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C.S. Lewis's Greatest Fiction: Telling Kids They’d Like Turkish Delight (2015) (atlasobscura.com)
180 points by tbirrell on June 16, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 125 comments



Proper Turkish delight is never coated with icing sugar, but always starch. I don't know where the author had it either, but it is nowhere near being "very, very sweet." Hell, I can't even imagine what an American may consider as being too sweet!

Source: Born and raised in Turkey.


The stuff you get in the UK is disgusting, it's a sugary jelly with a very strong artificial rose flavour. Sticky sweet goo.

I've had the proper stuff in Turkey and it's not sweet, it's not sticky or gooey. The flavour, at least of the stuff I had, was subtle.


I brought my kids home some Turkish delight from Istanbul and they absolutely devoured it. It was not sickly sweet and the flavors were wonderful. I think our favorite was rose - delicate and much more complex than the mass produced candies they were used to.


Oddly, the only "proper" Turkish delight I've had, as a Canadian, I found in a British-sweets import shop.

Not sure if it was British-made, mind you...


A chain of chocolate stores in Western Canada produces some form of it too. I remember enjoying the taste of it as a child, but I'm not sure how it would hold up nowadays.


I've had it in Greece, where tourist shops sell it under the name "Greek delight" because everybody hates and despises Turkey.

I recall it as being disgusting, but mostly because of the texture. I don't recall it being gummy or chewy at all -- it was soft and didn't put up resistance when you bit into it.


I am turkish, but never heard greek delight. Greek coffee, greek manti i heard it all, but not delight.

Gotta love the hate that shows up in the food names. Otherwise, i guess we like each other :)


I've never heard of "Greek delight" either. In Greece it's just called "lukum". Could be just how it is marketed to tourists at airport shops and such (since, why would they buy something labeled as "turkish delight" when they are in Greece? They'd rather buy something they consider local to experience).

For the coffee thing, it's not particularly any hate -- people just know this coffee for ages, from when they were kids, as the major domestic variety, so they call it like that. The same happens all over the Balkans, they call it X coffee in most countries X. That said, I think it's a general beverage that comes from the middle east / arab countries in general (Wikipedia says it originated in Yemen, existed in Egypt, etc before getting popular elsewhere), rather than something particularly Turkish, just that the Turkish branded it first.


The really soft stuff is the Cadbury's sweet crap. What I had in Turkey had a bite like al dente pasta and a little chewy but not stick-to-your-teeth sticky chewy.


Seeing the photo the author chose... If that's what he had, that's really not what lokum is.


Turkish delight has probably over a thousand varieties, owing to its long and rich history. What you think is "proper" Turkish delight is probably specific to your city, perhaps even your neighborhood.

That said, the most common kind has a very thin layer of icing sugar coating. It looks like this: https://i.imgur.com/TeSQuzP.jpg

Source: Born and raised in Turkey.


In US/British culture, Turkish Delights are coated in sugar and certainly sweet https://www.thespruce.com/turkish-delight-521388 http://allrecipes.com/recipe/95277/turkish-delight/

Maybe misnamed, but hardly the hardly the fault of Mr. Lewis.


A Starburst candy is a 10 on the sweetness scale for me.


I think it has a lot to do with context - I imagine candy with unusual flavors were probably not an everyday purchase 100 years ago, let alone something soft. That, plus the exotica of "Turkish" delight (since there was a lot of curiosity re: the Middle East back then) seems like it might have been why Lewis chose that. Roald Dahl has a great bit on going to buy candy as a kid in "Boy" (http://dhunter.weebly.com/uploads/2/9/5/8/2958381/roald_dahl...) - which makes it sound much more of a magical experience than the jaded way I get m&ms at the corner store today.

An aside: not to be a snob, but the commonly found (especially in the UK) Fry's Turkish delight is kind of a bastardization, and I think the vacuum sealed airport kind is OK but doesn't really do it justice. If you happen to go to Istanbul at some point, drop by Haci Bekir, Divan, Cafer Erol, or one of the other myriad candy shops that have been at it for decades, sometimes centuries. "The Best" is very subjective, but I think all these will have good, fresh specimens. Or go to Pera Palace's cafe and have a Turkish coffee, which always comes with lokum on the side.


