The Magician’s Nephew, Chap. 12: Strawberry’s Disappointing Adventure

This was a chapter that I was really excited to get to. I remembered it being so magical. Aslan gives Strawberry wings, and he becomes Fledge, Narnia’s first flying horse. He takes Polly and Digory on an adventure, flying far above Narnia. They explore the world, eat toffees, and have a marvelous time. What more could a child want in a story?

As an adult, however, it turns out that this chapter leaves a lot to be desired. I expected that my childhood memory of this chapter wouldn’t hold up to the reality, and I was right. I just wasn’t aware of how right I was actually going to be. It starts promising, with Digory agreeing to find the magical tree that will protect Narnia. There’s also a very sweet part where Aslan grieves with Digory about his ill mother.

‘But please, please–won’t you–can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.

But this chapter is mostly description, like Digory describing the land to Aslan. When Polly and Digory are riding on Fledge’s back, most of the narrative is description of what they’re flying over. The “adventure” isn’t so much a story, as it is a nice sight-seeing tour.

On the other hand, they’re the first humans to ever see all this, so I guess that’s exciting. Of course I would have loved to be riding on a flying horse through a brand-new world. But I don’t get that thrill from reading this. It’s like going through a photo album of someone else’s vacation. You try to care, you really want to, but you just can’t make yourself.

Man, growing up sucks.

There’s also a disproportionate amount of time dedicated to the children having dinner. There are two pages that are just Digory and Polly trying to figure out what they’re going to eat when they stop flying for the night. Polly has some toffees in her pocket, so they decide that will be their meal.

The little paper bag was very squashy and sticky when they finally got it out, so that it was more a question of tearing the bag off the toffees than of getting the toffees out of their bag.

Okay, great, but what about the adventure?

Some grown-ups (you know how fussy they can be about that sort of thing) would rather have gone without supper altogether than eaten those toffees.

No, I still eat candy for dinner sometimes. So about this adventure…

There were nine of them all told. It was Digory who had the bright idea of eating four each and planting the ninth; for, as he said, ‘if the bar off the lamp-post turned into a little light-tree, why shouldn’t this turn into a toffee-tree?’ So they dibbled a small hole in the earth and buried the piece of toffee.

Man, the word toffee sounds weird now. You ever notice how you say a word a lot, and it loses its meaning? Toffee, toffee, toffee…

At least there’s still magic, when the toffee does grow into a toffee tree overnight. That’s pretty cool.

There is one small detail in this chapter that I still really like. When Polly and Digory go to sleep, Fledge spreads his wings over them to keep them warm at night. It sounds cozy, and of course I would love to have a pegasus to snuggle with at night. In fact, a great deal of my wish-fulfillment stories I wrote in sixth grade were based on that exact premise.

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