I had the wonderful opportunity to talk on the Prophetic Imagination podcast about The Last Battle, and particularly, about the figure and role of Tash! We discuss C.S. Lewis’ minor charater, racism in the series, and how I interpret the character in my comic, “Inexorable.” You can listen to the interview here!
I just discovered The Prophetic Imagination podcast this year, and they’ve done a wonderful series this season on the Chronicles of Narnia and grappling with the series’ relationship with “evangelical artifacts” and mainstream American Christianity. Across the various episodes they interview various academics, literary scholars, artists, authors, and others who lend their insights and personal relationships to C.S. Lewis and the series itself. In their previous series, they also cover other Christian themed series such as Adventures in Odyssey and Frank Peretti’s writing from trauma-informed perspectives. Definitely check it out if it’s a subject you’re interested in! It was a really great experience to talk on this podcast, and while biased I can definitely recommend.
The featured artwork here is an illustration of Tash I did inspired by Southeast Asian artwork, particularly pre-colonial southern Philippines in the clothing and sword, as well as Thai imagery for the wings (inspired by Garuda statues) and shape of the flames. My thinking behind this piece was that in the Narnia series itself, Tash is portrayed very monstrously and as a mishmash of various cultures (various Middle Eastern and Indian in particular) that reflect a racist, orientalist mindset that categorizes the east as a somewhat homologous group of “exotic” cultural aspects that are defined in opposition to in-universe Narnian whiteness and purity.
However, I thought it was interesting to think about cultures that DO have a jumble of various cultural influences, including Indian/Hindu and Arabic influences, and how that could possibly be explored in ways that reflect an interesting history or cultural engagement. One of the things I found super fascinating when studying Southeast Asian art and history is how syncretic a lot of the influences are, how the different influences of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam along with indigenous traditions in various places left their mark on the style on the imagery and local cultures. And how that can be a really unique and beautiful thing rather than something inherently monstrous. I also was thinking how in the world of Narnia itself, in its limited view we only see a bit of what the officially-ordained practice of Tash reverence is like in temples and as images that serve the state–I would not be surprised if in universe, in places further from the center, there would be various aspects of Tash-worship that have more variation or combined with different cultures. Much to think about!