Narnia: Jill Plied Her Crop On The Girls

[Narnia Content Note: Bullying, Violence, Whipping, Death, Ableism]

Narnia Recap: The protagonists have found a hole and boosted Jill up.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 16: The Healing of Harms

OKAY! Are we ready to finish this?

I'll straight-up admit that I've been dreading this chapter because it's so awful. I don't really know what to say about it; the awfulness kind of stands out on its own. But I really do want to get to The Horse and His Boy, and the only way to it is through it, so let's slam this down. I cannot believe how rushed this chapter is going to be, by the way; we have to get Rilian home, go to Heaven, and then go back home and wrap all that up. I like to think that J.R.R. Tolkien was physically ill after reading this chapter and went off to weep into his favorite printing of Return of the King.

   WHEN JILL WOKE NEXT MORNING AND found herself in a cave, she thought for one horrid moment that she was back in the Underworld. But when she noticed that she was lying on a bed of heather with a furry mantle over her, and saw a cheery fire crackling (as if newly lit) on a stone hearth and, farther off, morning sunlight coming in through the cave’s mouth, she remembered all the happy truth.

This is kind of awkwardly written. I get the authorial intent of contrasting the underworld with the overworld, but this is sort of like saying "When Jill awoke, none of the things she hated about the underworld were present, but we use the same English word ("cave") to denote the setting, so for a moment she kinda thought she was back there." It's not a bad concept, in that we often wake up confused as to our location, but it needed a second-draft. (Like I haven't banged that drum enough at this point, eh?)

   They had had a delightful supper, all crowded into that cave, in spite of being so sleepy before it was properly over. She had a vague impression of Dwarfs crowding round the fire with frying-pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing, and delicious smell of sausages, and more, and more, and more sausages.

Wait, what? Fry pans bigger than a grown dwarf? How would that work? Why would that work? Are the fires as big as a dwarf, too? How does the heat get evenly distributed? What would be the point, like, how can you meaningfully tend to your cooking when your cooking apparatus is bigger than yourself?

I don't even know.

   And not wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. And great mugs of frothy chocolate, and roast potatoes and roast chestnuts, and baked apples with raisins stuck in where the cores had been, and then ices just to freshen you up after all the hot things.

Sausages are an interesting food, because they're often composed out of the little bits and scraps of meat that you can't cook any other way and/or the "gross" bits (as defined by your culture) that people won't eat any other way. And I know we've remarked on this before, but it's a bit odd that someone like Jill--who is the Protagonist Outsider--doesn't occasionally nudge someone to ask how they're sure this isn't Talking Animal again, since that was a big deal.

I'm just saying; if I'd been served, say, human meat on an adventure in a strange magical land, I would be very suspicious the next time meat was plunked onto the table, particularly if it wasn't in a recognizable form (like a nice chicken wing). Fool me once, shame on you, etc.

Also, you'd think that for all that Lewis clearly cared about war-time food scarcity and food porn that he'd have put a little more interest into the question of where all this food came from. There are occasional references to imports from Calormen, but are we to understand that the chocolate in the great-mugs-of-frothy are is locally grown? Come to think of it, for the Tolkien scholars in the audience, did LOTR cover this sort of thing by explaining where all the feast-foods were sourced from? That's something I would actually find interesting, not gonna lie.

Not that I think all authors should be forced to consider food imports and exports, and I get the "it's a magical land" reasoning just fine. I just find it interesting to see that food is clearly an important part of the narrative without really being considered beyond "English, good; everything else, bad". The underworld was indicated as Bad on multiple occasions via the descriptions of their bland unpleasant food, but there seems to be little thought put into the reasoning behind WHY. (A cultural preference? An economic necessity?) Good food just seems to appear around good people, flying into their person-sized frying pans without a second thought.

