Drugs in Narnia

In other Blogs I have mentioned that a sub theme of C S Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe is on Drug Addiction.

To this I have had several complaints that Edmund was seduced by treachery not Drugs.

In my defense I have written the following and I stand by it.

In the book whenever the narrative turned to Edmund the topic of the Turkish delight came into play, much like a craving.

It was very clearly stated that the magic of the Turkish delight was in the fact that a person who ate it could not stop and continually wanted more and would do anything to keep getting it, if this is not an allusion to drug dependency than I don’t know what is. (sorry I will have to retrieve the full quote later after I beg borrow or steal a copy of the book)

Also the allusion to Turkish delight as a drug was not entirely something Lewis drew out of his own imagination.

In the book Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years by Ernest Abel (New York and London, Plenum Press, 1980) , Abel notes the following;

“As in India, local officials in Egypt were alarmed at the large numbers of inhabitants who used hashish directly or in confections, many of which were exported to Europe. Among the variety of confectionery treats containing hashish that were sent abroad were ‘Turkish Delight,’ square pieces of hashish containing sugar and gelatin which were a particular favorite of the students at Cambridge University in England.(p. 133.)

As an academic Lewis would have known this given that it was as noted a “particular favorite of the students at Cambridge University in England,” even though Lewis went to Oxford the use at Cambridge would not have likely slipped his attention.

That said, Edmund was portrayed as the weakest of the group, a usual starting point for dependency.

So I stick to my original interpretation, if the Turkish delight was not a drug it was most certainly the cause of Edmund’s allegiance to the witch.

It does follow from a Christian perspective however that Satan (represented by the witch) would use addiction to tempt a Christian away from God, would it not?


15 thoughts on “Drugs in Narnia

  1. It’s spelled “Edmund”–with a “U”. Just in case you cared.
    I backed you up on your point about the drugs on my blog just now. The quote I used from the book, clearly illustrates the metaphor for drug addiction.

  2. Noted and corrected. Sorry I work with a number of Francophones whose names end in – mond eg.. Raymond and I assumed wrongly it was Edmond. Also I noted on your Blog access to the copy of the novel I read is limited at the moment. (-:

  3. Hmmm. It seems to me you’re adding a layer of symbolism that isn’t required. I always took the Turkish Delight as a symbol of any physical indulgence which, if unchecked, leads a soul away from God.

  4. I never bothered to worry what it symbolised, but there is no doubt that Edmund was seduced by & addicted to the Turkish Delight in the book. It was one of my complaints about the film, that it just showed him as nasty.

    Loads of people picked me up on it on my review though, so either a)they didn’t read the book (very well), or b) it was not as obvious as I thought!

    I guess I thought it was just a moral that if you give in to something you know is wrong (taking sweets from strangers/eating sweets at all/whatever) then it may lead you somewhere you don’t want to go, so yes, addiction would fit the bill nicely:-)

  5. Balbulican are you following me I was just reading you on Stageleft.

    Reread the story I really don’t think I am adding symbolism when drugs albeit not named are obviously present in the work. I’m not even sure that they are metaphorical if Lewis was aware that Turkish delight at that time contained Hashish?

    That said I suspect you are right about physical indulgence, to me the drugs / Turkish delight are just one aspect of that.

  6. Mrs. Aginoth

    I agree Edmund did seem far too nasty in the movie.

    However he did look very repentant after his talk with Aslan, but I guess that was the point.

    I have however heard him referred to as Judas personified, but I don’t believe that was Lewis’s idea. I suspect, if we must talk symbolism that Edmund was simply sinful mankind which would make Aslan Christ.

    That said, It could be just a child’s story of heroes and villains with a good moral undertone.

  7. Here are the quotes from the book that I was refering to that support the argument for drugs in Narnia.

    I have sadie lou to thank for these.

    “…the more he ate, the more he wanted to eat.”

    “for she knew, even though Edmund didn’t, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.”

  8. Actually, the quote makes me wonder whether Lewis had drug addiction in mind.

    The witch is a type of Satan. Satan keeps people in bondage to sin and corruption leading to death. The fact that the Turkish Delight was “enchanted” may refer only to Satan’s power over us, to make us sin compulsively.

    The sin could be drug addiction, gluttony, sloth, lust, bouts of rage, or whatever.

    All the quote says is that the Turkish Delight was enchanted and therefore became a vehicle through which the witch gained dominion over Edmund.

    I’m more impressed by your historical argument, Bill, that Turkish Delight was once laced with hashish and we have reason to assume that Lewis was aware of that fact.

  9. I want to see the movie. It has been more than 20 years since I read the books so I don’t remember enough to comment about what Lewis intended here.

  10. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I never knew the history of the confectionary, what is sold in stores as a chocolate bar “Turkish Delight” but it is very interesting and lends credibility to your argument.

  11. What is actually bizarre about all this, is the people who think that Lewis was using this to promote drugs or was a user himself. I blogged about this several weeks ago.

    I have to agree with those who view TD as a symbolic of general temptation to sin. The characteristics describing drug addiction can be easily applied to any temptation to sin.

    I can see where Lewis could have been making a point about drugs, but a more general symbolism certainly fits better with the overall theme of the story.

  12. Cameron, your right in assuming that part of the message of this novel is the temptation to sin. That said the movie villified Edmund for his addiction which is harsh when as Lewis states “that anyone who had once tasted it [the TD] would want more and more of it, and would even, if allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.”

    The problem is that this is the same approach that society has to drug addiction. society blames the addicts for the problem not the pushers dealer trafficers and the white witches of the world.

    Aslam forgave Edmund and he called on the others to do the same as God forgave us (sorry can’t remeber the exact quote fron the novel or the bible at the moment)

  13. Bill,
    I do not think the movie villified Edmund solely for his passion for TD. Edmund is portrayed in both the movie and the book as demonstrating a number of weaknesses: unkindness towards his siblings, selfishness, ambition, deceit and betrayal in addition to his seemingly insatiable appetite for TD. It seems apparent that Lewis’ goal was to portray Edmund as a type for the sinful nature of all mankind.

  14. Gordon: Your right he is not solely vilified for his passion/addiction.

    I say addiction because passion does not seem to apply to a substance that causes the user to desire it.

    I am beginning to accept the fact that Lewis may have be pointing to temptation as the motive factor,

    Not from the movie but from the book it seems that Edmund’s betrayal was not treated as coming from his character but from pressures without.

    That said you may be correct as in Lewis’s second book in his Space Trilogy “Perelandra” he does discuss original sin to a great degree.

    I however am still holding to the fact that th TD held a greater grasp on him after his temptation.

    From the book I got a greater impression of innocence corrupted and subsequently redeemed than a message of original sin.

    But I could be wrong.

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