Narnia: Endangering Girls For Fun And Profit!

[Content Note: Violence, Deadly Natural Disasters, Small Animals]

Narnia Recap: Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the Beavers are traveling to the place where they expect to find Aslan. Edmund has been taken captive by the White Witch, who is attempting to intercept the other children.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 12: Peter's First Battle

   WHILE THE DWARF AND THE WHITE Witch were saying this, miles away the Beavers and the children were walking on hour after hour into what seemed a delicious dream. Long ago they had left the coats behind them. And by now they had even stopped saying to one another, "Look! there's a kingfisher," or "I say, bluebells!" or "What was that lovely smell?" or "Just listen to that thrush!" [...]
   And after the thaw had been going on for some time they all realized that the Witch would no longer be able to use her sledge. After that they didn't hurry so much and they allowed themselves more rests and longer ones.

We've talked before, and I credit Kit Whitfield for making me notice this, about how intensely sweet and cozy and tidy a lot of the passages are in these books. This is one of those passages that would have seemed perfectly natural to me when I was a child and had no thought to question the preordained nature of the narrative and yet seems perfectly odd to me now that I am older. The party is moving at a leisurely pace, and sight-seeing along the way, because they know that the Witch can't use her sledge now that the snow has melted. Well, that makes perfect sense, why not stop and smell the roses? We'll get there when we get there and there's no sense in rushing.

Except, wait, what? Not but a few chapters before, Mr. Beaver was shushing them because there were spies everywhere and even some of the trees were on the Witch's side, and you certainly can't trust the birds, at least not the ones that aren't robins. Indeed, when the Witch first heard about the children and their plan to travel to the Stone Table, she sent her wolf police on ahead, and while the text justifies that the children aren't directly trackable between the falling snow and the melting snow, there's still the little fact that the wolves know their starting point and their intended destination, so it really shouldn't be that hard to locate their trail.

It seems to me like the party should be hurrying over the land, ducking behind rocks and keeping low to avoid the eyes of the bird spies that fly overhead, desperately frustrated to learn that the melting snow has radically altered the route they planned to take, and hoping against hope that they can get to Aslan in time before the wolves overtake and kill them. Instead, they're yelling to each other about the pretty flowers.

You'd think they'd at least want to hurry because every moment they dawdle, their brother's life is increasingly threatened, but no. Our future kings and queens of Narnia, folks.

It occurs to me here, too, that we never get any real sense that the Witch is powerful or even really has a large following. Later in the book, we'll see her field an entire army, and of course she has stone-turning and food-summoning and winter-making powers, but she apparently can't cast a single sending spell to put her followers on alert for the children, nor can she travel great distances. Heck, she can't even do anything to magic her sleigh-reindeer into feasible mounts for herself and her entourage of one driver and one prisoner. Satan may be the prince of the powers of the air, but Jadis -- like Nicolae -- seems to be largely ineffectual at the whole Evil Overlord Powers & Delegation thing.

   Susan had a slight blister on one heel.

This is as good a hook as any to talk about something I've been thinking lately as a reader and a writer, which is how authorial approaches can vastly vary when it comes to writing bad things happening to good characters.

In books, bad things happen. These bad things happen for lots of reasons: to propel the plot, to provide character growth, to give backstory and/or motivation, or simply as flavor text to describe a situation. Bad things in books are really ultimately inevitable. Some authors absolutely delight in hurting their favorite characters, not in a sadistic way so much as in an "I hurt them because I love them" way. Negative attention in books is important attention, and favored characters are seen to well deserve that all-important drama.

Other authors, however, become so attached to their favored characters that they can't have bad things happen to them, not really. If something bad needs to happen because the plot demands it or because the text wouldn't be complete otherwise, the author will reach for a less well-loved character and will heap all the abuse on them. The less favored character becomes the Butt Monkey for all the abuse that the series needs to dish out, and in doing so shields the other characters from harm.

