Narnia: That Golden Glimmer At The Slightest Touch

[Content Note: Genocide, Racism, Ableism, Gender Essentialism, Cultural Appropriation]

Title Note: If you like the Muppets and haven't seen this song, you need to. 

Narnia Recap: In which the crew finds a destroyed village, a Sea Serpent, and a Midas pool.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 8: Two Narrow Escapes

So, I really need to be writing more Twilights, but the problem that Twilight has going for it right now is that (a) Bella's bouts with depression are hitting a little close to home for me right now, and (b) have you all seen the incredible Narnia fanfic in the last couple of threads? WOW. I kinda want to keep that going while everyone is in the swing of things. So, here is another Narnia post.

Ya'll have been waiting for this, I know, because it's Midas pool day, but before we get there, I want to make two points about this chapter. One, for all that this chapter is crispy-fried-whut on a stick for me now, it was one of three scenes that stuck with me through my childhood. (The other two being the mermaid which Lucy was unable to speak to, which seemed deeply profound and tragic to me as a child, and the ocean with lily-white flowers covering it as far as the eye could squint.) Say what I will (and usually do) about Lewis, he had a knack for writing magical scenes which stuck with me, even if what stuck with me about this scene was how horrific it was. But it was magically horrific.

Point-the-second is that this chapter is titled two Narrow Escapes, not three. If we take the Sea Serpent as one narrow escape, that leaves the question of which is the remaining: the Midas pool that they didn't fall into or the destruction at Burnt Island. I presume that the second narrow escape is the Midas pool, which underscores what I and others mentioned earlier, i.e., that the Unfired Chekov's Gun pirates literally do not exist when no one is looking for them. And yet, if Eustace's dragoning hadn't kept them on Dragon Isle those extra 6 days, might not the Dawn Treader have sailed right into a piracy situation? Couldn't that have been a narrow escape for them? No? Whatever.

Guess we should be lucky he didn't name the chapter "Two Narrow Escapes and a Kickass Free Boat".

   In the morning they found themselves in the green bay of a rugged, lonely-looking country which sloped up to a rocky summit. From the windy north beyond that summit clouds came streaming rapidly. They lowered the boat and loaded her with any of the water casks which were now empty.
   “Which stream shall we water at, Drinian?” said Caspian as he took his seat in the stern-sheets of the boat. “There seem to be two coming down into the bay.”
   “It makes little odds, Sire,” said Drinian. “But I think it’s a shorter pull to that on the starboard—the eastern one.”
   “Here comes the rain,” said Lucy.
   “I say, let’s go to the other stream. There are trees there and we’ll have some shelter.” [said Edmund]
   “Yes, let’s,” said Eustace. “No point in getting wetter than we need.”
   But all the time Drinian was steadily steering to the starboard, like tiresome people in cars who continue at forty miles an hour while you are explaining to them that they are on the wrong road.

Can we all just take a moment to thank our lucky stars that none of us have ever had to drive C.S. Lewis anywhere? Maybe I'm misunderstanding automobile technology in the 1950s or whatever, but I was under the impression that you don't get to just screech to a halt and sit there in the middle of the road with your map out when your passenger informs you that you're on the wrong road. There's, like, reasons why you "continue at forty miles an hour" until you can find a good spot to turn around. Maybe those reasons don't apply to White Christian Men, I don't know.

I was also under the impression that (a) ships don't turn on a dime and kinda depend on currents and the placement of very large sheets and stuff like that to determine where they go, and (b) captains of ships usually like to be allowed to decide where to park. One wonders why they even brought Drinian along if Edmund and Caspian are bound and determined to do all the steering.

   “They’re right, Drinian,” said Caspian. “Why don’t you bring her head round and make for the western stream?”
   “As your Majesty pleases,” said Drinian a little shortly. He had had an anxious day with the weather yesterday, and he didn’t like advice from landsmen. But he altered course; and it turned out afterward that it was a good thing he did.


   By the time they had finished watering, the rain was over and Caspian, with Eustace, the Pevensies, and Reepicheep, decided to walk up to the top of the hill and see what could be seen. [...]
   “Crazy, you know,” said Eustace to Lucy in a low voice, looking at the eastern horizon. “Sailing on and on into that with no idea what we may get to.” But he only said it out of habit, not really nastily as he would have done at one time.

