Narnia Recap: Miraz has been murdered by his advisers, and Peter and the Narnians are being attacked by the Telmarine army.
Prince Caspian, Chapter 14: How All Were Very Busy
And then imagine that the wood, instead of being fixed to one place, was rushing at you; and was no longer trees but huge people; yet still like trees because their long arms waved like branches and their heads tossed and leaves fell round them in showers. It was like that for the Telmarines. It was a little alarming even for the Narnians. In a few minutes all Miraz's followers were running down to the Great River in the hope of crossing the bridge to the town of Beruna and there defending themselves behind ramparts and closed gates.
They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You were hoping for an exciting battle scene to cap off fourteen exceedingly long chapters in which nothing of interest happens? You lose! You get seven short sentences of running and surrendering instead. Ha!
The look on your face right now, I wish you could see it. You've just been pranked by freaking C.S. Lewis. *snerk*
But what had happened to the bridge?
Be honest: do you care?
Because I'm pretty sure that as a child, I did not. Oh my god, what happened to the bridge that I do not care about and which has not been plot-relevant and which only matters here and now because it prevents the Telmarines from effectively fleeing? I DO NOT CARE. Aslan evaporated it with his brain for all I care, because what is the point of having a god on your team if not to evaporate things through sheer force of will? There is no other point, I say.
Early that morning, after a few hours' sleep, the girls had waked, to see Aslan standing over them and to hear his voice saying, "We will make holiday." [...]
"What is it, Aslan?" said Lucy, her eyes dancing and her feet wanting to dance.
"Come, children," said he. "Ride on my back again today."
Here is the thing, okay? Here it is: Aslan is the WORST.
You knew that already. Of course you did. But just to be clear, Aslan is the worst thing in worstville. He is a worst thing made out of other worst things and stuck all over with worsty bits and doused in a worsty sauce and then set on fire. But instead of fire, it is worstiness. That is how worst Aslan is.
Aslan is the worst because he has been farting around for three hundred years, that's one plus one plus one, that's three hundred years, that's a freaking lot of years, that's longer than the span of time between now and the United States Declaration of Independence, that's a really long time. Aslan has been farting around all that time while his entire people, all the Narnians, have been so nearly exterminated that it is now possible to pretend that they never existed at all, which is pretty darned exterminated considering that passing for a Telmarine isn't feasible for most of the Narnias.
And then when the Chosen Children did finally show up -- and they showed up not Because Aslan, but Because Santa for crying out loud -- Aslan spent days playing shadow cat in the forest and being deep and mysterious and ineffable because gods know that's always real helpful, before separating the children so that the Boys could go off and foil assassination attempts and try to work out on their own without any guidance from Aslan on how to win a bloody war while the Girls went off to dance at a Totally Not An Orgy party. And now the Girls are supposed to have another dancey holiday day and not worry about their brothers or that whole war thing or whatever because PRIORITIES.
But, no, it's really okay, because Aslan DOES have a plan to totes help out the Narnians, it's just a ridiculously convoluted plan that will result in more deaths before the day is out, but clearly this is the RIGHT way to do things because Aslan is deep and mysterious and ineffable and terrifyingly joyous. BAM!
They turned a little to the right, raced down a steep hill, and found the long Bridge of Beruna in front of them. Before they had begun to cross it, however, up out of the water came a great wet, bearded head, larger than a man's, crowned with rushes. It looked at Aslan and out of its mouth a deep voice came.
"Hail, Lord," it said. "Loose my chains."
"That means the bridge, I expect," thought Lucy. And so it did. Bacchus and his people splashed forward into the shallow water, and a minute later the most curious things began happening. Great, strong trunks of ivy came curling up all the piers of the bridge, growing as quickly as a fire grows, wrapping the stones round, splitting, breaking, separating them. The walls of the bridge turned into hedges gay with hawthorn for a moment and then disappeared as the whole thing with a rush and a rumble collapsed into the swirling water. With much splashing, screaming, and laughter the revelers waded or swam or danced across the ford ("Hurrah! It's the Ford of Beruna again now!" cried the girls) and up the bank on the far side and into the town.