I strongly dislike the Butt Monkey trope because it generally comes across as so artificial and unrealistic. Unless you're working in a D&D type system where a character can have a dreadful Luck stat and criminally low health, and thus killing the bard really isn't that impressive, it's unrealistic for the same character to be so hated by the universe that everything is out to get them and only them. The Butt Monkey becomes the whipping stand-in for the other characters, such that if someone has to have something bad happen to them -- whether it be as simple as a foot blister or as theologically complex as not making it into Heaven on the same day as everyone else -- the reader can immediately predict in advance who is going to have the awful bad thing fall on their head.

How can you, the author, avoid Butt Monkeys and the lack of suspense that generally accompanies their existence? I recommend rolling a die to determine who gets the foot blisters.

   They had been just as surprised as Edmund when they saw the winter vanishing and the whole wood passing in a few hours or so from January to May. They hadn't even known for certain (as the Witch did) that this was what would happen when Aslan came to Narnia.

I mention this in passing because there's been an ongoing debate as to whether Aslan was barred from Narnia until the children's coming weakened the winter, or whether the winter is weakened by Aslan's coming to Narnia. Let the debate continue unabated in the comments!

   They had left the course of the big river some time ago; for one had to turn a little to the right (that meant a little to the south) to reach the place of the Stone Table. Even if this had not been their way they couldn't have kept to the river valley once the thaw began, for with all that melting snow the river was soon in flood -- a wonderful, roaring, thundering yellow flood -- and their path would have been under water.

And I mention this in passing because Narnia has been safely frozen over for 100 years. I cannot imagine that at least a few families haven't built homes in frozen and dried riverbeds. Dry riverbeds are, I would guess, great wind shelters -- which would be an important consideration during an eternal winter. So it's really impossible for me to read this without imagining a lot of flooded homes and drowning baby Animals.

I swear I don't try to be morbid; this is just the stuff I think of when I'm reading.

   In the very middle of this open hilltop was the Stone Table. It was a great grim slab of gray stone supported on four upright stones. It looked very old; and it was cut all over with strange lines and figures that might be the letters of an unknown language. They gave you a curious feeling when you looked at them.

Is anyone keeping count of how many curious "feelings" have been going on in this book? At first I thought this was potentially a dig at atheists who 'know' that gods and demons exist and just refuse to admit it because they're supposedly so stubborn, but now I don't know what to think. Either it's somewhat lazy writing -- here is Aslan, feel happy; here is Stone Table, feel uncomfortable -- to quickly and easily highlight the Important Stuff in the book, or it's wishful thinking. I'm sure life would be easier if we all had the same emotional response to everything we see but in my experience we don't.

   The next thing they saw was a pavilion pitched on one side of the open place. A wonderful pavilion it was -- and especially now when the light of the setting sun fell upon it -- with sides of what looked like yellow silk and cords of crimson and tent-pegs of ivory; and high above it on a pole a banner which bore a red rampant lion fluttering in the breeze which was blowing in their faces from the far-off sea.

And this is another of those "sure, why not?" moments from my childhood that now seems intensely odd.

What is this pavilion doing here? Who pitched it? Where did the materials come from? Who are all the people and Animals that will soon be described as swarming quietly around Aslan -- are they from the Orthodox Church of Aslan and just sort of recruited to staff the pavilion on the spot, or did Aslan bring them with him on his journey to Narnia? Where did the "tent-pegs of ivory" come from, and was it harvested from animals or Animals and how do the Animals feel about that?

And -- again -- where are the hordes and hordes of giants and ghouls and werewolves that the Witch will field in battle in just a few hours? Is Narnia so peaceful that pavilions like this can go up without worry because the stone-turning of celebration participants is really only something that the Witch does? Or does Aslan extend some kind of special protection over the whole gala affair?

And not to be pedantic, but couldn't he be helping folks instead of lounging around in front of a silk tent waiting for the humans to stroll lazily up to him? It's not like there aren't flood victims all over the countryside in need of dire assistance.

