C. S. Lewis's world of Narnia is one of the most enchanting fictional places in existence, but it's also super, duper messed up. Talking animals aren't the only weird things about Narnia. From racism to sexism to painting entire species with a broad brush, there's a whole lot of this fictional land that strikes the modern reader as more than a little suspect. Though the novels themselves are ostensibly for audiences of all ages, there are some pretty disturbing things about Narnia.
Sure, we could answer the question of whether the Chronicles of Narnia are racist by hand-waving it as a product of its time. But as a highly influential piece of literature that's often given to fantasy-loving children, it's important to consider the dark implications of Narnia. Fun and engrossing though it may be, the Narnia series holds some pretty disturbing truths buried in there as well.
The fate of Susan has been hotly debated for ages. According to Peter, she's "no longer a friend of Narnia," and Jill explains that, "she's interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations." Sure, it's not nice, and sure, it's not explicitly said that Susan will never get to Narnia, only that she isn't there at the time.
But that doesn't erase the fact that her story is never finished, and that her siblings seemingly don’t care she may never join them in Heaven. Worse, Susan – because she denies her belief in a magical land you travel to in a wardrobe in a time when saying such a thing (especially as a woman) could get you thrown in a horribly abusive asylum – now has three dead siblings, a dead cousin, and apparently two dead parents as well. Remember, the other Pevensies see them all in Heaven, except for Susan. She's all alone for the crime of trying to grow up at a reasonable rate.
Jadis is hardly a sympathetic figure, but when Polly and Diggory enter her world in The Magician's Nephew, they find it to be a dead, dreary place illuminated only by a sun on the verge of dying. And it's all Jadis' fault.
After learning the Deplorable Word (a spell to destroy all life), she uses it after losing a fight with her sister. There's no explanation given for why such a spell would exist in the first place, nor is there any way to stop it, so the world of Charn simply exists under constant threat of total annihilation based on the whims of its cruel leaders.
The Pevensie children enter Narnia as children, with the oldest, Peter, only 13 years old. The first time they leave Narnia, they're fully grown adults with little memory of their previous lives until they stumble back to England through the wardrobe. And this isn't the last time they travel to and from Narnia. It happens a couple more times, with strange time dilation making it feel as though no time has passed in England at all.
Sure, it's the ultimate escapist fantasy, but it's also a little troubling. The Pevensie children, and later Jill and Eustace, all spend lots of time in Narnia experiencing terrifying situations and events suited for adults. Though they might be children in appearance, their actual age is quite different. Even if it fades as they spend time in their own world, it's a little creepy, not to mention frustrating. Can you imagine having the consciousness of a 42-year-old woman trapped in a child's body? You couldn't drink wine or go on a date or have any kind of meaningful discussion with your peers.
"Battles are ugly when women fight," Father Christmas tells Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Not "battles are ugly when children fight," which is true, nor, "battles are ugly," which is also true, but specifically that battles are ugly when women fight, which is bullsh*t. That's why Lucy is given a healing cordial and Susan is given a magic, help-summoning horn, but Peter is given a sword.
Though Susan and Lucy are given tools to defend themselves, both are specifically told the means NOT to use them. Women are meant to support the men in battle with their healing and magic horns, not fight for themselves, no matter how much is at stake. In a world with witches, talking animals, and magical beasts, women are still relegated as helpers, not warriors.