This thesis investigates the function of representations of the Orient in fantasy literature for children with a focus on The Chronicles of Narnia as exemplifying its most problematic manifestation. According to Edward Said (2003:1-2), the Orient is one of Europe’s ‘deepest and most recurring images of the Other… [which]…has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience.’ However, values are grouped around otherness in fantasy literature as in no other genre, facilitating what J.R.R. Tolkien (2001:58) identifies as Recovery, the ‘regaining of a clear view… [in order that] the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity.’ In Chapter One, it is argued that this gives the way the genre deals with spaces and identities characterized as Oriental, which in Western stories are themselves vested with qualities of strangeness, a peculiar significance. Specifically, new ways of perceiving the function of representations of the Other are explored in the genre of fantasy.
Edward Said’s concept of imaginative geographies is then introduced and the significance of this concept in light of the fictional spaces of fantasy is explored. Next, fantasy’s links to representations of the Orient in Romance literature are explained, and the way in which these representations are determined by the heritage of Orientalist discourse is examined. Finally, the issue of children’s literature as colonial space and the implications of this in a fantasy framework are discussed.
Chapter Two begins by introducing C.S. Lewis and explaining the ideology at work in The Chronicles of Narnia. The order in which The Chronicles should be approached is then established, and the construction of identity in the first three of The Chronicles is examined. Chapter Three focuses on The Horse and His Boy, the book in which the pseudo-Oriental space of Calormen most prominently figures. Chapter Four is devoted to the last two books of The Chronicles with emphasis on the role played by the Other in the destruction of Narnia in The Last Battle.
In Chapter Five, I sum up the essential problems of representing the Orient as illustrated by my study of The Chronicles of Narnia. Representations of the Orient in The Chronicles are compared with pseudo-Oriental constructions in Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones, Emperor Mage and The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce and both Voices and The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin. The similarities and differences evident in the representations of the Orient in all these works are traced and the implications of them are explored. Le Guin in particular is noted as an author who demonstrates some ways to break free of Orientalist paradigms of identity.