Synopsis: Jill talks to Aslan. He explains the task she and Eustace must attempt: finding the lost prince of Narnia. He teaches her four signs she must follow. Aslan blows her over the cliff and she and Eustace land in Narnia.
Dreams are a theme which runs through all the books of the Narniad. Jill tries to tell herself she is dreaming, but of course she is not. Another recurring idea is self-justification and self-deceit. She tries to blame Eustace for falling off the cliff. But she – and the reader – knows he is not.
A favourite quote of mine is, ‘Crying is all right while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do’. It really is true.
The Aslan of this chapter feels different from the Aslan of LWW, PC and VDT. He feels disapproving and cold (although his ‘heavy, golden voice’ is unchanged). His ‘motionless bulk’ is likened to London statues rather than the ‘living gold’ of earlier books. His statement about having swallowed up ‘kings and emperors, cities and realms’ is a strange one (to my mind) for a first encounter with a child from another world. Is this because of Jill’s behaviour on the cliff? If Eustace hadn’t fallen, how would the meeting have gone?
Aslan’s insistence that ‘there is no other stream’ echoes the Christian idea that there is no other way to God than through Jesus. Of course water is also symbolic of baptism and of life.
Aslan is very stern with Jill (‘I lay on you this command’) but does soften a little when she owns up to her bad behaviour.
Jill is confused when Aslan tells her she was called into Narnia, as she thought she was calling Aslan.This idea is one which crops up in religious writing quite regularly. People often suggest that the reason someone would seek God or religion is because God is calling to them. This idea occurs in Lewis’ work, a memorable example being Emeth in ‘The Last Battle’.
Jill is given the task she must complete. I remember being surprised as a young reader that Aslan mentions that she could die attempting it. But I suppose Jill and the other characters couldn’t show their courage and other good qualities if they knew from the outset that everything would be fine, and that they were definitely safe. Characters in the Chronicles are reminded at times that they can’t know what will happen, what might have happened, or what someone else’s story is. Characters have to trust that what is meant to happen will, regardless of the outcome for themselves. (Again, the religious parallels are quite clear.)
Jill flies over islands which Eustace had visited. I wonder which ones they are. The location (and nature) of the mountain country she is leaving tell us that she and Scrubb have been in the country glimpsed through the wave at the edge of the world in VDT. Aslan’s country. Why were they called there rather than somewhere in Narnia?