   Jill sat up and looked around. Puddleglum and Eustace were lying not far away, both fast asleep.
   “Hi, you two!” shouted Jill in a loud voice. “Aren’t you ever going to get up?”
   “Shoo, shoo!” said a sleepy voice somewhere above her. “Time to be settling down. Have a good snooze, do, do. Don’t make a to-do. Tu-whoo!”
   “Why, I do believe,” said Jill, glancing up at a white bundle of fluffy feathers which was perched on top of a grandfather clock in one corner of the cave, “I do believe it’s Glimfeather!”
   “True, true,” whirred the Owl, lifting his head out from under his wing and opening one eye. “I came up with a message for the Prince at about two. The squirrels brought us the good news. Message for the Prince. He’s gone. You’re to follow too. Good-day—” and the head disappeared again.
   As there seemed no further hope of getting any information from the Owl, Jill got up and began looking round for any chance of a wash and some breakfast. But almost at once a little Faun came trotting into the cave with a sharp click-clack of his goaty hoofs on the stone floor.
   “Ah! You’ve woken up at last, Daughter of Eve,” he said. “Perhaps you’d better wake the Son of Adam. You’ve got to be off in a few minutes and two Centaurs have very kindly offered to let you ride on their backs down to Cair Paravel.” He added in a lower voice, “Of course, you realize it is a most special and unheard-of honor to be allowed to ride a Centaur. I don’t know that I ever heard of anyone doing it before. It wouldn’t do to keep them waiting.”
   “Where’s the Prince?” was the first question of Eustace and Puddleglum as soon as they had been waked.
   “He’s gone down to meet the King, his father, at Cair Paravel,” answered the Faun, whose name was Orruns. “His Majesty’s ship is expected in harbor any moment. It seems that the King met Aslan—I don’t know whether it was a vision or face to face—before he had sailed far, and Aslan turned him back and told him he would find his long-lost son awaiting him when he reached Narnia.”
   Eustace was now up and he and Jill set about helping Orruns to get the breakfast. Puddleglum was told to stay in bed. A Centaur called Cloud-birth, a famous healer, or (as Orruns called it) a “leech,” was coming to see to his burnt foot.

This, too, reads awkwardly. We receive a lot of the same information twice, for no real reason that I can see except that Lewis seems fundamentally unable to write an interaction between Jill and Eustace. It's so bizarrely sectioned-off up there: Jill receives information from Glimfeather; Eustace receives the same information from Orruns. (Who somehow introduces himself not through dialogue but rather through narrative, which is rather odd considering that the frame-stories for these books is supposed to be that the narrator compiled this information via interview with the Pevensies and Company.)

But I digress. It just strikes me as particularly strange that Jill and Eustace had that reconciliation moment where they used each others' Christian names for the first time, and then... pretty much never spoke to one another again. I don't know what to make of it. Lewis seems to prefer gender integration--I believe all-boy schools earn his particular ire based on some of his experiences, but I'm too lazy to look that up at the moment--yet he doesn't seem entirely sure how to let his mixed-gender casts interact.

Rilian and Caspian are easy to write, as they abide by a strict code of chivalry and only interact with women when they are speaking over them; "the lady needs us to" and "fair madam I beseech thee" and whatnot. There's a built-in distancing there. Puddleglum and the Professor are old and cranky and can say and do as they please because there's a "fatherly" distance there that of course they aren't interested in Lucy or Jill in That Way. But Eustace is Jill's age, and he's not her blood-relative, and perhaps Lewis couldn't figure out ways for them to interact more organically without it hinting at the unwanted spectre of romance. In the next book, THaHB, he'll be forced to explore more girl/boy interaction, and it will be interesting to see if the dialogue is as awkward as I remember.

Anyway. We get this and just what:

   “Golly!” said Eustace. “Do they eat a very big breakfast?”
   “Why, Son of Adam, don’t you understand? A Centaur has a man-stomach and a horse-stomach. And of course both want breakfast. So first of all he has porridge and pavenders and kidneys and bacon and omelette and cold ham and toast and marmalade and coffee and beer. And after that he attends to the horse part of himself by grazing for an hour or so and finishing up with a hot mash, some oats, and a bag of sugar. That’s why it’s such a serious thing to ask a Centaur to stay for the weekend. A very serious thing indeed.”

