The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

Title:  The Silver Chair

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  2001

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  The Silver Chair was published fifth in the Narnia Series, but was meant to be read sixth by Lewis.  The copy I have read is in a complete book.

 

After that all happened quickly.  There was a wild cry, a swishing, dusty, gravelly noise, a rattle of stones, and Jill found herself sliding, sliding, hopelessly sliding, and sliding quicker every moment down a slope that grew steeper every moment…  From the sharp cries and swearing of the other two, Jill got the idea that many of the stones which she was dislodging were hitting Scrubb and Puddleglum pretty hard.  And now she was going at a furious rate and felt sure she would be broken to bits at the bottom.

 Yet somehow they weren’t.  They were a mass of bruises, and the wet sticky stuff on her face appeared to be blood.  And such a mass of loose earth, shingle, and larger stones was piled up round her (and partly over her) that she couldn’t get up.  The darkness was so complete that it made no difference at all whether you had your eyes open or shut.  There was no noise.  And that was the very worst moment Jill had ever known in her life.  Supposing she was alone:  supposing the others… The she heard movements around her.  And presently all three, in shaken voices, were explaining that none of them seemed to have any broken bones….

 No one suggested doing anything.  There was so obviously nothing to be done.  For the moment, they did not feel it quite so badly as one might have expected; that was because they were so tired.

 Long, long afterwards, without the slightest warning, an utterly strange voice spoke.  They knew at once that it was not the one voice in the whole world for which each had secretly been hoping; the voice of Aslan.  It was a dark, flat voice – almost, if you know what that means, a pitch-black voice.  It said:

 “What make you here, creatures of the Overworld?”

 

-The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis, pages 612-613

 

In The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis, we accompany a kinder, more human Eustace Scrubb back to his school, Experiment House, which seems to be a topsy-turvy socialistic school where the bullies are commended for preying on the weak and the Bible, and anything found within It’s covers, is forbidden.  We also meet Jill Pole, one of the weaker ones and somewhat-friend of Eustace, who is crying after being tormented and hiding from Them.  In an effort to comfort her, Eustace takes her into his confidence and tells her of the world of Narnia.  Wanting to visit this other world, the two call on Aslan and ask him to bring them there.  Thus begins the adventures of this, the sixth Narnian book.

 After showing off and causing Eustace to fall from an unimaginable precipice, Jill is given the harder task of keeping the four signs that will help them on their quest to find and rescue the lost Prince Rillian, only son and heir to the now elderly King Caspian. 

 Right away, the two muff (as Lewis says) the first sign:  Eustace was to speak to the first person he saw in Narnia, who would be an old friend, realizing after his boat has left the harbor that King Caspian was with whom he was to speak.  Things continue to go wrong throughout their journey, as they are almost made into a dinner for a giant’s festival and nearly enchanted into forgetting Narnia entirely.

 In the fashion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Silver Chair is a fast-paced adventure story with the sense of impending doom and close-call escapes.  Unlike the first book, though, there is no great battle in which Aslan himself defeats the evil.  Instead, it is through the unity of the four that gathers their combined strength, as well as the sacrifice of one, that enables them to overcome the evil enchantress.

 Like the previous five Narnias, The Silver Chair is a Christian Allegory, and second only to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in references.  From the four signs Jill is given, to meeting the beautiful Lady of the Green Kirtle with the lilting voice and musical laughter, to the piercing of Aslan’s paw that resurrects and rejuvenates King Caspian, the reader is shown the nature of a called life with a purpose given by the Omniscient, Omnipresent Ruler of all.

 The Silver Chair is by far my favorite Narnian tale.  It is perhaps the best written of the six I’ve read so far, and is the most exciting and inspiring of all thus far.  I love the Owls in this book, and find Lewis’s conversational voice given to them to be a delight that begs to be read aloud.

 

“Now,” said Glimfeather, “I think we’re all here.  Let us hold a parliament of owls.”

“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo.  True for you.  That’s the right thing to do,” said several voices.

“Half a moment,” said Scrubb’s voice.  “There’s something I want to say first.”

“Do, do do,” said the owls…

“… I’m the King’s man; and if this parliament of owls is any sort of plot against the King, I’m having nothing to do with it.”

“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo, we’re all the King’s owls too,” said the owls.

 

-The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis, page 573

  And Puddleglum, part Marvin the Robot, part Eeyore, is a wonderful comic relief (and given the tension in this thrilling adventure, an exceptional one is needed), and is now one of my favorite literary characters.

 

“Why the dickens couldn’t you have held her feet?” said Eustace.

“I don’t know, Scrubb,” groaned Puddleglum.  “Born to be a misfit, I shouldn’t wonder.  Fated.  Fated to be Pole’s death, just as I was fated to eat Talking Stag at Harfang.  Not that it isn’t my own fault as well, of course.”

“This is the greatest shame and sorrow that could have fallen on us,” said the Prince.  “We have sent a brave lady into the hands of enemies and stayed behind in safety.”

“Don’t paint it too black, Sir,” said Puddleglum.  “We’re not very safe except for death by starvation in this hole.”

 

-The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis, page 650

 

Puddleglum is that sort of character whom we all know in our own lives:  The one who always thinks of, and points out, the worst of all possibilities.  He is a Marsh-wiggle, a people described as considering every terrible thing that could possible happen, then putting on a brave face in preparation of meeting it.  Those people who seem to almost enjoy spreading the doubt, fear, and negativity, and who “cry wolf” so often that when real danger comes along, they are ignored and their warnings blown off. 

