I read C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian over the weekend and was somewhat stunned to see the god Bacchus and Silenus taking part in the narrative.
I am convinced that Lewis had a purpose in introducing the Greek god. But the strength of the god is such that I stopped reading immediately when he appeared. I had to discover what purpose he served in the narrative before I could continue.
Dionysus is no benign god. He is the twice born god, who demonstrates a myriad of conflicting characteristics. He has been perceived as both man and animal, male and female, masculine and effeminate, young and old, but, first and foremost, he is the god of wine and intoxication.
Lewis wrote that Narnia was a world where man has not fallen, a world where animals speak and trees dance and move. Therefore, I suspect that his meaning is that in such a world Bacchus or Dionysus would be associated with the divine daemonic force, which aids Aslan, rather than stands in Nietzschean opposition.
However, for me, the god’s psychological presence is so powerful that his appearance in Narnia is disturbing and breaks the spell of the narrative.
Tolkien felt that the use of discordant entities, like Bacchus and Silenus, in the Narnia stories prevented the willing suspension of disbelief and distracted from the myth making. I agree with him.