Narnia: Gentle Giants and Strange Women

[Narnia Content Note: Racism, Animal Cruelty, Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: Jill and Eustace are on an adventure with Puddleglum.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 6: The Wild Waste Lands of the North

Sorry I haven't updated sooner; life got busy and then Husband got sick (and still is, poor bab) and Jill ended up taking kind of a backseat for awhile.

Chapter 6 is difficult to pull apart because it's simultaneously sorta empty and full at the same time. Not a lot happens, but we're finally on our journey and there's a lot to see and look at, and in terms of just "reading for enjoyment", this is probably my favorite chapter in all of the Narnia series just because we're finally allowed to look around us for a little while and drop all the theologies. The problem is that Lewis couldn't drop both the theologies and the racist xenophobia so... hang on to your hats.

The chapter opens with the trio setting off over the moor. The going isn't hard but it's clearly not comfortable, and a decent balance is struck between the two, I think. Again I'm reminded of the traveling bits in Lord of the Rings, which I also liked because there's something fundamentally nice and warm and cozy (to me) to be found in reading about long cold wet travels when you're in your warm dry comfy home.

   AT ABOUT NINE O’CLOCK NEXT MORNING three lonely figures might have been seen picking their way across the Shribble by the shoals and stepping-stones. It was a shallow, noisy stream, and even Jill was not wet above her knees when they reached the northern bank. About fifty yards ahead, the land rose up to the beginning of the moor, everywhere steeply, and often in cliffs.
   [...] They found a place where they could scramble up, and in about ten minutes stood panting at the top. They cast a longing look back at the valley-land of Narnia and then turned their faces to the North. The vast, lonely moor stretched on and up as far as they could see. On their left was rockier ground. Jill thought that must be the edge of the giants’ gorge and did not much care about looking in that direction. They set out.
    It was good, springy ground for walking, and a day of pale winter sunlight. As they got deeper into the moor, the loneliness increased: one could hear peewits and see an occasional hawk. When they halted in the middle of the morning for a rest and a drink in a little hollow by a stream, Jill was beginning to feel that she might enjoy adventures after all, and said so.
   “We haven’t had any yet,” said the Marsh-wiggle.

I continue to throw shade at Puddleglum's rude-as-fuckedness being passed off as garden-variety "pessimism". I don't want to get into a big Thing, but this kind of flat contradiction is rude where I come from. And yes, people with depression or pessimism or whatever else Lewis wants to pile onto Puddleglum can also be rude (as can optimistic people), but pessimism/depression/whatever is not, in itself, correlated 1-to-1 with rudeness. It is entirely possible to be polite and pessimistic/depressed/whatever.

And yes, if he wants this to be a character flaw of Puddleglum's, I'm down with that (ish), but in which case I would prefer it to be acknowledged as such. As it is, we again get the same situation we had with the narrative voice: a voice of Authority (narrator, Eustace, Puddleglum, whoever) poking rudely at Jill for being inexperienced/stupid/optimistic and it feels like we're supposed to nod our heads sagely at how goshdarn awful this girl protagonist is.

It was bad enough when he did this to Eustace in the last book, and to Edmund in the first, but now we're doing it to a girl protagonist and that adds an extra layer of awful onto it. 

   Her blood froze. The thing moved. It was a real giant. There was no mistaking it; she had seen it turn its head. She had caught a glimpse of the great, stupid, puff-cheeked face. All the things were giants, not rocks. There were forty or fifty of them, all in a row; obviously standing with their feet on the bottom of the gorge and their elbows resting on the edge of the gorge, just as men might stand leaning on a wall—lazy men, on a fine morning after breakfast.
   “Keep straight on,” whispered Puddleglum, who had noticed them too. “Don’t look at them. And whatever you do, don’t run. They’d all be after us in a moment.”
   So they kept on, pretending not to have seen the giants. It was like walking past the gate of a house where there is a fierce dog, only far worse. There were dozens and dozens of these giants. They didn’t look angry—or kind—or interested at all. There was no sign that they had seen the travelers.

What is this even. There's a bunch of Different People standing about doing their daily business of standing about, and Puddleglum immediately decides that running would set them off?