   Aslan stood in the center of a crowd of creatures who had grouped themselves round him in the shape of a half-moon. There were Tree-Women there and Well-Women (Dryads and Naiads as they used to be called in our world) who had stringed instruments; it was they who had made the music. [...]
   There was also a unicorn, and a bull with the head of a man, and a pelican, and an eagle, and a great Dog. And next to Aslan stood two leopards of whom one carried his crown and the other his standard.

Wikipedia assures me that naiads are affiliated with wells, though I've always associated them with rivers and moving water. And I'm not really sure what to make of dryads in a 'verse where the trees are sentient and apparently capable of communication with the other living beings -- maybe dryads are how the trees communicate with the Animals and humans? I don't know.

I will take ten points from Gryffindor for bad world building here: I don't know about the pelican and the eagle, but the leopards will later be shown talking so by all rights they should be Leopards like the aforementioned Dog. I'm not sure what to think of that, actually -- maybe something was lost in translation at the editors' offices.

Question: How is the Leopard carrying Aslan's crown? In his mouth? That seems uncomfortable and additionally rather slobbery. For that matter, why does Aslan need a crown? It's telling that in the movies, Aslan is always dressed down very simply as nothing more than a lion -- his regal bearing is wrapped up in his simplicity in some ways. He's King of Kings and Lord of Lords (at least as some people interpret him) and he doesn't need a shiny crown to accentuate that.

   But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly.
   "Go on," whispered Mr. Beaver. [...]
   "Susan," whispered Peter, "what about you? Ladies first."
   "No, you're the eldest," whispered Susan. And of course the longer they went on doing this the more awkward they felt. [...]
   "Welcome, Peter, Son of Adam," said Aslan. "Welcome, Susan and Lucy, Daughters of Eve. Welcome He-Beaver and She-Beaver." [...] "But where is the fourth?" asked Aslan.
   "He has tried to betray them and joined the White Witch, O Aslan," said Mr. Beaver.

Mr. Beaver is a real jerk.

No, really. I don't know how I didn't notice this as a kid, but he is. He shushes the children in the woods and goes on about spies and trees and the like when there's clearly zero danger -- the White Witch hasn't been able to field a single spy and her entire entourage seems to consist of a single dwarf and two wolves. Then he goes into his racism tirade about "never trust a dwarf!" and how things that aren't human but seem human are the worst things ever, despite there being human-naiads and human-dryads and human-stars all over Narnia. And then when Edmund disappears, he claims to have known all along that Edmund had eaten the Witch's food and was bewitched. And now he just can't wait to throw Edmund under the bus, and with fake Ye Olde Butcherede English to boot, just so he can kiss up to Aslan.

Don't ever change, Mr. Beaver; stay classy.

   "Please -- Aslan," said Lucy, "can anything be done to save Edmund?"
   "All shall be done," said Aslan. "But it may be harder than you think." And then he was silent again for some time. Up to that moment Lucy had been thinking how royal and strong and peaceful his face looked; now it suddenly came into her head that he looked sad as well. But next minute that expression was quite gone.

And now I have to be frustrated with Aslan, because he's not sad-looking until the very moment it occurs to him that he's going to have to be tortured to death in Edmund's place.

No, honestly, there's several seconds of talking and awkward silence between Mr. Beaver's accusation and Lucy's question -- I just cut it all because I'm trying not to quote the entire book at ya'll. And in all that time of Peter kind-of-sort-of defending Edmund and everyone staring silently at Peter, Aslan doesn't look sad at all -- he looks utterly content until the thought finally crosses his mind that he's going to have to do something about this whole Edmund situation.

Aslan knows -- better than anyone else here -- what the Witch can and will do to Edmund given the chance. But knowing that a 9-year-old boy (who Aslan may or may not love, depending on the Jesus allegory) may be legally tortured and killed by the local Big Bad isn't enough to make Aslan feel sad. No, what breaks his poker face is the prospect of his own self being tortured and killed.

