The Narnians discover laughter.
“Creatures, I give you yourselves,” said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself. The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. For out of them you were taken and into them you can return. Do not so.”
This idea that acting like a Dumb Beast will turn you into one (“lapsing”, as it’s called in other books) has come up several times before, but here it’s addressed more straightforwardly. It’s one of several threads brought up in this book that reach their conclusion in The Last Battle, and it also fits well with previous transformations (i.e. Eustace turning into a dragon or Rabadash turning into a donkey): However one acts, so shall one be. Also there’s this:
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl.
This is one of the more subtle variations on the whole “belief shapes perception” theme that Lewis is so fond of (another theme that recurs in The Last Battle). It’s sad, really; Uncle Andrew is blind to the beauty around him because he’s too frightened to acknowledge that there might be wonders beyond his comprehension.
Anyhow, on to happier things!
“Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”
Speech is far more than just talking – it represents a drive to communicate that is common to all people. The animal world may be ruled by survival of the fittest, but speech allows them to truly achieve equality and peace. This is emphasized in the conversation between the Cabby and Strawberry, where they address one another as equals for the first time.
Next time: Digory and his Uncle are both in trouble…