Our heroes descend into the night of Underland, where silence reigns and time sleeps.
A large group of “Earthmen” arrest/escort them to meet their ruler, the Queen.
“Well!” said Puddleglum, rubbing his hands. “This is just what I needed. If these chaps [the Earthmen] don’t teach me to take a serious view of life, I don’t know what will. Look at that fellow with the walrus mustache – or that one with the – “
I love you, Puddleglum. It truly requires someone who’s constantly expecting the worst to see a bright side in…well, basically in the worst possible situation.
If the “Overland” is murky and gloomy, facilitating poor communication, then the Underland’s total darkness is a place of sadness and silence. They pass several odd, solemn sights, which their guide/escort person explains to them only when asked.
“That is old Father Time, who was once a King in Overland,” said the Warden. “And now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down, and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world.”
Father Time’s appearance seems to be a giant version of the Stars in the last book (having a long beard and apparently casting his own silver light). Apparently Father Time is an actual figure in medieval lore, essentially the successor of Chronos, aka Saturn. He basically represents the ravages of time, the inevitably of death, and all that other fun stuff, but we’ll talk about him more in depth for The Last Battle. On a bit of a tangent, the whole “old king dreaming of everything that’s actually going on” is oddly reminiscent of the Red King from Alice in Wonderland, which really makes me wonder if Lewis Carroll was intentionally evoking the image of Father Time or if C. S. Lewis just happened to use similar imagery (or if C. S. Lewis was intentionally mimicking Lewis Carroll…).
Anyhow, back to the actually important stuff going on!
“Now don’t you let your spirits down, Pole,” said the Marsh-wiggle. “There’s one thing you’ve got to remember. We’re back on the right lines. We were to go under the Ruined City, and we are under it. We’re following the instructions again.”
[…] And after that, they gradually fell asleep. But when they woke, everything was just the same; the gnomes still rowing, the ship still gliding on, still dead blackness ahead. How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not only been a dream.
They finally reach a castle, and a human inhabitant – specifically, the black knight they had seen with the Lady of the Green Kirtle (who is apparently also Queen of Underland).
“What coil are you keeping down there, Mullugutherum?” [he] shouted. “Overworlders, ha! Bring them up to me, and that presently.”
“Please it your highness to remember,” began Mullugutherum, but the voice cut him short.
“It pleases my Highness principally to be obeyed, old mutterer. Bring them up,” it called.
Well he doesn’t sound at all like a spoiled brat, does he? And apparently he dresses like Hamlet…Hmm…
Jill ends up spilling the beans about their quest for Prince Rilian, but the knight is extremely uninterested. He does, however, laugh at them when he finds out that they were “following the instructions from the ruined city”, explaining how the words they saw were the last remnants of an ancient verse that had been written on the stones.
“Is it not the merriest jest in the world that you should have thought that they were written to you?”
This was like cold water down the back to Scrubb and Jill; for it seemed to them very likely that the words had nothing to do with their quest at all, and that they had been taken in by a mere accident.
“Don’t you mind him,” said Puddleglum. “There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all the things that would come of them; including this.”
The knight reveals that the Queen just so happens to be “of divine race”, and that she promised him a kingdom in Overland and that she would become his queen.
Next time: The Knight’s tale…