Friday, October 24, 2014

C. S. Lewis: The Silver Chair - Hope in Darkness

Another one of my absolute favorite scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia is in The Silver Chair. This is the book that comes after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is Book 4 in the correct order.

The story takes place decades after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in Narnian time, but less than a year later in England. Therefore King Caspian X is an old man. As the adventure begins we learn that King Caspian's son, Prince Rilian is missing. Aslan sends Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole on a rescue mission. They are joined in their quest by the delightfully melancholy Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle.

Their journey leads them to the "Underland" where the Green Lady has been keeping Prince Rilian as her enchanted prisoner. The Green Lady (the witch) catches the group mid-rescue and tries to work a magic spell to make them forget who they are and why they are there. (And here I think of the admonishment to remember who you are and whose you are as a child of God...)

"Narnia?" she said. "Narnia? I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia."

"Yes there is, though, Ma'am," said Puddleglum. "You see, I happen to have lived there all my life."

"Indeed," said the Witch. "Tell me, I pray you, where that country is?"

"Up there," said Puddleglum, stoutly, pointing overhead. "I - I don't know exactly where."

"How?" said the Queen, with a kind, soft, musical laugh. "Is there a country up among the stones and mortar of the roof?"

"No," said Puddleglum, struggling a little to get his breath. "It's in Overworld."

"And what, or where, pray is this... how do you call it... Overworld?"

"Oh, don't be so silly," said Scrubb, who was fighting hard against the enchantment of the sweet smell and the thrumming. "As if you didn't know! It's up above, up where you can see the sky and the sun and the stars. Why, you've been there yourself. We met you there." [...]

Puddleglum (Original Illustration by Pauline Baynes)
This goes on for a bit, with the witch trying to convince them that their memories of Narnia are nothing but dreams and Narnia doesn't exist. She tells them the only reality that is real is the one they can see right in front of them. But the wise Puddleglum finally uses his bare foot to stamp out the fire she was using to work her magic and then he says something I find myself coming back to over and over again:

"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 playworld 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. [...]we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland." - C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, Chapter 12

The times in my life where hope has been faintest, or I felt that it wasn't there at all, the times when everything seemed dark and I was in despair and questioning everything I believed, this is the passage that kept me going. I would pray, "God, even if you're not there I'm going to live like you are, because I don't want to live in a world without Jesus." I also think of the time when Jesus asked his closest disciples if they were going to leave him too and Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)

In my mind these two texts are connected and they are what pull me back from the brink every time: Where else could I go Lord? You have the words of eternal life... so I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan and I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn't any Narnia... 



In response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be posting every day in October. You can read previous posts HERE. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to be notified of new posts. You can also Subscribe to get posts sent to you by email. (There is a simple form towards the top on the right where you can do this.)

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and questions!

Index of Posts (Highlights):
Day 2. C. S. Lewis on Longing (In "The Weight of Glory")
Day 3. C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)
Day 6: C. S. Lewis: The Intolerable Compliment (The Problem of Pain)
Day 7: C. S. Lewis: What is "The Weight of Glory"?
Day 8: C. S. Lewis: The Great Divorce and The Weight of Glory
Day 9: C. S. Lewis: A Grief Observed
Day 12: C. S. Lewis and Postmodernism (Part 3 - Conclusion)
Day 13: C. S. Lewis: The Grand Miracle (Myth and Allusions)
Day 14: C. S. Lewis: Is Theology Poetry? (Part 1: More on Myth)
Day 19: C.S. Lewis: Brief Biography: Did you know? (Part 2)
Day 20: C. S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia Correct Reading Order
Day 21: C. S. Lewis: Why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my Favorite Narnia Book
Day 22: C. S. Lewis: The Undragoning of Eustace

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