The body essentialism has just taken a very seriously weird turn. A man-stomach "wants" porridge and bacon and coffee and beer, ya'll. I seriously don't know what to do with that. I honestly would have assumed that whatever being created centaurs would have made life just a tad easier for them. And it's not like this is anything to do with taste; the centaurs are presumably "grazing for an hour" with their human mouths. Do they have two esophagi? Or does the grass go in a different mouth I'm not aware of? This is just bizarre as fuck, and treats centaurs as two separate beings rather than one integrated whole.

   At that moment there was a sound of horse-hoofs tapping on rock from the mouth of the cave, and the children looked up. The two Centaurs, one with a black and one with a golden beard flowing over their magnificent bare chests, stood waiting for them, bending their heads a little so as to look into the cave. Then the children became very polite and finished their breakfast very quickly. No one thinks a Centaur funny when he sees it. They are solemn, majestic people, full of ancient wisdom which they learn from the stars, not easily made either merry or angry; but their anger is terrible as a tidal wave when it comes.

What strikes me here is that the centaurs are as tall as many of the earthpeople, and equally solemn, but no one finds them funny. I guess the big noses and big ears of the earthpeople were the defining difference, eh?

   “Good-bye, dear Puddleglum,” said Jill, going over to the Marsh-wiggle’s bed. “I’m sorry we called you a wet blanket.”
   “So’m I,” said Eustace. “You’ve been the best friend in the world.”
   “And I do hope we’ll meet again,” added Jill.
   “Not much chance of that, I should say,” replied Puddleglum. “I don’t reckon I’m very likely to see my old wigwam again, either. And that Prince—he’s a nice chap—but do you think he’s very strong? Constitution ruined with living underground, I shouldn’t wonder. Looks the sort that might go off any day.”
   “Puddleglum!” said Jill. “You’re a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you’re perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you’re really as brave as—as a lion.”

oh dear god shut up about the author-insert being basically Aslan

Also it continues to be fascinating and horrifying how quickly Jill has internalized that lions are the embodiment of all things good, when her two experiences with Aslan were all the traumatizing scolding with none of the gentle hugs and warm breath that Lucy got to have.

   “Now, speaking of funerals,” began Puddleglum, but Jill, who heard the Centaurs tapping with their hoofs behind her, surprised him very much by flinging her arms round his thin neck and kissing his muddy-looking face, while Eustace wrung his hand. Then they both rushed away to the Centaurs, and the Marsh-wiggle, sinking back on his bed, remarked to himself, “Well, I wouldn’t have dreamt of her doing that. Even though I am a good-looking chap.”


   To ride on a Centaur is, no doubt, a great honor (and except Jill and Eustace, there is probably no one alive in the world who has had it) but it is very uncomfortable. For no one who valued his life would suggest putting a saddle on a Centaur, and riding bare-back is no fun; especially if, like Eustace, you have never learned to ride at all.

We're going to see this again with Talking Horses in THaHB, this idea that being ridden is inherently demeaning and that this taboo would carry over from human cultures to horse-based ones. I have a LOT of thoughts about that and I don't want to derail here, but I will just say that I have very strong feelings about Lewis' use of cultural taboos to mean that literally no-one in that society ever breaches that. There is a big difference between:

World A: A world where being ridden is viewed by centaurs as being used as a tool, therefore the riding of centaurs is rare and unusual.

World B: A world where being ridden is viewed by centaurs as being used as a tool, therefore the riding of centaurs NEVER EVER HAPPENS (except for this one time which clearly isn't even an emergency so I don't know why they made the exception).

And the existence of those worlds do not preclude Worlds C, D, E, and so on where centaurs have no strong feelings either way about being ridden, to a world where centaurs enjoy being ridden, and so forth. And all of that still ignores the fact that cultures are not a monolith of tightly regulated behavior. Something like "riding" is going to take into context a number of things like individual preference, situation, the rider--indeed, I should think that "ridden by humans" might well be cultural taboo in Narnia (where humans recently tried to genocide every centaur), but that "ridden by squirrels" could be a whole different thing entirely.