In this scene and in a later one, Lewis seems to attempt to tie Aslan to Jesus by evoking the "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me" moment where Jesus is shown to grapple with his fears and pain at his upcoming suffering. It seems clear to me that Lewis was careful to use cherry-picked examples of the Biblical account of Jesus in order to characterize his own allegorical figure. And that's fine, but a problem arises when an author grabs a few characteristics from an existing character in the audience's minds and then expects all the characteristics to follow.

There's nothing in this scene -- or, really, in the rest of the book -- that really emphasizes that Aslan cares about Edmund and is dying on his behalf out of love for him. Sure, Aslan does die for Edmund, but it's just as reasonable within the framework of the text to assume that Aslan is doing so because otherwise the four-children-four-thrones prophecy wouldn't be able to come true. We really only "get" that Aslan loves Edmund and dies for him out of the goodness of his heart because we know that's what Jesus is supposed to have done, and we know that we're supposed to associate Aslan with Jesus. That's really not good characterization.

It's not that I don't think that Aslan isn't "supposed" to love Edmund; but I do think that Lewis kind of forgot to actually establish that fact. In rushing to establish his Jesus-figure who isn't looking forward to his own death, he forgot to characterize his Jesus-figure as also being intensely saddened by the loss of one small lamb. This is, incidentally, why it's not usually considered a smash idea to co-opt important and nuanced religious figures for your novel -- it's very easy to accidentally screw up and end up making the beloved figure seem like a genuinely dreadful person.

   "Meanwhile, let the feast be prepared. Ladies, take these Daughters of Eve to the pavilion and minister to them."

This is a nice two-fer scene: the girls go off to do girly things like brush their hair and be "minstered to" so that (a) Peter can be told important information because he's The Oldest and therefore much more important and (b) the girls can be endangered so that Peter -- the only one allowed to use his Christmas weapons -- can have his Big Damn Hero moment.

Let's walk through it, shall we?

   "That, O Man," said Aslan, "is Cair Paravel of the four thrones, in one of which you must sit as King. I show it to you because you are the firstborn and you will be High King over all the rest."
   And once more Peter said nothing, for at that moment a strange noise woke the silence suddenly. It was like a bugle, but richer.
   "It is your sister's horn," said Aslan to Peter in a low voice; so low as to be almost a purr, if it is not disrespectful to think of a Lion purring.

It's not disrespectful to think of a Lion purring, though as a matter of interest I will take the moment to note that lions can only purr while exhaling and not in the continuous manner that smaller cats can sustain. (Isn't that interesting? I think so!) It may, however, be very disrespectful -- depending on who you ask -- to co-opt a beloved religious figure for your novel in order to then depict them as amused, content, and/or utterly blase at the notion that a major character might be in danger for her life and is almost certainly scared out of her wits.

   For a moment Peter did not understand. Then, when he saw all the other creatures start forward and heard Aslan say with a wave of his paw, "Back! Let the Prince win his spurs," he did understand, and set off running as hard as he could to the pavilion. And there he saw a dreadful sight.

Just to be clear, Aslan the wise and honorable prince of the Narnia 'verse is ordering the other Narnians to leave a very young girl in danger so that a very young boy can rush into danger and kill or be killed in a violent, frightening, and almost certainly traumatic incident.

It's worth remembering that authors don't chronicle events in the same way that historians do. The events authors record in fiction are fictional, the products of their own imagination. There was no mandate to set this scene so that Aslan ordered his followers to leave a young girl in dire danger; the author chose to do so. The author chose to do so despite there being a dozen other ways to have Peter save the day and his sister. This isn't the Aslan that history forces us to accept; this is the Aslan that Lewis wanted to portray.

And he apparently didn't think it was a strange decision to have Aslan literally order people to not help a little girl.

   The Naiads and Dryads were scattering in every direction. Lucy was running toward him as fast as her short legs would carry her and her face was as white as paper.