We have a couple options here. I think the text wants us to believe that Puddleglum is an informed and experienced guide who knows what he is doing. He mentioned earlier that he's traveled up this way, and he apparently is sociable with owls and other travelers who could tell about their experiences. So I think that this passage is supposed to illustrate him guiding the children safely through something they would otherwise screw up: if he weren't here, they would run and the giants would be after them.

An alternative is to assume that, right or wrong, he's a pessimist who is assuming the worst. That maybe the giants wouldn't be after them, or maybe these giants wouldn't (#NotAllGiants), but that he's assuming they're the bad kind and taking precautions. Again, I think this is meant to be a gold star for him: he was the level-headed guide who did the best thing in a bad situation.

I have a third suggestion, which is that Puddleglum is a fucking racist shitbag who very narrowly gets the children killed with his racist shitbaggery. 

   Then—whizz-whizz-whizz—some heavy object came hurtling through the air, and with a crash a big boulder fell about twenty paces ahead of them. And then—thud!—another fell twenty feet behind.
   “Are they aiming at us?” asked Scrubb.
   “No,” said Puddleglum. “We’d be a good deal safer if they were. They’re trying to hit that—that cairn over there to the right. They won’t hit it, you know. It’s safe enough; they’re such very bad shots. They play cock-shies most fine mornings. About the only game they’re clever enough to understand.”

So let us be clear that the text explicitly established that the giants don't seem to know that the travelers are even there. ("There was no sign that they had seen the travelers.") So rather than the travelers hopping up and down and saying "oh, hey, gosh, sorry, can you not hit us, thanks!", they decide that the best possible option is to assume that the giants totally would kill them if they noticed them, so they're just going to hope they aren't accidentally squished by a thrown rock.

This, of course, makes no goddamn sense, because if the giants were as stupid and such terrible shots as Puddleglum wants to claim, then the absolute best thing the trio could do would be to become the giants' new target to throw at. He says so himself! But logic would get in the way of the image of our lovely British protagonists soldiering on past the stupid, harmful, ugly, nasty, awful, stupid, low-class foreigners playing bowls.

[TW: Animal Cruelty] Incidentally, I looked up "cock-shies" for this and then had to bitterly lolsob for awhile, because actual cock-throwing was a blood-sport that took its name from the target being an actual rooster. So, just to recap, we have here in all likelihood people of another race (giants) who have not seen our heroes and who are engaging in a daily sport that is entirely harmless (throwing rocks at a pile of rocks), and Lewis decides to characterize the throwers as stupid and useless and invokes the name of a sport that not only does not describe what they are doing (cock-shies requiring both a cock and weighted sticks) but also makes them out to be more violent than the text supports. Ugh. [/end TW]

And, I mean, Wikipedia doesn't mention and I honestly don't know, so maybe by the 1940s "cock-shies" had evolved as a general catch-all term to mean "throwing balls at a pile of rocks", but jesus christ, words mean things and there were so many other words that could have been used there. Including just "they like to play this game!" (And how does Puddleglum know they play this "most fine mornings"? He may have traveled up north once or twice, but he's not a regular to the area! Seriously, this whole section is so thoroughly all over the place, and there's no point to it. Like, if you wanted the kids to be in danger like this, there are so many better ways to do that! Ugh.)

   It was a horrible time. There seemed no end of the line of giants, and they never ceased hurling stones, some of which fell extremely close. Quite apart from the real danger, the very sight and sound of their faces and voices were enough to scare anyone. Jill tried not to look at them.

OR YOU COULD SPEAK UP AND ASK IF YOU COULD HAVE A FEW MINUTES TO GET OUT OF THEIR BOWLING LANE. I mean, this assumption that the giants are violent and dishonorable is getting them almost killed, would it really be that much more dangerous to treat them like people? But, I mean, they're ugly so therefore evil. I don't make the rules after all.

