16
Jan 11

NARNIA WEEK: Satan Claus

Do You See4 comments • 617 views

The appearance of Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe always disconcerted me. As a rational child, there was aspects of the Narnian fantasy which confused me a touch. I was OK with the “portal to another world” type of fantasy, but was well aware from Alice and the Wizard Of Oz that there was always a gentle subtext that this was all the “dream” of the protagonist. A good way of spotting this was there being too much specific from their external life (the Wicked Witch resembling the horrid neighbour). But Narnia had in its favour that it was a shared fantasy, Lucy comes and goes twice, and brings others in. Perhaps it a shared hallucination, but the well thought out world building of CS Lewis had me convinced that more was going on here than just pretend. It wasn’t all just a cheap allegory to make me good at maths or reading (yes – I am looking at you Phantom Tollbooth).

And then Father Christmas turns up. It marks the end of the Long Winter, proof that the White Witch’s power is fading. Its a symbolically powerful part of the book, the kids get useful warmongering gifts (well Lucy gets some Weak Lemon Cordial), and Mrs Beaver gets a sewing machine. Its all, as ever, wonderfully middle class British, as is witty of Father Christmas himself. But doesn’t Christmas suggest Christ, and some sort of church? Not only does that seem to mess with Aslan’s role as the Christ allegory in Narnia, but this is a peculiarly cosy British version of St Nick, or Santa Claus. The jolly avuncular version is exactly what the story needs, but you wonder why Lewis just didn’t invent something with the same role, that could be clearly friendly, more Narnian and not use the same mode of transport as the White Witch. It seemed like the only good thing the kids could think up, rather than being of Narnia. It made me consider the shared hallucination explanation again.

Father Christmas or Santa Claus is a potent piece of kiddie mythology. It seems odd to annually participate in a mass falsehood to trick children into believing in something which will take the credit for present buying off of the buyers. It also gives kids who are otherwise told about Stranger Danger a fantastically mixed message about strange men with gifts, not to mention burglars and the safe use of a chimney for ingress. The lead in the excellent Finnish Christmas horror movie Rare Exports is a child with a health scepticism about the goodness of Santa Claus. Indeed he convinced Russians over the border are digging up the body of Santa, and he is not happy at all. Because this kid knows the folkloric origins of Santa would not have just rocked up and given Susan a bow and arrows AND a horn. He may have also stolen her body, replaced her with a straw child and devoured her body for sustenance. If she had been naughty. Though it being Susan, Nylons and all, he would certainly gun for her.

What unfolds in Rare Exports is a delightfully quirky horror fable, ideal for anyone over 13 I would say, which is a bit scary, then morphs into a fun little action movie with a twelve year old Bruce Willis. It takes its premise seriously and takes it through to its logical conclusion (logical for a horror movie). And it is a film which earns its Santa. Unlike LWW where Father Christmas is a fudge, a rare misstep, not to mention a glaring error that leapt out at me even as a child. Because Christmas does not even mark the end of winter, it tends to get worse for a bit before it gets better.

Comments

  1. 1
    James K. on 16 Jan 2011 #

    “was well aware from Alice and the Wizard Of Oz that there was always a gentle subtext that this was all the ‘dream’ of the protagonist. A good way of spotting this was there being too much specific from their external life (the Wicked Witch resembling the horrid neighbour).”

    For The Wizard of Oz, this applies only to the movie. Oz in the books was not a dream, the horrid neighbor was an invented movie character not in the book, and Baum wrote about a dozen sequels in which (eventually) Dorothy and her uncle and aunt as well move to Oz permanently.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 17 Jan 2011 #

    Yes, sorry I should have made it clear it was the film of the Wizard Of Oz (which was on every Christmas over here – the books were quite hard to get hold of).

  3. 3
    James K. on 17 Jan 2011 #

    It’s OK; even in the U.S. I think the books are not read very much these days.

  4. 4
    PoetPatriot.com on 24 Oct 2011 #

    Satan Clause – Sayings for Church Signs, Bulletins & Newsletters.
    http://www.poetpatriot.com/poethol-sayings-christmas.htm#SatanClause

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