It just seriously bugs me, the way that all of Lewis' races fit into this perfect standard of conduct. It's fantastical racism, yes, but at the same time, he wants the same code of conducts to apply to his audience, and just... that is my personal vision of hell, Lewis' strictly regulated Christian District 13.

   The Centaurs were very polite in a grave, gracious, grown-up kind of way, and as they cantered through the Narnian woods they spoke, without turning their heads, telling the children about the properties of herbs and roots, the influences of the planets, the nine names of Aslan with their meanings, and things of that sort. But however sore and jolted the two humans were, they would now give anything to have that journey over again: to see those glades and slopes sparkling with last night’s snow, to be met by rabbits and squirrels and birds that wished you good morning, to breathe again the air of Narnia and hear the voices of the Narnian trees.

...and this is just kind of sad, because they can't. I mean, poignancy is a definite thing in fantasy lit, so here is an example of a valid authorial choice, but it makes me sad. Really, both Dawn Treader and Silver Chair have kind of depressed me in this read-through, because it's very clear the entire time that the children would much rather be absorbing the world and drinking in every precious moment of this once-in-a-lifetime fantasy, and yet all this Aslan stuff keeps happening to interrupt that.

People give Tolkien shit sometimes for taking forever to wrap up, but he at least tries to leave you with the knowledge that even when things are poignant, the heroes still have moments of real peace. And it's a peace that fulfills and nourishes them, not this rushed and hurried glimpse in Lewis where you'd better enjoy the peace right now, you'd better make the most of it before it's gone, oh too late it's gone forever and you'll never have it again. That messed me up as a kid, I don't mind saying.

   They came down to the river, flowing bright and blue in winter sunshine, far below the last bridge (which is at the snug, red-roofed little town of Beruna)

Wait, the bridge is back? Nevermind, I don't care.

   and were ferried across in a flat barge by the ferryman; or rather, by the ferry-wiggle, for it is Marsh-wiggles who do most of the watery and fishy kinds of work in Narnia.

Or you could find a race-neutral term but whatever.

And, I mean, this brings me back to the centaur/horse riding thing, because it's plain that there's still classism in Narnia. The humans do the ruling and the upper class "sitting in castles all day looking pretty". The dwarves conveniently like mining (a historically shitty and dangerous job), the marsh-wiggles like doing "the watery and fishy kinds of work", and so on. I definitely agree that a race of horses that just happens to love pulling carts and letting humans ride on them would be problematic in the extreme, but what we get is this weird middle-ground where the lower classes are still problematically happy to toil in the crappy jobs, but it's okay because Pride.

I'd rather have a world where Horses don't pull carts but they do sometimes love a good run with their best non-Horse friend riding on their back. Then again, in my fictional world where all the intelligent Animals have nuance and individuality and cross-species friends, there would probably be rampant bestiality so what do I know. (My god, I've just recreated Xanth and am now in the position of considering a point of world-building in Xanth to be superior to that of Narnia. I... I need an adult.)

   And when they had crossed they rode along the south bank of the river and presently came to Cair Paravel itself. And at the very moment of their arrival they saw that same bright ship which they had seen when they first set foot in Narnia, gliding up the river like a huge bird. All the court were once more assembled on the green between the castle and the quay to welcome King Caspian home again. Rilian, who had changed his black clothes and was now dressed in a scarlet cloak over silver mail, stood close to the water’s edge, bare-headed, to receive his father; and the Dwarf Trumpkin sat beside him in his little donkey-chair.

I don't remember how Caspian knew to turn the boat around; I'm thinking I remember Aslan speaking to him, but I'm not finding that now and I kind of don't care because we're so close to the end anyway. I'll note that if I were one of the courtiers (who have presumably been planning for contingencies when Caspian died heirless), I'd be a little concerned about some guy just turning up claiming to be the lost prince. He's been gone for a decade, and magic is a thing, and...

...ha, I'm just thinking now that what if the Green Witch's horrible ineptness at villainy ("a sword! I shall fling myself on it!") was all a ploy and maybe Rilian is under her control now and everyone thinks she dead, but no, she'll rule with an iron fist and I need this to be written, I really do. I guess I'll throw it onto the projects pile, lol.