The interesting thing about this scene is how thoroughly artificial it feels. There are only a few principle players: Peter, hero; Susan, victim; Aslan; chess master; Wolf, attacker; Naiads and Dryads and Lucy, helpless fleeing sheep.

Where are the huge groups of folks that were previously staffing the pavilion and (according to the movies) preparing for war? Lewis told us earlier that there were "...four great centaurs. The horse part of them was like huge English farm horses, and the man part was like stern but beautiful giants," and yet none of them were swift enough to defend Susan from a single wolf before Aslan showed up to tell them to back off? In a fight between one Wolf and four sentient Giant/Clydesdale hybrids, I'd put my money on the Clydesdale team.

And where are the Great Dog and the two Leopards and the Unicorn and the Eagle? Another author would have had the sentient pit bull and the unicorn (Motto: All the hooves of a horse, plus a sword attached to the head!) and the leopards beating the crap out of the wolves while the eagles and pelicans fly the girls to safety and the centaurs gallop up the hill to alert Aslan, but apparently they've all gone on a bathroom break.

Except they'll all be there thirty seconds from now when Aslan orders them to chase after the second wolf, so apparently Aslan really didn't need to tell them not to help Susan and the rest of the girls, because they were already standing around watching and being generally useless. This is great world-building here, I really want the noble Narnians to win out against the White Witch at this point because if there's one thing I love it's a new boss, same as the old boss.*

   Then he saw Susan make a dash for a tree, and swing herself up, followed by a huge gray beast. At first Peter thought it was a bear. Then he saw that it looked like an Alsatian, though it was far too big to be a dog. Then he realized that it was a wolf -- a wolf standing on its hind legs, with its front paws against the tree-trunk, snapping and snarling. All the hair on its back stood up on end. Susan had not been able to get higher than the second big branch. One of her legs hung down so that her foot was only an inch or two above the snapping teeth. Peter wondered why she did not get higher or at least take a better grip; then he realized that she was just going to faint and that if she fainted she would fall off.

You are a centaur. Or an eagle. Or a unicorn. Or, heck, a pelican of all things. Tell me how you still love and honor a god-lion who orders you to watch this scene without interfering or trying to help. Help me understand, because I honestly cannot. This scene literally makes me want to cry for being unable to help, and it makes me want to be sick at the thought that a god-king might order me not to.

When Huckleberry Finn thought god wanted him to turn in his friend Jim, Huckleberry declared "All right, then, I'll go to hell." He was willing to forfeit salvation and burn for eternity rather than give up his friend to a life of slavery. And yet here, when Aslan orders his followers to let a young girl dangle helplessly over the jaws of a giant wolf, all we hear is "All right, then, I'll go make popcorn."

   Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. [...] Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead and he had drawn his sword out of it and was straightening his back and rubbing the sweat off his face and out of his eyes. He felt tired all over. [...]
   Peter, still out of breath, turned and saw Aslan close at hand.
   "You have forgotten to clean your sword," said Aslan.
   It was true. Peter blushed when he looked at the bright blade and saw it all smeared with the Wolf's hair and blood. He stooped down and wiped it quite clean on the grass, and then wiped it quite dry on his coat.
   "Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam," said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, "Rise up, Sir Peter Wolf's-Bane. And, whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword."

In a smug-off between Aslan and Edward, who would win? And who would do the judging?

* That was going to be a YouTube link, but I was afraid you'd all be as culturally conditioned as I am now that a song by The Who means I have to go watch an episode of CSI.


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depizan said...

Well, in Deathly Hallows, Harry says (or thinks - its in the chapthat's here he's going off to be killed, I think) that Hogwarts was the first home he'd known. Now, magic might not care what he thought or felt, but that was still a "wait, what?" moment when I read it. My personal take on the situation was that the protective charm was never in place, due to Harry not being safe or "home" with the Dursleys.

But there were so many instances of "wait, what?" in Deathly Hallows, especially when it came to how magic worked. Like when Voldie's name suddenly undid protective enchantments and summoned Death Eaters - which would've been fine if they hadn't been staying at Grimmaud Place and saying Voldie's name after this was supposedly true, without problem. That book needed a continuity editor soooo badly.

