05 January 2009

Ranty McRantpants

Can anyone tell me why the Telmarines in the Disney Prince Caspian film are Spanish (or maybe Portugese, some kind of swarthy Meditarranean types, anyway)?

I'm sure Caspian is described in the books as being blond. On the front cover of the book I had he's wearing a helmet, so that's not much help. But he's a full-on goldilocks on the front cover of Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Here he is in all his Narnian finery:

Although it does seem as though the illustrator of this Puffin edition was having a bet each way:

I mean, I guess there's nothing exactly wrong with making them Spaniards. But what dramatic purpose does it serve, other than enabling all the bad guys to have dark pointy beards? (And now what are the Calormenes going to look like, I ask you? Oh wait, never mind, that seems to be the least of their worries.)

In fact, why did they change.... um, you know... just about everything?

I know you have to change things when you adapt a book to the screen (drama, pacing, visual storytelling blah blah) so I'm not whingeing about that per se. (I mean, I love Tom Bombadil, but I can totally see why Peter Jackson didn't want him clogging up the plot with all that striding and singing. And beefing up Arwen's role: awesome! And all those extra Wind in the Willows happenings in the TV show that aren't in the book: love them! ) But why adapt a book at all if the only thing you're keeping are the characters' names and the setting and a few broad plot points?

Or am I being unfair?


Penni Russon said...

Oh dear. I must confess to liking Prince Caspian better than TLTWATW as a film, I thought it was much pacier and far less overladen with wide-eyed wonder scenes (I hate wide-eyed wonder). The Wardrobe movie made me realise how weak some of the scenes of the book are (Santa gives them their gifts? Nooo. No.) And Prince Caspian was sexy (and as he is only 7 years my junior - I checked - I don't feel like a dirty old bird saying that). I loved the beginning scenes too. It never really bothered me that the Telmarines were swarthy, though now you mention it, they were more Scandinavian weren't they?

I'm not at all surprised that the franchise has died in the proverbial - I bet whoever signed it had forgotten all about the last book and how decidedly nutty and didactic it is. I am sorry we won't get to see the scene where they enter the painting though (in Voyage). That would have been cool.

Alexandra said...

I had thought it was so that they looked like Conquistadors, thus making Narnia like South America and we get to be all righteous about nasty conquering people doing bad things to the conquered. That's certainly how I read it, and I rather enjoyed it as an addition to the film - I didn't think *that* bit detracted from it. Perhaps that's also because it's been long enough since I read the book that I wasn't feeling very protective of the story at the time...

Unknown said...

I think you're being a bit unfair. I didn't mind that they were Spanish - we don't see enough of that culture in movies at the moment. I think it helped to change Narnia's Anglo-centricness too.

That was a good article you linked to, but I can't believe they reckon Susan didn't make it into the New Narnia because she wore lipstick. If they'd actually red the text they'd know that's not true.

Unknown said...

Oh dear. That should be "read the text", of course. Wouldn't it be great if I re-read my OWN text? XD


Greg G said...

I thought the Telmarines were descended from earth sailors and maybe islander women... might have to reread some Narnia to confirm. But I think Caspian was blond, yes.

This is the best response to the Susan/lipstick thing:


Anonymous said...

Penni - You know, I actually liked it better than the TLTWATW, too. It was much more robust and energetic - and some of the fight scenes were very cool. I would have loved to have seen Dawn Treader on the big screen - I'm a sucker for ship movie (with dragons!)

Alexandra P - I think your point about feeling protective (or not) of the story is spot on. I was feeling very protective. As well as rereading it fairly recently, I had it on audio tape as a kid (fatal, if you want detachment in later life) - so I'm possibly a bit nuttily attached to the literal words. (I was very glad they quoted almost verbatim the really scary 'I can lie a thousand nights on the ice and not freeze, I can drink a river of blood and not burst'.) So, although I do think we should be able to recognise conquering colonials as blondies as well as darkies, I think my principals of cultural diversity in fiction were less outraged than my principals of slavish adherence to a favourite book.

Robofillet - I think the dwarves, the centaurs, the fauns etc would beg to differ that Narnia was Anglocentric - but I know what you mean. Although I think having the despotic enemies being non-Anglo actually reinforces the anglo-ness of... well, maybe it's just the Pevensies really.

Greg C -Yep. 'a shipload of pirates' who 'killed the natives and took the native women for wives' - I just went and reread the last chapter. And I just checked the start of The Dawn Treader. Caspian is described as 'a golden-headed boy some years older than [Lucy]'. Thanks for the link - very interesting and persuasive.

Unknown said...

Oh but I quite disagree! Caspian was the hero of the movie (all their advertising would say he was - not the Pevensies) and Caspian was ALSO non-Anglo. This makes it a story about a Spanish prince seizing his birthright back from his evil Spanish uncle.

Keep in mind most of the Telmarines decide to stay in Narnia at the end of the movie. It's not that the Spaniards were evil, it's just they had an evil autocrat for a king who had to be got rid of.

Penni Russon said...

I just read Greg G's link and I have to say I still think Lewis was awfully and unforgivably harsh on poor old Susan.

Anonymous said...

Wait. You LOVE Tom Bombadil? Wow. I thought everyone skipped those bits.

Justine L