The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, book review

the silver chairThe Silver Chair is my least favorite book in the Narnia series, but that by no means makes it junk. Eustace returns and brings with him a new character, a schoolmate by the name of Jill Pole. Immediately Aslan sets them a task: locate and rescue Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian, who was kidnapped ten years before. And so Jill and Eustace, with the help of a solemn but valiant Marsh-wiggle named Puddleglum, set off for the northern wastes to rescue the prince.

It is this gloomy setting that I don’t care for in the book. The marsh is wide and lonely, the mountains cold, hard, and bleak. And then the trio goes underground to a world of darkness, drabness, and evil. I much prefer the beauty of southern Narnia. But I do think it’s cool that Lewis developed such a varied world. And the adventures are just as exciting as any other the children embark on.

What makes the book especially meaningful, like all the others, is the wealth of double meanings. Like when Jill first arrives in Aslan’s Country and badly wants a drink, but she’s too frightened to pass the great, terrifying Lion lying by the stream:

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion…

“…I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

Anyone who has read the Gospel of John will find great significance in these words. And my favorite part is when the children rescue the Prince only to be enchanted by the Witch, who is trying to convince them there is no Overworld, no sun, and no Lion. But the noble Marsh-wiggle combats her with these words:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world that licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.

Compare that to Saint Paul’s writings about foolishness. Pretty powerful stuff, eh? And it makes a great triumphant moment for our heroes. Along with adventure, great characters, and a world I’ve come to love, it is such depth that places these books high on my list of favorites. The fact that I happen to share Lewis’ faith doesn’t hurt either. But the whole Narnian series is so magically written that it is regarded almost universally as excellent literature. Not many books remain so hugely popular even after sixty years. There’s good reason for that. I highly recommend The Silver Chair. Ages 10+

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