   A flourish of silver trumpets came over the water from the ship’s deck: the sailors threw a rope; rats (Talking Rats, of course) and Marsh-wiggles made it fast ashore; and the ship was warped in. Musicians, hidden somewhere in the crowd, began to play solemn, triumphal music. And soon the King’s galleon was alongside and the Rats ran the gangway on board her.

Hmm. You know, I've always heard that regular rats are a given on a ship. Like, even with a cat to keep down the population, they're supposed to be an inevitable, like death and taxes. One wonders how the Talking Rats feel about that. I would read a whole story about a Talking Rat on that ship and his ambivalent feelings within his Talking Rat community about the hunting and poisoning of the regular rats that steal food from the hold.

   When they started to come down the gangway you could see what they were carrying: it was the old King on a bed, very pale and still. They set him down. The Prince knelt beside him and embraced him. They could see King Caspian raising his hand to bless his son. And everyone cheered, but it was a half-hearted cheer, for they all felt that something was going wrong. Then suddenly the King’s head fell back upon his pillows, the musicians stopped and there was a dead silence. The Prince, kneeling by the King’s bed, laid down his head upon it and wept.
   ...“I wish I was at home,” said Jill.
   Eustace nodded, saying nothing, and bit his lip.
   “I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him. And in less time than it takes to breathe Jill forgot about the dead King of Narnia and remembered only how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarrelings. And she wanted to say “I’m sorry” but she could not speak. Then the Lion drew them toward him with his eyes, and bent down and touched their pale faces with his tongue, and said:
   “Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia.”
   “Please, Aslan,” said Jill, “may we go home now?”

Well, at least they asked for once?

   “Yes. I have come to bring you Home,” said Aslan. Then he opened his mouth and blew. But this time they had no sense of flying through the air: instead, it seemed that they remained still, and the wild breath of Aslan blew away the ship and the dead King and the castle and the snow and the winter sky. For all these things floated off into the air like wreaths of smoke, and suddenly they were standing in a great brightness of mid-summer sunshine, on smooth turf, among mighty trees, and beside a fair, fresh stream. Then they saw that they were once more on the Mountain of Aslan, high up above and beyond the end of that world in which Narnia lies. But the strange thing was that the funeral music for King Caspian still went on, though no one could tell where it came from. They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.
   Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water-weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond. And Jill noticed that Eustace looked neither like a child crying, nor like a boy crying and wanting to hide it, but like a grown-up crying. At least, that is the nearest she could get to it; but really, as she said, people don’t seem to have any particular ages on that mountain.

Oh god, why can't Eustace just be allowed to CRY? Why can't he just cry like Jill cries, why does it have to be this whole "not a child, not a boy, but a man" nonsense? Why does Aslan have to weep manly diamond lion-tears? Just let people mourn without the constant hovering policing of it all, dammit!

   “Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me.”
   Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier.
   “Drive it into my paw, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pad toward Eustace.
   “Must I?” said Eustace.
   “Yes,” said Aslan.

Oh god, and now we are traumatizing Eustace the once-pacifist by making him stab the person who means the most to him.

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

Lewis sure does have a thing about ages. Let us all take a moment to appreciate that Gandalf in LOTR was allowed to be and look old and didn't need to be a cheery rosy-cheeked Peter Pan youth in order to be good and virtuous.