I do kind of like the outright confession that the only thing that made anything Eustace ever said objectionable wasn't what he was saying, but the fact that he wasn't using a properly respectful tone. And also because the narrator hated him, but surely that didn't have anything to do with it. LOL FOREVER. 

   “Don’t let’s go back the same way,” said Lucy as they turned; “let’s go along a bit and come down by the other stream, the one Drinian wanted to go to.”
    Everyone agreed to this and after about fifteen minutes they were at the source of the second river. It was a more interesting place than they had expected; a deep little mountain lake, surrounded by cliffs except for a narrow channel on the seaward side out of which the water flowed. Here at last they were out of the wind, and all sat down in the heather above the cliff for a rest.
   All sat down, but one (it was Edmund) jumped up again very quickly.

This is another regularly-scheduled reminder that you too can be a professional author if you really want to and that you may already have a leg up on C.S. Lewis if you can work out a less awkward way to state this last sentence. Myself, I would have gone with "All sat down, but Edmund jumped up again very quickly," BUT WHAT DO I KNOW.

One is tempted to speculate that Lewis handed in a rough draft with author's notes ("it was Edmund") jotted in the corner and some hapless typist composed it all, unaware that zie was expected to edit as well. 

   “They go in for sharp stones on this island,” he said, groping about in the heather. “Where is the wretched thing? … Ah, now I’ve got it … Hullo! It wasn’t a stone at all, it’s a sword-hilt. No, by jove, it’s a whole sword; what the rust has left of it. It must have lain here for ages.”
   “Narnian, too, by the look of it,” said Caspian, as they all crowded round.

Okay, no.

No. NO. 

I'm calling shenanigans on this "let's pretend Prince Caspian never happened" bullshit. There have not been "Narnian swords" made for three hundred years, unless some underground dwarves (by which I mean underground in the hidden sense, not underground in the sense that they lived in mountains) were churning them out for a resistance movement for the first decade or two of the extremely-successful 300-year-long genocide. And I will not accept that the Telmarine Lost Lords thought a three-hundred year old sword would be useful on their dangerous trip where they would actually need usable swords instead of pretty ones to wear at court and drum up your Appropriation Cred with the other racist ministers or whatever. (Peter's sword gets a pass on being 1,300 years old thanks to Santa magic.)

So: This is not a Narnian sword, because that is stupid. I will not get on board with the editorial decision to pretend that Caspian I didn't genocide the shit out of Narnia and that it was all Miraz's fault after Caspian IX died from having superglue poured in his ears or whatever Hamlet shenanigans were going on in that family merely because in retrospect it makes Aslan look like a total shit at his job that he didn't show up to help for 300 years. No, C.S. Lewis, you wrote Aslan as shit at his job and you are right this very moment (book-wise) writing Caspian to be equally shit at his job, and you're just going to have to live with that. Or, well, you know what I mean.

Which leaves us with my decision to believe that Caspian is being an appropriative jerk and has decided to retroactively call everything which is Telmarine "Narnian" now, just like Lewis slipped and called Telmarine children "Narnia" in Prince Caspian, as though living in a place (after genociding all the inhabitants) totally gives you right to call dibsies on the racial name of the people you slaughtered.

Look, here's a quote and everything!

I. You. What. *sputter*

NARNIAN girls?

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. [...]

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?)

Yeah. That.

What I can't decide is whether Edmund and Lucy would be quietly seething all voyage long at this appropriation. I mean, they knew Narnians, and were friends with many of them, back in the Golden Age of 1,300 years ago, and then they were pulled away and Caspian's great-grandparents showed up and slaughtered everyone, and now here is this johnny-come-lately whippersnapper insisting every couple of minutes that he and his Telmarine band of Totally Not Racist, Whoops We Just Forgot To Bring Any Narnians Along Except That One Mouse (Who Maybe Sneaked On Board?) are totes Narnian, guys.

I mean, I'd find it hella annoying, but I'm unsure whether Lucy and Edmund would. I think it would depend on whether they themselves wanted the Narnian definition to be fluid so that they could claim that they're born-and-bred Narnians, too, and not (instead) English children who (apparently) ruled the place with relative efficiency and/or at least not so badly that the genocided inhabitants couldn't romanticize it as a Golden Age later on.

