Narnia re-read. The Magician’s Nephew Chapter nine. The founding of Narnia.

Synopsis: Aslan calls the animals of Narnia into being. The Witch attacks him, then flees.

I would love to see the sequence described here animated somehow, especially the spreading of plant life outwards from Aslan. Whether I ever will, I don’t know.

I didn’t really expect Uncle Andrew to be brave enough to take issue with Jadis’ behaviour.

When Digory says to Andrew that, ‘You wanted to know about other worlds. Don’t you like it now you’re here?’ I’m reminded of the idea, mentioned in LB, that ‘All find what they truly seek,’ or the old saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Andrew didn’t really want to enter another world as an open-minded visitor. He wanted knowledge, riches or power which other people didn’t have.

‘The more dressed up you were to begin with, the worse you look…[when you become messed up]’ I’ve proved this theory on literally hundreds of nights out.

Do people make hissing noises at horses? Why? What do they mean?

When people talk about the best order in which to read the Narniad,  I always think of this moment, when the lamppost begins growing from the ground. If you read this book first, when Lucy finds a lamppost in a wood you already know why it is there and how it got there. There’s no mystery about where you are, or what sort of place it is. However, if you read LWW first, when you read about the growing lamppost, you have that satisfying moment of recognition and the mystery is solved for you. I absolutely believe that publication order is the best way to enjoy the books.

Uncle Andrew’s ideas about the ‘commercial possibilities’ of Narnia show us just how lost he is, in a moral or spiritual sense. Edmund in LWW (planning to build roads and cinemas) and Eustace in VDT (thinking that Calormen’s trade and finance systems preferable to Narnia’s) made similar mistakes. They don’t see the value of the land itself, the worth of it simply existing. They want to ‘develop’ it for profit. This idea goes against Lewis’ deeply held values and beliefs, discussed in his non-fiction. Lewis would definitely not want to explore the ‘commercial possibilities’ of a place full of natural beauty.

For some reason, until Digory points it out here, I always forget that Andrew is not only brother to Letty, but also to Digory’s mother. He’s so callous about her.

Pauline Baynes’ illustrations of the animals bubbling up out of the ground always stayed with me. Her drawings were instrumental in developing the Narnia I saw in my mind’s eye.

Aslan choosing two of each species – ‘always two at a time’ – reminds me of the Noah’s Ark story. It amuses me that Aslan uses a ‘nose boop’ to select the animals.

When we are told that some sorts of animal weren’t chosen at all, this must presumably include mice, as we learn in PC that they only gain the power of speech after their actions at the Stone Table in LWW. Which other species were overlooked? Why? What were the criteria?

Why is Aslan described as unblinking? This is mentioned elsewhere in the Chronicles. Is there some significance?

Why is there a flash of fire?

When Aslan speaks here, for the first time in the book, it feels like a really emotional moment.

 

 

 

Narnia re-read. The Magician’s Nephew Chapter eight. The fight at the lamp-post.

Synopsis: Digory transports Jadis, and others, to the Wood Between the Worlds. They then travel to a new, empty world. Music begins.

When the crowd call Jadis the ‘Hempress of Colney ‘Atch, it refers to Colney Hatch, Barnet, London. Colney Hatch is the name of an area, but in this instance references the well-known ‘Lunatic Asylum’. This place was built in Victorian times, and the name became a byword for insanity.

Is Jadis left handed? Or ambidextrous?

Do children still eat barley sugar? When I was small it was given to me when I had a sore throat. It almost made being ill worth it.

Digory shows his bravery here, and his appreciation of Polly.

Jadis lists cities from her world. ‘Charn’ is reminiscent of ‘char’ (to burn) and ‘charnel house’ (a place where skeletal remains are stored. Both are relevant when Charn’s fate is considered. As far as I can discover, ‘Felinda’, ‘Sorlois’ and ‘Bramandin’ have no specific meaning other than being names which sound like they originate from different cultures. (To me, Sorlois sounds French.)

Uncle Andrew shows his true colours here: he is a coward; he doesn’t want to take any responsibility for his actions;he refuses to face consequences.

What do modern children make of phrases such as, ‘My hat, what a picnic’? (I feel like I need to shoehorn this into a conversation soon.)

I’ve always found it difficult to imagine ‘nothing’ or ‘nothingness’, particularly the nothingness which presumably preceded the existence of the universe.

When the Witch says that, ‘My doom has come upon me,’ does she really know that this is the world where her life will (eventually, after a very long time has passed) end? Or is she just being dramatic?

When the Cabby starts to talk about being thankful, mentions that death is not to be feared if you have lived your life properly, and then suggests singing a hymn, it is the first time – that I can recall – so far in the Chronicles in which a direct reference to Christianity’s beliefs and practices is made. The hymn itself is probably ‘Come, Ye Thankful People, Come’, which includes the famous line, ‘All is safely gathered in’. (An episode of ‘Dad’s Army’ takes its title from this.) The hymn also has some relevant lyrics considering the situation which unfolds across the next six chapters:

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God’s own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

Once again, Lewis describes something which is wonderful and terrible at the same time. The music which has begun is ‘so beautiful he could hardly bear it’. As seen elsewhere in the Chronicles, music has a beauty and emotional intensity which is able to profoundly affect those who hear it.

For me as a child, this entire passage felt truly beautiful. (I much preferred it to the various creation stories we learned about at school.) It seemed to capture the beauty and sense of wonder which Lewis must have intended.

The idea of a world being brought into being through a song or the voice of God is not unique to Narnia. In Christianity, God’s word brought the world into being. In Hinduism, the sacred sound ‘Aum’ began the world we live in. In Tolkien’s creation story, music brings life to the world. (The idea of creatures being ‘born’ from the ground is also found here.)

The response each character has to the Voice confirms their current state of ‘goodness’ – or not. It is similar to the way the Pevensies responded to hearing Aslan’s name for the first time in LWW.