Author: C. S. Lewis
Paperback: 767 pages
Publish Date: 2001
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.
Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: adventure, aslan, Caspian, Christian allegory, classic children's literature, classic literature, english literature, Eustace, Jill, Narnia, Pole, Puddleglum, Rillian, salvation, Scrubb | 3 Comments »