The Silver Chair: Accept No Substitutes (Chronicles of Narnia #4)

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“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.”

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The Silver Chair chronicles another adventure, into the northern Narnia and down into its hidden caves, where Prince Rilian, the son of Caspian, is imprisoned by the evil Emerald Witch.  Eustace, along with a Jill Pole are the only children on this adventure; further, they arrive not in Narnia, but atop a tall cliff in Aslan’s country. In an act of vanity, Jill stands too close to the edge, causing Eustace to fall into the gorge while reaching to grab her. Aslan in fact arrives to blow Eustace into Narnia ere he splats, then vanishes only to reappear by the river from which the thirsty Jill wishes to drink.

“In a densely theological scene” Markos relates, “Aslan invites Jill to drink from the river.” She refuses, but Aslan informs her that there is no other river, and if she doesn’t drink, she will die. Thirst once thus sated, Aslan instructs Jill to memorize four signs that will guide her in rescuing Rilian (and she is repeatedly urged to recite them, as things will be less clear once they leave the mountain).  The four signs are a metaphor for God’s word, the Bible (both the Old Testament – the Hebrew Torah, and the words of Jesus, from the New Testament). Repeatedly, Jill will forget the signs, causing her troubles.

Eventually, the aptly named Puddleglum – “a tall, lanky, eternally pessimistic yet doggedly optimistic Marshwiggle”– joins Jill and Eustace to rescue Rilian, then return to Aslan’s mountain.  When back at the river in which Jill had drunk, Jill and Eustace see the dead body of the aged Prince Caspian.  After “Aslan weeps” (John 11:35 – tied for shortest verse in the Bible in fact!), Aslan re-enacts Christ’s crucifixion scene by having Eustace pierce his paw with a thorn.

Notable Quotes:

“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.”

Puddleglum:  “One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “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 more thing 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 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. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

“Aslan’s instructions always work; there are no exceptions.”

“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.”

Aslan: “I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him.”

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I am 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.”

And at the end, this scene:

“Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me.”  Eustace obeyed.

“Drive it up into my paw, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pad toward Eustace.

“Must I? said Eustace. “Yes” said Aslan.

Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King.  At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to gray. And from gray to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoother, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them – a very young man, or a boy. (But Jill couldn’t say which, because of people having no particular ages in Aslan’s country. Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grown-up). And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.

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Planet: Moon

The role played by the moon in The Silver Chair is influenced by the following factors: the seemingly erratic movements of the moon give rise to the notion of lunacy or madness, a claim of the secondary silver light of the moon (with respect to that of the primary golden hues of the sun) being false or, using one of Lewis’s favorite epithets, ‘moonshine,’ the moon’s effect of tides associating it with wetness, and the color green being associated with the envy of the moon for the sun’s direct light. Thus, wetness is included in many of the terrestrial descriptions, and the overall counterfeit nature of the green-clad Queen Jadis’s exemplifies the offer of the inferior light of the moon.

The Planets: The Moon

Lady LUNA, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us–the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count’nance
Orb’d and ageless. In earth’s bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
–Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth.

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