Narnia: Prophetic Interlude

[Narnia Content Note: Childbirth, Death, Kidnapping, Sexual/Domestic Assault]

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 14 [Briefly Skipping Ahead]

Okay, I know I'm skipping over Chapter 13 and most of 14, but we have to talk about Shasta/Cor's kidnapping or I'm going to keep melting down over it, as per this last post. First, we have a timeline which gehayi was awesome enough to track down for us:

   In Chapter 1, Arsheesh tells the Tarkaan that he found baby Shasta "in that same year in which the Tisroc (may he live for ever) began his august and beneficent reign[.]"
   In Chapter 8, Ahoshta Tarkaan says, "[U]ntil the year in which your exalted father began his salutary and unending reign, the land of Narnia was covered with ice and snow and was moreover ruled by a most powerful enchantress."
   Therefore, Shasta was born the year that the White Witch's winter ended. The Narnian timeline says that the Witch's winter ended in the year 1000, and that Susan and Edmund visited Tashbaan in 1014.

Next up we have Chapter 14, in Shasta/Cor's own words:

   “But Sha—Cor, I mean—you haven’t told me anything yet about King Lune and how he found out who you were.”
   “Well, let’s sit down,” said Cor. “For it’s rather a long story. And by the way, Father’s an absolute brick. I’d be just as pleased—or very nearly—at finding he’s my father even if he wasn’t a king. Even though Education and all sorts of horrible things are going to happen to me. But you want the story. Well, Corin and I were twins. And about a week after we were both born, apparently, they took us to a wise old Centaur in Narnia to be blessed or something. Now this Centaur was a prophet as a good many Centaurs are. Perhaps you haven’t seen any Centaurs yet? There were some in the battle yesterday. Most remarkable people, but I can’t say I feel quite at home with them yet. I say, Aravis, there are going to be a lot of things to get used to in these Northern countries.”
   “Yes, there are,” said Aravis. “But get on with the story.”
   “Well, as soon as he saw Corin and me, it seems this Centaur looked at me and said, A day will come when that boy will save Archenland from the deadliest danger in which ever she lay. So of course my Father and Mother were very pleased. But there was someone present who wasn’t. This was a chap called Lord Bar who had been Father’s Lord Chancellor. And apparently he’d done something wrong—bezzling or some word like that—I didn’t understand that part very well—and Father had had to dismiss him. But nothing else was done to him and he was allowed to go on living in Archenland. But he must have been as bad as he could be, for it came out afterward he had been in the pay of the Tisroc and had sent a lot of secret information to Tashbaan. So as soon as he heard I was going to save Archenland from a great danger he decided I must be put out of the way. Well, he succeeded in kidnapping me (I don’t exactly know how) and rode away down the Winding Arrow to the coast. He’d had everything prepared and there was a ship manned with his own followers lying ready for him and he put out to sea with me on board. But Father got wind of it, though not quite in time, and was after him as quickly as he could. The Lord Bar was already at sea when Father reached the coast, but not out of sight. And Father was embarked in one of his own warships within twenty minutes.
   “It must have been a wonderful chase. They were six days following Bar’s galleon and brought her to battle on the seventh. It was a great sea-fight (I heard a lot about it yesterday evening) from ten o’clock in the morning till sunset. Our people took the ship in the end. But I wasn’t there. The Lord Bar himself had been killed in the battle. But one of his men said that, early that morning, as soon as he saw he was certain to be overhauled, Bar had given me to one of his knights and sent us both away in the ship’s boat. And that boat was never seen again. But of course that was the same boat that Aslan (he seems to be at the back of all the stories) pushed ashore at the right place for Arsheesh to pick me up. I wish I knew that knight’s name, for he must have kept me alive and starved himself to do it.”
   “I suppose Aslan would say that was part of someone else’s story,” said Aravis.
   “I was forgetting that,” said Cor.

Five-Tongue Fleming yells "WRONG"
Five-Tongue Fleming from EQComics

All of this is so wrong it's hard to know where to start. For one, you do not take one-week-old babies to another country on a travel jaunt! That would be reckless endangerment of your precious heirs! And anyway, you don't call in prophets when the babies are born, that's silly; you call them in over the lengthy pregnancy when everyone is getting antsy and wanting to do something but there's nothing to do but wait for the babies to get here. That's just human nature--you consult the prophets when the babies are still in the womb because it's like doing something and also everyone is getting fretful about their safety. (Pregnancies are dangerous, dammit!)