The Turkish Delight in "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" was, for me, one of the first and clearest examples of how literature can project, even if unintentionally, a skewed view of a culture that bears little to no resemblance to reality.

I remember a while back having a debate over dinner (and eventually dessert) with friends as to which European country has the best variety and overall quality of desserts. It struck me as funny, and a bit sad, that an American who relied only on popular culture and mainstream media would think the answer to that question was easy: French! Of course!

Having had the opportunity to travel, work, and even live outside the US, I realize now just how wrong that view is! The variety of dessert foods in France pales in comparison to, say, Italy or Austria. Biased as I am, I argued that Turkish dessert cuisine was far above the rest, but of course all most people think of when they think of Turkish desserts is...Turkish Delight! Thanks, C.S.!

...If you're interested, some items to Google to understand what I mean: Fıstıklı Dolama, Cevizli Baklava, Maraş Dondurma, Güllaç, Su Muhallebi (for the rose water lovers), Tavuk Göğsü (don't read the ingredients until you try it, it's great!), Kazandibi, and my personal favorite Kaymaklı Künefe!


Oh my God! What a list.

It is often called "Fıstıklı Sarma" (rather than dolama).

Güllaç..oh my. What a delight. You probably know, it is usually available in Ramadan - it is about the time now. There are very few places that make it outside of Ramadan. (p.s.: I know one)

I guess I'd choose "Kaymaklı Künefe" as my favourite from your list. But there are some others that are not on the list. Let me write them down as suggestions: Kıbrıs Tatlısı, Dondurmalı Irmik Helvası and Ayva Tatlısı.

By the way, Çifte Kavrulmuş Lokum is the Lokum as far as I know.

If you are to visit Istanbul, you can drop me a line and we can have a dessert or two :-)


Great additions! How could I forget Irmik Helvası?! Especially when my mother-in-law makes it so well (and it's relatively simple, as desserts go, to make).

I've only lived 5 years of my life in Turkey (I married into it!), but already I feel like I could write a book on Turkish food culture. One major aspect that I think is often overlooked is the seasonality. Whether it's food that is related to a holiday (Güllaç, Aşure) or food for a particular season (Salep, Boza), sometimes the anticipation makes the treats taste that much better! (...And now I'm sad because I can't have Boza.)


Pastry, I would guess Austria since they have Wieners --what we call "Danishes". which is confusing since for us in the US "wieners" are "Austrian" sausages... but in Vienna, they are again called Danish pastries (Danisher plunder?).


Hungarian pastries are phenomenal, too! Say what you will about the Austro-Hungarian empire, it must've been a great place to nosh. :)


Lol. One of my favourite dishes is russian salad (ahem more like "salad"), also called "Olivier salad", but friend from Ukraine said they call it "French salad" (maybe he was joking with me)... And yeah, it's very tasty, yummy, most likely very unhealthy (except for what it delivers to the brain, and the rest of the nervous system), but just another example.

Then you have the greek salad, well I'm from Bulgaria.. We ain't callin' it that way :) But since I've been living in USA for a long time, I got used to calling it that way...


And the strudel...oh, the strudel!


I've always wanted a strudel ever since I watched Inglorious Bastards.


Austrias got the sachertorte game on lock


I've been trying (for many many years) to find either a place that sells (for delivery in the U.S.) or has the recipe for an Austrian dessert called: "Viennese Congress Torte".


For the best quality and variety of food in Europe, you're actually best off going to London because you can get everything. Italy (and to some extent France) suffer from a superiority complex with the result that it's hard to get anything other than Italian food. Best food I've had in Italy is in Puglia where there's more sea food. And otherwise, you get better Italian food in the US. Much of what you'd think of as German food is really Austrian or perhaps Swiss and there isn't that much variety to the restaurants here. However, for best quality and variety of native desserts, I would actually put my bet on Austria.


London (not the UK, but just London) does indeed have a wider variety of food than Italy, but quality wise I would strongly disagree and feel that Italy is leagues ahead of the UK in terms of food quality.


