The Problem of Neil Gaiman
Mon 13 March 2017
So, it happened. I read “The problem of Susan” by Neil Gaiman and I am completely disgusted by it. Not because Aslan did the White Witch proper, or because he ate all those lovely little children. Serves them well, and it is certainly the author’s prerogative to decide that somebody else’s God is actually a nasty daemon.
What I do object though is that Neil does not seem to understand what C. S. Lewis was trying to say about Susan at all which is shame given he claims The Chronicles of Narnia were the major influence on him and his writing. I think I can understand what stood behind this part of Susan in Lewis’s mind. I know the experience from the Christian context, but I guess it can happen in any personally close community, where deep issues of life are dealt with (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous?), or perhaps you are just very good friends. There’s that person you knew for years, you were very close, crying together, praying (or whatever is appropaite) together, and you believed you understand each other. And suddenly this person leaves your community for the flimsiest possible reasons. He just decides to leave the Church, turns back to booze, starts to cheat on his wife. You rack your brain and feel horribly guilty that it was some of your misbehavior towards him which send him on the wrong path. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason. So, you start some other members of your community they did something. You ask questions, offend some, hurt others, but in the end you still don’t know about any reason that the nonsense they told you before (if they are still talking to you). In the end it is a mystery or perhaps they just won’t tell you. Some people just leave.
There is certainly pain in that, but if you paint a picture of some semi-religious experience (like Narnia), I do believe that in order to be realistic, there should be somebody like Susan, who just leaves. And it has absolutely nothing to do with her being a girl, or sex and nylons. And yes, teenagers do stupid things which in the end hurt them, sometims a lot. I can tell, because I left in my fifteen my Scouting community, which was the only real life-giving community I knew for a long time before and after that, and I still don’t know exactly why I did it. And yes, it hurt me for many years, practically until I joined a community of Christians.
I am not sure why Mr. Gaiman and Mrs. Rowling couldn’t see it, and I am probably in no position to speculate about that.