Thomas Keyton said...

But there were so many instances of "wait, what?" in Deathly Hallows, especially when it came to how magic worked

Oh yes. How many people had been disarmed by then without losing mastery of their wands?* And most importantly, you can be your own Secret Keeper? So much for the basic premise of how Lily and James met their end!

* And this was an entirely unnecessary retcon - it would have worked fine if only the Elder Wand worked like that. But no, Harry had to accidentally get hold of something he didn't know was available in such a way that Voldemort could kill Snape in the most convoluted method of transferring ownership of a small stick from one person to another.

depizan said...

At least the movie was wise enough to have Harry break the cursed thing. Rowling didn't seem to realize that a) the Elder Wand mostly gets people killed* and b) Harry could never, ever, use a wand, any wand in combat again without losing ownership of the Elder Wand.

And Snape's death is also a case of "wait, what?" Did Snape go to the meeting with Voldie to die? Because that is the only way it makes sense, at all, from his end. He's taken completely by surprise, which makes no sense for a long time secret agent who knew full well what Voldie was like (Voldie's poorly explained power was another problem - the only evidence that Voldie's more powerful than the others is that they don't off him or dump him in a crypt somewhere without a wand). Snape knew about poisons and how to counter them (and the antidote for Nagini's poison was known and available), and I'm pretty sure he healed Malfoy when Harry used that cutting spell on him in Half-Blood Prince.

Never mind that if wand ownership can transfer from one wizard to another by way of having the wizard sic his pet snake on the other then wand lore is so completely f-ed up there's no hope of making sense of it ever again. (Wouldn't Nagini become the owner of the wand, if Voldie had been right about who currently had it? I suppose one could wave that because she's a horcrux, but really? Death by snake would work? WTF?)

*Seriously, for something supposedly unbeatable, it seemed more on the order of something you never want to have. I think Draco was the only person in the line of ownership (prior to Harry) who didn't get killed.

Will Wildman said...

I think you're treating wandlore as somewhat more mechanical than it's supposed to be; we're told from the beginning by Ollivander that "the wand chooses the wizard" and we are never told anything about why or how. In the case of the Elder Wand, I would assume it considers a snake insignificant and unworthy of ownership, and would thus default to the snake-wielding wizard. However:

wand lore is so completely f-ed up there's no hope of making sense of it ever again.

-I also think we can probably take that as a given. Conversely however:

Harry could never, ever, use a wand, any wand in combat again without losing ownership of the Elder Wand.

I don't think there's anything in the book indicating that. There's no rule that one can't have the loyalty of multiple wands, or that the Elder Wand gets jealous or something.

(It's also a bit strange to say that Snape, bleeding profusely from an envenomed neck wound, should have chanted a prolonged and complicated healing spell and then dosed himself with antivenom. I would agree that he should have been carrying the antivenom, but I'm pretty open to the idea that he didn't much care any more whether he lived or died; he had motivated himself mostly with protecting Harry, and he knew that they were down to the part of the plan where Harry would go let himself get offed.)

Steve Morrison said...

Rowling did say in an interview with The Leaky Cauldron that the Elder Wand differs from other wands in that it cares only about power when choosing its loyalties; the interview transcript is here. It looks like the best explanation we’re going to get.

Rowen said...

Harry had to stay with the Dursley's because Aunt Petunia was (I think) his last living relative on his mother's side. Or at least that anyone was aware of. Lily's death gave him a modicum of protection from Voldemort, and as long as he was a minor and still considered "home" to be where her blood was, that protection remained. Voldemort sort of found a way to get around that, but the protection still remained. Also, the "spell" seemed to have a very loose definition of the word "home."

depizan said...

I don't think there's anything in the book indicating that.

