Tuesday 24 December 2019

In which Aslan sees off Polly Toynbee

A BBC taxi brings Polly to Broadcasting House

Like the Pevensey children, I lived in Narnia for part of my childhood and felt the breath of Aslan on my face. So I tuned in with great interest to this week's Beyond Belief to hear three writers singing the praises of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

By the Lion's mane, alas, it appears that not everyone appreciates C.S. Lewis's children's classic, foremost among them Polly Toynbee. She calls it "manipulative" because she doesn't like its underlying Christian message. She was definitely the White Witch denying us Christmas in the eyes of Ernie Rea's contributors, but they saw her off with a mighty roar. And she was never heard from again. (If only). 

We heard some extracts. Ernie Rea described the following as "beautiful" and "a great piece of descriptive writing", and I agree. The resurrected Aslan is here carrying the children on his back to the Witch's castle as winter gives way to spring in Narnia:
That ride was perhaps the most wonderful thing that happened to them in Narnia. Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that...and then imagine you are going about twice as fast as the fastest racehorse. But this is a mount that doesn't need to be guided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on...right across Narnia, in spring, down solemn avenues of beech and across sunny glades of oak, through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees, past roaring waterfalls and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, and across the shoulders of heathery mountains and along giddy ridges and down, down, down again into wild valleys and out into acres of blue flowers.
"That's recognisably County Down", said Frank Cottrell-Boyce - which rather makes me want to go to County Down. 


  1. This reminds me very much of narrative poems and ballads - for instance, echoes of Paul Revere's Ride and The Fairies by William Allingham - 'Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen...' - rendered in prose. I wonder if they were popular at the time and he may have read and heard such ballads and poems or learned them in school.

    1. Quite likely - it would have been pretty much compulsory to learn such ballads at school when he was a boy.

  2. I wasn't exposed to CS Lewis much as a child (for which I am still grateful!)...I was more a TV 21, Daleks, Thunderbirds and Beano kind of kid! :)

    As for Polly (what's the opposite of a Pollyanna? A Pollytoynbee?). Toynbee is very much in the Queen Bee mould. I have long thought that she actually mimics the Queen - vocally, in her deportment, in her rather prim detachment, and even in the way she dresses quite often. It takes a Republican to be so imitative of our Monarch!


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