29 May 2006 by Published in: in my life 2 comments

Yeah, I was right. Check this :

She now realised that Scrubb had some excuse for looking white, for no cliff in our world is to be compared with this. Imagine yourself at the top of the very highest cliff you know. And imagine yourself looking down to the very bottom. And then imagine that the precipice goes on below that, as far again, ten times as far, twenty times as far. And when you’ve looked down all that distance imagine little white things that might, at first glance, be mistaken for sheep, but presently you realise that they are clouds–not little wreathes of mist but the enormous white puffy clouds which are themselves as big as most mountains.
–from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

And then this:

A sheer rock face skyscrapered up behind him: the side of a mountain. Ahead of him was a sheer drop: cliffs, going down. He walked to the cliff edge and, warily, looked over. He saw some white things, and he thought they were sheep until he realized that they were clouds; large, white fluffy clouds, a very long way below him.
–from Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neat, huh? There are more parallels between the two than just the similarity of the image and the commonality of the words used, by the way. Both places being described are the beginning (or end) of the world. In both places reside savage, godlike animals, though in Lewis only Aslan, while Gaiman has a whole pantheon.

Do I think it’s plagiarism? Goodness, no. I can’t see inside Gaiman’s head, so I can’t tell you whether this is an intentional reference or not, but even if he wasn’t overtly thinking “Oh, I’m going to put in this bit from Lewis I’ve always liked” when he wrote it, I’m pretty sure he also wasn’t thinking “Oh, I’m going to steal this bit from C.S. Lewis because no one will notice.” Give the man some credit. The two are already connected through numerous blog mentions and Gaiman’s story “A Problem of Susan” (which we aren’t discussing today, as we’ve had plenty of that already thank you very much). Anyway, to me, it’s a reference, not theft, even if the reference was made beneath the writer’s conscious level (and some of the best references are). It’s interesting how, when faced with exactly the same situation, Lewis’ character Pole runs far too near the cliff edge while Gaiman’s Fat Charlie just barely gets close enough to see down. It confirms a whole lot about Fat Charlie’s personality.

I really liked finding the reference. For one, it reminded me of that whole genre conversation thing Lois McMaster Bujold talked about during her speech at the 2004 National Book Festival (and which I reflected on and nattered about here). Also, returning to that cliff, with its sheep that are really clouds way way way down below, made Anansi Boys a richer experience for me. Thanks, Neil.

My husband asked me how many books I pulled down before I found the passage. Two. I went to Voyage of the Dawn Treader first, because I knew the scene had Eustace in it. Then I realized it was The Silver Chair. One of the cool things about The Silver Chair, to me, is that it starts with a gigantic screwup. Eustace and Jill are supposed to talk to Caspian and they don’t, and so they’re on their own in the quest, without all the resources he could have provided for them, and does that ever suck for them. It’s the old Metamorphosis structure, you know, where the guy wakes up a bug and then things go downhill from there.

By the way, when I upgraded Nucleus, I broke something about the item pages. When you comment you get an error message, but it’s a return formatting error, not an actual error in the comment processing mechanism. So your comment gets posted, you just have to go back to the original page to see it. I’ll fix it when I fix the layout, so it may be another couple of weeks. I’ve been deleting extra instances of comments when people tried more than once, puzzled by the cryptic error message. As always, thanks for your comments and contributions, I love hearing from folks.

iTunes says I was listening to Bone Machine from the album Surfer Rosa & Come on Pilgrim by Pixies when I posted this. I have it rated 4 stars.


Tue 30th May 2006 at 9:37 am

Sorry, ~shuffles feet~ ineptitude with the machine once again displayed.

Tue 30th May 2006 at 5:03 pm

I’m so tempted to write to Neil and ask him if he did that on purpose, but I can’t get up the nerve.

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