I remember getting a french breakfast in London and then eating what seemed like "black soggy bread". It was Boudin. Gotta translate those entrees BEFORE choosing them.


I still like Fry's Turkish Delight (made by Cadbury). The combination of thin chocolate covering to the weight and almost chewy mouthfeel of the rose-flavoured gel works well - it makes what chocolate there is more unctuous. The weight of it is part of what sells it for me, even though I expect it's mostly water captured in the gel.

Actual sugar-dusted Turkish Delight cubes are less impressive. I don't mind the rosewater flavour - that's what I associated with the product - but it's just thick jelly. There's no contrast. And since I despise nuts, I'll not be eating any with crunchy bits either.


Definitely agree about Fry's. I grew up loving that as a treat. I've since been to Turkey and had 'proper' Turkish Delight and like them both.


Best Turkish Delight I had in Istanbul was Pomegranate flavoured with dried rose pedals on the outside. Absolutely divine!


Nothing Cadbury ever did was good for the world of sweets and chocolate. Nothing. I'm sorry your childhood was perverted by one of the first corporations to chew and regurgitate foreign cultural items for mass consumption.

For god's sake, never buy Cadbury's. The chocolate is terrible and often is not even chocolate. Cadbury's is the worst that England can offer, an example of how English taste was destroyed by the search for profit. If there is one silver lining in the whole Brexit thing, is that Cadbury's chocolate will once again be uncompetitive in Europe compared to continental offers.


I grew up on Dairy Milk chocolate. It doesn't matter to me if snobs get upset that it's low cocoa mass, it's still a sweet and tasty confection, what's in a name.

It's interesting to me how you phrased your comment "nothing for the world of sweets and chocolate"; who cares about that. McDo have probably fine both for "the world of burgers and fries" but occasionally I eat there and it suits the purpose.

That said, since Kraft took over Cadbury chocolate has changed beyond recognition and I no longer buy it.


>"The chocolate is terrible and often is not even chocolate."

What do you mean by this? What is your definition of chocolate?


It is a convenient and easy way for the reader to spot the level headed and reasonableness of the commenter.

If the chocolate was so terrible, then why is it the most popular chocolate in the UK? Why would Nestlé have bought Cadbury's?

OP is just projecting their own irrational hatred for Cadbury's.


The relationship between popularity and quality (or rather the lack of relationship) is well understood. Cadbury's defined the UK market at one point in history and then basically defined what "chocolate" is for UK people; but it's unanimously reviled in the rest of Europe. It's also the chocolate manufacturer keenest on adding "bad stuff" to its products, among European companies.

It's not about being a snob - Cadbury's is objectively low-quality stuff. It's also very popular in a specific market for historical reasons, which makes it a good commercial proposition. The two concepts are not exclusive.


> If the chocolate was so terrible, then why is it the most popular chocolate in the UK? Why would Nestlé have bought Cadbury's?

I am not sure the first is a reasonable question considering that popularity and quality hardly ever go hand in hand, especially in a country like the UK. Additionally I assume the second question has nothing to do with the chocolate quality.


Uh, dude, this was written in the context of rationing and austerity.

A kid whose had his sugar rationed is going to consider Turkish delight in a totally different way than a kid in 2017


I agree, and so did the author of the article, who discusses it at some length.


I rather like it to be honest. Much like marzipan its not super sweet and having a variety is always a good thing.

Unrelated story: I tried a keto diet for 2 months, all I remember is at the end of that two months I ate a piece of plain old whole bread. Tasted sweeter than any candy I remember.

So yeah, maybe we eat too much sugar in america...


That's exactly how I felt after living in Asia for a year and returning to America to find all food tasting like candy.


You didn't read the article, did you?


In Canada we had the Big Turk chocolate bar by Nestle. It was a reasonably hard/chewy turkish delight covered in chocolate. Getting one of these as a child was akin to punishment. There were also the miniatures that old folk would put out, you'd expect to find caramel or nuts in the center, but nope, just horrors. Sometime in my late 20s I tried real turkish delight and enjoyed it. Sweet, but not unnecessarily so, with some interesting flavours, especially the floral ones. On one of my last visits to Canada I picked up a Big Turk again... and loved it.