   After about twenty-five minutes the giants apparently had a quarrel. This put an end to the cock-shies, but it is not pleasant to be within a mile of quarreling giants. They stormed and jeered at one another in long, meaningless words of about twenty syllables each. They foamed and jibbered and jumped in their rage, and each jump shook the earth like a bomb. They lammed each other on the head with great, clumsy stone hammers; but their skulls were so hard that the hammers bounced off again, and then the monster who had given the blow would drop his hammer and howl with pain because it had stung his fingers. But he was so stupid that he would do exactly the same thing a minute later. This was a good thing in the long run, for by the end of an hour all the giants were so hurt that they sat down and began to cry. When they sat down, their heads were below the edge of the gorge, so that you saw them no more; but Jill could hear them howling and blubbering and boo-hooing like great babies even after the place was a mile behind.

Oh fuck all the things. Let's just move on.

No, I will say this: James Loewen makes an excellent point in Lies My Teacher Told Me that when you use overly simplistic words and phrases to describe a cultural practice or religious belief, you end up making the thing you're describing sound silly and ridiculous. (This problem is related to the IKEA Erotica problem of describing sexual experiences and religious ecstasy.) Similarly, I am pretty sure that I could take any number of sports that Lewis and his peers probably enjoyed and describe them in such a way as to make both the participants and the spectators sound like stupid asshats.

One possible definition of privilege is that your favorite religious belief, sporting practice, sexual position, etc. isn't considered silly/weird/deviant, but everyone else's is.

   They traveled across Ettinsmoor for many days, saving the bacon and living chiefly on the moor-fowl (they were not, of course, talking birds) which Eustace and the wiggle shot. Jill rather envied Eustace for being able to shoot; he had learned it on his voyage with King Caspian. As there were countless streams on the moor, they were never short of water. Jill thought that when, in books, people live on what they shoot, it never tells you what a long, smelly, messy job it is plucking and cleaning dead birds, and how cold it makes your fingers. But the great thing was that they met hardly any giants. One giant saw them, but he only roared with laughter and stumped away about his own business.

Oh, so the giants really aren't universally evil and awful, and this one was basically all "haha, adorbz tiny people" and they could have all saved themselves being nearly splattered but racism and pride. *facepalm*

I'm not really going to touch on hunting in a world where half the game (or more) is off-limits because of intelligence while only being slightly bigger than their counterparts. (And inconsistently so: the Owls can carry small children on their backs, but the robin in the first book seems the size and shape of a normal robin and the possibly-Aslan bird in Dawn Treader was normal sized, too. And there may or may not have been a bear in Prince Caspian whose Talking status was unknown, but I have flushed that book from my brain.)

I will just here note that shooting takes place from a distance, any lethal traps or snares (which aren't apparently used on this trip, but must be used somewhere) don't give much of a chance to determine the "talking" status of your food, and it strikes me as really convenient that the children can hunt stags as monarchs and shoot birds on the go and never have to go without meat and yet always be satisfied that they are eating ethically.

Later in the book, a major plot point will be that an evil race of evil giants is evil because they eat a talking stag, and they know it was a talking stag because talking was a free action when they were hunting it and I'm just... I'm very skeptical of the convenience of Talking Animals who are so immediately visibly different from "edible" ones that no mistakes ever happen. We live in a world where hunting accidents regularly kill humans, and it just seems to me that the Telmarines might well misidentify (deliberately or otherwise) what they killed because meat is meat and this dead bird looks like a normal bird, no?

It just feels like wanting to have Talking Animal world-building without needing to consider how that would change everything

   About the tenth day, they reached a place where the country changed. They came to the northern edge of the moor and looked down a long, steep slope into a different, and grimmer, land. 
   [...] “The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”
    “What about that?” said Scrubb suddenly, pointing upstream to their left. Then they all looked and saw the last thing they were expecting—a bridge. And what a bridge, too! It was a huge, single arch that spanned the gorge from cliff-top to cliff-top; and the crown of that arch was as high above the cliff-tops as the dome of St. Paul’s is above the street.
   “Why, it must be a giants’ bridge!” said Jill.
   “Or a sorcerer’s, more likely,” said Puddleglum. “We’ve got to look out for enchantments in a place like this. I think it’s a trap. I think it’ll turn into mist and melt away just when we’re out on the middle of it.”
   “Oh, for goodness’ sake, don’t be such a wet blanket,” said Scrubb. “Why on earth shouldn’t it be a proper bridge?”
   “Do you think any of the giants we’ve seen would have sense to build a thing like that?” said Puddleglum.
   “But mightn’t it have been built by other giants?” said Jill. “I mean, by giants who lived hundreds of years ago, and were far cleverer than the modern kind. It might have been built by the same ones who built the giant city we’re looking for. And that would mean we were on the right track—the old bridge leading to the old city!”
   “That’s a real brain-wave, Pole,” said Scrubb. “It must be that. Come on.”

