Food in the Chronicles of Narnia

Food in the Chronicles of Narnia is an important theme in C. S. Lewis's literary work. Food is a common theme of children's literature where it is often a device to tempt children, leading them astray into dangerous situations. Lewis has discussed the subject in his essay "On Three Ways of Writing for Children", commenting on comparisons that some readers have drawn with the role sex plays in adult literature, but Lewis has never accepted that there is any sexual innuendo to the food imagery in his books, saying only "I myself like eating and drinking, I put in what I would have liked to read when I was a child and what I still like reading now that I am in my fifties."[1]

Enchanted and wholesome foodsEdit

Lewis draws contrast between enchanted foods and "ordinary" ones: "There's nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food". The oft-cited example of a "bad magic food" is the enchanted Turkish Delight that Edmund eats with the Witch, while the ordinary foods are the wholesome teas of Mr. Tummnus and the Beavers, or the meal Lucy eats with Corakin the Magician of "an omelette, piping hot, cold lamb and green peas, a strawberry ice, lemon-squash to drink with the meal and cup of chocolate to follow."[2]

TeaEdit

Tea is a prominent feature of Narnia's food landscape. When Lucy first steps through the wardrobe she is invited to "a wonderful tea" with a faun with "a nice brown egg...sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar topped-cake".[1] [3] James Herbert Brennan has contrasted this scene against the backdrop of food rations during World War II, when the books were written:[4]

"...the first sense you get in Narnia about Lewis's attitude toward food is an air of profound nostalgia for the lost paradise of a varied, ample diet, and a willingness to wallow in the nostalgia somewhat."

The first meal Lucy has with Mr. Tumnus the faun is a classic middle-class British tea, and the simple fresh eggs, buttered toast and sardines would have been out of reach for Lucy, who escapes to Narnia in the midst of the war.[4]

The children are also served a hot tea by talking beavers with "a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot", and other wholesome foods. When they are being pursued by the White Witch on Christmas Morning, Father Christmas appears with a pot of tea, and the talking beavers prepare sliced ham to make sandwiches for the children.[3]

Turkish DelightEdit

In the narrative of the Turkish Delight, Prince Edmund accepts a "very sweet and foamy and creamy" drink from the Witch Queen, followed with "several pounds of the best Turkish Delight". Scholars interpret this as portraying Edmund as being of a gluttonous character, lacking in willpower after eating the Turkish Delight, which is said to be enchanted so that anyone who eats it "would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves".[5]

There is a similar scene of temptation in The Magician's Nephew where Digory is tempted to eat a silver apple by Queen Jadis (who is an earlier form the White Witch). Knowing that taking the apple is forbidden, and despite instructions to bring the apple to Aslan, he is tempted by the fruit but resists the temptation because he fears the consequences.[5]

Edmund, however, becomes obsessed with Turkish Delight, and even as he grows sick from eating it "he still wanted to taste that Turkish Delight again more than he wanted anything else". He is no longer able to enjoy wholesome dinners, consumed by his obsession for Turkish Delight, but the Witch gives him only water with stale bread. His sister given him a magical anodyne to cure him made from "the juice of one of the fireflowers that grow in the mountains of the sun." This sequence of events represents Edmund's fall from grace and restoration to purity to become "King Edmund the Just".[5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Stephens, Mary A. (2013). "Nothing More Delicious: Food as Temptation in Children's Literature". Georgia Southern University.
  2. ^ Brown, Devin (2013). Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
  3. ^ a b "Party like it's Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time". Tampa Bay Times.
  4. ^ a b Brennan, Herbie (2010). Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia. p. 93.
  5. ^ a b c Werner, Mary (1998). "Forbidden Foods and Guilty Pleasures in Lewis' The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe & Christina Rosetti's "Goblin Market"". Mythlore. 22 (2).