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Author Topic: CS Lewis, and Pronouns  (Read 415 times)
AZRedhawk44
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« on: January 07, 2019, 07:01:38 AM »

I was reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to my 5 year old this weekend and I came across something that piqued my grammar nazi.  Curious if you guys have ever noticed it...

Source link:

http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/PDFs/LionWitchWardrobe_CSL.pdf

Quote from: CS Lewis, "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," Page 8
ôMr Tumnus! Mr Tumnus!ö said Lucy in great distress. ôDonĺt! Donĺt!
What is the matter? Arenĺt you well? Dear Mr Tumnus, do tell me what
is wrong.ö But the Faun continued sobbing as if its heart would break.
And even when Lucy went over and put her arms round him and lent
him her hand kerchief, he did not stop. He merely took the handker-chief
and kept on using it, wringing it out with both hands whenever it
got too wet to be any more use, so that presently Lucy was standing
in a damp patch.

Note that Tumnus first gets a nongendered pronoun "it" to describe him in the paragraph, and then Lewis switches to the gendered pronoun "he."  Perhaps this is because he recycles "it" to now refer to a handkerchief rather than the faun.  To my recollection, it's bad form to use the same pronoun to refer to multiple/different things in the same paragraph.  "He" should only refer to one male person, "it" should only refer to one particular object, and so on.

However, on page 4, this is our description of Mr. Tumnus:

Quote
He was only a little taller than Lucy herself and he carried over his
head  an  umbrella,  white  with  snow.  From  the  waist  upwards  he  was 
like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goatĺs (the hair on them
was glossy black) and instead of feet he had goatĺs hoofs. He also had
a tail, but Lucy did not notice this at first because it was neatly caught
up over the arm that held the umbrella so as to keep it from trailing in
the  snow.  He  had  a  red  woollen  muffler  round  his  neck  and  his  skin 
was rather reddish too. He had a strange, but pleasant little face, with
a  short  pointed  beard  and  curly  hair,  and  out  of  the  hair  there  stuck 
two  horns,  one  on  each  side  of  his  forehead.  One  of  his  hands,  as  I 
have  said,  held  the  umbrella:  in  the  other  arm  he  carried  several 
brown-paper  parcels.  What  with  the  parcels  and  the  snow  it  looked 
just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping. He was a Faun.
And  when  he  saw  Lucy  he  gave  such  a  start  of  surprise  that  he 
dropped all his parcels.

100% consistency in using a gendered pronoun here.

But then page 5 (one paragraph later) switches to nongendered impersonal "it."

Quote
"Good evening,ö  said  Lucy.  But  the  Faun  was  so  busy 
picking up its parcels that at first it did not reply. When it had
finished it made her a little bow.

However it doesn't appear that Lewis has chosen to make a perspective-biased distinction here, where because the faun is not human, it doesn't merit a gendered pronoun (this is the chapter where we get all the "sons of Adam" and "daughters of Eve" exposition).  Because on page 6 he switches back to giving Tumnus "he" again.

Quote
They had not gone far before they came to a place where the ground
became  rough  and  there  were  rocks  all  about  and  little  hills  up  and 
little hills down. At the bottom of one small valley Mr Tumnus turned
suddenly aside as if he were going to walk straight into an unusually
large rock, but at the last moment Lucy found he was leading her into
the entrance of a cave. As soon as they were inside she found herself
blinking in the light of a wood fire. Then Mr Tumnus stooped and took
a flaming piece of wood out of the fire with a neat little pair of tongs,
and lit a lamp. ôNow we shanĺt be long,ö he said, and immediately put
a kettle on.

I haven't yet gotten to any of the beavers, the dwarfs, the centaurs, Aslan or other animals in the story or found any other inconsistencies, but we're only 2 chapters in so far.  I'll keep my eyes open for it for sure... but can anyone explain a grammatical rule as to why a creature such as Tumnus would merit pronoun switching like this?  In general, it's considered distasteful to use "it" to refer to a human or a conventionally gendered sentient creature.  In most literature, it's dehumanizing and intended to be used on repulsive/horrific things.  This is why the whole genderfluid crowd doesn't accept "it" as a pronoun and want to commit atrocities upon the word "they", or invent whole new words for gender pronouns.  Lewis is very generous and kind to Tumnus through the book from my recollection of reading it many years back, and isn't one to demean the creature by labeling Tumnus as "it."