   “But,” said Eustace, looking at Aslan. “Hasn’t he—er—died?”
   “Yes,” said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost (Jill thought) as if he were laughing. “He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few who haven’t.”
   “Oh,” said Caspian. “I see what’s bothering you. You think I’m a ghost, or some nonsense. But don’t you see? I would be that if I appeared in Narnia now: because I don’t belong there any more. But one can’t be a ghost in one’s own country. I might be a ghost if I got into your world. I don’t know. But I suppose it isn’t yours either, now you’re here.”
   A great hope rose in the children’s hearts. But Aslan shook his shaggy head. “No, my dears,” he said. “When you meet me here again, you will have come to stay. But not now. You must go back to your own world for a while.”
   “Sir,” said Caspian, “I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?”
   “You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,” said Aslan. “And you shall see their world—for five minutes of their time. It will take no longer for you to set things right there.” Then Aslan explained to Caspian what Jill and Eustace were going back to and all about Experiment House: he seemed to know it quite as well as they did.
   “Daughter,” said Aslan to Jill, “pluck a switch off that bush.” She did; and as soon as it was in her hand it turned into a fine new riding crop.
   “Now, Sons of Adam, draw your swords,” said Aslan. “But use only the flat, for it is cowards and children, not warriors, against whom I send you.”
   “Are you coming with us, Aslan?” said Jill.
   “They shall see only my back,” said Aslan.

So, okay, some talk here for a moment.

In LWW, the adventure of the children took only a moment. This was particularly magical and astounding and poignant because full decades had passed in Narnia. It underscored the weirdness of the place, the impossibility of the magic, that the children could grow up and change and reach adulthood only to be shoved back into their childish bodies. The other world was clearly real--they lost the coats in it, after all--and yet their own clothes came out with them despite those presumably being long gone.

Prince Caspian seemed to notice the clothes problem, and so Aslan makes them change before they go back. This detail hurts the magical impossibility of it all (imho) but still had a poignant "long walk to the execution" feeling to it. They don't stumble out; they're slowly kicked out. There's painful anticipation, and it hurts. (Note that I don't think the hurt is a good thing, and it's not an authorial choice that I would have made, but if Lewis was going for that painful longing for heaven that Paul describes, it was at least consistent.)

Dawn Treader had a gentler transition: there's a peaceful country, and a meal provided for them. There's still that air of finality, but it's less like a public excommunication of being tossed through the portal while Telmarines jeer at your funny clothes, and more like a final communion. They partake of the fish and drink of the grape juice or whatever was provided. And while the consent is still lacking, there's at least a conversation, and a sense of everyone being more at peace with the decision. Edmund and Lucy can stop living in tense expectation, and Eustace is now their friend. The remaining summer holiday will now be bearable.

In Silver Chair we have... this, and honestly I think it's garbage. The frame narrative of the school being a place to escape from and then to be returned to in glory and vengeance makes the entire adventure in Narnia seem (more so than usual) to be a blatant level-grinding experience for the English children, and little else. Sure, they saved the Prince and rescued Narnia, but the important thing is that Jill learned how to use a riding crop and Eustace got a kickass sword. And now they get to use them. NARNIA 2: THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL.

   He led them rapidly through the wood, and before they had gone many paces, the wall of Experiment House appeared before them. Then Aslan roared so that the sun shook in the sky and thirty feet of the wall fell down before them. They looked through the gap, down into the school shrubbery and on to the roof of the gym, all under the same dull autumn sky which they had seen before their adventures began. Aslan turned to Jill and Eustace and breathed upon them and touched their foreheads with his tongue. Then he lay down amid the gap he had made in the wall and turned his golden back to England, and his lordly face toward his own lands. At the same moment Jill saw figures whom she knew only too well running up through the laurels toward them. Most of the gang were there—Adela Pennyfather and Cholmondely Major, Edith Winterblott, “Spotty” Sorner, big Bannister, and the two loathsome Garrett twins.

Great names there, Lewis. I particularly like that Sorner is apparently named for his acne, which would seem to reinforce that Lewis (and Jill and Eustace) are the ones doing the bullying here.

   But suddenly they stopped. Their faces changed, and all the meanness, conceit, cruelty, and sneakishness almost disappeared in one single expression of terror. For they saw the wall fallen down, and a lion as large as a young elephant lying in the gap, and three figures in glittering clothes with weapons in their hands rushing down upon them. For, with the strength of Aslan in them, Jill plied her crop on the girls and Caspian and Eustace plied the flats of their swords on the boys so well that in two minutes all the bullies were running like mad, crying out, “Murder! Fascists! Lions! It isn’t fair.”

