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Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby Steve » 18 Aug 2010, 17:39

I thought of a new question to ask about TWHF. It seems clear in the story that Orual's face is extremely unattractive. But is this in fact the case? Is it possible that her face is merely slightly below average in beauty (less beautiful than Psyche and Redival) and her descriptions of herself as extremely ugly are actually her self-doubt or self-dislike speaking? Her father in the mirror scene also views her face as ugly, but that could be his subjective state of mind because of the disappointment that he never had a son, and also perhaps anger with Orual out of guilt that she is thinking of ways to save Psyche and he doesn't dare to do so?
Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby archenland_knight » 18 Aug 2010, 21:37

An interesting thought, Steve. But I think she must have been genuinely unattractive. The other girls in the choir giggled with the king tells the priest that the girls will be veiled for the wedding hymn, and indicates Orual's face as one of the reasons.

Moreover, Bardia who clearly sees and appreciates Orual's good qualities (and who doesn't appreciate a woman who can wield a sword?) still seems to treat her more like one of his male recruits than like a woman. And after she becomes queen, treats her as a comrade, not as a woman who needs his protection. I know this can be attributed to her abilities to fight and rule like a man, but a man never says to an attractive woman, "It's too bad you weren't born a man," unless he means it as an insult.

Of course, one answer to that would be, "Maybe Bardia didn't really see Orual as unfeminine; maybe Orual just assumed he would and took the things he said that way." It's hard to argue for or against that as the whole story is told from Orual's point of view. We can only see her world through her own eyes.

It seems to be the story would loose a great deal of Orual were not genuinely ugly.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby paminala » 23 Aug 2010, 20:16

OK, I finally read the whole thing.
My take on her appearance is that she looks very different from the other women around her. Those considered beautiful are all described as golden haired with curls and probably small in stature (the stepmother particularly is remarked on as being quite small.) By contrast, she seems to have straight dark hair and is stronger so, presumably more muscular.
The only description of her is that she is ugly, and that from a person who is comparing herself to a fairly narrow standard. I think that it is very possible that she is not ugly at all so much as that she is simply a different physical type. This would make her stand out and, in that society, not in a good way. That she falls short of what her culture calls beautiful does not mean that she is some sort of freak but I'm sure she would have been made to feel like one.
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby jo » 03 Sep 2010, 23:18

I think she was definitely ugly - there are many indications of such. The King and Bardia imply it and Bardia's wife gasps when she sees the Queen's face. It does not seem to be a case of simple imagined ugliness. There is too much evidence to the contrary.
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby archenland_knight » 07 Sep 2010, 13:39

paminala wrote:OK, I finally read the whole thing.
My take on her appearance is that she looks very different from the other women around her. Those considered beautiful are all described as golden haired with curls and probably small in stature (the stepmother particularly is remarked on as being quite small.) By contrast, she seems to have straight dark hair and is stronger so, presumably more muscular.
The only description of her is that she is ugly, and that from a person who is comparing herself to a fairly narrow standard. I think that it is very possible that she is not ugly at all so much as that she is simply a different physical type. This would make her stand out and, in that society, not in a good way. That she falls short of what her culture calls beautiful does not mean that she is some sort of freak but I'm sure she would have been made to feel like one.



Wasn't that an episode of The Twilight Zone? :wink:
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby paminala » 07 Sep 2010, 15:51

That's actually sort of what I was thinking of except that in the TZ episode only the "ugly" girl was what we would have called pretty and all the rest were monsters. What if, in a tribe of small, fair skinned, light haired people a child was instead dark haired and dark skinned with an athletic build. Maybe she was tall where the others were petite, strong when they were weak. Take a very extreme example, would the ancient Romans have thought an African Maasai woman beautiful?
I believe that part of the conflict in Orual's character was that she was continually having to discover the beauty within herself and that in the end she only partly succeeded. In a way, Lewis was far ahead of his time in the sense that he doesn't make her the conventional female character. He directly challenges the beauty = goodness template that exists in many myths and folklore.

I almost wish he had written it from a male perspective instead of trying to see the world through a girl's eyes. I don't think he captures the female voice nearly as well. That may be why I had a hard time with the story.
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby Mornche Geddick » 20 Sep 2010, 16:46

Orual rarely got to see her own face. She is supposed to have lived c.300 BC. Most mirrors of that time were made of polished bronze and gave an indistinct image. The only good mirror available to her was the large silver one in her father's council chamber, and she avoided that room throughout her early childhood, because of her father's dangerous temper. However, it is clear she was really ugly, not just unusually tall or dark, because everyone who saw her agreed. It is possible she had some birth defect or deformity, resulting in misshapen features.
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Re: Just how ugly was Orual in TWHF?

Postby sunbear » 23 Sep 2010, 13:52

I've always assumed that she was definitely unattractive by their standards/definitions. I've also always assumed that her dwelling on this caused her to exaggerate the effect. If she just KNEW that people thought she was ugly, then most likely she'd read things in to other people's looks, snickering, comments that they may NOT have actually meant. In short, she could have exacerbated something that was a relatively minor issue through her obsession and paranoia. I'd have to go back and re-read, but I think that you might be able to further this by looking at some of the language she used at the end of the book when she is "defending herself" and then later with the Fox at the cave.
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