Edmund sees and experiences the Witch’s cruelty, which finally makes him realize that he chose the wrong side as his heart begins to change.
“Bring the human creature food and drink,” she said.
The dwarf went away and presently returned bringing an iron bowl with some water in it and an iron plate with a hunk of dry bread on it. He grinned in a repulsive manner as he set them down on the floor beside Edmund and said:
“Turkish Delight for the little Prince. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“Take it away,” said Edmund sulkily. “I don’t want dry bread.” But the Witch suddenly turned on him with such a terrible expression on her face that he apologized and began to nibble at the bread, though it was so stale he could hardly get it down.
At the beginning of the chapter, Edmund’s merely having a “disappointing” time, but as the Witch begins to treat him more and more like a prisoner, it changes rapidly to “terrible”. Yet even as Edmund travels with the Witch, there’s a spark of hope left from last chapter that manages to kindle into a flame despite her best efforts: Aslan is nearer. Aslan’s name only actually appears in the chapter title and at the tail end of the chapter, yet his presence and power are clearly felt. First they run into a woodland feast set up by Father Christmas, and then not only does the snow melt, but spring comes (all in one day). It’s a clear assault on the White Witch’s power, and she takes out her frustrations on Edmund (and the poor little woodland critters).
And Edmund, for the first time in this story, felt sorry for someone besides himself. It seemed so pitiful to think of those little stone figures sitting there all the silent days and all the dark nights, year after year, till the moss grew on them and at last even their faces crumbled away.
Soon afterwards, the thaw begins. Of course, being forced out of her element only makes the Witch even more irritable and violent (especially since they’re forced to abandon the sledge), but Lewis paints the scene brilliantly, evoking the sounds and smells as well as the sights of early spring. That whole passage is gorgeous and way too long to attempt to quote it all – but of course you read it, too, right? Right? We’re going to have a quiz at the end, you know.
This is another chapter that feels far shorter than it really is. The pace is quickening as Aslan draws near, and at this point in the story, the greatest fear is for Edmund himself, as it’s clear that the Witch’s magic poses no real challenge to the Lion. And that’s really what separates this series from just about any other children’s series – there’s a definite danger, even a great evil, and yet the good is so obviously greater that the focus tends to be on the wonder of Narnia itself; you want to read on not to find out what happens next, but to see what new beauties await in the next chapter. It’s why children continue to search wardrobes for Narnia to this day, and why I love this series so much. I suppose that’s also why I keep forgetting how great this particular book is; there are other books in this series that have outstanding characters or epic plots or even greater beauties, but this is the book where joy reigns supreme.