   [...] By this time everyone was on hands and knees, feeling in the thick heather in every direction. Their search revealed, one by one, a helmet, a dagger, and a few coins; not Calormen crescents but genuine Narnian “Lions” and “Trees” such as you might see any day in the market-place of Beaversdam or Beruna.

And yet... here you have this. Which makes no sense. NONE.

These can't be new Telmarine coins (unlike the new Telmarine sword) that Caspian is just calling "Narnian". The coins are demonstrably Narnian by design -- they contain the images of the Lion God and Revered Trees that the Telmarines have spent the last 300 years hating and fearing with an intensity so strong in their culture that the mere sight of a single Lion and some Living Trees terrified an entire army into submission, and convinced half of the population to go into voluntary, permanent self-exile into a place they knew nothing about. That kind of terror is not compatible with minting those things onto their daily coinage. It just isn't. It'd... it'd be like if we put Cthulhu on our coins, but not even that because lots of us aren't so scared of Cthulhu that we wouldn't at least try to fight if he showed up. I'm not sure there is a cultural analog for us.

It's possible that these are old coins, as in 300 years old, but coins don't last forever (any more than swords do). It's possible to extend the life of a coin by treating it with care and not using them for trading (again, like you can extend the life of a sword by treating it with care and not using it for fighting), but if these were cherished collector's editions, (a) why were they brought on a difficult voyage and (b) why were they apparently loose in a coin purse? That is not the way to treat 300 year old coins that you wish to preserve.

What we can also say with some certainty is that these didn't come from the Lone Islands, because it's been established that they've been using Calormen crescents for the last decade or two because of Bad Eggs and Slavery and Islam. (UGH, UR ISLAMOPHOBIA, LEWIS.) I mean, it's possible that the people there had a mixture in usage, but even if they had that still brings us back to the question of who has been smelting Trees and Lions recently. Nothing about the Lone Islands made it seem like the sort of place where coin smelting occurs a lot (the island castle was an aging, poorly maintained heap of past-its-Arthurian-prime) nor did they seem especially pro-Narnian, which would be understandable given that they'd been cut off from all Narnian communication for 300+ years.

It has been suggested by Depizan in the comments -- and I definitely think this is the most likely explanation (although, of course, not what Lewis intended) -- that the sword and coins look Narnian because they are Narnian and that the "Lost Lord" in the pool is really some poor Narnian River God or Dryad or other humanoid who jumped into the pool 300 years ago. And the longer I think on it, this is the explanation that makes the most sense to me not only in terms of the physical evidence, but in terms of the fact that this poor victim clearly had no companions with him. If this were a Lost Lord, why did the other Lost Lords (or some of the Galmian sailors) not witness what happened to him and either take away his shed clothes or give the items a decent burial? (And would it have killed them to leave a signpost up, etc.)

As a child, I presumed that this lord had parted company with his companions and asked to be left alone on this island (much like Bern), and so they had already left when he met his demise. But that supposition was made well before I could realize how frankly suicidal such a request would be. The entire island has been described as lonely and barren -- I'm not sure it even has animals on it, besides maybe a few birds. This would be a difficult place to eke out a living for someone who knew what they were doing, let alone a Telmarine Lord who has probably never held a plow in his life.

So. By making this person explicitly Narnian (via the Narnian sword and Narnian coins) and explicitly alone (via the lack of a signpost or burial or grave-marker), Lewis was actually making him less likely to be a Lost Lord. And that seems like an especially glaring oversight when at least the bracelet on Dragon Isle was personalized. It seems like he wanted to keep the identity of this lord a teasing mystery so that they could clear up the headcount later, but even if that were the case, why not give this lord something that only a Telmarine lord would have? It wouldn't have been difficult to have some token of the Telmarine nobility lying there in the grass.

But I think Lewis couldn't do that because it would have emphasized that the Telmarines aren't Narnian, and I think that was detrimental to his narrative. The only way that a lot of the Narnia mythos works is if the reader buys into the appropriation built into the series: that English people (or Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, in the case of the Telmarines) are Narnian as long as they live in a place called Narnia for long enough and feel some sympathy to the idealized storybook version of the place, even if they aren't terribly sympathetic to the actual complex-and-real-and-sometimes-messy people who live there. So you too, Dear Reader, can Be Narnian even if you never visit there and don't know the first thing about what life is like as a Narnian (where did the sewing machine come from?) and even if you only care about appropriating the cool bits (like swords and magic) while still maintaining your own language, food, cultural norms, dress code, etc.

