The Problem of Susan and other matters.
The heroes finally realize that there’s no winning the battle, or even escape, this time.
“I feel in my bones,” said Poggin, “that we shall all, one by one, pass through that dark door before morning. I can think of a hundred deaths I would rather have died.”
“It is indeed a grim door,” said Tirian. “It is more like a mouth.”
“Oh, can’t we do anything to stop it?” said Jill in a shaken voice.
“Nay, fair friend,” said Jewel, nosing her gently. “It may be for us the door to Aslan’s country and we shall sup at his table tonight.”
Now seems like as good a time as any to mention how perfect Lewis’s depiction of the fighting is. You never get a bird’s eye view of the fight, or even an idea of anybody working together towards the end. It’s just these individuals fighting for their lives, or perhaps just selling their lives as dearly as they can. It’s the culmination of the sort of battle Lewis is best at – the visceral battle from the view of a single person, an island in a sea of chaos. In Tirian’s case, finding himself at the door of the stable fighting Rishda Tarkaan, he literally drags him into the stable with him to face Tash.
“Thou hast called me into Narnia, Rishda Tarkaan. Here I am. What hast thou to say?”
But the Tarkaan neither lifted his face from the ground nor said a word. […] He was brave enough in battle: but half his courage had left him earlier that night when he first began to suspect there might be a real Tash. The rest of it left him now.
This seems like as good a place as any to mention my personal theory as to what Tash is (and possibly the other gods in the Calormene pantheon): A corrupt Star. It would make sense, if the Stars are somewhat analogous to angels (stars even symbolize angels in the book of Revelations) for there to be fallen Stars, and if there are good Stars living in Narnia (as seen in Voyage of the Dawn Treader) it wouldn’t be a stretch to think of the bad ones dwelling there, too. It’s just a theory, of course, but it makes sense to me.
Anyhow, Tirian meets the people from his “dream” (including Jill and Eustace), but realizes that they’re one queen short.
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”
I intended to get all analytical with this (and I will in a moment), but first I just have to acknowledge that this development is genuinely sad.
Now for analytical stuff: This actually makes sense.
It hurts to see Susan falling away, but it makes the very important point that just because you’ve seen and experienced something doesn’t mean you’ll always believe it. And if Lewis had to make that point, Susan was the logical choice. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy each grew up in some important way within the realm of Narnia, and that sort of change is hard to simply forget or abandon; same with Eustace (although I can’t really say for sure with Jill). Susan didn’t change much in Narnia aside from growing up, and even there it wasn’t exactly flawless, if The Horse and His Boy is anything to go by. And if she grew up anything like what she was in that book, she might be a bit too romantic for her own good and a terrible judge of character, and if once a rift started between Susan and her siblings, they might quickly lose their influence. Honestly, the development she gets via The Horse and His Boy is kind of brilliant.
This isn’t the end of the Problem of Susan, though – there’s still one very important piece of the puzzle missing which will appear presently.
Until next time…