Some readers will know that Karel Čapek, the scifi writer who gave us robot (from his Rossum's Universal Robots, from which play Isaac Asimov took the term and so it became common in English, in the short form of the story), wrote a work published in 1936 titled in English War with Newts
. The basic plot is that under the surface of the Pacific a race of intelligent newts is discovered, then taught, then exploited, and finally they rebel by waging war on humans. The work is a political and social satire and very obviously fits many a historical and current situation. The most obvious point is the evils of colonialism, a theme shared by many works from Shakespeare's The Tempest
-though admittedly Shakespeare I don't think was aware of the power of his description in that regard-to the recent reboot of Battlestar Gallactica
Not quite two decades and a world war later, C. S. Lewis published volume four in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
. The plot takes the heroes underground where an intelligent race of "gnomes" or "earthmen" from deeper down in the earth are held in thrall by the evil Lady of the Green Kirtle who is planning to use the gnomes to invade and wage war on humans on the surface. The gnomes are from Bism, and once the Lady is conquered and killed, the enchantments she devised to hold the gnomes enslaved is broken and they wish to return to that land flowing with molten rock rivers in which there are salamanders cavorting.
Some of the similarities will be apparent. Colonialism is bad in both texts; both texts uphold those from beneath as an enslaved race, both depict that race as exploited. The differences are that in the latter Lewis depiction the gnomes and their wise salamander friends simply return to their world as it was before the enslavement from above. Well, that's the easy way to describe it anyway.
Now I'm not suggesting influence or direct borrowing here. But I do find it interesting how many points of contact there are between the two, only a few of the more obvious I have outlined here. It also interests me that both make use of medieval typology about gnomes and salamanders in Lewis' case and newts in Čapek.
All this mumbling and seeing connections was brought about by a local theater company that put on a play version of Čapek's work; I could not help but see points of contact between the two.
And speaking of Newts and exploitation, Newt Gingrich is back in the news. Some might recall that ol' Newt described himself as "inherently medieval
" a year or so ago. And now, he is feeling quite free to distort medieval history in order to support his political agenda. For those who don't read or regularly follow the Got Medieval blog, let me at least suggest that you read this post: Professor Newt's Distorted History Lesson
. There you have it.