Saturday, 13 August 2016

Voice Of The Fire

Poul Anderson, Operation Chaos (New York, 1995), pp. 72-73.

The Talking Beasts of Narnia look good on screen but they speak with the voices of human actors. Thus, an unmistakably English accent emerges from inside an oversized owl. Willing suspension of disbelief takes a nosedive. The Narnian Owl should sound as if its words really were articulated by the throat and beak of an owl.

Poul Anderson recognizes this. When a fire elemental speaks:

"I can't describe the voice...: crackling, bellowing, sibilant, Fire given a brain and a throat." (p. 72)

He describes it quite well. Like a Narnian, the elemental addresses a woman as:

"'Daughter of Eve...'" (ibid.)

Imagine that in fire speech.

"Teeth of incandescence gleamed in a mouth that was jumping fire." (p. 73)

Because the topic is the voice of a fire elemental, I have taken this opportunity to plug Alan Moore's novel, Voice Of The Fire.

Poul Anderson is comparable to Lewis and Moore. However, Lewis, Christian propagandist, and Moore, anarchic magician, are poles apart: antithetical literary voices of England.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I suggest that the Narnian talking beasts HAD to sound all too implausibly human if they were to be understood by those who watched the movies. It was probably one of those compromises the producers made to make the films practicable.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Yes. If the animals' words are to be understood by all viewers, then either they have to speak the viewers' language without too thick an animal "accent," or we need subtitles.

The *Destroyermen* series has some nonhuman characters, such as "Lawrence" (a name given him by a human friend), who have trouble with our phonemes, and the author represents this as best he can. It's troublesome enough trying to understand some of what Lawrence says when we see it in print. Hearing it in a theater? Most viewers would be LOST. I'm as certain of that as I'm willing to be of anything.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

I absolutely agree! And I have read the first five or six of Taylor Anderson's (!) "Destroyermen" series and I remember the difficultes "Lawrence" had being understood by his human friends. So, both writers and movie producers have to make compromises.