‘The Book C.S. Lewis Didn’t Write’?

Here is the quote, which NarniaWeb posted in news on Wednesday . “We were able to steal, really, from the book C.S. Lewis didn’t write, which is the one that would have gone between The Dawn Treader and The Silver […]
on Oct 22, 2010 · No comments

Here is the quote, which NarniaWeb posted in news on Wednesday .

“We were able to steal, really, from the book C.S. Lewis didn’t write, which is the one that would have gone between The Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. He starts The Silver Chair with the witches [sic? perhaps ‘witch is’?] building up an army underground to attack the above world, and Caspian, having married The Blue Star […] is an old man with a son, and he married the Blue Star of Ramandu. In other words, a lot of things had happened between the books.”

To be sure, many Chronicles of Narnia book (and film) fans have been disturbed by this line. We have had such faith in Apted, who might have supervised a film that is based on a better book, and echoed its themes. Yet Narnia fans were already bothered about the film trailers clearly showing some clichéd modern-sounding dialogue (a plague infesting the first films, especially Prince Caspian), the White Witch, and more. And now this.

As a friend of mine quipped:

“The book C.S. Lewis never wrote”?

Last I checked, there’s a term for that: fanfiction.

Still, even a faithful book-to-film scriptwriter might need to write some “fanfiction” to make the transition. I don’t mind some changes — even some of the drastic alterations done to the Prince Caspian film — to ensure the story, its themes and characters, comes off as well in a film as it was in the book.

Yet such changes should make sense. Adding an already hackneyed object-oriented-fantasy-plot element such as “find the seven swords” (which in the trailer are even glowing blue, like Sting) seems unnecessary.

Here is the latest trailer, from which you might decide for yourself — and discuss, rationalize, grumble, or, of course, scream like poor Gollum.

E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Hmmm … if we apply our own imaginations really hard while in the theater, maybe we can go see the movie they didn’t film :).

    I’m still planning to see the movie, but this really is disappointing. I don’t mind new stories, but then don’t title them after the old ones.

  2. To be sure, we’ll see the film as well, perhaps even on opening night. Yet it’s taken some work to try to reset my expectations. Based mostly on a March 2 Christianity Today article, however, I’m hopeful that at least the film will portray Eustace’s redemption in a way that honors the book’s themes and brings the pivotal moment directly to life.

    Something several friends and I have been doing is coming up with more excerpts from The Book C.S. Lewis Didn’t Write. It’s such a masterful tome, that withholding its pithy wisdom would be so wrong. Here are some thought-provoking quotes from this classic:

    “You are never too bored to make another movie or to dream a new dream the original author did not dream.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “In the fifth and a half Narnia book, Screwtape and Wormwood visit Narnia to try to steal souls for the underworld. But they get caught by Dr. Ransom, taken to a strange Edenic world, where the Lady of the Green Kirtle turns them into gnomes. Meanwhile. . . the white witch turns herself into a star, and a sea serpent…, and a glowing sword. . . It’s some of my best writing if I do say so myself.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    ‎”I am discovering the beauty of love triangles. Many, many love triangles.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “The Value of myth is that it has no value. Our ability to make films with generic epic battle scenes and stories is so much more important than some supposed ‘myth,’ or any fidelity to the resource material beloved by fans for half a century.” — C.S. Lewis, from the lost chapter “On Stories and Other Essays on Literature,” The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. … Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest. So you might as well give up and go with whatever instinct will make a bigger splash onscreen. Mine says a ship and a dragon aren’t enough, so bring on the glowing swords!” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    Finally, my own thus far:

    “There is nothing to fear, but chronological snobbery itself.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “Aim for Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in; aim for chronological snobbery with classic stories and you will get money.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “I believe in extra-canonical ‘relationships’ as I believe that films are more hip than original stories: not only because I am a snob, but because by it I please fangirls.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “Either this man was, and is, a great Christian apologist and fantasy author, or else a quaint backward scholar or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can scoff at him and say The Voyage of the Dawn Treader lacks structure, or you can recognize his genius and honor his stories’ themes as they are.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    “Those who cannot remember ‘destiny’ is an irksome movie-trailer cliché are condemned to repeat it.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    • kirsty says:

      I love your 4th ‘quote’

    • Liz K says:

      You make some pretty good points (though the “unwritten quotes” did go on a tad too long!) But the “Screwtape crossover” made me LOL! “But they get caught by Dr Ransom, taken to a strange Edenic world where the Lady of the Green Kirtle turns them into gnomes.” !! E Stephen Burnett, that is so powerful: such a scintillating example of the postmodern form of writing; what do they call it? cyberpunk? gonzo-bizarro? something? What I really want to tell you is that on the strength of that, you really must immediately applyfor a job at DC Comics; you’d easily be able to take over from that old hack Grant Morrison, and the fanfic-parody style you have perfected would fit snugly into their “Interminable Crisis” series..es. (Only you’d have to fit in a few lesbian Batwomen + rehashed/revamped/revisionist/reimagined/rewarmedup/recycled/re-resurrected/refried versions of all DC’s characters: to really capture their current spirit. But going by your current portfolio – you could do it admirably!:-)

    • Liz K says:

      Yes: you’d have all the different superheroes and supervillains traipsing in and out of each others’ stories without so much as by your leave in no time; and all tripping over each others’ toes! (A fanboy’s, nevermind fangirl’s, delight!)

      Sigh. It wasn’t for nothing, was it, that Douglas Adams prophecied that all that mass (galactic) tourism would really do is make everywhere the same. Looks like it applies to mass fiction too in the end, doesn’t it?)

