In The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis’ classic series, curious children living through a brutal war slip into a fantasy world of witches, flying horses, and talking lions after stepping through a portal located in a spare clothes closet.
The stories are beloved kids’ tales, but when you break it down like that, it’s bonkers stuff—although not really any different from Greek and Roman mythology and fairy tales native to the British Isles, from which author C.S. Lewis borrowed liberally.
But to some, no classic is sacred enough to not possibly be the repository for drug-induced, drug-steeped, drug-promoting propaganda, meant to hook young children on drugs!
So say the happy fundamentalist Christians who run the blog Homemakers Corner. They say that Lewis was a tool of Satan, and promoted weed in The Chronicles of Narnia. (We tip our hat to the folks at Civilized, who put us on to this.)
So let’s give the gang a chance. Let’s take a few minutes to put the chronic in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis was in fact a prominent Christian theologian who argued for the existence of God and provided a rational basis for his own turn from atheism—but to Homemakers Corner he was a false prophet who spread a false brand of Christianity to fool us into… something, whatever.
Let’s look at the evidence. Homemakers Corner posits that the Turkish delight candy with which the White Witch plies one of the children is in fact laced with hashish.
In Lewis’s stories, the dwarves puff on tobacco pipes and the warriors occasionally crush a cup of wine. Standard stuff for high-fantasy, but for a staunch Christian, it’s sordid subliminial messaging meant to convince kids to start doing the same. But weed? Indeed. According to Homemakers Corner, “[a]s if the references to liquor and tobacco were not enough, [Lewis] makes a very covert reference to hashish, or marijuana.”
Their intellectual foundation for this claim goes like this: The White Witch asks Edmund, one of the protagonists, what he’d like best to eat. He asks for—and receives—copious amounts of Turkish delight.
Turkish delight—at least the kind you’d find in a legitimate candy shop—is a confection spun from gel and sugar, which would have been in very short supply for a child living through World War II, which is when the stories are set. But since Edmund eats and eats and eats Turkish delight until he cannot eat any more, he must be addicted and it must be a drug.
In the defense of this theory, there is historical precedent for hash-laced confections. Newspaper advertisements in San Francisco in the 1860s advertised “hasheesh” creations.
And these candies did make their way to England, as author Ernest Abel pointed out in his 1980 book, Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years.
“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.”
“One such case took place in 1886 in the dormitories of staid old Cambridge University. According to a newspaper report, some students had obtained ‘Turkish Delight’ and not being experienced users of the hashish-laden confection, had taken an overdose and became ill as a result. Oxford also had its share of cannabis users.”
Thus, the argument is that an Oxbridge-educated man like Lewis would certainly have been aware of these episodes—and was referring to them when he wrote about “candy”-addled children.
But if this is true, this is the only instance in which Lewis mentioned drugs in his copious writings. So this theory rests on the idea that a man who spent decades as a public intellectual chose his children’s stories to make one very covert reference to drugs.
In a word: poppycock.
Lewis is best remembered today as a spinner of yarns aimed at children, but to his contemporaries, he was a leading academic and theologian, using logic to argue for a rational belief in the existence of God and justify (albeit prior to the revelations of just how deep human depravity can plunge during World War II) the presence of evil.
But as for drugs, they don’t appear in his writings. One of his close friends from academia was Oxford University professor J.R.R. Tolkien—who, some believe, snuck in a cannabis reference when he noted his hobbits’ fondness for “pipe-weed” (which is nonetheless enjoyed in a manner identical to tobacco)—and Lewis certainly was aware of the investigations into psychedelia done by Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception, but there’s no proof that he himself was an advocate for drugs’ mental or physical healing powers or a more-relaxed atmosphere around tools for spiritual exploration.
Suffice to say this drug theory is a fever dream.
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