The Silver Chair
I. The Scenario
A. The Silver Chair is the sixth of seven stories popularly called the Narnia Chronicles. The stories generally have a lot more in them than is commonly assumed.
B. In this story, two children from our world-Jill and Eustace-are taken into another world, and are given the task of finding a lost prince named Rilian, who had disappeared many years before. They are aided in this task by a Narnian marshwiggle named Puddleglum.
A. We have mentioned before that Lewis cannot be described as Reformed in any strict way. But he fully understands the graciousness of grace. This is seen in Jill’s “conversion.”
B. “I was wondering — I mean — could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to-to Somebody-it was a name I wouldn’t know-and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.” “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion (pp. 24-25).
A. I believe the character of Puddleglum depends on “The Great Knock,” whom you have met in Surprised By Joy. And Lewis said he was modeled after Fred Paxford, his gardener, who was “an inwardly optimistic, outwardly pessimistic, dear, frustrating, shrewd countryman.” While certainly characterized by a certain disposition, his decisions are based on another footing entirely.
B. “We’ve got to start by finding a ruined city of giants,” said Jill. “Aslan said so.” “Got to start by finding it, have we?” answered Puddleglum. “Not allowed to start by looking for it, I suppose?” (p. 72)
IV. Social Commentary
A. Lewis had gone through a horrible time in his own childhood in the traditional school system, and he of course loathed it. But he was a clear enough thinker not to react. He thought that modern experimental schools were atrocious in a different way.
B. “It was ‘Co-educational,’ a school for both boys and girls, what used to be called a ‘mixed’ school; some said it was not nearly so mixed as the minds of the people who ran it” (p. 3).
C. But all’s well that end’s well. Even though the school is shut down at the end, there is still a happy ending for everyone. “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 go her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after” (p. 242).
“It’s my fault,” she said in despairing tones. “I-I’d given up repeating the signs every night” (p. 118).
VI. An Apologetic
A. When the children and Puddleglum finally find the prince, they encounter the witch of the Underworld and she begins to enchant them. The enchantment is overthrown by two important things.
B. The first is the assault on the enchantment itself when Puddleglum stamps out the fire which is burning the incense. The smell of burnt marshwiggle is not at all enchanting. And this obedience is bracing and head-clearing.
C. In conjunction with this obedience, Puddleglum gives his creed. “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia” (p. 182). This is faith, not neo-orthodoxy.