      Yeah. Tho no longer a Christian, I’ve always loved CS Lewis and all his works. I enjoyed the first movie but shunned the 2nd as soon as I heard they’d made Caspian an (older!) teenager, largely to please said fangirls. Spoils the story and its dynamics; Caspian is like the Princes in the Tower; a vulnerable ingenu.

      VDT is my favourite Narnia book – after The Magician’s Nephew! I always “loved” Eustace: the smartass antihero; the point-scorer” who is clever but annoying &who every family has at least one of. Much too cynical until suffering and adversity..

    • Liz K says:

      ..open his eyes and he is no longer the centre of the universe. (Bet Richard Dawkins hates that book!)

      Yeah. I also think modern fiction needs more “cautionary tales”: ones with point, hopefullyredemption and that bit of moral uplift, rather than what happens to you if you open the wrong door in a horror movie.. Off the top of my head, the only children’s writer now doing that – sorta- is Lemony Snicket.

      And of course Sir Reepicheep is a magnificent character. (Again: in a duel with Dawkins, which one would prevail? Some “crossovers” are too irresistible!)

      With a decent Eustace/dragon & Reepicheep, I’m inclined to consider VDT worth watching. So how did it go? Don’t think it’s out in UK; and my hollywoodjesus.com-writing friend doesn’t seem to have covered it yet.

      Yeah: but why did they put all that extraneous sword-and-sorcery in? And DO they always have to have a sprawling James-Bond-sized movie, with a bombastic universal baddie?

      What’s wrong w a kids’ adventure story, cf Treasure Island?!

  3. I’m not bothered at all by the movie “filling in the blanks.” It actually might be quite entertaining to see some of those things that we know happened fleshed out.

    I’m more disturbed by what the trailer didn’t show. Have they gutted the Dawn Treader story in favor of their additions? Yes, it appears the Eustace thread is still there, but are they still looking for the missing lords of Narnia? Lucy finds the magician’s book, but are the Dufflepuds still part of the story?

    The trailer makes me think the movie will be exciting and a fantasy-lover’s treasure. I’m just not it’s the same story, even with additions, as the one we who have read the books would expect.

  4. OK, I watched the trailer One More Time, and I see the Dufflepuds are there. Still don’t know about the search for the missing Narnian lords, which was the point and purpose of the Dawn Treader’s voyage.

    Nevertheless, I could force myself to watch it! 😉

    • Rebecca, yes, the Dufflepuds made the cut, although —


      — from what I understand, they were turned invisible not because they were silly, but because they wanted protection from the Evil Mist from the Dark Island, that would be threatening The Fate of the Entire World. (Somehow it connects to the Witch, too.)

      Also, the quest for the lost lords is there, but greatly, er, enhanced. I’ll likely write more about this next week, especially seeing if — so far — it’s matching up with my hopes.

  5. Elisabeth says:

    I loved the trailer music and images! But when I remember the orginal story Lewis wrote, the cool images fall flat.
    Is it about time to give up on these Narnia movies, or should I keep hoping? Sigh. I wonder what Lewis would say about these movies.

  6. Heather says:

    Seriously, how hard is it to stick to the original story?!?

  7. Royce says:

    I keep finding myself saying, despite the poor special effects, Wonderworks did a much better job transitioning the stories of Lewis to the screen than Walden Media.

  8. Kaci says:

    I think I’m the only one whose only gripe about Prince Caspian was turning Peter into a jerk. The Caspian/Peter thing was a bit too far, but that’s me. For a guy used to being a king, he’s behaving too much the child.

    Ah well. Honestly, I loved Dawn Treader, and it’s only The Horse & His Boy I’m not a massive fan of. Except that Aravis is cool.

  9. “I believe in extra-canonical ‘relationships’ as I believe that films are more hip than original stories: not only because I am a snob, but because by it I please fangirls.” — C.S. Lewis, from The Book C. S. Lewis Didn’t Write

    I think I just broke a rib laughing.

    I liked TLTW&TW a lot despite the changes made, because I felt the movie was true to the essence of the book. I did not like PRINCE CASPIAN because it fell into the Peter Jackson trap of endless fight scenes stretching an already long movie into bladder-exploding territory for no good reason whatsoever — but also because making Peter an arrogant jerk obsessed with being king made me SO ANGRY I wanted to scream and hurl my popcorn at the screen. I never want to see that movie again, unless somebody can come up with an edit which consists solely of Edmund Being Awesome (which would be a short film, but the material is definitely there).

    I’m guessing that DAWN TREADER is going to fall somewhere in between the first two in terms of quality. I will sigh and roll my eyes a bit over the attempt to “enliven” an already good story by adding glowing swords and world-threatening dangers, but as long as the characterization is sound and Eustace’s transformation is well handled, I’ll probably be okay with it. I always did think Ramandu’s Daughter deserved more screen time, so to speak…

    • Kaci says:

      Haha. The additional fight scene really didn’t bother me. It did a friend of mine – but I will admit that mostly it emphasized Peter’s rashness. I just think the rashness could have been done without the jerkiness. I did like the little bit where Edmund shatters the pane that Jadis is trying to come through.

      I guess it’s that Peter the Magnificent was a bit of a faded glory. Edmund the Just, however, as you say, rocked.

      Course, I think the most amusing Edmund/Caspian moment is in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

      “I’m king!”
      “I was king first!”
      “But I am now!”
      “My brother was High King Peter.”

      Lucy: Oh, shut up already.

  10. […] It would be great to get a disclaimer, but that same notion seems reflected in a quote last week from director Apted himself (which is repeated, with source, in that same Friday column). […]

  11. […] the film, which will release Friday, Dec. 10 in the U.S., and last month director Michael Apted seemed to be saying that much of the film is based on material Lewis did not actually […]

What do you think?