Can any of you shed light on the pronoun soup here?  I'm kind of surprised at this observation, given that Lewis is a reknowned essayist.  I would expect him to strive for greater clarity than this.
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2019, 07:05:45 AM »

Trying to make sense of C.S. Lewis' writings. What an interesting concept. Wink


That's all I have.  undecided

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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2019, 07:23:30 AM »

Perhaps it's a minor error on page 5 that slipped through editing.  He attempted to keep the pronouns consistent, and let one slip. 

However, on page 5 it's "the faun" and gets an "it" pronoun, and page 4 "Mr Tumnus" gets a "he".  That looks like a shift in perspective to me, although I'm not really familiar with the work.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2019, 07:30:10 AM »

I was reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to my 5 year old this weekend and I came across something that piqued my grammar nazi.  Curious if you guys have ever noticed it...

Source link:

http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/PDFs/LionWitchWardrobe_CSL.pdf

Note that Tumnus first gets a nongendered pronoun "it" to describe him in the paragraph, and then Lewis switches to the gendered pronoun "he."  Perhaps this is because he recycles "it" to now refer to a handkerchief rather than the faun.  To my recollection, it's bad form to use the same pronoun to refer to multiple/different things in the same paragraph.  "He" should only refer to one male person, "it" should only refer to one particular object, and so on.

However, on page 4, this is our description of Mr. Tumnus:

100% consistency in using a gendered pronoun here.

But then page 5 (one paragraph later) switches to nongendered impersonal "it."

However it doesn't appear that Lewis has chosen to make a perspective-biased distinction here, where because the faun is not human, it doesn't merit a gendered pronoun (this is the chapter where we get all the "sons of Adam" and "daughters of Eve" exposition).  Because on page 6 he switches back to giving Tumnus "he" again.

I haven't yet gotten to any of the beavers, the dwarfs, the centaurs, Aslan or other animals in the story or found any other inconsistencies, but we're only 2 chapters in so far.  I'll keep my eyes open for it for sure... but can anyone explain a grammatical rule as to why a creature such as Tumnus would merit pronoun switching like this?  In general, it's considered distasteful to use "it" to refer to a human or a conventionally gendered sentient creature.  In most literature, it's dehumanizing and intended to be used on repulsive/horrific things.  This is why the whole genderfluid crowd doesn't accept "it" as a pronoun and want to commit atrocities upon the word "they", or invent whole new words for gender pronouns.  Lewis is very generous and kind to Tumnus through the book from my recollection of reading it many years back, and isn't one to demean the creature by labeling Tumnus as "it."

Can any of you shed light on the pronoun soup here?  I'm kind of surprised at this observation, given that Lewis is a reknowned essayist.  I would expect him to strive for greater clarity than this.


"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." grin

Oooooooops,   that was Emerson.    Oh well,  it still counts .... sorta. Tinfoil Hat Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2019, 09:13:09 AM »

AZRedhawk44, and commas.  Tongue
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2019, 10:55:58 AM »

I never did finish reading that series of books. Iĺve read the first two, lost steam after LW&W.

Unlike most folks I read The Space Trilogy first, then The Great Divorce.

Sorry, I canĺt help you on the grammar.

Iĺll probably always speak and write like the Chicago southsider I am.

As widely read as I am (not necessarily well read) I still slip into dees, dats and does and am plagued with other colloquialisms from the old Polish, Lithuanian, Chek neighborhood in which I was born. Even the burb we moved into was populated with folks from the old neighborhood.

Anybody here read his story ôTill we have faces, a myth retoldö?
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2019, 12:44:45 PM »

I never did finish reading that series of books. Iĺve read the first two, lost steam after LW&W.

Read  in high school, and not since.  So, 45+ years ago.

Quote
Unlike most folks I read The Space Trilogy first, then The Great Divorce.

Great Divorce is one I come back to, now and again.  And I really should re-read the "space trilogy".

BTW, youtube, The Great Divorce Project.  A few of the vignettes, done as quick films.  I like this one best.  "Is it possible, that you don't know where you have been?"

Quote

Hey, yeah, you noticed the Lewis is public domain and freely available, elsewhere in the world.  While we remain oppressed by The Mouse.

Quote
Sorry, I canĺt help you on the grammar.

Lewis had a pretty formidable mind, and I do kind of vaguely recall him writing that if one was good enough, you knew when you could break those rules.  But you had to be very good first.


Quote
Anybody here read his story ôTill we have faces, a myth retoldö?

One I never did read.
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2019, 01:11:09 PM »

Back to the OP's question...

I saw it as an  inadvertent proximity of object or number or tense error. "It" referred (erroneously) to "heart."

I sometimes  catch myself doing that when writing about plural things and a single thing in the same paragraph or clause, and whether "its" or "their" is used depends on whether the plural "things" or the singular "thing" is closest.  I generally have to reconstruct the passage to correct it even though it "sounds" right when you read it fast in the original.

