Lewis Opposed Live Action Narnia?

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
Oxford
18 Dec. 1959

Dear Sieveking

(Why do you ‘Dr’ me? Had we not dropped the honorifics?) As things worked out, I wasn’t free to hear a single instalment of our serial [The Magician’s Nephew] except the first. What I did hear, I approved. I shd. be glad for the series to be given abroad. But I am absolutely opposed – adamant isn’t in it! – to a TV version. Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.

All the best,
yours
C. S. Lewis

[Letter to BBC producer Lance Sieveking (1896-1972), who has written at the top: "The Magician’s Nephew" and, after the address, the phone number "62963".]

I’m a bit skeptical about the legitimacy of this. The author claims that honorifics have been dropped, but addresses the recipient by his last name and signs with his given initials. Lewis always preferred to be called Jack, and I believe he would sign a letter as "Jack Lewis" or just "Jack" if honorifics had indeed been dropped. I’m not a Lewis expert, just a fan. I’m sure Lewis stepson, Douglas Gresham, could shed some light on this. Anyone know how to get a hold of him?

Comments 6

  1. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Somehow I don’t think CGI was up-to-snuff when the good professor was alive.

    Posted 01 Dec 2005 at 3:24 am
  2. howard wrote:

    That’s what I was just thinking. In 1959, it probably would have been blasphemy, just like those old sci-fi flicks…

    Posted 01 Dec 2005 at 8:55 am
  3. Maureen wrote:

    I don’t know about blasphemy. More like a mystery play. I’d like to see a Narnia mystery play.

    Of course, in a Narnian mystery play, Puzzle playing Aslan would probably be played by a talking raccoon or something, which would lead to certain complications in costuming.

    Posted 01 Dec 2005 at 7:00 pm
  4. Publius wrote:

    I’m a bit skeptical about the legitimacy of this. The author claims that honorifics have been dropped, but addresses the recipient by his last name and signs with his given initials.

    Keep in mind that Lewis never actually earned a doctorate: he only had an honorary doctorate (perhaps more than one). It is perfectly intelligible that he would not want to be called Dr. for that reason but still wasn’t chummy enough with the person he was writing to sign it as Jack Lewis.

    Posted 01 Dec 2005 at 11:18 pm
  5. Kevin wrote:

    Actually, in 1959 probably the best way to approach Aslan would have been with stop motion animation. Looking at the original 1933 KING KONG, you can see the suprising level of emotion and character that could achieved with the effect.

    Basically, stop motion animation involves a puppet which is posed for each individual frame for film (24 frames in a second). Very intricate and precise work.

    Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop motion animation, was at the top of his game at this point. If you have seen, for example, the skelton sequence in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, you can see his skill not only in animation, but in compositing his animation in with live actors, something that would be very important with NARNIA.

    Posted 03 Dec 2005 at 2:36 am
  6. Cicero wrote:

    Even if this was genuine, I don’t think Lewis would have raised the same objection had he seen the special effects of today.

    Posted 09 Dec 2005 at 11:02 pm

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