It's kinda like how you can totally be Native American as long as you decide you have a Cherokee great-grandmother and you buy a couple of neat horsehair vases and maybe a patterned blanket for the couch. Or like how you can be Scottish if you wear tartan (any one you like! pick colors that match your eyes!) to your wedding. (Also: I have looooong thought that Objectified Scotsman Thursday should be a thing, but I am delighted to see that it really is a thing. Because holy shit those covers make my teeth grind. I am so sorry to everyone who has to see their culture appropriated every time they walk into the romance aisle at Barnes & Noble. I genuinely am. Link hat-tip to Jackie who is always awesome.)

Now: It has been pointed out to me in the past that I am an American, and that C.S. Lewis was not, and that these facts may affect how I perceive the series. Fair enough. But appropriation is complicated, and I think is also important in the context that this isn't just an English novel, but is also a Christian one. And while I may not have a lot of legs to stand on in the question of, say, Scottish independence, I do have several legs to stand on when it comes to Christian appropriation of non-Christian religions and cultures. And I do have genuine concerns about how this series is marketed now to American Evangelical Christians by the series' owners, even if the context the author was originally writing in was different. So I have feels.

And I sort of feel like I should elaborate on those feels except that (a) I have a nagging feeling I've done that eighty billion times already, and (b) I started this post at 9 am and it's 1 pm now, and while I would usually just draw a line here and say "see you next week!", (c) I promised I would keep this chapter to three posts, so.

   “Looks as if this might be all that’s left of one of our seven lords,” said Edmund.


I really want an answer to this. The only -- the only -- way this makes sense is in the context of the deeply depopulated world of Narnia. The only people who exist in this world at this moment are the Dawn Treader crew and the Lost Lords and all the crew is accounted for, so this must be a Lost Lord. BY PROCESS OF ELIMINATION.

Because no one, literally no one, has ever existed to travel out here with coins, and no dragon has ever lived nearby with Narnian treasure, and no one has ever traded with the dragon (or stolen from the dragon), and no one has ever lived on this island and gone diving for sunk ships with lost treasure. None of those things have ever happened, because there are only, like, 15 people in this world. Tops.

And I find it very suspicious that Edmund jumps to this conclusion; at least if Caspian had made this announcement, we could have chalked it up to King Lazy McPrivilege looking for a way out of his stupid coronation oath of stupidness. ("I promise to rule with justice... no, no, that's too cliche. I promise to restore the lands of the Narni-- no, you know what. Let's not. Hmmmmm. I know! I promise to restore to power seven Telmarine lords none of you have ever heard of, but I know they were awesome because they were nice to my dad when he was king. Brilliant!")

Bonus points go to how thoroughly Edmund has accepted that looking for the Lost Lords is totes why Aslan brought him and Lucy and Eustace here ("our seven lords") and not because of some unrelated thing like saving a country which was what they did the last two times they were here. Which is good, because otherwise things might get ø¤º°`°º¤ø Awkward!! ø¤º°`°º¤ø on the next island when Caspian is schmoozing with Coriakin* about how hard it is to oppress the masses when most days you just want to curl up with a nice book, and Edmund and Lucy are arming the Dufflepuds and helping them beat their plowshares into swords while Eustace teaches them about Communism.  

* I probably spelled Coriakin wrong because fuck him and looking up his name. 

   Edmund, the only one of the party who had read several detective stories, had meanwhile been thinking.
   “Look here,” he said, “there’s something very fishy about this. He can’t have been killed in a fight.” [...] “An enemy might take the armor and leave the body. But who ever heard of a chap who’d won a fight carrying away the body and leaving the armor?”
   “Perhaps he was killed by a wild animal,” Lucy suggested.
   “It’d be a clever animal,” said Edmund, “that would take a man’s mail shirt off.”
   “Perhaps a dragon?” said Caspian.
   “Nothing doing,” said Eustace. “A dragon couldn’t do it. I ought to know.”

