It’s all downhill from here: Huge defeats and small victories.
Part of the strange beauty of this book lies in the balance of hope, sometimes waxing and often waning, but never completely falling into despair. Lots of things go wrong, but not quite everything. There’s always a small glimmer of hope, even in the apparent lack of hope, because if Aslan is not present with our heroes, then he is present somewhere. Just because he’s not where they want him is no reason to doubt him.
“I serve the real Aslan.”
“Where’s he? Who’s he? Show him to us!” said several Dwarfs.
“Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?” said Tirian. “Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He’s not a tame lion.”
The moment those words were out of his mouth he realized that he had made a false move. The Dwarfs at once began repeating “not a tame lion, not a tame lion,” in a jeering sing-song. “That’s what the other lot kept on telling us,” said one.
Despite the defection of the Dwarfs, we seem to be seeing the slow formation of a team: Tirian, Jewel, Eustace, Jill, Puzzle, and now Poggin the Dwarf. It’s about as ragtag as they come, and they each get a little development this chapter. Tirian is back to square one in his plans to retake Narnia, and is obviously disheartened, if not yet despairing; Eustace seemed most impacted by killing his first man (quite logically for a young boy), hardly speaking in the ensuing conversation with the Dwarfs; Jill was the most visibly frustrated with the Dwarfs, which is again quite logical, because it’s so hard for a child to understand how some people can doubt what they themselves take for granted. Jewel and Puzzle get smaller moments; but it’s weirdly touching hearing about how “noble and delicate” Jewel is in putting poor Puzzle at his ease.
Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he had showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?
Poggin lets us know a little of what’s been going on at the Stable, with the most interesting development being that the captain of the Calormenes, Rishda Tarkaan, has allied himself with the Cat Ginger behind Shift’s back.
‘Noble Tarkaan,’ said the Cat in that silky voice of his, ‘I just wanted to know exactly what we both meant today about Aslan meaning no more than Tash.’ ‘Doubtless, most sagacious of cats,’ says the other, ‘you have perceived my meaning.’ ‘You mean,’ says Ginger, ‘that there’s no such person as either.’ ‘All who are enlightened know that,’ said the Tarkaan.
Now the Dwarfs are still being manipulated by their enemies, believing in nothing as they do. It’s a cruel progression from Trumpkin’s skepticism in Prince Caspian, coupled with a little of Nikabrik’s utilitarianism and a lot of his patriotism.
Next time: What news the Eagle brought