Director Andrew Adamson knows that you tamper at your peril with one of the past century’s most beloved fantasy adventures.
But there was one particular line in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that he just couldn’t stomach.
It comes in the sequence where the four Pevensie children have arrived in snow-bound Narnia and are soon to embark in their epic battle against the evil White Witch. Her potential downfall has been signalled by the arrival of Father Christmas on his sleigh — and it was in this scene that Adamson encountered what he considered to be “a sexist aspect” of C.S. Lewis’s novel.
“It’s when Father Christmas gives weapons to the kids and says to the girls: ‘I don’t intend to use them because weapons are ugly when women fight.’”
The 39-year-old New Zealander was determined to be faithful to the Lewis narrative and to the author’s Christian faith. But he was very conscious of the fact that he had just come off two movies — Shrek and Shrek 2 — which empowered girls, and he didn’t want to blot his copybook by giving Father Christmas such a chauvinistic line in the movie opening Dec. 9.
“I understand that C.S. Lewis might have had these dated ideals, but at the same time there’s no way I could put that in a film,” Adamson says now. So he turned to producer Douglas Gresham, who was also the late writer’s stepson, for advice.
“Doug really was the one who came to the sort of compromise that worked, which is just Father Christmas saying: ‘I hope you don’t have to use them because battles are ugly affairs’ — which could apply to both girls and boys.” ~The Vancouver Sun
The main change appears to be a minor, but important one: instead of Lewis’ affirmation that it is “ugly” when girls and women fight, we have a bow to the egalitarian Zeitgeist. It would undoubtedly escape a modern director (especially the director of Shrek) why it is indeed “ugly” when girls and women fight, or why someone trained up in the literature of courtly romance and chivalry as Lewis was would view women partaking in combat, Valkyrie-like, as something abhorrent and disordered. (Of course, it is not simply a holdover from medieval literature–there are obvious, good reasons why men find violent women transgressive and “ugly.”)
Tolkien’s stories could embrace the world of shieldmaidens and Valkyries because his epic was substantially inspired by Norse and Germanic sagas, and I can only guess that Lewis would have found the character of Eowyn as agitating as Tolkien found Lewis’ use of allegory. Call it his “reactionary” Christianity if you like, but a consistent theme of all Lewis’ allegories and stories is that the glory of women lies in purity and humility and not in hubris and action. Why this admirable idea has to be changed at all really does escape me.