Now this is Queen Lucy the Valiant. Ever since she received that title in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (even before she received that title), Lewis has had a hard time conveying what he meant by it. Prince Caspian was particularly frustrating in that regard (just because she’s not supposed to fight doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be doing anything in the final act…), and she wasn’t much better in LWW, although it was more acceptable considering how little she was (plus she actually did take some initiative).
In this book, she at least has a bow and is implied to be a competent archer (not to mention that she’s back to doing useful things again, even if they’re not what one might call “valiant”). It certainly helps that she’s not just “one of the girls” this time around; being the only girl actually forces her to interact with the men/boys, and she generally pulls her weight on the Dawn Treader because they can’t afford any dead weight with a crew that small (as proven by Eustace). She gets special privileges, sure, but she never abuses them.
Anyhow, the titular Island is not really eerie because of the voices; it’s obvious the voices have bodies of some sort, and what they say is really more annoying than menacing. It’s far more ominous just seeing the carefully tended “park” and not having any idea how it’s maintained or for what purpose.
Still, invisible enemies are nothing to sneeze at regardless of their intelligence or skill, so when the Voices get between them and the boat, they agree to hear what it is that the Voices want from them.
“We want something that little girl can do for us,” said the Chief Voice. (The others explained that this was just what they would have said themselves.)
“Little girl!” said Reepicheep. “The lady is a queen.”
“We don’t know about queens,” said the Chief Voice. (“No more we do, no more we do,” chimed in the others.) “But we want something she can do.”
“What is it?” said Lucy.
“And if it is anything against her Majesty’s honor or safety,” added Reepicheep, “you will wonder at how many we can kill before we die.”
The Chief Voice explains in a very long-winded and roundabout manner that they are (or were) servants of a magician who runs (or at least did run) the island (although they have no clue as to his current whereabouts or activities). The magician got mad at them for something or other and cast an “uglification” spell on them, so the Chief got the bright idea to take a look at the magician’s book of spells and try to find one that would undo it, but not finding one, they settle for an invisibility spell so they won’t have to look at each other anymore. After a while, they got tired of being invisible, so they figured they’d waylay the next people to visit the island and force them to find the visibility spell in the magician’s book. Of course, the problem is that the spells apparently only work when read by a “little girl” or the magician himself. When asked why they don’t just have one of their own little girls do it, they say that they’re just too scared of the magician. Of course, had Lucy not happened to come to the island when she did, it seems highly unlikely that any other little girls would just happen to drop in on this island out in the middle of nowhere on the Eastern Sea, but the “Voices” (or rather, the Chief Voice, as they all go along with his schemes unquestioningly) aren’t all that intelligent, to say the least.
“Would I have to go upstairs at night, or would it do in daylight?”
“Oh, daylight, daylight, to be sure,” said the Chief Voice. “Not at night. No one’s asking you to do that. Go upstairs in the dark? Ugh.”
“All right, then, I’ll do it,” said Lucy. “No,” she said to the others, “don’t try to stop me. Can’t you see it’s no use? There are dozens of them there. We can’t fight them. And the other way there is a chance.”
“Look here, Lu,” said Edmund. “We really can’t let you do a thing like this. Ask Reep, I’m sure he’ll say just the same.”
“But it’s to save my own life as well as yours,” said Lucy. “I don’t want to be cut to bits with invisible swords any more than anyone else.”
“Her Majesty is in the right,” said Reepicheep. “If we had any assurance of saving her by battle, our duty would be very plain. It appears to me that we have none. And the service they ask of her is in no way contrary to her Majesty’s honor, but a noble and heroical act. If the Queen’s heart moves her to risk the magician, I will not speak against it.”
Yes. Just yes. First of all, I love how this emphasizes that although Lucy may be a queen in Narnia, to the rest of the world, she’s just a little girl. But she’s still capable of valiant deeds even in that capacity. This is what I wanted in Prince Caspian. Also, she chooses to do it. She’s not ordered one way or the other. That’s the difference between chivalry and misogyny: Giving the lady privilege and choice or forbidding her from doing anything the men deem unladylike or improper.
To be continued…