Infodump time! Also: Genesis parallels.
So I started noticing this last chapter, but I didn’t bring it up because I figured it might just be a coincidence (it’s not): There are a ton of allusions to Genesis 1-3 (aka the story of Adam and Eve). First you had Eustace and Jill in an Edenic place, and Jill causes Eustace to fall (literally), which in turn causes trouble for basically everyone (but especially Jill and Eustace). Then you had them playing the blame game all through the last chapter, not to mention the way Jill subtly misquotes Aslan, echoing the way Eve subtly misquoted God when speaking to the Serpent. And Trumpkin even refers to them as “Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve”!
Anyhow, this chapter begins with Jill and Eustace leaving the castle by owl to attend the titular meeting of owls. They begin by explaining why it would be a bad idea to tell Trumpkin about their quest (because he was ordered by the King to prevent any further searches after dozens of Narnian knights were lost in the quest for the lost prince, and he would never make an exception while the King was away).
“You might think he’d take some notice of us, because we’re owls and everyone knows how wise owls are,” said someone else. “But he’s so old he’d only say, ‘You’re a mere chick. I remember you when you were an egg. Don’t come trying to teach me, Sir. Crabs and crumpets!’”
This owl imitated Trumpkin’s voice rather well, and there were sounds of owlish laughter all round. The children began to see that the Narnians all felt about Trumpkin as people feel at school about some crusty teacher, whom everyone is a little afraid of and everyone makes fun of and nobody really dislikes.
They proceed to tell the story of Prince Rilian’s disappearance. It begins with the death of the Queen (Ramandu’s daughter), bitten by a great serpent while resting during a “maying party”. Interestingly, in the illustrations the serpent has legs – a clear reference to the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, which was only cursed to “crawl on its belly” after the incident with Eve. Rilian runs off after the serpent, but loses it; when he comes back, his mother is clearly trying to tell him something, but dies unable to get the words out. Yay communication failure!
Both Caspian and Rilian are obviously grief stricken, but it manifests in different forms. Caspian presumably retreats inward – at least, he doesn’t appear to notice his son’s odd behavior. Rilian clearly blames himself, spending a full month hunting for the serpent in order to avenge his mother. And then Drinian notices a change, so he asks to accompany Rilian on his next journey when the prince claims that he’s forgotten his pursuit due to a “fair thing” he’s discovered in the wilderness. It turns out to be a woman clad in green, who evidently haunts the fountain where the queen was killed. Then, despite fully believing that the woman is evil, Drinian decides not to tell anyone about it. The next day, the prince doesn’t return. Yay communication failure!
Such was the story of Rilian. And when it was over, Jill said, “I bet that serpent and that woman were the same person.”
Don’t you love it when the reader and the characters are on the same page? Just don’t get used to it, because COMMUNICATION FAILURE! For real, this is basically Communication Failure: The Novel, so get used to the characters doing dumb things because they refuse to communicate.
When the Owls hear that Aslan confirmed the Prince to be alive, one of them responds with this:
“That almost makes it worse,” said the oldest owl. “It means she has some use for him, and some deep scheme against Narnia.”
They politely decline to aid the children in their search, however, and Glimfeather says that the Marshwiggles are the only ones who might be of use to them up north, so he offers to take them that far.
Until next time…