s problem with this picture was not, however, that it makes dancing look like a massacre about to happen, nor that it makes Aslan/Jesus look ridiculous (since, remember, he had no use for a simple allegory that Aslan=Jesus). Lewis’s problem with the picture, and what makes it blasphemous, is that Aslan is drawn badly. Lewis had issue with Baynes’s inability to draw animals, and her general ignorance of animal anatomy. To be fair, it is altogether difficult to draw a lion dancing, but in that picture Aslan’s right hind leg is completely wrong. Is it actually blasphemous, though? As Lewis says to Sayers, if medicore art was actually blasphemy Hell wouldn’t be large enough to hold the artists who committed it. But for Lewis, who held that there was truth in the philosophic concepts of Ideals and Form, to misrepresent the natural was a crime against Nature. And, given his opposition to both animal testing and vivisection, Lewis would understandably be rankled by art which mishandled basic animal physiology.

All I can say is that it’s a very good thing Lewis never saw this:


In which Trufflehunter gets badassery…


Browsing more concept art, and it’s interesting what people will draw. Everyone sees a “scene” differently, so seeing how someone else sees a character or a place can be rather enlightening.

Such was the case when I found this picture of Trufflehunter, the badger from PC. I don’t know what it is about badgers, but it seems that a lot of people view them like JKR, who made them the mascot of Hufflepuff, described by the sorting hat as:

These belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal.
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil.

Of course, like anyone who has an affinity with Hufflepuff will point out, Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, and he was also brilliant and brave and good. But it’s the loyal and hardworking aspects which most people think of first, and those aren’t thought to be very exciting attributes. Trufflehunter is much the same (and I do think JKR was at least subconsciously channeling Lewis when it came to the creation of Hufflepuff), and thus isn’t very exciting, even though he is knighted by Caspian. Part of the blame may be the movies, in which he was female in the BBC version (the one I grew up on), and, while noble, not a very good fighter in the Disney version. And maybe he gets confused with the rather hapless Beavers. Plus, I think a lot of people don’t realize that the Animals in Narnia are quite a bit more, for lack of a better word, anthropomorphic than regular animals.

So, what inspired all this? This wonderful depiction of Trufflehunter by John Dickenson:

Trufflehunter by John Dickenson

Trufflehunter looks…serious, fierce and badass. Look at that sword. Look at those claws! And then that bit of grass out of the corner of his mouth, giving him a hint of swagger. That’s an Animal worth respect.