Readers of the beloved Narnia series will remember a time that the land fell upon dark times. Narnia suffered the rule of a cruel Telmarine dictator. He had named himself ‘Lord Protector’ after the ambiguous death of his older brother; but had allowed the life of his nephew to continue on as he had no heir. Part of this ruler’s desire was to squash any tales that were being spread about “old Narnia”.
These tales of “Old Narnia” contained one of the most fascinating things about the Narnia series: creatures that talk. Centaurs, dwarves, fauns and Minotaur’s; trees and sea gods; beaves, foxes, bears and birds. But the most unique character among these is a little, brown mouse by the name of Reepicheep.
Readers of the series are readily able to conjure up the great storyline of this little hero. Reepicheep was first introduced in the second installment of the Narnia series, Prince Caspian. His ancestors were the mice that chewed the ropes off of Aslan at the Howe. He is a talented little creature who is consistently seen throughout the pages of Lewis’s books as valiant; sometimes to a fault.
Reepicheep was a defender. What is unique about this is his being a mouse. He is often seen as being more courageous than the Talking bears of Narnia. This is a rather humorous sight to us because we live in a world where bears eat mice. But not this little guy. He took great pride in his swift abilities and was fearless in the Narnian Revolution. At one point this pride is chided by Aslan after Reepicheep loses his tail in battle stating it is his “honour and glory….” Aslan chooses to restore the mouse to his “honour” but encourages him to be humble.
Reepicheep was also a fierce friend. In Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we see Reepicheep take on the task of mentoring the cheeky Eustace. As the storyline pinnacles, we see Eustace succumbed by greed, steal a gold armlet which turns him into a dragon. Filled with shame and pain, Eustace is consoled by Reepicheep and encouraged to change his attitude to help others.
Finally, Reepicheep was a visionary. He is regularly seen in the books looking to the future. In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Reepicheep reaches his life’s goal by sailing over the world’s edge into Alsan’s country. One of the most memorable lines he has is in The Last Battle. After the destruction of Narnia, Reepicheep welcomes the talking beasts and kings and queens into the new Narnia. “…further up and further in!”
In everyone’s life there is a point in which they feel the Call. That unswerving, persuasive voice or action that leads them to take on new and bold challenges. The Call soon shows itself to be dependable to those who answer it. We see this in the story of Reepicheep as he sought to defend, befriend and pursue a brighter future for the Narnians he loved. We also see this in the story of Aravis as she leaves behind her life of “good” for a life of “better”.
J. K Rowling, in the final installment of her Harry Potter book series, writes this quote,
“We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.”
So rich are these words and so true to the frequent struggles we face as imperfect humans.
In C. S. Lewis's beloved series, the Chronicles of Narnia, we see one character who consistently struggles with the dark that is naturally in her and the light that is given freely to her.
Susan Pevensie, (i.e Queen Susan) was a gentle spirit who was skilled in archery and fair beyond her years. She is the eldest daughter of the 4 Pevensie children that ventured into Narnia first from the Wardrobe. She was considered the more logical of her sibling rulers by her subjects. She was deemed Gentle and stubborn which aided her greatly once she had made her decisions.
But to those of us who have read the Narnia book series, it is evident that Susan struggled more than any other Daughter of Eve with what to place her faith in. In reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one can pick up upon her courtships within the Golden Age of her reign. This is expounded upon further in The Horse and his Boy. In this installment of the Narnian series that takes place during the Golden Age of the Pevensie children's reign, we see her weighing the marriage proposal for Rabadash of Calormene. Upon learning of his cruelty, she musters her stubborn air and with her brother plans to depart the city privately.
Susan embodies at times a vain spirit. One that is focused on her success and looks. She is consistently seen putting her faith in and making judgement of things she can see and touch.
She spent a lot of her time in disbelief that the things she was experiencing in Narnia were actually real. She doubted her sister Lucy when she had entered the wardrobe. She doubted her again when Aslan, invisible to her, was leading them to the Howe.
This lack of belief led to her willingness to so easily give up her memories of Narnia after leaving for good at the end of Lewis's second book, Prince Caspian. From that point on we hear very little about Susan. In the final installment of the Narnia series we are told that all of Susan's relatives have perished in a train wreck.
Susan is not heard of any more after this. Yet, i have always loved her character the most in this series. I suppose for me she embodied a similar spirit as mine. One who yearned for proof and tested the boundaries of the people and forces she encountered. One who was logical but thought provoking. Though she is mentioned as no longer a "friend of Narnia" in the last book, I have always thought there might be more to her story. Later in life I learned that Lewis himself agreed. Prior to his death, he was planning on writing another book, "Susan of Narnia".
But now I can only speculate. One thing I have learned as I have grown in faith is that God allows the tragedies in our life to be used to teach us a greater lesson. Restoration cannot be gained without pain. Susan was left off the train for a reason. If she had died on that train with her family, she would truly have no chance of entering into "Aslan's country". But since she was not on the train, one can hope that through this tragedy she will see with clarity that Narnia was no mere dream. I believe Lewis had thought of this as well.
"And I really believed it was Him (Aslan) tonight, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I'd let myself."