Haters gonna hate.

I love Turkish Delight.

My wife had to travel to Turkey for work and frequently brought it back. I really like it. Actually in general, Turkish food is one of my favorite cuisines worldwide. I also like a lot of Indian sweets that many Americans find to sweet. No accounting for taste.


If you could name some of those I would like to try them. As an american interacting with immigrants and their food I've had a problem where everything they call desert tastes like a dinner item to me due to the lack of sugar. I can't imagine what too sweet for Americans could even be considering I happily ate nutella or pure sugar by the spoonful as a child


I don't know the names of them, but a lot of Indian sweets are sugar-based (or milk- and sugar-based), with only a bit of flour and some mild spices/flavours added. It isn't necessarily that Indian sweets are "too sweet", it's that they taste like sugar ("Duh, that's why they're called sweets"). They often use much larger sugar crystals, which greatly reduces the sweetness (its a surface area thing) and use unrefined sugar or cane-juice to emphasize the other flavours of sugar. At the extreme, there's pea-sized sugar crystals (and sugar clusters held together by I-don't-know-what) that you get from Tamil Nadu temples: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-dh7AQ9EPWJ4/VV-E-0p17LI/AAAAAAAAS...

Western sweets by comparison almost always focus on a different flavour like chocolate, vanilla, nuts, fruits, mint, cinnamon, maple, etc (think of all the flavours of ice cream). Even Nerds, which are pretty much pure sugar, have malic acid to mimic the sour taste of fruit. There are western foods like marshmallows that are pretty flavourless though.


The sugar stuff in that picture is called "sakhar phutane" in Marathi.


A note is that sweet dessert (at least in Turkish Culture) is not meant to be consumed en-masse. You eat a whole packet of m&ms or reese's pieces, but you eat only one or two pieces of baklava. It's a few bites of sweet to sweeten your palate and then it's gone. Though I'm thinking of stuff like Baklava here, lokum is also eaten a few at a time, but it's supposed to be not too sweet, rather of a specific flavor to stay in your mouth for a while, like citrus, rose, melon, pistachio or pomegranate.


I am so sorry to be lame but I used to live in Chicago and shop for sweets on Devon which had a concentration of Indian shops and restaurants. I would just point to what I knew I liked. Stupid of me not to learn. I do remember loving kitul jaggery on a trip to Sri Lanka. Jaggery is a modestly refined sugar that is an ingredient in some Indian sweets as well. Best I can do....


When I was young, my parents described Turkish Delight as being basically Applets & Cotlets, and that sounds like an accurate description based on this article. Substitute rosewater for apple/apricot/whatever juice and you've got Turkish Delight. Am I missing something? At least in the northwestern US, Applets & Cotlets have been a thing for decades.


The origins of "Applets & Cotlets" is reported to be based on Turkish delight, with the company started by immigrants from Ottoman Empire, around early 1900s.


No, that's pretty much it.


> Edmund’s willingness to put himself in the thrall of an evil witch in exchange for Turkish Delight makes him not only morally but gastronomically suspect.

I disagree: it was enchanted Turkish Delight, which made the one eating it always craving for more, eventually eating himself to death if he'd get the chance.


When I was a kid, there was a small flavored-popcorn-and-candy shop called Karmelkorn in our town. They made fresh Turkish Delight (along with popcorn, marzipan, and other candies) in the store, and it was always my favorite treat. They had the traditional rosewater along with some citrus flavors, and it was dusted in cornstarch, not sugar. It was just sweet enough, with a firm, but pleasingly squishy bite.

I've tried the Cadbury chocolate-covered version, and a few packaged versions as an adult, and none of them are as good as we used to get from the Karmelkorn shop.


This may be my sugar-drenched American palette, but I don't remember turkish delight being that sweet. The rosewater ones are really good though.


That's my memory as well, although I have only had Turkish delight in the samples they have at duty-free in the Istanbul airport. (I bought other things, so I guess the samples worked to get me into the store...)


