Is a Faun an It or a He?

I’m looking at the text of the books again, and once again there is something that rubs me the wrong way. I admire C. S. Lewis immensely, I really do – but why couldn’t he make up his mind on whether Mr Tumnus is an “it” or a “he”? During the whole second chapter, where Lucy first meets Mr Tumnus, he (Lewis, not the Faun) keeps flip-flopping back and forth between the pronouns.

“‘Good evening,’ said Lucy. But the Faun was so busy picking up its parcels that at first it did not reply.” (16). Then, two pages later: “Mr Tumnus turned suddenly aside as if he were going to walk straight into an unusually large rock, but at the last moment Lucy found he was leading her into the entrance of a cave.” (19) So I thought that maybe, once Lucy gets to know Mr Tumnus as a person, he changes from “it, the Faun” to “he, Mr Tumnus”, but no such luck. Here we are after tea, during which time Mr Tumnus, always referred to as “he”, has told Lucy marvellous stories: “‘It’s no good now, you know,’ said the Faun, laying down its flute and shaking its head at her very sorrowfully” and then, “the Faun’s brown eyes had filled with tears and then the tears began trickling down its cheeks, and soon they were running off the end of its nose; and at last it covered its face with its hands and began to howl” (22). And then a flip-flop right from one sentence to another: “the Faun continued sobbing as if its heart would break. And even when Lucy went over and put her arms round him and lent him her handkerchief, he did not stop.”

Is that something peculiar to British English, to refer to non-human creatures as “it” unless they’re named, in which case they get gendered? Or is it just sloppy writing/editing? If any Brits could enlighten me, I would be grateful. Otherwise I’ll just have to keep on thinking that “Jack” Lewis the Great made careless mistakes in his writing, and his editors didn’t bother calling him on it.


2 thoughts on “Is a Faun an It or a He?

  1. *Giggles* That’s a good point! I never noticed that while reading C.S. Lewis’s books as a child: I’d better try going back to read it again! Maybe he kept using the word “it” and referred repeatedly to Mr. Tumnus as “The Faun” because he’s a new, magical creature we don’t see in everyday life and to do so would put more emphasis on the fact that he isn’t human?
    Anyway, I stumbled upon your blog while reading your earlier posts about Mansfield Park, and I found them really interesting!:) Your comments on the books you’ve read are so funny and sweet. Keep up with the good writing!


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