Here's another thing to make clear: If you think reading any criticism of the details in Lewis' books would spoil your future reading of his works, don't read this post any further.
A third clarification: Please remember that this blog is subtitled "musings . . ." That's what this post is.
I found Lewis in the children's section of the University of Wisconsin library, around 1960. Perhaps I should have been studying for my courses, or working on my research, but I'm glad I found the Narnia books. I have read them many times. I look forward with mixed feelings to the forthcoming film based on the series.
Lewis has been criticized, I believe by Tolkien, for one, for not being careful with details. (If anyone out there can put a reference for this in a comment, I'd appreciate it! Thanks in advance.)
Here are some of the details that don't ring true to me.
1) No females. I know, there are females on Mars, in Out of the Silent Planet, and female characters have strong roles to play in Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, and the Narnia books. Till We Have Faces is narrated by the main character, a female. But there are strange gaps. There don't seem to be any female dwarves, or marshwiggles, or earthmen, in the Narnia books.
2) Populations too small. Aslan could, of course, maintain them, no matter how small. But, in Prince Caspian, there seem to be just a handful, or even less, of hags, bears, badgers, werewolves, and others. There are a number of real species of organisms on current real endangered lists, with more than a handful of members. Inbreeding, accidents, and the like take their toll. Species can't be expected to survive with numbers as small as Lewis implied.
3) Food and supplies. Authors often neglect this. I probably would, too. Most fiction works are not about agriculture or commerce. But, for example, how does the giant house, Harfang, heat itself? Lewis describes profligacy in heating it, from wood fuel, but Harfang is in the middle of a "desolate, rocky plain" (The Silver Chair, New York: Macmillan, 1953, p. 78) which is apparently treeless, and Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum spent all morning and part of the afternoon getting to it from where they first saw it, with no suggestion that they went through a forest. There is mention of hunting parties, but none of wood-seeking parties.
Where did Tumnus shop? There is no mention of any market, or even building, in the first part of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, save the castle of the witch.
How did Narnia survive the long winter caused by the witch? Such a winter would have cut off almost all agriculture, grazing, etc.
4) Paths under the ocean. The sea-people in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are described as riding something like sea-horses, which swim. Presumably they do, too. Lucy sees paths at the bottom of the ocean, used by the sea-people. Why would they need paths, or how would they even make them?
Some parallels between Tolkien and Lewis's subcreations:
1) Both of them had some female characters, but both of them seemed to have whole populations with no females. (I'm not including the Ents.) Though Tolkien wrote that it was difficult or impossible for non-dwarves to differentiate the sexes, he mentions only one female dwarf, Dís, Thorin's sister, in the trilogy, The Hobbit, or The Silmarillion, and she was a very minor character. (Besides my memory, see the entry on her in The Encyclopedia of Arda.) I don't recall any evidence of female orcs at all.
2) Both of them created flat worlds.
3) Both of them had an interest in stars. In The Last Battle, Jill Pole is described as being very familiar with the stars as guides. Frodo and Sam saw a star while in Mordor, and this encouraged them. Stars are characters in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Elrond's father became a star, or at least a beacon in the sky, in Tolkien's world.
4) Both of them created worlds that, in many ways, were medieval. Horses, armor, swords and spears and bows and arrows, castles, or at least castle-like buildings, all abound.
5) I really wonder how Mordor, a desert waste, but with vast hordes of various kinds of beings in it, was provisioned.
Crumbolst has posted some insightful commentary on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which sort of considers the same ideas as I am here.
I previously posted on my own article, but thought, as the time for the opening of the movie based on the first book in the Narnia series approaches, that it made sense to do so again. This post is not a duplicate of the former one.
Thanks for reading!
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Added Jan 22, 2008: A subsequent post, responding to a comment on this one, may be found here.