Oh my god.

One: Puddleglum, you are a racist son of a shit. There's no way to chalk this up to depression or pessimism because again being depressed or pessimistic does not make you a racist son of a shit. Puddleglum isn't racist because he's depressed; he is racist and depressed and I refuse to give him a pass for it. I absolutely refuse to buy into the notion that because we saw some giants playing a sporting event, that therefore the entire giant culture to the north of Narnia is composed of stupid people who can't build bridges. Bull-fucking-shit.

Two: This whole thing underlines how ridiculous it is that later the children will be excoriated by the text for not listening to Puddleglum, because Puddleglum gives stupid fucking advice. I'm not saying that "yes, let's trust the bridge implicitly!" is necessarily the right response. However. He doesn't even want to check it out. He is so convinced that everything is a trap that he would prefer to get these kids killed on a dangerous climb they have no skills for than to concede that maybe, maybe, someone up here might have had reason to make a bridge.

Three: Seriously, these books are racist as fuck. Enjoy them by all means, but when the entire giant culture is either Stupid or Evil or Stupid-and-Evil, then hooboy we have a big big problem. Puddleglum, for the record, I personally haven't seen any Narnians capable of constructing a giant bridge over a chasm, but I kinda assume that your culture has many and varied people across a wide spectrum of intelligences and interests and that #NotAllNarnians live in mud-huts on a marsh. It's just a shame that your author couldn't be arsed to realize that cultures other than Narnia could be full of a wide variety of actual people. 

   So they turned and went to the bridge. And when they reached it, it certainly seemed solid enough. The single stones were as big as those at Stonehenge and must have been squared by good masons once, though now they were cracked and crumbled. The balustrade had apparently been covered with rich carvings, of which some traces remained; mouldering faces and forms of giants, minotaurs, squids, centipedes, and dreadful gods. Puddleglum still didn’t trust it, but he consented to cross it with the children.
   [...] When they reached the top and could look down the farther slope of the bridge, they saw what looked like the remains of an ancient giant road stretching away before them into the heart of the mountains. Many stones of its pavement were missing and there were wide patches of grass between those that remained. And riding toward them on that ancient road were two people of normal grown-up human size.
    “Keep on. Move toward them,” said Puddleglum. “Anyone you meet in a place like this is as likely as not to be an enemy, but we mustn’t let them think we’re afraid.”

Ha, this would be funny and a continued example of Pudleglum being a xenophobic jerkface except that he's 100% completely right

   By the time they had stepped off the end of the bridge onto the grass, the two strangers were quite close. One was a knight in complete armor with his visor down. His armor and his horse were black; there was no device on his shield and no banneret on his spear. The other was a lady on a white horse, a horse so lovely that you wanted to kiss its nose and give it a lump of sugar at once. But the lady, who rode side-saddle and wore a long, fluttering dress of dazzling green, was lovelier still.