You definitely don't take your born, one-week-old infants into a country that is either covered in snow and ruled by an evil sorceress or has just been liberated by a bunch of strangers about whom you know nothing. And if you did take your babies into that dangerous situation, you would go and present the babies to those new rulers which we know is impossible since the Pevensies clearly don't know that Corin was born a twin.

Then we come to the kidnapping story which doesn't work. When a king is bearing down on you with his warship and you have his son on board, you don't send the child away! That's your draw card! You go out on deck with that baby held high and clear for everyone to see and you make your demands, goddammit. Or, if you're as evil as this chancellor is supposed to be, you kill the kid right out and then that's taken care of. You don't ineffectively arrange for the kid to (a) be alive but (b) far away from where you can use him.

So we can confidently state that all of this is wrong. Conveniently, this is told through Shasta/Cor as told to him through Lune, so we can say that Lune lied and piece together something that does work. I'm going to attempt to do so now. Because I care. And I want to do so in a way that also explains (a) why Susan stayed home and (b) why Corin was sent to war rather than kept back in Cair Paravel.

Here are the facts that we do have:

• A prophet was consulted about Lune's children.
• Shasta was stolen as a baby by someone who didn't kill him.
• The Pevensies do not know that Corin was a twin.
• Everyone else we meet (Corin, the courtiers, etc.) seems not to know Corin was a twin.
• Lune knows Corin was a twin yet seems willing to let Shasta 'disappear'.
• A sea battle occurred at some point. (Lune would be unwise to make that up entirely.)
• Susan stays at Cair Paravel rather than fight with the archers.
• Corin is not kept at Cair Paravel to protect him and Susan in case Anvard falls.

Here is the timeline I suggest. There is wiggle room within this timeline for other interpretations.

Prophecy. While Lune's wife--who appears not to have a name--is pregnant, a centaur is brought from Narnia (which is still under the White Witch's rule) to pronounce a prophecy over the expected heir. The centaur pronounces that the queen's firstborn son will save Archenland, per the text. But there's also a counterpart to this prophecy, a shameful twist which makes the King keep this prophecy a secret: the centaur foresees that the secondborn son will shame his father so deeply that Lune will wish he had never been born.

There's a couple reasons for this addition. One is that it will explain why no one else (the Pevensies, the courtiers, Corin, etc.) seems to have heard of the prophecy until Chapter 14 and why the kingdom wasn't low-key panicking about the disaster their presumed-dead prince was supposed to avert and now can't. Two is that this twist will play into why Shasta was kidnapped-yet-kept-alive and Lune's later strange and un-parental willingness in-text for Shasta to disappear into the mist.

Birth. At this point, King Lune and Queen, uh, Luna and a single trusted Chancellor know about the centaur's prophecy. No one else knows that the queen is pregnant with twins, or that one will be the savior of Archenland and one will be the shamer of his lineage. Lune is struggling with what to do--does he kill the secondborn son? banish him? keep him and hope for the best?--and while plagued with indecision the queen goes into labor. She bears her two twins and dies in childbirth. (I don't like invoking "died in childbirth", but google seems to suggest that twins were pretty dangerous to the parent back before we had forceps and things. Like, as in even more dangerous than singlet babies.)

Only the King, the (now deceased) Queen, the Chancellor, and a few elderly maids and midwives know twins were born. This is important! The birth of twins was clearly kept secret in text, which requires as few number of people and witnesses as possible and a shameful secret that would prevent happy announcements being dashed off.

Kidnapping. The Chancellor, seeing the king plagued with indecision over what to do, now kidnaps who he thinks is the secondborn son. His plan is to raise the baby far away from Archenland so that the prophecy can't come true. The boy won't be able to shame his father and family. At the same time, the boy will still be able to live; the Chancellor isn't so cruel as to kill the kid on the say-so of a centaur. For whatever reason, though, the Chancellor takes the wrong twin. Maybe Corin (the secondborn) was a little bigger than Cor (the firstborn), and the Chancellor wrongly assumed that the smallest baby was the first one out. He nabs Cor/Shasta and flees with enough money to care for the child properly in Calormen.

