The beauties of the World’s End begin.
And every night they saw that there rose in the east new constellations which no one in Narnia and perhaps, Lucy thought with a mixture of joy and fear, no living eye had seen at all. Those new stars were big and bright and the nights were warm. Most of them slept on deck and talked far into the night or hung over the side watching the luminous dance of the foam thrown up by the bows.
There are going to be way too many passages like this in the final chapters for me to quote, so I’ll just leave y’all to read and enjoy most of them on your own. Also, speaking as one who has lived primarily in the Great Lakes region, water does, in fact, get warmer at night (or at least feels warmer), since it retains the heat of the day.
Anyhow, they encounter an island on which there is a table set with a glorious feast – and the last three lords, evidently in an enchanted sleep. Reepicheep, Edmund, Caspian, Lucy, and Eustace all volunteer to stake out the place overnight and perhaps find a way to undo the enchantment. After a long, restless, and uneventful evening, a “tall girl” comes out from a nearby hillside.
She was bareheaded and her yellow hair hung down her back. And when they looked at her they thought they had never before known what beauty meant.
For the record, this girl is never actually given a name (the movie DOES NOT count), and I think that’s for the best. To give her a name would somehow cheapen her beauty by putting a label on it. She explains what happened to the Lords, and tells them a little of where they are.
The three lords landed on the Island seven years earlier (she says it’s known as “the World’s End”, although it really marks the beginning of the end of the world), and one wanted to head back to Narnia in hopes that they would return to find Miraz dead, one wanted to continue their journey to see if they could reach the End of the World, and the other just wanted to stay put on the Island (because hey, you could find much worse places to retire to). They started quarreling about it, and then one of them picked up a certain Knife that was not meant to be touched, casting them all into their enchanted sleep.
“What is this Knife of Stone?” asked Eustace.
“Do none of you know it?” said the girl.
“I – I think,” said Lucy, “I’ve seen something like it before. It was a knife like it that the White Witch used when she killed Aslan at the Stone Table long ago.”
“It was the same,” said the girl, “and it was brought here to be kept in honor while the world lasts.”
Between the name of the place (“Aslan’s Table”) and the presence of the Stone Knife, Lewis is drawing a pretty clear parallel to the Lord’s Supper – which is generally considered both a reminder and a refreshment of the spirit for Christians. What’s particularly notable, however, is that the Stone Knife is being “kept in honor” there. This is a particularly Judeo-Christian idea: Holy things are not made unholy by contact with “unclean” things; rather, the mundane or even unclean things are made holy when they touch something (or in this case, someone) holy. As such, the very blade that the Witch used to kill Aslan was made holy. This reminder is not lost on Edmund.
Edmund, who had been looking more and more uncomfortable for the last few minutes, now spoke.
“Look here,” he said, “I hope I’m not a coward – about eating this food, I mean – and I’m sure I don’t mean to be rude. But we have had a lot of queer adventures on this voyage of ours and things aren’t always what they seem. When I look in your face I can’t help believing all you say: but then that’s just what might happen with a witch, too. How are we to know you’re a friend?”
“You can’t know,” said the girl. “You can only believe – or not.”
That’s the question everyone must struggle with – to believe or not. There really is no certainty, and any religion or belief system that claims otherwise is a cheat. Even atheism isn’t provable, since anything beyond our own perceivable universe is equally impossible to disprove as to prove.
After Reepicheep tries the food with no adverse effects, they all dig in. Then Caspian broaches the topic of breaking the enchantment.
“And what are we to do about the Sleepers?” asked Caspian. “In the world from which my friends come” (here he nodded at Eustace and the Pevensies) “they have a story of a prince or a king coming to a castle where all the people lay in an enchanted sleep. In that story he could not dissolve the enchantment until he had kissed the Princess.”
“But here,” said the girl, “it is different. Here he cannot kiss the Princess till he has dissolved the enchantment.”
Well, Caspian, you sly dog, do you always hit on girls using fairy tale references?
Next time: They all get to meet her father!