I thought the last two chapters of this book would be rather short, but it turns out they’re more substantial than I remember. Well, maybe not the first part of this chapter, which is all about Uncle Andrew. The animals have now put him in a home-made cage and have tried to feed him their favorite foods, which resulted in squirrels pelting him with nuts and a bear throwing a honey comb at him, for example. It’s kind of funny, but like the toffee dinner, just takes up too much time. I guess it’s his comeuppance for being disagreeable ant the beginning of the book, but now it just feels undeserved. Ever since Jadis arrived, he’s no longer scary or threatening. He’s already learned his lesson; cut the guy some slack. And now that I can’t unsee all the religious parallels, it’s obvious that Uncle Andrew represents atheism, as he simply refuses to hear the animals–and Aslan–talking.
I do like that the animals want to keep Uncle Andrew as a pet, though.
There was more time spent on Uncle Andrew’s treatment than there was on the coronation of the new king and queen of Narnia, wherein C.S. Lewis shows us how little he knows about blacksmithing. The dwarves make crowns for them right then and there, with apparently very little effort. I actually do know a bit about smithing (because college was a weird time), and I think it’s preeeetty doubtful that the animals were able to make a fire that would get hot enough in just a few minutes to make gold and silver crowns on. Whatever, I’ll give it a shrug and chalk it up to magic. I’m fairly certain that this is a point no one else cares about except me.
And while I’m sure that the coronation is terribly important for the history of Narnia, it may be the least interesting part of this chapter. It’s not Digory plants the tree that I really care about what’s going on. Aslan confirms what the Witch told him–that taking an apple from the tree would make him live forever, and heal his mother. However, Aslan also tells him
‘Understand, then, that it would have healed her; but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in that illness.’
And reveals yet another difference between myself now and the elementary school student who read this long ago. Back then, I couldn’t comprehend regret like that, nor could I understand why anyone would think they’re better off dead. I could only think of it as a curse, and use the irrational explanation of magic to comprehend something that wasn’t rational to me.
Now, unfortunately, I understand regret perfectly well, and can see why someone would rather be dead than alive.
Like I said, growing up is harsh.
To end on a lighter note, I’m glad that Digory is rewarded for his honesty, and loyalty to Aslan, by being allowed to take an apple for his sick mother. That’s probably the best message this book has for kids, whether or not it’s read as a religious allegory.
I really love the idea that the magical fruit itself is neither good nor evil, and it’s all about the person who takes the fruit. The tree would protect Narnia, whether or not its fruit was stolen, but the land it protected would change. Because Digory took the apple at Aslan’s bidding, Narnia will become a kind and gentle world. Had he stolen it, Narnia would have become cold and cruel. I really like the idea that the fruit will do its job, no matter what, but the intent of the one who takes it truly determines what happens. I wish my good intentions had that much power in real life.