I super-love how, ever since that whole Traumatized By Being Turned Into A Dragon And Then Attacked By Aslan, Caspian has brought up "maybe a dragon?" in front of Eustace every time there's a mystery to be solved.

Burnt Village: Maybe a dragon?

Missing Lost Lord: Maybe a dragon?

I'm just sorry that Caspian doesn't keep doing this in an attempt to trigger Eustace over and over. Invisible Dufflepuds? Probably a dragon. Mermaids under the sea? Definitely dragon-related. Lilies on an ocean of drinkable water? Dragons are on that shit like birds on toast. Everyone knows that. 

Also, apparently Edmund isn't aware that there are Pirate Slavers in the area and that they've recently found a whole burnt village cram-packed full of Missing Bodies. But, you know, detective stories and all the right books and whatnot. Or, hey, maybe a Lost Lord just tossed all his armor and swords and coins and stuff down and walked away from it because he decided that he didn't want that privilege anymore, or maybe all that stuff was holding him back from embracing a new life. Except, oh yeah, privileged people in Narnia don't divest themselves of privilege willingly. And because it's apparently Excessively Quote Older Posts Day, here's another big block:

I'm imagining a Lord Octesian who willingly divests himself of his gold and jewels and signs of nobility, and leaves them on a beach somewhere to be found by anyone who wants them (which in this case happens to be a dragon). I'm imagining a Lord Octesian who over the course of his travels came to recognize that the life he'd lived before his exile had been lived cruelly on the backs of others and had brought him no joy. I'm imagining this Octesian choosing to live a new life, one where he doesn't trade on the privilege afforded to him by a family crest his ancestors stole from others. I'm imagining a Lord Octesian who chooses to settles down with the native inhabitants of a non-Telmarine society and to live his life as a non-Telmarine in a way that Caspian never has and never will.

Lewis can't imagine this. His world is tidier than mine, or at least more static. His world is one in which it is inconceivable for a Lord to regret his privilege or to attempt to divest himself of its symbols, just as Caspian never seriously attempted to refuse the throne and become a knight in service to the newly-appointed Animal Council. It's a world which is neater for storytelling, perhaps, but it's interesting to note that it's a world which is significantly more grim and lacking an edifying moral lesson attached to it (despite the fact that he was seeking to teach children with these books). In Lewis' world, a bracelet without an owner is a dead man, and privilege is never given up in a quest for redemption. Jesus may have told the rich man to give all his possessions to the poor and live like a bird of the field, but Lewis won't allow that fate for Octesian any more than he would for Caspian. Lewis would rather see him dead. 

   “Well, let’s get away from the place, anyway,” said Lucy. She had not felt like sitting down again since Edmund had raised the question of bones.
   “If you like,” said Caspian, getting up. “I don’t think any of this stuff is worth taking away.”

Once again, Caspian feels like the families of the Lost Lords couldn't possibly want a token of their lost loved ones. You'd think he would at least take something from each dead lord so that he could prove he went on his quest in the first place. I guess the Narnians he swore his super-useful oath to are just going to take his word that he totally did find all the lords and didn't just slum around the Lone Islands for a few months.

   They came down and round to the little opening where the stream came out of the lake, and stood looking at the deep water within the circle of cliffs. If it had been a hot day, no doubt some would have been tempted to bathe and everyone would have had a drink. Indeed, even as it was, Eustace was on the very point of stooping down and scooping up some water in his hands when Reepicheep and Lucy both at the same moment cried, “Look,” so he forgot about his drink and looked into the water.
   The bottom of the pool was made of large grayish-blue stones and the water was perfectly clear, and on the bottom lay a life-size figure of a man, made apparently of gold. It lay face downward with its arms stretched out above its head. And it so happened that as they looked at it, the clouds parted and the sun shone out. The golden shape was lit up from end to end. Lucy thought it was the most beautiful statue she had ever seen.
   “Well!” whistled Caspian. “That was worth coming to see! I wonder, can we get it out?”

And this is the part that stuck with me. The imagery is very evocative and also legitimately creepy once you know that it's a Midas pool. I remember wondering a LOT how painful the transformation was and if the lord was conscious of his mistake before he died. That's the sort of question that can keep you awake at night.

I do like that Caspian's first thought on seeing a gold statue is gimme. It really is a shame that Aslan mixed up the punishments and made Eustace the dragon when it was reserved for Caspian. Copied here because Disqus is acting fussy, and credit to Evan Hunt for giving me the idea in the first place:

EMPEROR: Aslan, my son?

