As the story winds down, its best elements are on full display in this chapter (including Hoffmann references!).
So I randomly had The Nutcracker music playing in the background as I worked on the last chapter, which I found oddly fitting for the subject matter (a dance in the snow, featuring a young girl), but I thought it was just a coincidence…until this chapter, when we get the image of an owl on a grandfather clock (AKA the trademark of Uncle Drosselmeyer from said ballet). And I’m pretty sure this is the only appearance of a clock in Narnia in the entire series. So yeah, the allusion to Hoffmann is clearly intentional. There’s also the whole “lost enchanted prince” thing that drives the story, another parallel with The Nutcracker.
Anyhow! We must say farewell to Puddleglum.
“Puddleglum!” said Jill. “You’re a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you’re perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you’re really as brave as – as a lion.”
“Now, speaking of funerals,” began Puddleglum, but Jill, who heard the Centaurs tapping their hooves behind her, surprised him very much by flinging her arms around his thin neck and kissing his muddy-looking face, while Eustace wrung his hand. Then they both rushed away to the Centaurs, and the Marsh-wiggle, sinking back on his bed, remarked to himself, “Well, I wouldn’t have dreamt of her doing that. Even though I am a good-looking chap.”
Never change, Puddleglum. Never change.
Then Eustace and Jill go back where they began their quest (and consequently, where the quest began to go awry): The port, where the King’s ship is sailing back after a reported encounter with Aslan. Rilian awaits his father’s return, but the Narnians are dismayed to find that the King is too weak to even stand, and with his final breath, he offers Rilian his blessing.
“I wish I was at home,” said Jill.
Eustace nodded, saying nothing, and bit his lip.
“I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him.
Aslan takes them back to his own country, along with the dead King.
But the strange thing was that the funeral music for King Caspian still went on, though no one could tell where it came from. They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.
Once again I’m reminded why I love these books so much. And then Aslan’s blood return’s Caspian’s youth to him, causing Eustace quite a shock.
“But,” said Eustace, looking at Aslan. “Hasn’t he – er – died?”
“Yes,” said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost (Jill thought) as if he were laughing. “He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few who haven’t.”
“Oh,” said Caspian. “I see what’s bothering you. You think I’m a ghost, or some nonsense. But don’t you see? I would be that if I appeared in Narnia now: because I don’t belong there any more. But one can’t be a ghost in one’s own country.”
Then Caspian finally gets his wish to visit Earth, helping Eustace and Jill deal out a little corporal punishment to the bullies, leading to this gem of a line:
“Murder! Fascists! Lions! It isn’t fair.”
We also find out what became of the one character whose fate we all really wanted to know deep down: The Head of Experiment House.
When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing. And in the inquiry all sorts of things about Experiment House came out, and about ten people got expelled. After that, the Head’s friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
Now that’s just too perfect for words.
I was honestly shocked by how much I liked this book. I do think it still has a bit of a rough start, but once it gets going, it’s spectacular. It certainly helps that I’m better able to appreciate the humor now, not to mention the literary references. It also taps into a lot of the themes about death and such which Lewis doesn’t fully expound upon until The Last Battle (which typically ranks among my favorites, depending on my mood).
Next time, we’ll start on the best potential movie never yet adapted to film: The Horse and His Boy…