Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Silver Chair

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I--could I--would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

It was a rather dull day, and for almost no reason at all, I found myself picking up The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. It's the fourth book in the Narnia series (if you read them in the correct order like I do), and ever since my mother read them to me as a child, it's been my favorite of the seven.

"Will you promise not to--do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
"Do you eat girls? she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear," said Jill, taking another step nearer. "I suppose I must go look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

This scene always stood out to me, and the way Aslan is introduced to Jill Pole is particularly iconic. Aslan is no stranger to us if we've read the other books and we know he is a good lion, yet Jill is rightly terrified of him. This is something that the movie versions have never gotten right, is the way Aslan's power instills terror in the hearts of those who behold him. Instead, the movies turn him into a soft, lovable lion that you just want to be friends with. This is NOT the Aslan in the books. In one of my favorite lines from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (cut from the film), Mr. Beaver says, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

"And now hear your task. Far from here in the land of Narnia there lives an aged king who is sad because he has no prince of his blood to be king after him. He has no heir because his only son was stolen from him many years ago, and no one in Narnia knows where that prince went or whether he is still alive. But he is. I lay on you this command, that you seek this prince until either you have found him and brought him to his father's house, or else died in the attempt, or else gone back to your own world."
"How, please?" said Jill.
"I will tell you, child," said the Lion. "These are the signs by which I will guide you in your quest. First; as soon as the boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once; if he does, you will both have good help. Second; you must journey out of Narnia to the north till you come to the ruined city of the ancient giants. Third; you shall find a writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you. Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan."

There it is, pretty much the entire story laid out for us right there in the second chapter. The quest is quite clearly presented, and now the audience knows what they are in for. Now all the reader must do is sit back and watch the plan go completely and horribly wrong.

These books work for all ages. They were written as children's stories, but they carry that kind of maturity that kids have that adults seem to think kids aren't capable of understanding. I first had these books read to me when I was 7, and they not only made perfect sense to me, they stuck with me and were a big influence on the way I grew up. I would recommend them for any child of any age.


Elissa said...

In a twist of fate, it so happens I picked up this book last night to read, as well! I agree with you about the Aslan comment, but I feel that is how the contemporary church often views Jesus, as a friend who forgives you and loves you, no matter what you've done, and they don't want to think about the Holy God who can't stand to be around sin and people die because they treat His laws lightly. I see too many Christians living like the world because they put their happiness above His Holiness.

Kevin Christensen said...

That pretty much sums it up.