One must take a moment to wonder if the only reason we finally got a girl protagonist was so that we could have girl-on-girl whipping at the end. And while I'm not going to kink-shame Lewis, I'm also not going to pretend that whipping women wasn't a kink of his. Michael White writes in C.S. Lewis: Creator of Narnia:

In a letter written in January 1917 Lewis begins to explain that he is writing the letter on his knee and this seemingly innocent comment leads him on to a discourse on whipping and spanking. He declares: “Across my knee... of course makes one think of positions for whipping: or rather not for whipping (you couldn’t get any swing) but for that torture with brushes... very humiliating for the victim” Soon he was signing his letters to Greeves “Philomastrix” (“lover of the whip”) and detailing gruesome fantasies involving Arthur’s younger sister, in which he whipped her “for the good of her soul”. In other letters he described a particularly beautiful girl he had seen in Oxford and what pain she would have suffered if she had received only half the torment he had inflicted on her in his imagination.

The point at which someone with a whip kink for whipping women is writing a female character whipping other girls (which Aslan specifically changed into a RIDING CROP which is a very loaded word in the kink-world) is the point where I feel comfortable calling out that this shit is creepy. Nor is it an isolated incident, as we will see in THaHB.

   And then the Head (who was, by the way, a woman) came running out to see what was happening. And when she saw the lion and the broken wall and Caspian and Jill and Eustace (whom she quite failed to recognize) she had hysterics and went back to the house and began ringing up the police with stories about a lion escaped from a circus, and escaped convicts who broke down walls and carried drawn swords.

Of course the Head is a woman who goes into hysterics. I'm pretty sure her name is Halberta.

   In the midst of all this fuss Jill and Eustace slipped quietly indoors and changed out of their bright clothes into ordinary things,

...unnoticed by the other students...

   and Caspian went back into his own world. And the wall, at Aslan’s word, was made whole again. why he broke it down is left to conjecture...

   When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing.

...oh, right, so that the Head is perceived as a "lunatic". Great. Stellar. (But, gosh, Lewis, I thought your Trilemma hinged on the fact that we can always tell mentally ill people from the normals.)

   And in the inquiry all sorts of things about Experiment House came out, and about ten people got expelled. After that, the Head’s friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.

Haha, fuck women am I right, kids? Kids?

   Eustace buried his fine clothes secretly one night in the school grounds, but Jill smuggled hers home and wore them at a fancy-dress ball next holidays. And from that day forth things changed for the better at Experiment House, and it became quite a good school. And Jill and Eustace were always friends.

And oh-my-god, I really care so much about the fact that Eustace buried his clothes. That is not something I personally would do to something cherished (and Eustace has Science enough to know that those clothes aren't going to come back out in good shape, even if he takes measures to wrap them up carefully), which means... possibly he never wanted to see those clothes again? I have a lot of feels about that, not going to lie.

   But far off in Narnia, King Rilian buried his father, Caspian the Navigator, Tenth of that name, and mourned for him. He himself ruled Narnia well and the land was happy in his days, though Puddleglum (whose foot was as good as new in three weeks) often pointed out that bright mornings brought on wet afternoons, and that you couldn’t expect good times to last. The opening into the hillside was left open, and often in hot summer days the Narnians go in there with ships and lanterns and down to the water and sail to and fro, singing, on the cool, dark underground sea, telling each other stories of the cities that lie fathoms deep below. If ever you have the luck to go to Narnia yourself, do not forget to have a look at those caves.

(Except haha, they're gone forever in, like, three books from now. Pbbbbt.)

And that's the Silver Chair! Much like Dawn Treader, it started out as being one of my favorites until all the flaws started showing. Next is The Horse and His Boy which is truly the most awful of the bunch in possibly every sense of the word, so that should be fun. Yay! (And I have no idea if I'll do the BBC movie; I think I skipped over the BBC Dawn Treader just because it was getting harder to write interesting things about the BBC stuff--which is less wildly hilarious than the American adaptations--but I might look at it again. Depends on whether I can work up the spoons.)


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