When my kids were younger, I took to reading the the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my kids at the dinner table. Just for fun, on some of those evenings we'd have Turkish Delight at the table. The whole experience was really nice overall.

But I have to say, many of the Turkish Delight flavor variations weren't very appealing: rosewater, mint, etc.

We tended to like the fruitier ones such as lemon and orange. (And there was also pistachio, which I recall liking.)


That's a brilliant idea! When my children are of an age I will surely try this out myself.


The rose-flavored ones are my favorite!


When my wife's parents come visit us from Moldova they usually bring over a box of Turkish Delight; it's always unveiled with cries of "Turkish Delight for the young prince! Ha ha ha!"


How can you _not_ like Turkish delight? I have some every time I see it --- which is rarely, granted.


I would say it depends on the kind of lokum you eat. Even in Turkey itself you can find different kinds of very varying quality. My idea of lokum was what I would find in shops in Istanbul; lovely, though in my opinion a bit too jelly-ish. Then some relative sent us a kind made with honey from an artisan from Eastern Turkey and fell in love with it: sweet but not overly sweet or too strong, and it would almost melt in your mouth. I don't know if it counts as "true" Turkish delight, but it really seemed something that a witch would give you to put you under her control :-). Oh, and please don't buy it at the airports: you can find some nasty gummy-bear-kind-of hardened rubber that gives lokum great disservice


I actually don't remember what it tastes like (had it a few times as a kid), only that it was really disgusting. I must have had the industrial "fake" kind rather than the good stuff they sell fresh in turkey.


I know this is subjective, but I associate the smell of roses with old ladies perfume.


textures nasty


Texture is like pre-industrial gummy bears. I like it.


In the U.S., the TJ Maxx and Marshall's liquidation department stores often carry it in the winter.

The most poignant comment from anyone to whom I have introduced it was "a flower shop just exploded in my mouth."

I am partial to the rose flavor, but I am reaching the age where I must watch my sugar intake, so it is a rare indulgence.

I'm surprised that (german grocer) Aldi doesn't carry it. They always have Turkish dried apricots, and a number of odd confections in the winter.


I liked the Robot Chicken sketch on this where the nerd thinks Turkish Delight is some kind of sex act.

Caution: NSFW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrplL8orvac


Interestingly enough, the song "Afternoon Delight" by Starlight Vocal Band was named after a dessert, despite the song itself being 3 minutes of sexual innuendo.


It's also a movie by Paul Verhoeven.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Delight_(1973_film)


I thought it was some type of tobacco at first.


Food from other countries that we haven't tried before generally tastes weird. As an Englishman I found U.S chocolate (e.g. Hershey) and Indian desserts (e.g. jalebi) unpalatable. No doubt there exist similar assessments of British sweets and puddings! I'm sheepish to admit that Fry's Turkish Delight is not a favourite, but I do enjoy Baklava (a true delight from Turkey, imo).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFd0SP_ZiV8


Hershey's is unpalatable though! Worst chocolate in the US :(


Hershey's contains butyric acid, which is the smell of vomit.

My colleagues bring something sweet back whenever they travel, and it's usually gone by the end of the day. The Hershey's was the only thing still left a week later -- even the salty liquorice was eaten!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butyric_acid


Yes, Hershey's chocolate tastes bad, however seeing as all dairy contains butyric acid and thus all milk chocolate: maybe lets not go around trying to draw an equivalence between Hershey's and vomit.


While true, Hershey's contains a lot more. That's why it tastes stronger.

Why? We don't know, trade secret, but it's assumed the milk is lipolized somewhere in their process - as that would produce more of the acid.


An industrial chemist giving a public lecture on chocolate production at a UK University informed that the issue was that milk would go bad due to getting hot whilst collected and poor ongoing refrigeration. Thus Hershey was made with spoilt milk, and tasted as it does. When they were able to fix it there was opposition from the customers as they'd grown accustomed to the taste (of spoilt milk). They thus added the flavour back in artificially, and so we have it.