A woman in a green dress who will literally introduce herself as the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Subtle. Definitely not the woman-in-a-green-dress who we are looking for.
   “Good day, t-r-r-avelers,” she cried out in a voice as sweet as the sweetest bird’s song, trilling her R’s delightfully. “Some of you are young pilgrims to walk this rough waste.”
   “That’s as may be, Ma’am,” said Puddleglum very stiffly and on his guard.
   “We’re looking for the ruined city of the giants,” said Jill.
   “The r-r-ruined city?” said the Lady. “That is a strange place to be seeking. What will you do if you find it?”
   “We’ve got to—” began Jill, but Puddleglum interrupted.
   “Begging your pardon, Ma’am. But we don’t know you or your friend—a silent chap, isn’t he?—and you don’t know us. And we’d as soon not talk to strangers about our business, if you don’t mind. Shall we have a little rain soon, do you think?”
   The Lady laughed: the richest, most musical laugh you can imagine. “Well, children,” she said, “you have a wise, solemn old guide with you. I think none the worse of him for keeping his own counsel, but I’ll be free with mine. I have often heard the name of the giantish City Ruinous, but never met any who would tell me the way thither. This road leads to the burgh and castle of Harfang, where dwell the gentle giants. They are as mild, civil, prudent, and courteous as those of Ettinsmoor are foolish, fierce, savage, and given to all beastliness. And in Harfang you may or may not hear tidings of the City Ruinous, but certainly you shall find good lodgings and merry hosts. You would be wise to winter there, or, at the least, to tarry certain days for your ease and refreshment. There you shall have steaming baths, soft beds, and bright hearths; and the roast and the baked and the sweet and the strong will be on the table four times a day.”

I am just so done with this whole "giants of Ettinsmoor" thing. Someone who is fanfic-inclined needs to please write a fixfic about the Ettinsmoor giants who are strong down-to-earth types--good warriors, good workers, and good drinkers--who have to put up with the Harfang assholes to the north and the Telmarine jerkheads to the south and enjoy a good game of bowls after a hearty breakfast and aren't so caught up in harmful machismo fantasies that they can't have a nice cry now and again when they hurt themselves during their whack-a-mole sport.

Mmm. Back in canon-land, the text needs you to understand that pretty and lovely things are bad and wont to distract a Good Christian from the true and noble way of plucky hardship, and also, I mean, c'mon, the advice was dispensed from a woman, do I need to spell it out for you, geez. And Puddleglum was totes right to be rude to this chick, which I actually kinda love because it undermines all the chivalry stuff in Dawn Treader but who are we to expect consistency in books, we are unreasonable in the extreme. And actually (FUNNILY ENOUGH) chivalry was basically a pile of ass because the men picked and chose like whoa when to apply it, so this is amusingly accurate except that Lewis needs us to understand and appreciate that Puddleglum was 100% right to be a jerk to this woman because she is a witch with power over her man rather than a meek lady-daughter like that Ramandu-chick wot never got a name.

   “Well!” said Puddleglum. “I’d give a good deal to know where she’s coming from and where she’s going. Not the sort you expect to meet in the wilds of Giantland, is she? Up to no good, I’ll be bound.”
   “Oh rot!” said Scrubb. “I thought she was simply super. And think of hot meals and warm rooms. I do hope Harfang isn’t a long way off.”
   “Same here,” said Jill. “And hadn’t she a scrumptious dress. And the horse!”
   “All the same,” said Puddleglum, “I wish we knew a bit more about her.”
   “I was going to ask her all about herself,” said Jill. “But how could I when you wouldn’t tell her anything about us?”
   “Yes,” said Scrubb. “And why were you so stiff and unpleasant? Didn’t you like them?”
   “Them?” said the wiggle. “Who’s them? I only saw one.”
   “Didn’t you see the Knight?” asked Jill.
   “I saw a suit of armor,” said Puddleglum. “Why didn’t he speak?”
   “I expect he was shy,” said Jill. “Or perhaps he just wants to look at her and listen to her lovely voice. I’m sure I would if I was him.”
   “I was wondering,” remarked Puddleglum, “what you’d really see if you lifted up the visor of that helmet and looked inside.”
   “Hang it all,” said Scrubb. “Think of the shape of the armor! What could be inside it except a man?”
   “How about a skeleton?” asked the Marsh-wiggle with ghastly cheerfulness. “Or perhaps,” he added as an afterthought, “nothing at all. I mean, nothing you could see. Someone invisible.”
   “Really, Puddleglum,” said Jill with a shudder, “you do have the most horrible ideas! How do you think of them all?”
   “Oh, bother his ideas!” said Scrubb. “He’s always expecting the worst, and he’s always wrong. Let’s think about those Gentle Giants and get on to Harfang as quickly as we can. I wish I knew how far it is.”