Aside from how Harry became mast of the Elder Wand in the first place, you mean. The Elder Wand became Draco's when Draco disarmed Dumbledore, and then became Harry's when Harry disarmed Draco. At no point in there was the Elder Wand actually in Draco's possession, since it was entombed with Dumbledore (and then stolen by Voldie). So, I think it's pretty damn canon that book!Harry can never engage in wand combat again.

As for Snape, it's not so much that he should have succeeded in saving himself as it is weird that he doesn't appear to have planned ahead or attempted to. That doesn't really seem in character - unless we're supposed to assume he wanted to die (I do think a case can be made for that, though). Had I been Rowling, I think I'd have made his no longer caring (or actively wanting to die) a little more obvious, so the scene couldn't be read as "and then Snape forgot he was a powerful wizard".

Will Wildman said...

So, I think it's pretty damn canon that book!Harry can never engage in wand combat again.

Correct me if I'm wrong - you're saying this based on the implicit additional clause of 'Because if he does get into wand combat and is disarmed at any time he will lose mastery of the Elder Wand', right? I see that; I'm just less sure that it inevitably leads to the consequence of 'And so he must never take that risk'. Harry's expressed plan (exhausted, sleep-deprived, recently dead) is to keep the Elder Wand until he dies naturally, at which point it will be masterless and lose its maximum power. This obviously doesn't take disarming into account, but assuming he keeps the wand vaulted away somewhere extremely secure, it's not like he'll have to worry about someone using it against him in the middle of a skirmish.

As many issues as I took with the movie's handling of the climactickest climax, their solution was definitely the superior one. (Would have been better if he'd used it to repair his holly/phoenix wand first, though.)

depizan said...

But allowing the wand to exist and taking the risk of being disarmed (or possibly defeated in any other way - we don't know if Voldie was right about death by snake working, after all) defeats his entire plan of it ending up masterless. The first person to disarm him will become the wand's master, and the first person to defeat them, and so on. While that will certainly confuse things and make it very difficult for anyone to find the right person to defeat, should someone want to be master of the Elder Wand, it will do absolutely nothing to make the wand masterless or to prevent people from going after him to become master of the Elder Wand (even if some random trainee Auror has already become the actual master).

It just seems like an unnecessary risk to have a powerful, but not terribly useful (see: pretty much everyone who's owned it has died an unnatural death) artifact floating about. Breaking the wand solves the problem once and for all and leaves zero chance of the dratted thing falling into evil hands.

But, you're right, he should've used it to fix his own wand first. Of course, the whole exhausted, sleep-deprived, and recently dead thing applies to movie!Harry as well.

Tom said...

Friendly, practical advice to the inexperienced child would be "Wipe your sword and dry it well, for you will need it again and often, and iron rusts in a heartbeat." By comparison, "You have forgotten to wipe your sword" is what you'd say to chastise someone who's already been well trained in the care and use of swords and should know better than to make such an elementary mistake. Perhaps the deliberate intent is to use a bit of psychology to bring Peter up to speed by treating him as if he were already competent, but I'm unconvinced.

Maybe in this universe ruled by symbolism and gesture, just having the guts to take on the rite of passage, even if you merely survive by a combination of dumb luck and opponent error, as happens here, is all it takes to turn a mewling babe into a slayer of wolves - years of training and practice happen in the real world, not in stories (at least, not this type of story). In stories and myths, a handful of raw recruits fired with fighting spirit gleaned from a rousing ten minute speech, or just happening to be on the side of Good, often trumps any number of seasoned, professional fighters.

Read with different eyes, however, this could just be Aslan being a snarky jerk. It could even be his sarcastic little game, to treat a shaking, traumatized child like a seasoned warrior, as if to say to the world "These feeble, clueless kids are the material I've got to use to win a war and make stern monarchs out of, with no time to give them a single formal lesson in anything? Thanks a whole bunch, stupid prophesy. Look, I even have to tell them to wipe their swords!"