Flight. Lune, stricken with grief and angry at the Chancellor for taking matters into his own hands, rouses his war ship. He does not tell anyone about the missing baby, saying only that the fugitive being chased has looted the treasury. The seven day chase unfolded from there, but when Lune boarded the ship he found his money but no Chancellor and no baby. The Chancellor was the one in the boat keeping Shasta alive (possibly the Chancellor is a lactating trans man Wolf or Bear--Lord Bar? Bar the Bear?--because I'm not sure how else he'd keep an unweaned infant alive, but wev) because he always valued the life of the child--he just wanted to keep the boy from harming anyone.

Intermediate Years. Lune returns to his kingdom and never tells anyone about the boy he lost. Only he and the midwives know, but they're paid handsomely and shipped off to the Lone Islands with a minder to watch what they say. Now Lune is the only one left who knows what happened. He rationalizes that his Chancellor was a traitor and a spy, stealing money and his son as a hostage for Calormen to hold over him. (This is why he will later invent the extraneous 'knight' who kept Shasta alive; he can't bear for his boy to have any lingering gratitude to his kidnapper who died protecting him.)

He either tells himself that the remaining boy is the firstborn (although admittedly this would muck with Corin being raised as "Corin" and not "Cor") or he rationalizes that the centaur lied to him and/or was an evil minion of the Witch. (The centaur himself is never heard from again. Perhaps he was killed in the battle with the White Witch.) When the Pevensies come to power in a few weeks/months after the battle, Lune welcomes them in due time and presents Corin as his only son. Thus, only Lune knows that he had a second lost son. No one else knows, ever.

Forest Meeting. When Lune sees Cor/Shasta for the first time, of course he thinks of his lost boy. But he's spent years being unsure about that damned prophecy and what it meant--and which boy he was left with. Is this the savior or the shamer? He hesitates when he sees Shasta and doesn't proclaim him his own child. Instead, he lets the boy linger at the back of the party and disappear. If the boy is real and if the prophecy is true, he'll either find his way back in glory or perhaps he'll disappear shamefully forever. It's too painful for Lune to think about and so, in his classically indecisive way, he doesn't.

Cair Paravel. Back in Cair Paravel, Corin is with Queen Susan and the others on the eve before the battle. Corin is fourteen which is young to us, but in the medieval time Lewis loves to reach for that was a full adult for children from noble families. (Common families had different age expectations, depending on the time and place, but noble children were expected to procreate and rule at a young age.) Corin very likely thinks of himself as an adult, and views Susan as a potential wife. She's about twelve years older than him, but she's also canonically the prettiest woman in the world and clearly Rabadash wants her.

Corin--who is characterized as selfish, violent, and determined to get his way in all things--requests an audience alone with Susan, who grants it as she thinks of him fondly as a child. He puts himself forward as a suitor, explaining that if she marries him she won't need to be afraid of Rabadash anymore. Susan rebuffs him, laughing at the jest; Corin, in a fit of rage, attempts to harm her. He doesn't succeed but Susan is sufficiently rattled that the decision is made for her to stay at Cair Paravel (rather than go to war) and for Corin to be taken far away from her. The alternative--for Corin to stay with her or Lucy in the safety of Cair Paravel--simply isn't thinkable, so he must go to war no matter how dangerous it may be.

Unveiling. From there, things proceed as seen in the book. Lune is convinced that Cor/Shasta must be the firstborn because he has saved them from an invasion, but he is even more convinced that Corin is his secondborn when Edmund privately tells him about Corin's attempted assault on Queen Susan. Lune, in his grief, castigates Corin and unthinkingly says he wishes the boy had never been born rather than bring this shame on his head--then pauses and realizes what he just said. Both parts of the prophecy have been fulfilled and now he knows which son is which. He's relieved to hand over the title of 'heir' to Shasta, now fully established as the older of the two (and, in either case, infinitely more preferable as a king).

Lune lies to Shasta about the particulars. Not too many lies, mind you. He lies about the prophecy, which is understandable; he doesn't want Shasta to hate Corin and he's still trying to work out how to respond to the news of Corin's behavior. He lies about the Chancellor and his motives, but he almost has to in order to keep the prophecy a secret. Plus, Lune has spent the last fourteen years hating the Chancellor; the last thing he wants is to present a fair and balanced picture that might make his precious son feel sympathy for the person who kidnapped him. Other than that, almost everything he said was true... from a certain point of view.