 However, Puddleglum has as much courage and cheek as caution, and without him the quest would have failed time and again.  As Jill describes him, “Puddleglum!  You’re a regular old humbug.  You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you’re perfectly happy.  And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you’re really as brave as -as a lion.”

 For it’s thrilling drama, fraught with dangers and a wonderful cast of characters, and for the fantastically descriptive writing by Lewis, I give The Silver Chair 5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it as the best of the Narnias.

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

Title:  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  2001

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was published third in the Narnia Series, but was meant to be read fifth by Lewis.  The copy I have read is in a complete book.

 

“Don’t they admire you?” asked Lucy.

 “Oh, not me,” said the magician.  “They wouldn’t admire me.”

 “What was it you uglified them for – I mean, what they call uglified?”

 “Well, they wouldn’t do what they were told.  Their work is to mind the garden and raise food – not for me, as they imagine, but for themselves.  They wouldn’t do it at all if I didn’t make them.   And of course, for a garden you want water.  There is a beautiful spring about half a mile away up the hill.  And from that spring there flows a stream which comes right past the garden.  All I asked them to do was to take their water from the stream instead of trudging up to the spring with their buckets two or three times a day and tiring themselves out besides spilling half of it on the way back.  But they wouldn’t see it.  In the end they refused point blank.”

 “Are they as stupid as all that?” asked Lucy.

 The Magician sighed.  “You wouldn’t believe the troubles I’ve had with them.  A few months ago they were all for washing up the plates and knives before dinner:  they said it saved time afterwards.  I’ve caught them planting boiled potatoes to save  cooking them when they were dug up.  One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat….”

 …now they were jumping in all directions and calling out to one another, “Hey, lads!  We’re visible again….

 “She’s caught the old man napping, that little girl did,” said the Chief Monopod.  “We’ve beaten him this time….

 “But do they dare talk about you like that?” said Lucy.  “They seemed to be so afraid of you yesterday.  Don’t they know you might be listening?”

 “That’s one of the funny things about the Duffers,” said the Magician.  “One minute they talk as if I ran everything and overheard everything and was extremely dangerous.  The next morning they think they can take me in by tricks that a baby would see through – bless them!”

 

 -The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, pages 501-502

 

With an opportunity for Mr. Pevensie to lecture in America for sixteen weeks, it is decided that Susan will go with her parents, while Peter prepares for his exams with Professor Kirke, and the two youngest children, Edmund and Lucy, will spend the summer at their Aunt Alberta’s house.  This prospect is made miserable by the fact they will be forced to spend time with their beastly cousin Eustace, who is a mean-spirited bully.  When the three children are in Lucy’s bedroom, the picture on the wall comes to life and they are drawn into the world of Narnia, finding themselves aboard the Dawn Treader with their old friend Caspian, now King of Narnia.

 Immediately, Eustace makes an intolerable pain of himself, demanding to be taken to the British Consul and threatening to write strongly worded letters to the head of the line for his poor treatment on ship.  It isn’t until Eustace finds himself in a horrible predicament that he can’t bully or talk his way out of that he begins to take a good look at himself, and quickly realizes he doesn’t like what he sees.

 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader chronicles the quest of King Caspian to discover the fate of the seven Narnian Lords, friends of his father, who were sent off by Caspian’s usurping uncle Miraz.  Along the way, he discovers the slave trade still continues in some parts of Narnia, dragons do exist, the waters of one island turns objects (and people) into gold, an island where dreams come alive (and not just those wishful-type dreams, but the ones that make you terrified to close your eyes again, too), and more.  They’re goal is to sail to the Utter East, even to Aslan’s country, and to find what lies at the end of the world.

 Like the other Narnian tales, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a Christian Allegory, though I see this one as the least obvious of all.  It is a good adventure tale, and it has a positive message of living your life with courage and honor.  This lesson is given through Eustace’s self-discovery, Reepicheep’s voice of valor and encouragement, Lucy’s magically eavesdropping on her schoolmates and disliking what she  hears what’s said about her, and the admonishment Caspian receives when he decides to abandon his responsibilities as King to live an adventurer’s life. 

 Aslan is seen more in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader than in Prince Caspian, however, his visits and sightings are more private and tailor-made for their specific needs:  as a glowing albatross leading the ship to safety, in the artwork of the Magician’s book keeping Lucy from falling to the temptation of pride, and as a lion sculpted on the wall of Caspian’s quarters.  The best Aslan appearance, and the easiest to recognize reference, is at the end of Dawn Treader when the children encounter a lamb who offers them food by a warm fire.

 

“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?”

“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world.”

“What!”  said Edmund.  “Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world too?”

“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy.  “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“…are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name…”

 

-The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, pages 540-541

 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was an interesting adventure, but it lacked a lot of the sense of movement and urgency the previous Narnia books have had.  I felt the story dragging in parts, like a ship run aground on one or two occasions, and I had to force myself through to the finish.  Even so, there were parts where I said, “Oh!  I remember reading that before,” which have stuck with me from the time my mom read them to me when I was little (she swears she read them all to us, but I don’t remember it).  And, since this book was third in publication, I can see why so many people haven’t read the whole series.  But it ends well, and everyone likes a good ending.  I give Dawn Treader 3 out of 5 stars.

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