If a magical sword were imbued with any properties from Peter's first use of it, they would probably be those of blind terror, naive, amateurish moves and general desperate flailing. Come to think of it, I wonder if a magical sword that made even the most seasoned, grizzled fighter feel as if he were fighting his very first battle all over again, like a novice, wouldn't be good material for D&D types...

Ana Mardoll said...

This! Thank you for saying this so clearly. There's a huge gap between good advice and snark.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

I saw Aslan's comment of "You forgot to wipe your sword" immediately after Peter kills the wolf as a little mundane thing to help ground Peter--he seems to be in a bit of shock, and the "wipe your sword" subtly acknowledges what Peter has done and is feeling without publicly embarrassing him. "I know and you know you're in shock because nearly being killed and killing for the first time is bloody traumatic, here's something simple to focus on to get your brain back into gear without publicly suggesting you're freaking out or weak-minded".

I have seen a lot of comments about "Peter would never have been able to swing a real sword" that I don't entirely agree with. Are we ever told which side of puberty Peter is on? Is he a prepubescent 13-year-old child, or a growing 13-year-old teenager who is starting to put on height and muscle? Real swords aren't all that heavy, especially if Peter is more young man than child.

I also disagree with the comment that Susan's bow wouldn't have the penetration to injure a wolf except in the eyes--a 20 or 25 pound bow is considered too light for deer hunting, but it's still more than enough to drive a razor-sharp broadhead deep into any patch of flesh not shielded by bone, and it's not hard for a girl in good condition to draw. I can attest to that from childhood experience. I would not, however, care to try firing one into melee if I were unpracticed. Good chance of hitting the wrong target--however, before Peter arrived, there was no one in melee with the wolf. It's a pity Susan didn't have her bow with her.

David DeLaney said...

Hmmm. That attempt at a link seems to have failed horribly. How about just a naked ? Or just , these days.

--Dave, there seems to be no Preview here

Makabit said...

Lupin (prior to the last book) came off as one of the few truly good adults. The Wizarding World is just vile.

Something else that popped into my mind, as regards Snape's incessant humiliation of his students--I'm thinking suddenly of Molly Weasley, sending a Howler to scream out her twelve-year-old son in front of his classmates. I mean, I love Mrs. Weasley, but she did that in cold blood, it wasn't a loss of control thing, she actually had to get a Howler, record it, and give it to an owl. And it's played as funny, 'good mother' sort of thing.

hapax said...

I think a sword is probably easier to use than a bow for the untrained. I don't think it's safe to use for the untrained, but all things considered I think the untrained person would be more likely to be able to kill something with a sword than with a bow.

Having sufficient training in both to realize how Very Very Bad I am at wielding them, I would posit that it would be far more effective for an untrained person to forget the bow completely, and to try to stab at an attacker with the point of the arrow.

Pretty much ditto with the sword. Once you start swinging that puppy, you're going to leave yourself open. Really, curling up (to make as small a target as possible) stabbing straight ahead of him was about the only tactic Peter had a hope of pulling off.

chris the cynic said...

Harry has been the victim of enormous neglect and emotional abuse by the Dursleys for eleven years when we meet him, and no one at school or in the community has done jack about it.

Trying to remember back to when I read the first book, but didn't McGonagall specifically say, before anyone could have even guessed the extent of the abuse Harry would suffer, something to the effect of, "These are not good people. We can't leave him with them." And get told by Aslan Dumbledore, "Do Not Try To Help." Presumably that was a standing order.

Now there's some question as to why she was such a loyal Pelican, or why none of the Potter's friends ever tried to do a damned thing, they couldn't all have been under orders from Dumbledore. And once Harry had friends of his own they had families and none of them tried to do anything either. But I do remember the story beginning with something like:

I cannot in good conscience allow you to leave this baby with these people.
Well it's not your choice is it? So tell your conscience to shut up.
By your command.

(I'm not sure why McGonagall turned into a Cylon in the end there, my paraphrasing skills may need some work.)

Also, somehow, I don't think I've thought about that conversation since I first read it until right now.

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