Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

This was the first book on my most recent read-through of The Chronicles of Narnia that I had never read before. That was a bit of a special treat I was looking forward to. Reading any of the Narnia books for the first time is always an adventure, and this did not disappoint.

The Silver Chair brings back Eustace Clarence Scrubb and introduces a new character, Jill Poole. Jill and Eustace are sent on a quest to find the missing prince and return him his rightful place in Narnia. Dozens of heroes have gone out on the same quest, and none have ever returned, so what hope do Jill and Eustace, two children have? That would be Aslan. Aslan has sent them out and given them five simple (or seemingly simple) instructions for the journey.

Silver Chair tied with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for second place on my list of favorite Narnia books. Like Dawn Treader, it is pure, quest-style adventure. But I have to say, it is quite a bit darker than Dawn Treader. From cannibalism to bewitchments to a hell-like abyss descending into the fiery depths below Narnia, I would consider it for a slightly more mature audience than the earlier books in the series.

I loved Jill. She seemed to be a very well-developed character, and as much as I liked Susan and Lucy, and even though they will always be the classics, Jill earned her place next to them. More adventurous than Susan, yet more flawed than Lucy, Jill truly is her own character, and had elements I think a variety of people could identify with.

But oddly enough, my favorite character was the Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum. Or perhaps that’s not odd at all considering Reepicheep, Mr. Tumnus, and all the other ‘secondary’ characters that steal the show for me. Puddleglum is a sad, depressed creature, who truly believes he is flighty and unserious. He becomes the children’s guide, and frequently also fulfills the role of their conscience, Jiminy Cricket style. Beyond all that though, for some reason I just found him adorable and hilarious…I guess I’m just weird like that.

As with the other Narnia books I collected my favorite quotes. This time, almost all of them came from Aslan.

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

This quote was particularly poignant to me. It seemed like a rephrasing of John 15:16: “You did not choose me but I chose you…” Jill’s folly was in thinking she somehow had power over Aslan, and that she had summoned him, not vice versa. Silly human, thinking she had power over the Great Lion.

“…remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

Aslan always gives his laborers the warnings, information and help they need. Whether they remember it and use it or not though, is another matter. Yes, the air is thick and clouds the mind. They even faced enchantments leading them into overpowering unbelief. But they always had the signs and promises of Aslan, if only they would remember then. And yet even when they forget them and are full of shame and regret, he has words of comfort:

“Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia.”

Aslan is always forgiving. Sometimes he rebukes and punishes, but he always forgives those who care to be forgiven. Really, in the end, Aslan is why I feel I will be rereading this series many times.

And just to end on a light note, two quotes that made laugh quite hard when I read them.

“Where I come from,” said Jill…, “they don’t think much of men who are bossed about by their wives.”

“Shalt think otherwise when thou hast a man of thine own, I warrant you,” said the Knight…

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