ASLAN: Yeah, dad?

EMPEROR: I am...confused. I thought we agreed that the Dragon Isle punishment was for Caspian so that he could see things through others' eyes in order to learn empathy, as well as to understand that -- to those he oppresses -- he is no different from a greedy, ravenous dragon. And I thought that Eustace was to be tempted with the Spell of Vanity, since he is so deeply involved with himself, while Lucy was to be the one to throw off the Chains of Slavery as part of her feminist awakening to see that her marginalization is on a continuum with the marginalization of other oppressed groups.

ASLAN: I seem to recall that conversation. So?

EMPEROR: Well...instead, you've turned Eustace into the dragon, had Caspian free the slaves, and left the Vanity Spell for Lucy, who has hitherto shown no interest in either her own looks nor in being generally self-centered. I don't understand what lessons they are supposed to learn from this.

ASLAN: Look, it's three kids and three punishments, so I don't see the problem. At least I got Edward right.

EMPEROR: You mean Edmund.

ASLAN: Whatever.

(And then Chris wonderfully suggested that Aslan be turned into a mouse, little-m. Seriously, go read the whole thread, it's sooooo good.) 

Anyway, this is getting longish, so in summary: Reepicheep suggests they dive for it, because Mice can definitely pull up huge gold statues from underwater so clearly his mind would go there and not instead to a system of levels and pulleys like Mice would need to rely on for this sort of thing, and Edmund points out that Reepicheep is bad at physics. Then Edmund dips his spear into the water (He brought a spear on the hike? Also: Remember when the narrator told us that the only reason why Caspian was stupid enough to walk around without an armed guard and with just children and a Mouse as his escorts on an island where they knew slavers were nearby was because of inexperience and that later in the voyage he wouldn't have made such a stupid decision -- If Caspian had been as experienced then as he became later on in this voyage he would not have made this suggestion -- and I called the narrator a liar? Yeah.) and the spear suddenly "looks just the same color" as the statue and then Edmund drops it because it becomes too heavy.

   “Get back! Back from the water. All of you. At once!!” 
   They all did and stared at him. “Look,” said Edmund, “look at the toes of my boots.”
   [...] “By Aslan!” said Caspian. “You don’t mean to say—?
   “Yes, I do,” said Edmund. “That water turns things into gold. [...] The whole thing is plain now. He was here on a hot day. He undressed on top of the cliff—where we were sitting. The clothes have rotted away or been taken by birds to line nests with; the armor’s still there. Then he dived and—”
   “Don’t,” said Lucy. “What a horrible thing.”
   “And what a narrow shave we’ve had,” said Edmund.

I'm pretty sure that Lucy is the only member of the party who expresses even token horror and/or sympathy for the dead guy. Which... I guess maybe Lewis wanted to downplay, because it's not like Aslan couldn't save the guy with magic, but he doesn't, so... Yeah.

I mean, I like the creepiness of the whole scene, but it feels like something he wanted to include from a dream or a repurposed story. (I don't recognize it from anywhere, but I wouldn't be surprised.) It doesn't fit well with the Narnian mythos, in my opinion, because the "salvation" offered by Aslan in a moment will basically be a memory-wipe, and the Lost Lord will never be transmogrified back. Which is especially creepy if his soul/mind is stuck in there and he didn't just flat-out die. 

   “The King who owned this island,” said Caspian slowly, and his face flushed as he spoke, “would soon be the richest of all Kings of the world. I claim this land forever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian—on pain of death, do you hear?”

The really annoying thing about this chapter is that it's so damn ambiguous, which is a problem when you're writing Allegories and Theologies. Caspian's flushed face could be greed, or it could be magic -- you will note that magicked-by-candy Edmund had a flushed face as well. (Which could have been from being out in the cold! Who knows!)

(I do like that Caspian wants to give the super-secret island a name which will also have to be super-secret. I guess only he will call it Goldwater Island and they'll mark it as Totally Not Goldwater Island on the official state maps. But I digress.)