I mean, the foreshadowing is dancing about and slapping us in the face with a fish: obviously the woman in the green dress is, you know, the woman in the green dress that we're hunting and obviously that man who wouldn't speak is the missing prince. So really this entire exchange is fanficing Puddleglum to us as this awesome genre-savvy guy who saw things for what they were and spoke out and was shut down unfairly by the children who should have listened to him.

The thing is, it's a sexist and ableist pile of shit. For one, I realize that no one is disabled in Narnia (except HAHA TRUMPKIN), but out here in the real world there are fully one billion reasons why a person might not lift their visor nor speak. It's actually very frustrating to me, as a person who lives with depression, that Puddleglum (whose defining character trait so far seems to be rude dickishness) is held up as a Brave Symbol Of Depression or wev in the same book that treats as highly suspicious the idea that someone might have a mental illness that makes interacting with strangers unpleasant or intolerable. Or that the knight might be deaf or mute. Nope, has to be either pussy-whipped or enscorcelled (and, honestly, those two things are the same, amiright?).

I mean, please savor for a moment that this passage expects us to agree that being aggressive and rude to a woman you've just met is merely prudence, but being silent to a man you've just met is beyond the pale of indecent behavior. Let that marinate for a moment, please. Recognize that Puddleglum is insisting that he is the one who has been treated in a manner so shocking and so rude and so unexpected that the most logical explanation is that the knight is really a magical construct rather than a properly-functioning person.

Now realize that he is right.

   And now they nearly had the first of those quarrels which Puddleglum had foretold: not that Jill and Scrubb hadn’t been sparring and snapping at each other a good deal before, but this was the first really serious disagreement. Puddleglum didn’t want them to go to Harfang at all. He said that he didn’t know what a giant’s idea of being “gentle” might be, and that, anyway, Aslan’s signs had said nothing about staying with giants, gentle or otherwise. 

Speaking of, you know what Aslan's signs said nothing about? The woman in a green dress they just met. That seems like it would have been important to mention. 

   The children, on the other hand, who were sick of wind and rain, and skinny fowl roasted over campfires, and hard, cold earth to sleep on, were absolutely dead set to visit the Gentle Giants. In the end, Puddleglum agreed to do so, but only on one condition. The others must give an absolute promise that, unless he gave them leave, they would not tell the Gentle Giants that they came from Narnia or that they were looking for Prince Rilian. And they gave him this promise, and went on.

And, I mean, again, in another novel, this would be a bad idea. Puddleglum turns out to be right because the giants are everything his racist imagination has spun up (convenient!), but if, say, this book weren't operating as though the paranoid fantasies of racists were all true, then it would actually theoretically be useful to tell one's hosts (who, after all, know the land better) what you are looking for rather than stumbling around all winter hoping to blunder into it.

Honestly, though, even if we take it as read that the giants have to be evil because an antagonist needs to exist, what on earth does this promise accomplish? The trio very clearly is from Narnia, because there's absolutely no suggestion of human-sized people in the land they're traveling through, and they're just as clearly on a journey from somewhere to somewhere. What would cause a marsh-wiggle and two British Telmarine children to travel up here in the middle of winter? This promise Puddleglum extracts from them is apparently supposed to be read as clever and prudent, but it fundamentally relies on the giants being, well, too stupid to figure out the very, very obvious. (Conveniently, they are!) 

   After that talk with the Lady things got worse in two different ways. [...] In the second place, whatever the Lady had intended by telling them about Harfang, the actual effect on the children was a bad one. They could think about nothing but beds and baths and hot meals and how lovely it would be to get indoors. They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning. She said to herself, at first, that she was too tired, but she soon forgot all about it. And though you might have expected that the idea of having a good time at Harfang would have made them more cheerful, it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and snappy with each other and with Puddleglum.

I don't think this is supposed to be outright magic, though the text is rather ambiguous about it. Probably this is more of the same from before: nice soft things are an impediment to non-Christians and new-Christians because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The theology falls flat for me, though, because apparently the kids have been walking for days (weeks?) and hiking over rough terrain and camping out in the open. Considering that you can die of exposure at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and considering that it is almost certainly colder than that, and considering that they brought no extra clothes or shoes, and considering that these kids have zero experience with this sort of traveling, I'm... kinda hard-pressed to see this new obsession with a proper rest-stop as sinful and wicked and awful.

