The Silver Chair

November 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

One reason I love the Chronicles of Narnia so much is that a Christian can very easily imagine herself in the story.

In The Silver Chair, we meet Jill, who has come to Narnia for the first time. After pushing Eustace off a cliff, she comes face to face with Aslan. He gives her the task to save Prince Rillian, and 4 signs she should follow. Before sending her off, he says,

“Stand still. In a moment I will blow. 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 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. There 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—”

(Chapter 2: Jill is given a task)

Much of the journey to save the prince is a long and weary one. When they meet a woman in green (whom we later learn was the witch) and she tells them how lovely and comfortable Harfang would be, they were insistent that they should stop by, even though Puddleglum thought it wasn’t wise.

“Puddleglum didn’t want them to go to Harfang at all. He said that he didn’t know what a giant’s idea of being “gentle” might be, and that anyway, Aslan’s signs had said nothing about staying with giants, gentle or otherwise. The children, on the other hand, who were sick of wind and rain, and skinny fowl roasted over campfires, and hard, cold earth to sleep on, were absolutely dead set to visit the Gentle Giants.”

(Chapter 6: The Wild Wastelands of the North)

They later realise they made a mistake. The trip to Harfang caused them to muff up the signs. It is just like how we, when presented with the sweet and elusive things of life, forget God and what he meant for us to be.

“The truth is,” said Scrubb, “we were so jolly keen on getting to this place that we weren’t bothering about anything else. At least I know I was. Ever since we met the woman with the knight who didn’t talk, we’ve been thinking about nothing else. We’d nearly forgotten about Prince Rillian.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Puddleglum, “if that wasn’t exactly what she intended.”

“What I don’t quite understand,” said Jill, “is how we didn’t see the lettering? Or could it have come there since last night? Could he—Aslan—have put it there in the night? I had such a queer dream.” And she told them all about it.

“Why, you chump!” said Scrubb. “We did see it. We got into the lettering. Don’t you see? We got into the letter E in ME. That was your sunk lane. We walked along the bottom stroke of the E, due north—turned to our right along the upright—came to another turn to the right—that’s the middle stroke—and then went on to the top left-hand corner, or (if you like) the northeastern corner of the letter, and came back. Like the bally idiots that we are.”

(Chapter 8: The House of Harfang)

While running away from the giants who wanted to eat them, they escaped into a crack in the ground. Because it was dark, they rolled down what seemed to be a slope and came face to face with some Earthman, who brought them to a prince. The prince seems quite a lunatic, singing praises of his queen. He tells them that while he is sane now he loses his senses for an hour every day, and thus must be tied to a chair. When the hour comes, he pleads for them to release him from his bondage by the name of Aslan. This is the sign that he is Prince Rillian, the one they have been looking for.

It was a dreadful question. What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone—even a lunatic—who asked it in his name? Could it be a mere accident? Or how if the Queen of the Underworld knew all about the signs and had made the Knight learn his name simply in order to entrap them? But then, supposing this was the real sign?

(Chapter 11: In the Dark Castle)

They release the prince, but not in time to escape the queen. When she sees them, she tries to enchant them by playing music. She convinces them that the sun is but a huge lamp in the sky, and Aslan is but a huge cat. It is all make-belief. Puddleglum, in the midst of the enchantment, manages to think clearly still.

“One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. 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 the 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.”

(Chapter 12: The Queen of Underland)

In the end they slay the queen and the prince goes to meet his father, King Caspian. What strikes me is that everything turns out all right, that God still has a way of making things right, even if we humans mess up and do not follow the signs.

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