I don't know what's more baffling here, that the Telmarines would build a bridge over a perfectly good shallow ford (Are they conducting more and wider trade than the Pevensies that this was necessary? Do they care more about the mobility of people with disabilities? Is this another Roads = Evil dig, much like the bits in LWW about how Evil!Edmund wants roads and Good!Pevensies presumably do not?), or that a bloody great river god was powerless to prevent the bridge being built (Has he been asleep all this time like the trees? Are the gods in Narnia good for anything?), or that Aslan doesn't even do any of the heavy lifting here, instead delegating the whole thing to Bacchus and his "people" (TOTALLY NOT ORGIASTIC YOUNG WOMEN WEARING SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN NYLONS AND LIPSTICK).
I would also like to point out that the conceit of this section -- What Happened To The Bridge? -- is now over, so everything after this is so much faffing about. For theologies, presumably.
Everyone in the streets fled before their faces. The first house they came to was a school: a girls' school, where a lot of Narnian girls, with their hair done very tight and ugly tight collars round their necks and thick tickly stockings on their legs, were having a history lesson. The sort of "History" that was taught in Narnia under Miraz's rule was duller than the truest history you ever read and less true than the most exciting adventure story.
I. You. What. *sputter*
Surely we mean "Telmarine" girls, Mr. Lewis, in as much as Narnian girls are nymphs and dwarves and river goddesses and dryads and Beavers and Wolves and Mice and Stars. And being those things in public means a quick and brutal death at the hands of the genocidal invaders.
But, you know, why the feck not, right? I mean, Prince Caspian hasn't once had to deal with any kind of fallout for being the son of brutal invaders who genocided the entire country into oblivion. Everyone who isn't an Evil Black Dwarf has immediately kowtowed to his will entirely and insisted that he is the True and Honorable King because, you know, son of Adam, and every time anyone has even mentioned that he's a child of privilege, there's been a whole cast of side-kicks willing to shout down that Caspian is the bestest thing ever and it's NOT HIS FAULT and why you gotta be so down on the poor privileged white boy?
So I guess it makes sense that we'd go the next logical leap and just call Telmarine girls "Narnian" girls because, meh, born in Narnia and whatnot. After three hundred years of genocide and imperialism and conquest who still cares about labels, am I right? (It's just like what some folks used to tell me growing up, that we were "Native Americans" because by god we were born in America, dammit, and how much more native can you get than that?)
"If you don't attend, Gwendolen," said the mistress, "and stop looking out of the window, I shall have to give you an order-mark."
"But please, Miss Prizzle -- " began Gwendolen.
"Did you hear what I said, Gwendolen?" asked Miss Prizzle.
"But please, Miss Prizzle," said Gwendolen, "there's a LION!"
"Take two order-marks for talking nonsense," said Miss Prizzle. "And now -- " A roar interrupted her. Ivy came curling in at the windows of the classroom. The walls became a mass of shimmering green, and leafy branches arched overhead where the ceiling had been. Miss Prizzle found she was standing on grass in a forest glade. She clutched at her desk to steady herself, and found that the desk was a rose-bush. Wild people such as she had never even imagined were crowding round her. Then she saw the Lion, screamed and fled, and with her fled her class, who were mostly dumpy, prim little girls with fat legs. Gwendolen hesitated.
C.S. Lewis, folks. Totally not misogynistic or drenched in harmful stereotypes about how "good" women should look and behave. (And there is not enough money in the world to bet that Miss Prizzle wears sensible shoes.)
I'm pretty sure, though I can't swear to it, that this continues an ongoing-trend of no "good" adult women in this series, at least, who aren't predominantly Wives or Mothers. LWW had a total of two adult women -- Jadis the White Witch and Mrs. Beaver -- and Prince Caspian has had Miraz' wife (she of the mocking name) who is a non-entity in the book, and now Miss Prizzle who is clearly a terrible person for giving out order-marks when her students disrupt class to talk about mythological creatures that do not exist. If there are any other adult women in the books thus far, I've missed them and they should be added to the roster. (I'm purposefully not counting Adult!Lucy and Adult!Susan since they are only adults in a single paragraph in LWW.)
"You'll stay with us, sweetheart?" said Aslan.
"Oh, may I? Thank you, thank you," said Gwendolen. Instantly she joined hands with two of the Maenads, who whirled her round in a merry dance and helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes that she was wearing.
LOL WHAT. Okay, so maybe Bacchus' people are wearing considerably less than nylons and lipstick explicitly in canon and not just by inference. Yay for impossible standards of female sexuality!