The lecturers handed out a samples bag at the start with all sorts of samples (including new unreleased confections) - they were like "and this is American chocolate" followed closely by wretching and heaving sounds from across the auditorium, we were not warned! Very memorable.

So that is why, according to a production chemist working in chocolate c.1996.

I dare say they don't publicise the origins of the flavour.


haha, well it's quite possible: stranger things have happened.

I doubt it's verifiable but it seems reasonable. It's possible that it's lipolyized to stop it from spoiling so fast (as it would) and that could start that kind of story.

They also used to add various oil-based emulsifiers that European chocolate doesn't - which is why it has a much more greasy texture.


As children, we very much enjoyed the 88 miniseries, and so my brother asked my mother once for 'Turkish Delight.' She supplied instead a product called 'Aplets and Cotlets,' which I understand is Turkish Delight, as manufactured and consumed in North America. So we had a clear picture of what exactly Edmund was eating fairly early on.


If you like Turkish Delight, you might want to try Gaz - a type of Persian Nougat - as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaz_(candy)

(Along with reading C.S. Lewis, we got to try and enjoy Turkish Delight and Gaz as kids - thanks to world-traveling grandparents.)


I am not a fan of packaged Turkish delight. It seems to always be terrible.

When I was a child, my family would occasionally buy made-in-house Turkish delight from a small, family Turkish food store, which has long since closed, near where I lived, and it was different and better. It had a softer, gooey-er texture and more delicate, less sweet flavour. Rose is the most memorable flavour for me. I believe our original inspiration for buying it was, in fact, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

My mother and I tried making some myself a few years ago to reproduce that memory, but the result was fairly sub-par, although still better than the packaged versions.


I first encountered Turkish Delight through the Fry's product advertising - a sultry lady scantily dressed, as if from a harem, the product on a silver platter, a Bedouin looking fellow in flowing robes, he cuts the confection with a shining scimitar, "full of Eastern promise". Bleurgh, hated the stuff; enchanted by the advert though.

I can't recall but I don't think I made a connection between that and the book, as a child I just read it as him being offered sweets by a stranger (something we'd been warned of specifically).


Back when I read the Narnia books at the age of 11 and 12, I remember reading of lands and people other than Narnia as being portrayed negatively. Back then I did not know, who the lands were being referred to, but the more I started reading into other cultures, the more I found a strong resonance with the cultures of Iran and Turkey.

Turkish delight was served by the evil witch and it turned Edmund unto a spell. In other books, I cannot remember which one, but there is the story of being lost and traveling through other lands and falling into the control of shahs and pashas.

The Narnia books were C.S. Lewis's attempt at turning thinking, particularly child thinking, against the cultures found in the Middle East.

I found a great article that connects a lot of the references and provides background behind C.S. Lewis. https://prunusdulcis.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/baklava-in-bea...

I am now perplexed with recommending or not recommending this book. It was a terrific joy for me, very much like Harry Potter is a joy for children these days.

Edit: corrected link.


I don't really see how Narnia was Lewis's attempt at turning thinking against the Middle East.

There is as much evil to be found within Narnia as there is to be found outside of it, over the entire series. There are quite a few evil Narnians, as there are also good Calormenes, such as Aravis in the Horse and His Boy, or Emmeth in The Last Battle.

I don't think that Lewis wouldn't argue that Turkish Delight itself is evil, but rather that evil can clothe itself in beauty (and I think he made that very point in some of his other writings).

Calormen is more used as "other", than merely "evil". It has both evil characters and good ones, and morally complex characters (like the Tisroc). As a nationality it's aims run counter to Narnian ones at times. But seeing as how it only really features in 2 out of the 7 books, I don't think C.S. Lewis was trying to use it's depiction to turn people against Middle Eastern culture. I think the worst that could be said is that Lewis was reflecting certain cultural sensibilities of his day.

EDIT:

That being said, if the prose is worth it, then one might take the book as an opportunity to talk about what those cultural sensibilities were, if one is recommending it to someone. Reading books that fall outside one's purview is not a bad thing, IMO.

Further edit:

A much stronger (though a bit longer) case is made at http://www.narniaweb.com/resources-links/are-the-chronicles-...


