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Related to Why was Susan treated so unkindly?

The children were in Narnia a long time, at least as far as time in the UK goes. By some counts at least 15 years even if just for the first time, not to mention their later few journeys.

The timeline seems to be:

  • 1940 - Age 12, spend ~15 years in Narnia
  • 1941 - Age 13, spend ~1 (?) year in Narnia
  • Age 19, no longer believes in Narnia

It seems unlikely to me that someone would forget a large percentage of her memory in a relatively short period of time.

Is there an in-universe explanation as to how Susan could forget or come to believe that Narnia wasn't real even though it was such a large percentage of her life? Is there a "Narnia time" effect? Or am I misunderstanding how long they were actually in Narnia?

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    I don't know for sure but possibly when you are in a different world your memories of the other world fade. I know that by the end of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe they had forgotten England but remembered as soon as they returned. – Bellerophon Oct 31 '16 at 22:32
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    she grew up, and thought it was all fantasy, she didnt forget per say – Himarm Oct 31 '16 at 22:54
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    @Himarm In 4 years she wrote of nearly half her life as fantasy? – Bellerophon Oct 31 '16 at 22:55
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    To her it probably became like a dream. While still dreaming you think it is completely real, and for a time after you wake up you can remember it in perfect clarity and it still feels real. But after a few hours or a couple of days it becomes less tangible and eventually passes from memory completely. – Xantec Oct 31 '16 at 23:02
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    Note: In Prince Caspian, the Pevensies spent no more than 9 days in Narnia, by my count. – Matt Gutting Nov 1 '16 at 14:48
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Like any question of belief in C. S. Lewis's post-conversion writing, the question of how Susan came not to believe in Narnia comes back to how Lewis felt about a specific issue in Christianity. Susan exemplifies the fallacy of someone who certainly knows the existence of the divine, but nonetheless chooses not to believe in it. Lewis (like many Christians) believed that every unbeliever was actually like this, since the presence of God was obvious all around us. Only by active and willful denial of the obvious could a sin such as atheism be maintained, and Susan is a cartoon version of this.

Born into a religious family, Lewis himself became an atheist at fifteen, before returning to Christianity in his thirties. (J. R. R. Tolkien was famously one of the people who led Lewis to his reconversion, although Lewis returned to his childhood Anglicanism, rather than Tolkien's Catholicism.) In his memoir, in which religious issues played an extremely important role—and led to the selection of the title, Surprised by Joy—Lewis talked about how he constantly felt the presence of the divine, and it was only by actively denying it that he was able to maintain his non-belief. Whenever he let himself be distracted, relaxed, God was there, calling him back.

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.

Eventually, he could not sustain his non-belief, and returned to his ancestral faith.

That not seeing the manifest presence of God in the world is only possible through a willful act of sinful and intentional blindness is standard Christian dogma. It was expounded by Paul in Romans 1:20 (King James Version):

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Susan is supposed to serve as an example of the absurdity of denying hand of the divine all throughout the world, and the Holy Spirit the constant companion of the human soul. Susan had seen magic in Narnia, witnessed the very presence of God the Son (in the form of Aslan), but she chose to believe that those things were not real—that they had been games, fictions. For Lewis, this denial seemed equivalent to denying the reality of God and the stories in the Bible; God's presence and power were self evident, and only a fool or a liar could not believe in God. Yet Lewis knew that there were many atheists in the world; he himself had been one of them. He felt that those atheists, including his younger self, had been willfully, spitefully denying the clear reality of Christianity. Susan was just doing the same thing with regards to Narnia that Lewis saw so many people doing with regards to the undeniable truth of his religion.

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  • Wow this makes complete sense! Thanks for answering years later :-) – enderland Mar 3 at 21:31
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It wasn't that she 'forgot', per se. She remembered about Narnia, she just didn't believe that it was real anymore. There are two theories.

First, Susan was always the one with the least faith in Narnia and Aslan. Even at the beginning of Prince Caspian, she is trying to get them all to forget, and just live their lives in London, like normal people. Since young, she was always the motherly type, so she was very mature and practical. Thus, very grounded in the real things around her.

So when it was confirmed that she and Peter would never go back, she didn't actually lose the memories, she just stopped believing that it was real. I mean, even if she spent those 15 years in Narnia as Queen the first time, when she came back, she was back to her original age, etc. So it could very well have seemed like a dream to her. And she didn't hold on to the faith in Narnia, like the others did. She just kept on with her life, and grew into a rather silly woman (like most girls nowadays, actually), losing that part of her childhood. She remembered, she just didn't believe anymore.

The second theory: Susan loved Narnia. She was heartbroken when she was told that she and Peter would never come back. So as a sort of self-defence mechanism, she pushed those memories out of her mind. She convinced herself that it was not real and that it was just a game they played as children, to dull the pain at not being able to return. She told herself that so many times that she actually believed it in the end. [This theory may not be canon, but it sort of fits.]

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    It wouldn't be the first time a character in the Narnia books told a story so long that they ended up believing it- that happened in Voyage of the Dawn Treader as well, as I recall. – Broklynite Nov 1 '16 at 12:17
  • "grew into a rather silly woman". Well, that's just what Lewis thought. Or his characters, which amounts to the same thing. – Faheem Mitha Nov 7 '16 at 16:42
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    What's with the weird "like most girls nowadays" bit? Were women less silly in the good old days? – Misha R Feb 16 at 17:32
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Susan never forgot Narnia

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”

CS Lewis was trying to draw a Christian analogy here (a common theme in Narnia). In this case, he seems to be touching on a thorny issue: Christians losing their salvation. I'll try to stay as on-topic for SF as I can for this.

Jesus once gave an analogy of a man sowing seed. One part of that analogy was seeds falling among thorns/weeds and being choked away. Based on what little we know of Susan's falling away, it seems that is the case here

“Oh Susan!” said Jill, “she’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

Susan gets cut out with Peter at the end of Prince Caspian. It sounds like, after that, Susan got seriously into the "in" crowd. So imagine that you have this world, and half a lifetime of experiences, that cannot be verified by anyone. People would think you're mad. And your siblings and their friends won't stop talking about it so you "let them down gently", as it were, and pretend it's all been just a silly game. Such a transition could easily happen within the span of six years, especially considering she's a teen-ager. Once you've crossed that line, it's not hard to see her really coming to believe it. That it had all been just a game or a dream.

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She grew up, moved on with her life. But she forgot to hold on to her childhood, and that is why Aslan couldn't bring her back. He knew that she didn't want to. Not that she had forgotten, but because she had remembered all of the things that she had learnt, whether or not she thought it was a game.

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    This is a nice answer but is there any evidence you could edit in to back this up? – TheLethalCarrot Mar 31 at 7:26

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