And then there's this whole "ooh, Jill stops repeating the signs", but honestly the signs are utterly useless. I find it telling that Lewis very carefully doesn't repeat them in text, and I really think that's partly because if the reader were exposed to them again, we would cry bullshit at this point. Let's review them.

Sign 1: As soon as the boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once. If he does, you will both have good help.

Well, that was utterly useless and since it's over and past now I think Jill is justified in brain-flushing it.

Sign 2: You must journey out of Narnia to the north until you come to the city of the ancient giants.

Welp, they're trying to do exactly this, so I'm not sure why Jill needs to keep mantra-ing it every morning. I also note that "the north" is a big fucking place and they received literally no directions from Aslan on how to get there. True facts: If they weren't trying to reach Harfang, they would miss it entirely.

Sign 3: You shall find the writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you.

This is a dirty lie. In the next chapter, they will "fail" this sign and it's suggested that this is because Jill hasn't been repeating the signs and so it wasn't fresh in her mind. Except that this too is a dirty lie. They "fail" the sign because the sign is a lie.

Sign 4: You will know the lost prince, if you find him, by this: that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.

I mean, okay? But that doesn't seem like something that needs constant repetition. Which is kinda my point on Lewis wanting to have his theology and eat it too: he portrays Jill as sinning by letting her love for warm food and hot baths get in the way of her religious duties to Aslan, but her religious duties to Aslan are busy-work that fail entirely to help her in any meaningful way.

None of these signs need to be repeated over and over again. The first one is a wash, the second one is what they are doing (so repeating it would be utterly pointless), the third one is a lie, and the fourth one isn't so complex that it needs that level of dedication. It's... almost a little creepy how the text insists that the metric for Jill's Christianity is her willingness to follow an utterly arbitrary rule that cannot and will not ever help her.

(I mean, you can argue that as a metaphor, that is precisely what certain religion(s) turn out to be for many people, but I very much doubt that Lewis intended this to read like Aslan is worthless and his rules are arbitrary and without value. I just don't understand how he doesn't seem to have realized that this is what he ended up writing.)

   At last they came one afternoon to a place where the gorge in which they were traveling widened out and dark fir woods rose on either side. They looked ahead and saw that they had come through the mountains. Before them lay a desolate, rocky plain: beyond it, further mountains capped with snow. But between them and those further mountains rose a low hill with an irregular flattish top.
   “Look! Look!” cried Jill, and pointed across the plain; and there, through the gathering dusk, from beyond the flat hill, everyone saw lights. Lights! Not moonlight, nor fires, but a homely cheering row of lighted windows. If you have never been in the wild wilderness, day and night, for weeks, you will hardly understand how they felt.
   “Harfang!” cried Scrubb and Jill in glad, excited voices; and “Harfang,” repeated Puddleglum in a dull, gloomy voice. But he added, “Hullo! Wild geese!” and had the bow off his shoulder in a second. He brought down a good fat goose. It was far too late to think of reaching Harfang that day. But they had a hot meal and a fire, and started the night warmer than they had been for over a week. After the fire had gone out, the night grew bitterly cold, and when they woke next morning, their blankets were stiff with frost.
   “Never mind!” said Jill, stamping her feet. “Hot baths tonight!”

Annnnnd, that's the end of Chapter 6. We got to be super-racist at a bunch of giants who very possibly were just regular people minding their own business, we were hit about the head with an obvious appearance of Rilian and the Witch so that we could learn that being rude to ladies is definitely a good thing to do if they aren't deferential to the nearest man, we made it to the ruined city in the second sign only because the villain gave them direct instructions to the next town over, and we learned that the merest mention of hot baths will turn your Christian head so fast you'll get whiplash.

Oh, and you can also very definitely shoot a bird five seconds after you see it and it likely won't be a Talking Bird. Probably. Who's to contradict you, anyway?


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