You're currently being downvoted and I'm not sure why. However, I don't think you're quite right about Lewis' motives so that may be part of it.

Yes, he had a hidden agenda: the books are somewhat allegorical and intended to turn the child towards Christianity, not against a particular culture.

I'd assume that the negative portrayal arose out of the conventional thinking of his time far more than anything more sinister. Which is not to say that it's palatable now.

I too loved the books as a child, utterly failing to realise their subtext until much later in life and I too would hesitate about passing them on to a child unexplained.


> Yes, he had a hidden agenda: the books are somewhat allegorical and intended to turn the child towards Christianity,

That's not really a hidden agenda, and the books are more than somewhat allegorical.


Well, hidden to the child I used to be. But you're right of course.


He's being downvoted for the following unsubstantiated statement:

> The Narnia books were C.S. Lewis's attempt at turning thinking, particularly child thinking, against the cultures found in the Middle East.

What's more likely: that there's a cabal of staunchly xenophobic English fantasy authors or that foreign, unfamiliar cultures are great inspiration for fantasy stories?


The leap from a single author to a cabal is entirely your own.

That a single English fantasy author could be staunchly xenophobic is perfectly feasible and you could bring your own substantive sources to the party if you want to deny it in this particular case.


Burden of proof is on the accuser, no?

I used cabal to highlight that C.S. Lewis is hardly unique -- if you think he's a xenophobe I can't imagine what you think of Tolkein or even modern authors like George R. R. Martin.


Well, C.S Lewis was a Christian theologian whose other written works are overtly Christian apologia. Tolkien, on the other hand, was a professor of languages who was fascinated with ancient and constructed languages from a young age.

Knowing that, reading the various books it's hard not to believe that the Narnia Chronicles were written partly to promote Christianity, and the Middle-Earth works were written partly to explore fictional languages.


Sure, I don't disagree. I still don't see evidence for Lewis's plot to poison children against Middle Eastern cultures. Keep in mind Tolkein explicitly describes the dark-skinned, Eastern peoples as being seduced by evil. Does he get a pass for being less overtly religious?


You use words like "plot" and "cabal" to make it sound like its a bizarre conspiracy theory. But Lewis himself have written openly and at length about his use of Christian theology in the stories, and its pretty blatant, veering into preaching in some passages. And it is pretty clear he presents the "middle eastern" culture in a negative light, because they don't embrace "Aslan" but worship a fake God. I don't see what more "evidence" you could want?


So your argument is that because Lewis was a devout Christian he must have also been a xenophobe? He was also a renowned expert in medeival European history, isn't it more likely that's where the inspiration came from?


No, my argument is that the books deliberately show the "middle eastern" culture and religion in a negative light in order to present Christianity as the best and only true religion.


Have you read the books? Tash is explicitly a demon-type figure who rules through fear. I think you're projecting quite a bit.


Yes, Tash is presented as the evil religion compared to good and just Aslan. What exactly are you arguing?


That whatever parallel you're trying to draw between Tash/Aslan and Christians/non-Christians doesn't really hold water. In fact I'd argue the message is the opposite -- that because the Calormen have a different culture, believe different things, and occasionally fight with Narnia doesn't mean they're bad people.


Don't you have to be well-versed in Christianity to recognise the allegory? How does that promote Christianity, perhaps to 'reinforce it for those raised as Christians'?

There's no doubting they were written in an overtly Christian context; does the author speak about using the allegory as a means of proselytising? Or, is that conjecture?


> Don't you have to be well-versed in Christianity to recognise the allegory?

Absolutely not. The books are incredibly in your face, even kids recognize it.

> How does that promote Christianity, perhaps to 'reinforce it for those raised as Christians'?

It is not promote christianity as in telling kids to become christians or much about god. It promotes christian values - how you should behave what you should think about situations. You may read the books or go to sermon and they boil down to pretty much the same thing.

The first, second and third focus of every story is moral lesson you are supposed to take out of it. Any other purpose (story, fun, world building, suspension, whatever) is somewhere after. That is why the books are so popular among christians, imo. If you remove moral teaching, not all that much is left.


