was cooking sausages for his breakfast a couple of days ago, and got to musing that there ought to be a fanfic where King Edmund and Queen Lucy visit an abbatoir - because where on earth do all those sausages come from in a land with talking animals, whom no Narnian would ever slaughter for food? I reminded him that there are dumb animals in Narnia as well as talking ones - for example, Puddleglum was happy enough to eat venison in the giants' castle (The Silver Chair
) until the giants talked about how the stag it came from was a liar - i.e. it had spoken.
That got me thinking about the talking animal creation story in The Magician's Nephew
"And now, for the first time, the Lion was quite silent. He was going to and fro among the animals. And every now and then he would go up to two of them (always two at a time) and touch their noses with his. He would touch two beavers among all the beavers, two leopards among all the leopards, one stag and one deer among all the deer, and leave the rest. Some sorts of animal he passed over altogether. But the pairs which he had touched instantly left their own kinds and followed him."
So far, so Christian allegory. But later, once Aslan ("the Lion") has breathed on each of these chosen creatures, and they have grown or shrunk according to their original size ("The smaller ones – the rabbits, moles and such-like -- grew a good deal larger. The very big ones -- you noticed it most with the elephants – grew a little smaller."), he commands them to
"...awake. Love. Think. Speak."
and the creatures respond:
"We hear and obey. We are awake. We love. We think. We speak. We know."
What makes these animals, these chosen animals different, special, is their ability to love, to think, to speak and to know. Like Adam, they can name. And this is the crux of the train of thought which treats human beings as not only special, but more important than other beings.
Some would say this exceptionalism is necessary to maintain the concept of human rights, but to me it is an invidious idea, which lies at the heart of our estrangement from the rest of nature, our ability to treat animals as marketable commodities, to accept cruel farming methods with minimal complaint, to capture other animals, which we now realise can themselves love, think, speak and know in their own way, and hold them in captivity for our entertainment.
I dearly loved Narnia growing up – I still do – but the older I get, the more what I find lying behind the page distresses me.