Synsopsis: Emeth tells his story. Puzzle appears. Everyone works out where they are.
Emeth (meaning ‘true’ or ‘faithful’ in Hebrew) clearly learned his tricks of speech and storytelling in the traditional Calormene manner. Emeth only appears briefly in the story, but is one of my favourite characters. He is honourable, courteous and honest. When he realises the truth about Aslan and Tash he freely admits his error and is prepared to take any consequences. Some religious readers have found his story unsettling because of the implications they feel it would have if the idea were translated into this world: God will judge you on your actions, and your desire and love for God, rather than for your belonging to or obedience to a specific religion. They believe that only the followers of their ‘true’ religion could be saved, i.e. people who follow Jesus. Personally, I much prefer the idea that actions and character are what matter, not which building you worship in, what name you call your God or what dietary/clothing rules you follow. Hinduism accepts the idea that different people may have different spiritual paths to take to reach God. What a shame some of the more extreme followers of Abrahamic religions can’t share this open-mindedness.
If it really were the case that ‘vile deeds’ done in the name of God were taken as service to Tash/the devil, there are a lot of people in this world – past and present – who would need to be afraid.
‘My happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound.’ I love Emeth’s turn of phrase. I imagine he and Lucy would get along very well. They both have that dreamy, spiritual quality to their character. (The internet being what it is, some people have naturally discussed the potential of this ‘ship’.)
Pauline Baynes’ illustration of a lion-skin-free Puzzle (shown at the top of this post) is delightful. He really does have a lovely face!
The characters are all headed West. However, until now, the general direction of travel for all things Aslan/Emperor over the Sea has been East. Maybe this is because travelling in that direction would require a retread of the Dawn Treader’s journey. It also seems strange to me that by this point, the Emperor hasn’t been mentioned more. He’s clearly very important – we know this because of his relationship to Aslan – but he isn’t referred to at all. I don’t think I even have a fully formed idea of who or what he ‘is’ in terms of this world from the stories.
The phrase ‘further up and further in’ reminds me of HHB’s ‘Narnia and the North!’.
I’m not sure I quite understood the implications of the dogs’ conversation about calling naughty puppies ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ when I was younger.
The idea of the land being the ‘real thing’, the ‘real Narnia’, is explained by Digory. This makes sense as he mentions Plato, whose theories of Forms etc. inform the ideas behind this, and the following, chapter. Lewis is spelling out his idea to us, but until I was an adult I hadn’t actually read Plato, so didn’t know what it meant. I did, however, understand Lewis’ explanation referring to seeing a view reflected in a window or mirror. I often looked for such reflections just because of this passage.
Jewel’s speech, which includes, ‘This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now,’ shows that the characters have finally achieved what Lewis hoped and wished for all his life. They have reached the source of their ‘joy’. They no longer need make do with ‘sehnsucht’ or glimpses, or moments of wonder and pure, unadulterated happiness. The source of their joy is here. Lewis spent his life pursuing this end. This speech strikes a deep chord with many readers, including me. Reading about Narnia, I always felt that I had ‘come home’, too. It was the land my heart desired, without knowing it was going to be found in a book. It still is.