Peter and the others begin to unravel the mystery of the Island.
“This wasn’t a garden,” said Susan presently. “It was a castle and this must have been the courtyard.”
“Ages ago, by the look of it,” said Edmund.
“Yes, ages ago,” said Peter. “I wish we could find out who the people were that lived in this castle; and how long ago.”
“It gives me a queer feeling,” said Lucy.
“Does it, Lu?” said Peter, turning and looking hard at her. “Because it does the same to me. It is the queerest thing that has happened this queer day. I wonder where we are and what it all means?”
This chapter is mainly dialogue as the children attempt to talk things out, and as always, it provides some fascinating insights into their characters. Peter proposes that the ruined castle was in fact their castle, Cair Paravel, despite the apparent ages that must have gone by in order to leave it in such a state. He just can’t get over how similar the layout is (among other things), so he assumes that it must have been ages since their reign in Narnia, even if it’s only been a year for them (in the words of Sherlock Holmes, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”).
Susan’s response to this is particularly interesting. As I mentioned in the last chapter, she’s extremely uncomfortable in this environment, and she seems to recall their time as rulers of Narnia as distant (if happy) memories, even though it only happened a year ago.
“In our castle of Cair Paravel,” continued Susan in a dreamy and rather singsong voice, “at the mouth of the great river of Narnia. How could I forget?”
However, when Peter begins to argue that they’re actually in Cair Paravel, Susan doesn’t say a word – until they attempt to do something that would provide concrete evidence that Peter’s thesis is correct. She claims that she’s just scared of the dark or what have you, but it’s clear that what she really fears is discovering that Peter’s right, that they really are in Narnia. It’s not quite clear why she’s so afraid of it yet, but at least Susan finally has a distinct character besides “gentle” (even if it is negative). Give me answers, Lewis!
As for Edmund, he provides the obvious counterpoint to Peter’s argument: They were just in Narnia a year ago, so how could all this have happened since then? Unlike Susan, he clearly wants to believe that they’ve got back to Narnia, but he can’t quite make the leap in logic that Peter has.
Thankfully, Lucy is able to come up with a solution: She recalls that there was an old treasure chamber in Cair Paravel, and that the door would be right next to the place they’ve set up camp. She buys Peter’s explanation completely, since she assumed that they were in Narnia all along and only needed some sort of explanation of where (or when) they were. Sure enough, they find the chamber.
There was something sad and a little frightening about the place, because it all seemed so forsaken and long ago. That was why nobody said anything for at least a minute.
Then, of course, they began walking about and picking things up to look at. It was like meeting very old friends. If you had been there you would have heard them saying things like, “Oh look! Our coronation rings – do you remember first wearing this? – Why, this is the little brooch we all thought was lost – I say, isn’t that the armor you wore in the great tournament in the Lone Islands? – do you remember the dwarf making that for me? – do you remember drinking out of that horn? – do you remember, do you remember?”
In the end, they decide to just take the gifts from Father Christmas: Peter’s sword (Rhindon) and shield, Lucy’s healing cordial, and Susan’s bow and arrows. This also leads to the discovery that Susan’s horn is missing (and that’s not at all important, right?).
There’s a distinct emphasis upon knighthood over royalty in this chapter – they leave all the royal treasures alone, instead taking weapons and other items that would be useful for combat. The chesspiece Susan finds is a knight, they find full suits of armor in the chamber “like knights guarding the treasures”, and upon drawing his sword, Peter immediately recalls the time when he was knighted by Aslan. On a side note, there’s a wonderful full-page Pauline Baynes illustration of the chamber which shows the suits of armor standing in the dimness, and they look almost like phantom knights.
There’s definitely a sort of richness to this book that’s very different from that of LWW, as they’re forced to unravel the mysteries presented to them and simply survive on their own. For that matter, there’s been no mention of so much as a dumb bird or beast to be found on the island (unless you count the crustaceans in the tidepools). But that’ll change next chapter…