Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: IT WAS A DULL AUTUMN DAY AND JILL Pole was crying behind the gym. She was crying because they had been bullying her. This is not going to be a school story, so I shall say as little as possible about Jill’s school, which is not a pleasant subject.

The Silver Chair is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia. (The first three are: The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.) It is an enjoyable installment in a wonderful fantasy series. It is neither my absolute favorite nor my least favorite. (Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe battle it out for top place. My opinion as to which is my favorite and my best varies depending on the day. The Last Battle is my least favorite simply because Lewis' weird theology sours the book.)

Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb find themselves unexpectedly whisked away to another country. After Jill "accidentally" tumbles Eustace off a cliff, she has a close encounter with a lion. 

This encounter with Aslan is one of my absolute favorites:
But her thirst was very bad now, and she plucked up her courage to go and look for that running water. She went on tiptoes, stealing cautiously from tree to tree, and stopping to peer round her at every step. But although the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion.... And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first. “If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way. “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion. “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill. “Then drink,” said the Lion. “May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill. “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion. It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

 After asking her where Eustace is--he knows, of course, having blown him to Narnia on his breath himself--he gives her a mission, a task.
And now hear your task. Far from here in the land of Narnia there lives an aged king who is sad because he has no prince of his blood to be king after him. He has no heir because his only son was stolen from him many years ago, and no one in Narnia knows where that prince went or whether he is still alive. But he is. I lay on you this command, that you seek this lost prince until either you have found him and brought him to his father’s house, or else died in the attempt, or else gone back to your own world.
She must learn the four signs that go along with the mission. She'll need to know them backwards and forwards and be able to recall them perfectly. And, of course, she'll need to share them with Eustace.
“I will tell you, Child,” said the Lion. “These are the signs by which I will guide you in your quest. First; as soon as the Boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once; if he does, you will both have good help. Second; you must journey out of Narnia to the north till you come to the ruined city of the ancient giants. Third; you shall find a writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you. Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”
She's confident that she can do it. How hard could it be, after all?! Knowing this, he warns her:
But, first, 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 you, 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. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell—”
Aslan then blows Jill to Narnia. She finds Eustace who arrived just minutes before. She tells him the signs, but, unfortunately he's already missed the opportunity of greeting an old friend--King Caspian. But the two will go on their mission all the same. They may not have the help of a king, but, they do have the help of some friendly owls. And it is through the owls that they meet one of my favorite, favorite characters: Puddleglum, a Marsh-wiggle. (The owls also tell them essentially everything they need to know about Prince Rilian and his mysterious disappearance). 

These three set off on a dangerous adventure quest together. And it's a memorable journey, I think....

Will they be successful? Will they find Prince Rilian? Will Rilian return to Narnia and be crowned king? Will they meet Aslan again?

Some additional quotes I loved:
IT IS A VERY FUNNY THING THAT THE sleepier you are, the longer you take about getting to bed; especially if you are lucky enough to have a fire in your room.
“How beastly one feels after sleeping in one’s clothes,” said Jill, sitting up. “I was just thinking how nice it was not to have to dress,” said Eustace. “Or wash either, I suppose,” said Jill scornfully.
“Good morning, Guests,” he said. “Though when I say good I don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.” “Yes we did, though,” said Jill. “We had a lovely night.” “Ah,” said the Marsh-wiggle, shaking his head. “I see you’re making the best of a bad job. That’s right. You’ve been well brought up, you have. You’ve learned to put a good face on things.” “Please, we don’t know your name,” said Scrubb. “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it’. I can always tell you again.”
“Well, I don’t know that you’d call it help,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the North, not at this time of the year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather. And if we don’t get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.”
“The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”
However tired you are, it takes some nerve to walk up to a giant’s front door.
“Don’t you mind him,” said Puddleglum. “There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this”
Puddleglum was still fighting hard. “I don’t know rightly what you all mean by a world,” he said, talking like a man who hasn’t enough air. “But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won’t make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We’ll never see it again, I shouldn’t wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I’ve seen the sky full of stars. I’ve seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I’ve seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn’t look at him for brightness.” Puddleglum’s words had a very rousing effect. The other three all breathed again and looked at one another like people newly awaked.
Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.
Have you read The Silver Chair? What did you think of it? Do you have a favorite book in the series? A favorite character?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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