Lewis makes the invisible tangible through story.
This is one of those rare endings which makes me neither happy nor sad, just satisfied. It brings me joy every time I read it.
And suddenly there came a breeze from the east, tossing the top of the wave into foamy shapes and ruffling the smooth water all round them. It lasted only a second or so but what it brought them in that second none of those three children will ever forget. It brought both a smell and a sound, a musical sound. Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterward. Lucy could only say, “It would break your heart.” “Why,” said I, “was it so sad?” “Sad!! No,” said Lucy.
That’s what joy is. It would break your heart, but it’s not sad.
Before I get to the very end, Lewis wraps things up with Caspian in a somewhat surprising fashion: Caspian rebels.
“I am going with Reepicheep to the World’s End,” said Caspian.
“Caspian,” said Edmund suddenly and sternly, “you can’t do this.”
“Can’t?” said Caspian sharply, looking for a moment not unlike his uncle Miraz.
“Begging your Majesty’s pardon,” said Rynelf from the deck below, “but if one of us did the same it would be called deserting.”
“By the Mane of Aslan,” said Caspian, “I had thought you were all my subjects here, not my schoolmasters.”
“I’m not,” said Edmund, “and I say you can not do this.”
“Can’t again,” said Caspian. “What do you mean?”
“If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not,” said Reepicheep with a very low bow. “You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially with Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses.”
He proceeds to throw a tantrum and lock himself in his room when it becomes clear that the crew would side with Reepicheep. And then Aslan gives him a stern talking to (offscreen), saying in no uncertain terms that Caspian must return as planned while Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace accompany Reepicheep. He comes out of it sobbing like a little boy, which is especially alarming when he’d been acting so kingly and grown-up until then. But being King is a responsibility, not a privilege – he belongs to Narnia, in some sense, not the other way around.
So the three children continue east with Reepicheep, until the rowboat runs aground by the edge of the world.
They did not try to stop [Reepicheep], for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. […] Then he took his sword (“I shall need it no more,” he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea. Where it fell it stood upright with the hilt above the surface. Then he bade them good-bye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness. Lucy, for the first and last time, did what she had always wanted to do, taking him in her arms and caressing him. […] The coracle went more and more quickly, and beautifully it rushed up the wave’s side. For one split second they saw its shape and Reepicheep’s on the very top. Then it vanished, and since that moment no one can truly claim to have seen Reepicheep the Mouse. But my belief is that he came safe to Aslan’s country and is alive there to this day.
And then Aslan appears to the children in the form of a Lamb, on a beach, and serves them fish (aka the most John image not written by John himself). I could probably write a whole essay on the imagery in this scene alone, but considering how much I’ve written already (and how much ground I still need to cover), I’ll just leave it at that.
This is all meant to connect Aslan to “our world”, of course. Really, the whole book (if not the whole series) is meant for that. In Aslan’s own words:
“This was the very reason that you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
That’s the point of the whole John analog, really: To make it evident that this is a parable, maybe not “factual” or “historical”, but still true. Because if children can meet and fall in love with Aslan and Narnia, they can also fall in love with Jesus and Christianity. Maybe Narnia doesn’t exist – or maybe it does, for all we know. But it truly does exist within the hearts of countless children around the world. I think a part of me still believes in Narnia, and I dearly hope that it always will.
Next time: The Silver Chair