This chapter parallels the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but the outcome is very different without the Professor around (because character development).
It opens with a dream-like sequence of Lucy in the woods at night, remembering the days when the trees could talk.
“Oh Trees, Trees, Trees,” said Lucy (though she had not been intending to speak at all). “Oh Trees, wake, wake, wake. Don’t you remember it? Don’t you remember me? Dryads and Hamadryads, come out, come to me.”
Though there was not a breath of wind they all stirred about her. The rustling noise of the leaves was almost like words. The nightingale stopped singing as if to listen to it. Lucy felt that at any moment she would begin to understand what the trees were trying to say. But the moment did not come. The rustling died away. The nightingale resumed its song. Even in the moonlight the wood looked more ordinary again. Yet Lucy had the feeling (as you sometimes have when you are trying to remember a name or a date and almost get it, but it vanished before you really do) that she had just missed something: as if she had spoken to the trees a split second too soon or a split second too late, or used all the right words except one, or put in one word that was just wrong.
There’s no mention of this the next morning; perhaps Lucy thought it was all just a dream. At any rate, the others never hear about it; they’re far more concerned about reaching Caspian. And then they run into a wild bear, which Trumpkin shoots and kills, then he and the boys decide to butcher the carcass. It’s the sort of thing that would be glossed over in the last book (and most of the other books in the series, for that matter), but of course, there’s much more emphasis on practicality in this book.
“Let’s go and sit down a fair way off,” said Susan to Lucy. “I know what a horrid messy business that will be.” Lucy shuddered and nodded. When they had sat down she said: “Such a horrible idea has come into my head, Su.”
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
“We’ve got enough to bother about here and now in Narnia,” said the practical Susan, “without imagining things like that.”
The relative situations of each of the children is pretty clearly laid out at the end of the chapter, when Lucy sees Aslan “telling” them to go in a direction that appears to be leading the opposite where they want to go, but the others don’t see any of it. They decide to decide which direction to go by a vote.
Trumpkin doesn’t care about what Lucy saw, because he doesn’t believe Aslan ever existed in the first place, supposing that she just saw a wild lion. Susan takes his side, just because they’re all tired and it seems like the quickest way out “and none of us except [Lucy] saw anything,” (implying that there wasn’t anything there to be seen). And then we get to Edmund:
“Well, there’s just this,” said Edmund, speaking quickly and turning a little red. “When we first discovered Narnia a year ago – or a thousand years ago, whichever it is – it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot, I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time? I vote for going up.”
Edmund has officially risen in the ranks from “worst sibling” to “decent chap!” I’m so proud of him!
Peter clearly isn’t sure what to believe at this point, but he has the deciding vote, and he ends up siding with Susan and Trumpkin, because “we must do one or the other.”
Back to Susan for a moment, I’ve mentioned before that she’s uncomfortable in the new environment. She’s practical, which would seem to be a point in her favor in this book, except that it comes out as a focus on the “here and now”, which in practice is not that different from Trumpkin’s skeptical worldview, if not worse. She believes in Aslan and magic in general only because she’s experienced it firsthand, but when it appears in a new form, she refuses to believe Lucy because it’s easier not to. She doesn’t want to believe Aslan works that way, and since she has the “moral high ground” of actually knowing something of how he works, she’s able to justify this to herself (if not to anyone else). This focus on “here and now” can easily shift to “what I need/desire at the moment”, which is a worldview that only gets worse under adverse circumstances. All she’s done so far is complain when things go wrong – and things will only get worse for Susan before they get better.
Until next time…