You have a situation here where Caspian is literally threatening with death the four companions who (supposedly) mean the most to him. Although, interestingly, he is also threatening with death the four crew members who could probably be disposed of the easiest. I don't think the Dawn Treader crew would want to kill Drinian, a fellow Telmarine, but if they're racist- and sexist- and xenophobic-enough, they might be okay with killing the Talking Animal, the girl, and the two English boys. And it kind of matters to me whether Caspian is genuinely culpable for his actions here or if he's been magicked into a finger puppet by some local curse on the area. I feel like that affects the outcome of the Theologies.

Interestingly, I am totally certain that Lewis would be okay with keeping the island secret if Caspian were afraid of what the crew might do -- they do precisely that later in the book with the mer-people. It seems like the sin here is not "not telling the crew" or even "not sharing" so much as "bossing around the privileged person, King Edmund". Speaking of:

   “Who are you talking to?” said Edmund. “I’m no subject of yours. If anything it’s the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother.”
   “So it has come to that, King Edmund, has it?” said Caspian, laying his hand on his sword-hilt.
   “Oh, stop it, both of you,” said Lucy. “That’s the worst of doing anything with boys. You’re all such swaggering, bullying idiots—oooh!—” Her voice died away into a gasp. And everyone else saw what she had seen.

And, again: Is this supposed to be Caspian and Edmund and Lucy genuinely talking out their feelings or have they been possessed by goldwater demons or WHAT. It matters. I mean, for all we know, Lucy is venting a real frustration she's had since the beginning of the voyage (although I would prefer she said "YOU boys" so as to clarify that she isn't being gender essentialist, but then she was written by someone with gender essentialist views so that's probably asking too much from the universe today) and Aslan showed up not because the kings were about to fight but because he was summoned in full-pissyness at Lucy's feminist awakening that maybe thwacking people with sticks is not the best way to solve all problems. NOT IF KING ARTHUR LION HAS A SAY IN THINGS. RAWR. SIT BACK DOWN, MISSY! Who knows? We don't!

I'm also fairly certain this is the longest sentence Lucy has had in a long time. Hard to say.

   Across the gray hillside above them—gray, for the heather was not yet in bloom—without noise, and without looking at them, and shining as if he were in bright sunlight though the sun had in fact gone in, passed with slow pace the hugest lion that human eyes have ever seen. In describing the scene Lucy said afterward, “He was the size of an elephant,” though at another time she only said, “The size of a cart-horse.” But it was not the size that mattered. Nobody dared to ask what it was. They knew it was Aslan.
   And nobody ever saw how or where he went. They looked at one another like people waking from sleep.
   “What were we talking about?” said Caspian. “Have I been making rather an ass of myself?”
   “Sire,” said Reepicheep, “this is a place with a curse on it. Let us get back on board at once. And if I might have the honor of naming this island, I should call it Deathwater.”
   “That strikes me as a very good name, Reep,” said Caspian, “though now that I come to think of it, I don’t know why. But the weather seems to be settling and I dare say Drinian would like to be off. What a lot we shall have to tell him.”
   But in fact they had not much to tell for the memory of the last hour had all become confused.
   “Their Majesties all seemed a bit bewitched when they came aboard,” said Drinian to Rhince some hours later when the Dawn Treader was once more under sail and Deathwater Island already below the horizon. “Something happened to them in that place. The only thing I could get clear was that they think they’ve found the body of one of these lords we’re looking for.”
   “You don’t say so, Captain,” answered Rhince. “Well, that’s three. Only four more. At this rate we might be home soon after the New Year. And a good thing too. My baccy’s running a bit low. Good night, Sir.”


So, just to recap:

1. We really don't know what the Theologies were here -- Don't be greedy? Don't try to kill your friends over money and authority? Don't sit down next to cursed lakes? Don't talk back to the boys if you're a girl? -- but it doesn't really matter because no one learned a lesson because it was all a memory-wipe except maybe Lucy remembered seeing Aslan, but Lucy claims to see Aslan every other day and you never know if she really does or if she or he or both of them are just fucking with you.

2. In a world with actual magic, where a magicked-up king and queen and another king would kind of be a potentially big problem on a small boat with little food and lots of inconveniently placed pointy things, everyone is all meh, whatcanyoudo when folks come back seemingly enchanted from a scouting party on an island and no one thinks that's worth checking into.

3. There is tobacco in Narnia. Narnia is America. Welp.


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