I reckon it's just one of those things the editors and proofreaders missed.  Its not impossable, you know, and I dont think its deserving of such exquisite analysis.

I'd be willing to bet the original manuscript has some corrections or re-arrangements scribbled in right about there, and that one fell through the cracks.  The quotations seem funny, too.

Terry
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2019, 02:00:57 PM »

Wheaton College has the Marion Wade Center which is dedicated to preserving the writings and collections of Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, and making them available and accessible to the public.  The letters between Lewis and Tolkien are fascinating.
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AZRedhawk44
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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2019, 02:43:56 PM »

The only consistency I've been able to get out of it thus far, is that every time Lewis refers to "the Faun" he uses the "it" pronoun.  Every time Lewis refers to "Mr. Tumnus" he uses the "he" pronoun.

It's damned strange though, because if I refer to a person or any subset that might be a person (boy/girl/man/woman/child/grandpa/etc) I would use a gendered pronoun when re-referring to that person.  Even a non-specifically-gendered human object still gets an implied gender (i.e. "The baby crawled to the precipice of the stairs and tumbled down to his doom."), even if we don't know the gender of the baby.  We wouldn't write "to its doom" in that context.

To give historical context to this linguist, a peer of Lewis (Tolkien) wrote the following:

Quote from: Tolkien, The Two Towers
I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin.

He's talking about the Balrog in Moria.  Granted, "it" is already being used in this sentence to represent the mountain-side, so we can't use "it" twice for two different objects.  But Tolkien granted the Balrog male gender semi-human status, effectively no different class of creature than a faun.  As well read as these men were, and being masters of the written word, there is reason embedded into just about every sentence crafted by them in their works.
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2019, 06:09:58 PM »

Mountain; mole-hill.

It's a grey area of language and that's all there is to it.
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2019, 10:49:05 AM »

Mountain; mole-hill.

...

Ayup.

Back to the OP's question...

...

I reckon it's just one of those things the editors and proofreaders missed.  Its not impossable, you know, and I dont think its deserving of such exquisite analysis.
....

Terry

As I touched upon, I don't think the typesetting was done from a fair copy, resulting in some of the mish-mosh.

You should see some of my pre-computer drafts<stet stuff, covered with circled phrases with an arrow leading to a corrected version 'way over there, elision marks, stets and stets crossed out, scotch-taped versions of a whole paragraph over an old paragraph...

I pity the poor typesetter who has had to work from that kind of draft instead of a fair copy.had-----------------^

Terry
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Amy Schumer
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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2019, 04:49:24 PM »

Perhaps rather then focusing on the grammar, focus of the ideas and concepts that he was trying to get across.
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Bring me my Broadsword and a clear understanding.
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Take women and children and bed them down.
Bless with a hard heart those that stand with me.
Bless the women and children who firm our hands.
Put our backs to the north wind.
Hold fast by the river.
Sweet memories to drive us on,
for the motherland.
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2019, 08:38:35 PM »

Perhaps rather then focusing on the grammar, focus of the ideas and concepts that he was trying to get across.

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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2019, 10:31:03 PM »

Perhaps rather then focusing on the grammar, focus of the ideas and concepts that he was trying to get across.

Sometimes there is specific meaning in your grammar to get across ideas and concepts. Tongue
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2019, 06:12:18 AM »

Sometimes there is specific meaning in your grammar to get across ideas and concepts. Tongue

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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2019, 06:55:26 AM »


Anybody here read his story ôTill we have faces, a myth retoldö?

Yes I has. It ain't your sister's Christian fiction. I'd like to see a book club of Beckys (Beckies? Rebeccas?) read this book, and see what happens. I think they'd be confused and repulsed.

Great story, though. Maybe it could be rewritten for Becky. Let's see the ugly queen could be an ugly Amish girl. No, she'd have to be a pretty Amish girl, but she really needs a make-over. Or something.
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2019, 02:49:47 PM »

Yes I has. It ain't your sister's Christian fiction. I'd like to see a book club of Beckys (Beckies? Rebeccas?) read this book, and see what happens. I think they'd be confused and repulsed.

Great story, though. Maybe it could be rewritten for Becky. Let's see the ugly queen could be an ugly Amish girl. No, she'd have to be a pretty Amish girl, but she really needs a make-over. Or something.

Itĺs been in my Amazon list for a bit now. Worth reading then? Iĺll pick it up and check it out.
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« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2019, 02:56:16 PM »

Itĺs been in my Amazon list for a bit now. Worth reading then? Iĺll pick it up and check it out.

Good.
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