Just read the books, it should be proof enough for you. While great fantasy, they are also totally blatant in their theological agenda.


A theological agenda does not imply xenophobia. Remember the wording OP used:

> Lewis's attempt at turning thinking, particularly child thinking, against the cultures found in the Middle East


You're not wrong in general about the blatant orientalism in the series, though I'm not sure the witch's use of enchanted Turkish Delight is a particularly strong example. I also wonder to what extent Lewis was actively trying to turn children against other cultures vs just portraying a simplified vision of the general sentiment in his time and place. And I've always thought it was kind of neat that he makes the slightly universalist gesture of admitting a devout follower of Tash into paradise in The Last Battle.


There was some kind of cruel god among the desert people in one of the books too - like a bird-of-prey version of Aslan


Tash. (And of course there's a wiki for that.)

http://narnia.wikia.com/wiki/Tash


Well Lewis was a genius after all.


Pistachio flavored lokum -- i.e. Turkish Delight -- made with chestnut honey is good stuff.

That said, after I had fun bargaining for some in the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, I ate little of what I brought home. I still like chocolate better. :)


Strangely, "lokum" is a Danish synonym for toilet, deriving from the Latin "locus" (place). No other language have this meaning for the word that I know of -- it makes this discussion rather amusing.


"Locus" is sometimes used in German, though it's considered fairly archaic.


Has no one ever heard of Aplets and Cotlets? Shit sells like hotcakes, and it's literally just Turkish Delight with an Americanized name. This author has no idea what he's on about.


Never heard of it before this thread. Google tells me it's a Washington State thing. Is it available outside of Washington?


That is because 1 when cs lewis wrote those stories sweets where on ration and 2 Turkish delight at the time was a common charismas treat in the UK.


Another obscure and interesting Atlasobscura article. Turkish Delight are great indeed and no, had not heard about them before Narnia either.


As a child, I really liked the nut flavored Turkish delight. I never liked the regular rosewater flavor though.


Turkish Delight is amazing, what are you talking about? Rose water?! It's amazing!!!


Even after growing up and finding out what it really is, it still sounds pretty tasty.


Israeli Turkish Delight is great. I always wash off the starch, though.


I always thought it was made out of turkey.


Why the downvote? I seriously thought it was made out of turkey! It sounded weird and thus all the more magical. N.B. I was better at math than I was at reading. Plus, American. (Turkey the bird, far more well known than Turkey the country here).


Heh... I knew this looked familiar. Per the note at the end of the article, it should probably be tagged "(2015)". Previous discussion under a slightly different title:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10686217


Fry's Turkish Delight is nasty sugary gloop, and is nothing like the real stuff (what Lewis was referring to)

The real stuff is much more delicate, subtly sweet, and has a much nicer mouth feel - not to mention flavor.

Rose water is one of those flavors you either like or dislike a lot. However it comes in other flavours! Various nuts, citrus, etc. very tasty.


There is certainly a xenophobic strain in the Chronicles of Narnia, most evident in what is otherwise my favorite book in the series, "The horse and his boy." I can only think that to Lewis's ear, the word "Turkish" had a certain brutality to it that contrasted well with "delight" and paired well with Edmund's perdition.


You're really shoving a square peg into a round hole there. It was an exotic and expensive treat.


Enh, maybe. But a few counterpoints: 1. We can assume C.S. Lewis intended a lot. Don't confuse the ease of his style with careless choices. 2. Have you read The Horse and his Boy? C.S. Lewis specifically talks crap about food that sounds Arab. Like almond chicken. 3. Come on, "Turkish Delight"? It sounds like a kinky sexual position. "Turkish" has a strong association with fascism and brutality in--specifically upper-class--Western culture, (cf., Igby Goes Down, New York City Cops, Lawrence of Arabia).


He didn't invent the name.


He didn't invent most of the words he used.

It would seem to me that most writing consists of two parts: 1.) choosing words from an existing register and 2.) putting them in order.

But feel free to theorize that authors can only apply connotations to words that they invent.




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