The events of this chapter are quite interesting, but the framing of said events creates a bit of a plot hole. Also, Nikabrik’s arc comes to a conclusion
So, I understand why Trumpkin and the boys might want to wait and find out what’s going on in the Council before they just barge in on the meeting (especially when they hear raised voices), but that shouldn’t have stopped them from intervening before the fight broke out. I counted no less than three times when they could easily have knocked on the door and said, “Hey, this is Trumpkin, who actually did accomplish his mission and isn’t dead – here are those ancient kings you called. And BTW, we just talked to Aslan a minute ago, so don’t do anything stupid like calling up the White Witch.” Sure, they might have had to prove themselves to Nikabrik, but they must have been expecting that anyway after their initial reception by Trumpkin. If they’re just eavesdropping, they would probably have gotten anxious when the voices dropped so that they couldn’t hear anyone speaking for a few minutes (like when Caspian, Cornelius, and Trufflehunter are consulting one another). I would’ve expected them to at least talk about going in to clear things up, especially when Nikabrik’s entire argument is based on the Horn not working. Somehow I feel like Lucy could have done a better job defusing the situation. It just doesn’t make sense that they would sit and wait outside the door like that for so long, especially when it would be a simple matter of showing themselves to straighten everything out. At worst, they might have triggered the fight a little earlier, but even that might have been helpful, if only by dint of taking the Wer-wolf by surprise.
Also, I’m a little confused about the timeline, as it’s clearly been several days since the children got to Narnia, but Caspian says that he blew the Horn “this morning”. Guess I can just chalk that up as a continuity error, but it’s particularly glaring considering how much other stuff seems poorly thought out in this chapter.
That aside, Nikabrik’s character arc (and where it leads him) is still quite interesting.
“All said and done,” [Nikabrik] muttered, “none of us knows the truth about the ancient days in Narnia. Trumpkin believed none of the stories. I was ready to put them to the trial. We tried first the Horn and it has failed. […] Well. But when your sword breaks, you draw a dagger. The stories tell of other powers besides the ancient Kings and Queens. How if we could call them up?”
Nikabrik was simply “trying out” Aslan, but when he doesn’t see any immediate results (combined with perceived slights toward his own people), he decides to try out the White Witch. He never had faith in anything, just a desire for power – power to help his people, but power nonetheless.
“Stop, stop, stop,” said Doctor Cornelius. “You go on too fast. The Witch is dead. All the stories agree on that. What does Nikabrik mean by calling on the Witch?”
The gray and terrible voice which had spoken only once before said, “Oh, is she?”
And then the shrill, whining voice began, “Oh, bless his heart, his dear little Majesty needn’t mind about the White Lady – that’s what we call her – being dead. The Worshipful Master Doctor is only making game of a poor old woman like me when he says that. Sweet Master Doctor, learned Master Doctor, who ever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back.”
Despite my reservations about the framing of the scene (that is, knowing Peter, Edmund, and Trumpkin are literally right on the other side of the door the whole time), it’s still extremely visceral and downright creepy. Nikabrik provides a stark parallel with Trumpkin – trying anything, but never actually trusting anyone, even the people right in front of him. He has to do everything himself (he doesn’t even trust any of the other Dwarfs to “stand up for our kind”).
Caspian’s brief eulogy for Nikabrik sums up his character well:
“I am sorry for Nikabrik,” said Caspian, “though he hated me from the first moment he saw me. He had gone sour inside from long suffering and hating. If we had won quickly he might have become a good Dwarf in the days of peace.”
As the ending draws nigh and all the plot threads come together, the flaws in this book are becoming more evident. I don’t think Lewis does “Plot” very well. Great at philosophy (without devolving into “moralizing”), character development, and atmosphere, but not plot.
Until next time…