Synopsis: The battle begins.
Despite all the evidence of previous chapters, here, once again, the reader begins to hope that it will all begin to go right. After all, how many books – let alone children’s books – have you read where the ‘good guys’ don’t win in the end? We are unused to the idea.
The green light and bird sounds which occur when Shift is (most satisfyingly) flung into the stable tell us that Tash is probably inside. But how? And what else is in there? What happened to Emeth? It’s still a mystery.
Rishda Tarkaan, the cynic who has just realised that Tash is real, is spotted by Farsight the Eagle. For some reason this moment always gave me the creeps as a child. I think I was worried my beliefs – or lack of them – might one day get me into trouble.
Already teary from the boar situation in chapter ten, the dogs and small animals trying to help is a guarateed tear-jerker for me. Size and strength are not relevant here. It’s loyalty and intent which make these animals so admirable. And the dogs’ ‘dogginess’ makes them all the lovelier. Lewis loved animals, and had pet dogs and cats.
Tirian says here, ‘Since I was your king’. Does he no longer consider himself king of Narnia? Does he not see these animals as his subjects?
It’s so sad to see that the majority of Narnians won’t rally to Tirian. The reader’s hopes are dashed once again.
This part of the book may not be cheerful, but it is unoubtedly fast-paced, action-packed and exciting. Lewis doesn’t glorify war (although it is made clear that fighting for a just cause is noble) and gives us a sense of the fear, confusion and horror of battle. Was he consciously thinking of his time in the trenches here or had it seeped into his subconscious?
Eustace looks around to see dead and injured dogs, and watches the poor, confused bear die in front of him. This is pretty hideous stuff.
The chilling sound of the drum, calling reinforcements, reminds me strongly of the drums heard by the fellowship of the ring, in Moria, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Such a sound would fill you with dread.
The Calormene enemy killing the Narnians is bad enough, but the dwarfs murdering the Talking Horses, for no reason whatsoever, is, I think for me, the worst moment of the entire Chronicles so far. The mindless cruelty of it would be staggering if we didn’t know the nature of such acts from our own world. Again, I have to remind myself that this is a children’s book. Nothing like this would happen in most YA books, let alone those for younger children.
Tirian has had his faults up to now, particularly in controlling his temper. But here, even after witnessing the outrage of the horses being killed, he is calm and noble. He’s a true king, even if his country and his people are no longer his.
Jill wasn’t always the most impressive protagonist in The Silver Chair, but here she shows what she is really made of. She plays an essential role in Tirian’s ‘side’. She is skilful and brave. And Jill, like us, dares to hope the ‘plan’ might work, and then realises with horror that it absolutely won’t.