Synopsis: The children meet Puddleglum. They agree to travel to Ettinsmoor and discuss their plans, then spend the night in the wigwam.
Once again we are told that Narnian air strengthens you. Is this because it is a world where ‘magic’ is present? Or is it related to the age of the world – at this point the Narnian world is relatively young.
If I had to compile a list of favourite Narnian characters, Puddleglum would be one of the main contenders, and I think he has a similar appeal for a lot of readers. I wonder whether Lewis had a favourite character from the Chronicles. According to Downing’s ‘Into the Wardrobe’ Lewis did tell Walter Hooper that he considered Reepicheep and Puddleglum among his most successful creations, but this doesn’t necessarily mean he preferred them to others.
Puddleglum is a wonderful name. I had always assumed it came simply from a combination of the character’s affinity with water and his less than cheerful outlook. However, there is another reason Lewis chose this particular name. One of Lewis’ non-fiction works, ‘English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama)’ mentions John Studley, a poet who described the River Styx as a ‘puddle glum’. Downing explains that this phrase amused Lewis, who in turn uses it to amuse us.
Puddleglum’s character was based on Lewis’ gardener at the Kilns, Fred Paxford. As far as I am aware, Lewis didn’t generally base Narnian characters on specific people from his life. However, Puddleglum is an affectionate portrait of a man Lewis was very fond of. Paxford always planned for, and claimed to expect, the worst. His eccentricity and pronouncements of doom are comical, but the reader is left in no doubt that this is a wise, loyal, trustworthy character nevertheless.
As far as I can discover, Marsh-wiggles are an original creature devised by Lewis. Fauns, centaurs, satyrs and other Narnian species already existed in other literature, but marsh-wiggles don’t seem to. They are the perfect example of why judgements shouldn’t be based on appearances, as Marsh-wiggles are described so as to sound less than appealing. Puddleglum has long, gangly limbs and a small body. He has ‘a long, thin face with rather sunken cheeks, a tightly shut mouth, a sharp mouth and no beard’. His skin is ‘muddy’ his lank hair is ‘greeny-grey’ and his feet are webbed. Throughout the book the reader is presented with characters who are not what – or who – they seem.
Jill begins to encounter the realities of ‘adventure’ which excited readers of fantasy stories often forget all about. She wants a change of clothes and a wash.
Puddleglum’s pipe smoking reminds me of Tolkien characters who did the same. (Of course, both authors were smokers, too.)
Puddleglum’s total lack of awareness of his gloomy outlook, or how amusing it can be is most endearing.
Ettinsmoor is named after an unpleasant creature of Anglo-Saxon mythology. (Ettins were named among Jadis’ supporters in LWW.) It is a name most prominent in Northumbrian and Scottish tales, which is apt for a land North of Narnia.
The Shribble’s name is suggestive of a small, thin river.
Does Puddleglum think at this point that Scrubb and Pole are the children’s first names?
How charming that Puddeglum, who has miserably predicted total failure of their quest and the distinct possibility of them murdering each other, is thought of as too positive and up-beat by the other wiggles. (Would any other children’s writer, or indeed modern writer of any sort, use the word ‘bobance’?)
Presumably, Puddleglum’s flask contains alcohol.