At a little town half-way to Beaversdam, where two rivers met, they came to another school, where a tired-looking girl was teaching arithmetic to a number of boys who looked very like pigs. She looked out of the window and saw the divine revelers singing up the street and a stab of joy went through her heart. Aslan stopped right under the window and looked up at her.
"Oh, don't, don't," she said. "I'd love to. But I mustn't. I must stick to my work. And the children would be frightened if they saw you."
"Frightened?" said the most pig-like of the boys. "Who's she talking to out of the window? Let's tell the inspector she talks to people out of the window when she ought to be teaching us."
"Let's go and see who it is," said another boy, and they all came crowding to the window. But as soon as their mean little faces looked out, Bacchus gave a great cry of Euan, euoi-oi-oi-oi and the boys all began howling with fright and trampling one another down to get out of the door and jumping out of the windows. And it was said afterward (whether truly or not) that those particular little boys were never seen again, but that there were a lot of very fine little pigs in that part of the country which had never been there before.
"Now, Dear Heart," said Aslan to the Mistress: and she jumped down and joined them.
Now is presumably as good a time as any to point out that C.S. Lewis hated schools and, presumably, school children. I'm guessing, anyway, since this chapter felt the need to include not one but two examples of an entire school (minus one acceptably Christian girl/woman in each case) being decimated by Aslan and his wrecking crew. (Also, I guess here is your one good woman for the book. But she doesn't get a name, because we wouldn't want to get carried away. And we're going to call her "girl" either because she's Laura Ingalls Wilder or because good women should be infantilized until they are suitably married and knocked up.)
Incidentally, I think the Theologies here is a mishmash of Jesus casting demons into pigs and god mauling young boys with bears because they failed to give props to his prophet Elisha:
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
But I could be wrong. It's not like there aren't plenty of stories of Bacchus / Dionysus turning people into other things, and there's of course the whole bit in The Odyssey with Circe turning men to pigs (although mind you, that was presented in the book as a sort of evil thing to do, so there's that), so Lewis wouldn't have had to reach too far into the Bible for this one. But there's something about the little piggy Telmarine boys that has always made me think of the Elisha passage. Possibly because I think of the Elisha passage very often and always cringe.
It's interesting to note that in addition to the body horror of being changed unwillingly into a form that the boys presumably did not want, the text seems to indicate that they were turned to pigs and not Pigs. So essentially Aslan and Bacchus turned the boys into a silent animal that will almost certainly be used for food if not by the Telmarines, then by the carnivorous Narnians in the area. Stellar.
It's a shame that Aslan only gives a shit about nine-year-old boys when they are part of a prophecy to defeat his ancient enemy. Otherwise they can apparently fuck-off-and-die.
At Beaversdam they re-crossed the river and came east again along the southern bank. They came to a little cottage where a child stood in the doorway crying. "Why are you crying, my love?" asked Aslan. The child, who had never seen a picture of a lion, was not afraid of him. "Auntie's very ill," she said. "She's going to die." [...] She was at death's door, but when she opened her eyes and saw the bright, hairy head of the lion staring into her face, she did not scream or faint. She said, "Oh, Aslan! I knew it was true. I've been waiting for this all my life. Have you come to take me away?"
"Yes, Dearest," said Aslan. "But not the long journey yet." And as he spoke, like the flush creeping along the underside of a cloud at sunrise, the color came back to her white face and her eyes grew bright and she sat up and said, "Why, I do declare I feel that better. I think I could take a little breakfast this morning." [...]
And so at last, with leaping and dancing and singing, with music and laughter and roaring and barking and neighing, they all came to the place where Miraz's army stood flinging down their swords and holding up their hands, and Peter's army, still holding their weapons and breathing hard, stood round them with stern and glad faces. And the first thing that happened was that the old woman slipped off Aslan's back and ran across to Caspian and they embraced one another; for she was his old nurse.
And there you have it: Prince Caspian, the favored son of fortune, does not have to actually suffer any loss at all in his life. The one formative loss he experienced -- that of his Nurse being taken away for telling him tales of Old Narnia -- has now been fixed, because otherwise the story just wouldn't be happy.
Of course, all the family and friends that the Old Narnians lost, those people are still dead. And, of course, Nikabrik is dead purely because Aslan and the Pevensies couldn't be arsed to pop out of hiding five minutes faster than they actually did. But the important thing is that the privileged white insert character is happy. And, uh, I guess he's a "Narnian" now, what with being born there and all. PROBLEM SOLVED FOREVER.