“Right now, you remind me of Puddleglum from the Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis created his character to show us that it’s ok to not trust. But we have the choice to believe there is hope.”
I won’t assume that everyone knows who Puddleglum is or what the Chronicles of Narnia are; so let me enlighten. Puddleglum is a fictional character in C.S. Lewis’s beloved series. We meet him much later in the series, during the book entitled, “The Silver Chair”. He is a Marshwiggle, a sort of frog-like creature with the human ability to love, hate, fear and hope.
Puddleglum is asked to join the quest with Jill and Eustace as they seek out King Rillian. They strategize their way out of the Giants of Harfang kingdom, escape the clutches of the gnomes at the earth’s core and eventually out hope the Lady of the Green Kirtle’s dark magic.
But it isn’t the physical bravery that Puddleglum shows in these situations that ought to be celebrated. It’s his inner most yearning to believe that things will get better even in the darkest of times. The craving to have confidence in a better place just above the earth’s surface.
In the darkest moment of the book, whilst the Lady of the Green Kirtle performed her dark magic in hopes of subduing her aggressors, Puddleglum makes his choice.
“I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.”
He believed so deeply in the power of good and the strength of Aslan to overcome evil, despite his gloomy world view. (To be fair, he did undergo far more than any of us ever have….you see life can’t always be “fricasseed frogs and eel pie.”)
We all have the choice to believe that there is a better way or a better place to the current situations we find ourselves in. While ruin may be the road to transformation, hope is the choice to restoration. Puddleglum recognized this and actively participated in this last, powerful attempt at renewal.
Back in the real world, I reflected on this quality of Puddleglum. While I believe that there are many horrible people in this world, I reconciled myself to actively work to hope and prepare for the best. While this in no way implies perfection, it’s a habit I am willing to create.
No story exists to the point of becoming treasured by its readers unless it portrays the struggle between good and evil. In the Narnia series, we see this struggle no more alive that between the inhabitants of Calormen and Narnia. While Narnia is depicted to be a country of freedom and reinvention; we see Calormen to be an empire that is ruled with an iron fist of a totalitarianism.
But when we give a second glance at the Narnia series we find across the pages of The Horse and his Boy a single Calormen girl of ruling nobility fleeing her home city in hopes to escape the temptation of power and control. Promised in marriage to a cruel and repugnant man, she intended to take her life only to be stopped by the head of her mare. Not only does the horse step in between her and the blade, but she speaks. We learn from the mare (Hwin) that her rider (Aravis) has more to offer this life yet and it would be a tragedy to end her life.
As Hwin explains herself to Aravis, she invites her into the knowledge of her homeland of Narnia. With interests sparked, Aravis answers the call to search for Narnia with Hwin.
As these allied spirits venture on, they meet up with a servant boy (Shasta) and a war horse (Bree). The four agree to carry on together in their conjoint pursuit: Narnia. As we turn each page though, we begin to see the importance of answering the call correctly.
Aravis was born into royalty. Her father held a high position in the empire of Calormen and worked to secure a similar livelihood for his daughter. In many countries today arranged marriages still take place and girls find themselves without a choice in the matter. But as we already know, Aravis chose to escape this arrangement. She saw that she could have a life in a land that valued individuality and dignity; that embraced outsiders as friends. But time after time we are provided instance of her inability to let go of her past. In fact she often uses it as a weapon against her absconders; demanding an air of nobility that no longer had to be given.
As her tale reaches its climax, we see the 4 cohorts making a mad dash across the desert to reach Archenland in time to warn of an impending danger. But with everything in life, we need to be held responsible for our past actions: good or bad. What appears to be intended for encouragement (Aslan chasing the horses and their riders; conveniently scraping Aravis back with his claws) is later found out to be a reinforcement. A reminder of good intentions gone bad. You see, in order for Aravis to escape her city, she drugged her step mothers slave. We later learn, through Aslan’s appearance to Aravis, that he scarred her back so she would know the pain she caused this slave. A pain she already had known at the hands of her step-mother.
At the end of her story, Aravis reconciles her privileged past for the freedom of Narnia/Archenland.
“I'm sorry I've been such a pig. But I did change…”- Aravis- HHB
The character of Aravis teaches us 2 simple lessons.
First, sometimes you have to give up the good in life for the better. Once Aravis transformed her mindset from privileged princess to repentant foreigner she was granted a place in eternity.
Beloved are the Chronicles of Narnia to many individuals young and old. I became enthralled with the magic within when I was young and from there I have read the series at least every other year. I always enjoyed rereading The Horse and his Boy. It’s a story of reinvention. Lewis’s characters live on the pages as a testament to what can be if we choose to reclaim what was lost.
But Narnia was not meant for one person or one dream. It was meant to be series of lessons that can be learned to create awareness.
So if you ever find yourself being pulled into another land (whether by a horn, a magical ring or the urge to walk through a wardrobe) and you find yourself in a forest lit only by a London lamp; consider it with joy.
Jordan Debbink is an author and advocate from Burlington, WI. He has spent the last 10 years working with nonprofits in many various roles but foremost as a innovator. He is the author of The Governors (c) 2014. He currently spends his time working with Pioneer Center for Human Services and the Racine Symphony Orchestra in their Development offices.