Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A Look at Those Eyes
I must admit that I have never really gotten into fantasy series of literature. The whole Lord of the Rings thing passed me by in university. I only viewed the three Peter Jackson films three years ago. The effort necessary to get into the imagined culture, tribes, society, alliances and geography was always a deterrent.
Six or seven years ago the rage was the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis brought to a larger fan base by the Disney film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I saw it and appreciated the allegories wrapped up in the majestic lion Aslan (Christ), the White Witch (demonic evil), the unity of all tribes and tongues giving allegiance to Aslan, the great Battle of good versus evil, the death and resurrection of the lion, His victorious visit to the place of the dead (frozen), His coming and going as if by magic.
The other day I picked up a used copy of The Magician's Nephew written in 1955 as a prequel and establishing in the journeys of Digory and Polly the creation of Narnia, the appearance of the creator Aslan and the rivalry with the Witch. The children have a magical access to other worlds through the touching of rings forged by Digory's Uncle Andrew, with whom the boy and an ailing mother are boarding.
Touch the yellow ring and you leave your present reality. Touch the green and you return. But don't touch it accidentally. One such mishap brings the alluring Witch Queen (Jadis) from a fairly burned out world which she all but destroyed in her struggle for conquest with a rival sister. In her very last effort in the struggle and at a huge personal cost she made use of the "Deplorable Word" (unexplained) in order to prevail.
All that is selfish, scheming and evil is portrayed in the Witch and to a lesser, somewhat comical extent in the magician Uncle. Thankfully magic is made to be evil in this fantasy series.
So far the book was solely a fairy tale and somewhat disappointing, but in the final third, things changed. Digory is sent on a mission far north from Narnia to secure an apple from a specific orchard which will be transported and planted in Narnia. He hopes that its powers will be of some use in restoring his critically ill mother. But upon arrival he reads a poster that eating the apple brings strange delight and strange trouble.
This is no deterrent to the Witch who has popped into the scene. She quickly gobbles one of the fruit and feels somewhat improved by it. She tempts Digory and goes so far to suggest that it is wicked of Aslan not to consider allowing the ailing mother to have its benefit. But even as she speaks, she appears to be developing a revulsion to the fruit. The boy leans upon his conscience, his mother's lessons of the past and the memory of the exceptional, compassionate look in the Lion's face and eyes to resist the temptation and to flee with Polly and the winged horse Strawberry back to Narnia. (The lesson: look into the face of Christ, commune with Him and you will know the difference between good and evil.)
The apple is planted as planned, and a tree immediately begins to fluorish. Aslan is delighted with the boy's obedience and explains that he may return to his mother with one of the fruit. It was in taking of that fruit for wrongful purposes and in the wrong way that trouble would come. Witness the condition of the Witch who would now be loath to enter Narnia for many years because of the presence of that tree. Nevertheless Aslan did predict declension, even in Narnia, and the day of the Witch's return.
End of story. Children back in London. Mother being healed. Magical rings buried. Scheming Uncle mortified. Father coming home from journeys abroad. Family moving to beautiful estate in the country - a place where Digory would grow up to become the Professor in Book Two with a wardrobe made from some of the wood derived from a certain apple tree.