This is another one of those short chapters meant to whet the appetite for exposition, isn’t it? Oh, well. At least they finally meet another person (the titular dwarf, who shall deliver the aforementioned exposition next chapter).
But first, Edmund finally realizes the connection between the ancientness of Cair Paravel and the years they spent in Narnia having taken no time at all in England:
“And that means,” continued Edmund, “that, once you’re out of Narnia, you have no idea how Narnian time is going. Why shouldn’t hundreds of years have gone past in Narnia while only one year has passed for us in England?”
They interrupt their conversation to go rescue a dwarf from some human soldiers who are trying to drown him (and get a boat in the process).
“What were they going to drown you for?” asked Peter.
“Oh, I’m a dangerous criminal, I am,” said the Dwarf cheerfully. “But that’s a long story. Meantime, I was wondering if perhaps you were going to ask me to breakfast? You’ve no idea what an appetite it gives one, being executed.”
They learn from the dwarf that legends have spread about the Island being full of ghosts, which is apparently enough to scare pretty much everyone away – and said legends must have a hold among humans and Dwarfs, at the very least, since he says he’s heard the tale “all his life”, and the soldiers are scared away by the mere possibility of ghosts when Susan fires a warning shot. It opens up the themes of “superstition” and faith which are explored in-depth in this book.
When compared to Chapter Seven of LWW (which served a similar role of setting up an infodump), quite a lot more “happens” here, plot-wise, and yet nothing that feels as important as that one line in LWW (“Aslan is on the move”). It’s rather like the old adventure stories in that sense (Robin Hood, Treasure Island and the like), being heavier on plot than atmosphere. It stands out particularly because most of the other books have considerably less focus on plot in general. Not that it’s a bad thing – I just find it irritating when people think that a story’s plot is the only thing that matters. Lewis clearly doesn’t have that issue – he understands the importance of atmosphere. This book just happens to be more plot-centric than most of the other books in the series.
There have been a handful of moments so far of what I can only describe as “transcendence” – mainly key events in the ruins of Cair Paravel. If the main feeling of LWW was solemn joy, than the key feeling here is more like the sad loneliness of an ancient ruin. I’m not quite sure what to call it yet.
Next time: The Dwarf Tells of Prince Caspian