Summation. This fixfic isn't perfect, but I believe it adequately resolves the mysteries we were left with:

A prophet was consulted about Lune's children. Yes, his prophecy actually contributed to the strange inexplicable secrecy around the birth, as well as the kidnapping. Furthermore, the timing and location of the prophecy has been fixed (he was brought to Archenland while the queen was pregnant, rather than Lune taking his babies to Narnia a week after their birth), as well as the motive behind the kidnapping.

Shasta was stolen as a baby by someone who didn't kill him. Yes, and his motive was tied into the new prophecy: the Chancellor becomes a good person trying to prevent a tragedy while still not being the sort of person who can bring himself to kill and infant. This fixes him from being a cartoonish villain who manages to kidnap a child but can't figure out how to kill him or use him as a hostage for his own safety.

The Pevensies do not know that Corin was a twin. This is partly because they were not crowned yet when the twins were born (a detail I added so the centaur could die in battle with the White Witch) (as well as Lune being able to convince himself that the centaur might have been an evil liar in the employ of the White Witch) and mostly because the birth was a shameful secret that was hushed up while Lune was struggling to know how to respond to the ominous prophecy.

Everyone else we meet (Corin, the courtiers, etc.) seems not to know Corin was a twin. See above: the birth itself was kept secret, as well as the kidnapping and failure to rescue the baby.

Lune knows Corin was a twin yet seems willing to let Shasta 'disappear'. Lune has spent so many years trying to work out which part of the prophecy was real and which was not that, by the time he meets his son, he reacts with confusion and indecision. He lets the boy disappear, fearful of the threatened 'shame' to come and rationalizing that if the boy is a hero he will manage on his own. This fixes Lune's bizarre behavior in text where he doesn't embrace and keep an eye on his firstborn son who is supposed to be Archenland's greatest hero and lost hope.

A sea battle occurred at some point. (Lune would be unwise to make that up entirely.) Yes, but everyone involved except Lune (and the Chancellor) believed the issue was over the embezzled treasury.

Susan stays at Cair Paravel rather than fight with the archers. Yes, because Corin attempted to assault her in a failed bid to 'win' the most treasured woman in the world. He believed he was offering 'protection', and was probably motivated in part by an attempt to surpass Rabadash (who he would have been jealous of in Calormen, as well as at Peter's tournaments). Susan stays home partly because she is rattled and partly because she clearly cannot be around Corin (who must go back to Archenland as he can't stay in Cair Paravel after his bad behavior).

Corin is not kept at Cair Paravel to protect him and Susan in case Anvard falls. Yes, because he can't stay at Cair Paravel alone and the only people who can be spared to stay with him would be Susan or Lucy, neither of whom want to be around a boy who has attempted to assault one of them into being his wife. This also ties up the "shameful secret" prophecy plotline, which was necessary to explain why Lune didn't broadcast his joy at the birth of two healthy twin boys (nor why he didn't make a formal announcement as to the death of his kidnapped son)--both of those announcements would have broken the conditions of the Pevensies and courtiers and Corin all being ignorant of the fact that Corin was born a twin.

And that, as they say, is that.

I submit that this is one way of a finite number of canons we can employ to retain Lewis' facts while making this spaghetti mess work.


As a final note to all this, we return to the text:

   “And I wonder how the prophecy will work out,” said Aravis, “and what the great danger is that you’re to save Archenland from.”
   “Well,” said Cor rather awkwardly, “they seem to think I’ve done it already.”
   Aravis clapped her hands. “Why, of course!” she said. “How stupid I am. And how wonderful! Archenland can never be in much greater danger than it was when Rabadash had crossed the Arrow with his two hundred horse and you hadn’t yet got through with your message. Don’t you feel proud?”

I love this because I know it's Lewis trying to be a jackass about women again and how unthinking and stupid they are, but I 100% read this as meta-Aravis being so not impressed at Shasta "saving" Archenland by delivering a message. Like, obviously, she just assumed he would be doing something a little more epic in the future, her dearly-missed brother once defended their entire province by slaying a hundred bandits single-handedly, but no, Shasta, your thing is good, too. Very impressed, much awe.


Post a Comment