I read The Magician's Nephew first, which may have been entitled The Magician's Nephew and Friend, because the female character had just as much screen time, and was as important, as the titulary character. I did enjoy that book, as it told the origin of Narnia and Aslan, and of how the Witch and the lamp-post came to be in Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe brought back fond memories of watching it on PBS when I was 12 or 13. While I enjoyed the story, I did notice (and a few people at lovesbooks noted) that within 30 pages of the story, the point that shutting oneself in a wardrobe is a foolish thing to do was mentioned no fewer than 6 times. I counted. Why did he say that so often and then completely drop the subject later on in the story, and never mention it again? Who knows? Why did it take Tolkien 150 pages to start The Fellowship of the Ring? Who knows? Perhaps it was meant to be a plot point that he dropped later on and never got back to, and was never edited out.
Father Christmas annoyed me. Sexist old fool. The one line that really stuck with me throughout the entire book was "War is ugly when women fight." So what? War isn't ugly when men fight?
I wonder if Lewis and Tolkien didn't have similar experiences in WWI, but it affected them in different ways. The Lord of the Rings is very much a war story, but the tragedy of war and the reluctance of the participants, especially Theoden and Aragorn, is a central theme. It was captured very well, I think, by Peter Jackson. Especially in the extended version.
On the other hand, Narnia seems to be peopled with characters that are brash and ready to leap into battle, and rarely does the cooler head prevail. While Aslan is very much the teacher of a sterner wisdom, he is rather guilty of it himself, in LWW and in Prince Caspian. It seems that the people in these stories would rather die than bend an inch, when it comes to war. In five books, the only characters to actually grow are Edmund, Eustace, and Shasta. The rest stay pretty much as they are, and nothing is changed in either the way they relate to one another (Susan still acts like a spoiled child, even after being a Queen) or the way they conduct their battles, assured that, if their cause is just, Aslan will save the day.
The Horse and His Boy was a very good adventure, but, yet again, the females were placed into very meek and suboordinate roles. Aravis was, and still is, by far, the most interesting and promising female character that Lewis ever created, and even then Lewis fails her. Instead of praising her courage and quick thinking for helping Shasta, Aslan lashes her back in punishment for what she did earlier on in the story. Although Lucy takes her place among the archers, nothing more is said about her, them, how she does, or even what she does.
Prince Caspian was yet another story where the skills and brains of the girls Susan and Lucy would have been very useful, but they were kept entirely out of the war and battle, and not even invited to join in the war council. They went off with Aslan as he went about his work, but they didn't actually DO anything except take up space. I rather liked the pretext of the story, and the lovely little history that the dwarf tells the four, but after going on and on about how great an archer Susan is, and after even winning a tournament of sorts, does she actually use it in the battle? Nope. Neither does Lucy. In fact, Susan is painted to behave very much like a spoiled child, even though the children were reverting back to their Royal selves. It makes her seem very small and unimportant.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader was by far my favorite story so far, and for once Lucy was treated on par with everyone else in the story. Absolutely lovely book, and very well done all 'round.
Two curious bits of trivia. In Prince Caspian, Caspian himself is bitten by a werewolf. However, nothing more is said of it. I wonder if it will be mentioned at all in the next two books, or if lycanthropy is the same in Narnia as is is in other books.
The other bit of trivia has to do with when I was looking at a map that prefaced The Silver Chair, and saw the name Ettinsmoor in big letters across the middle of the map. I knew I had heard that name before. After a moment of thought, I went to my dvd shelf and brought out my copy of Fellowship of the Ring. On the inside cover of the case is a map of Middle Earth. North of Rivendell and Weathertop, attached to but not fully a part of the Misty Mountains, is a small grouping of mountains called the Ettenmoors. I know that Lewis and Tolkien were contemporaries, and attended literary salons together, and the similarity of spelling is just a bit too suspicious to be a coincidence. I wonder who bit off whom, or if both simply liked the name so much that they decided to include it in their work independantly.
I tried not to give too much away, for those who haven't gotten that far. I simply wanted to point out a few things that I thought were interesting or important. Or rather, treated with a lack of importance. I think Lewis would have been better off doing what Tolkien did, which was write women almost entirely out of his books, instead of using them so poorly. It is one thing to forget that women are involved; it is another thing entirely to have women in the story that are excluded from it.