As some are aware, I have certain reading rituals and traditions that are unique only to me. Every year around Christmas time, I read Frances Hodges Burnett’s “A Little Princess”. The holiday warm-fuzzies will cease to occur unless I’ve been absorbed into the sparsity of Sarah’s attic bedroom where her dreams become tangible realities her active imagine couldn’t even conjure. And every summer without fail and in correct chronological order according to when they were written ( which means The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe should be read before The Magicians Nephew, though they are placed in opposite order in the series) I get lost in Narnia.
My favorite Narnian adventure is found in the seventh book, The Silver Chair. The Silver Chair, considered by most critics and readers alike, is one of the darker if not darkest books of the series. This turns many readers off- The Chronicles are a fantasy series, after all, meant to take readers far from elements too close to reality. It’s not just the construction of the novel that I love, however, but one of the characters in particular.
I am a trademark Puddleglum. I assume the worst and try to put my best face on. I am beyond a pessimist, really, which makes Puddleglum and I kindred spirits, soulmates if you will. Except…there’s one chapter in The Silver Chair in which Puddleglum rises as a hero and gives me hope that, perhaps experience in darkness makes identifying the light easier.
The story’s hero, Prince Rilian had been put under a terrible spell by the Queen of the Underworld in which kept him bound in a Silver Chair every night, preventing him from returning to his home and becoming the King he was meant to be. Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum had released him from the spell and all were getting ready to flee the underworld when the Queen showed up to stand in their way. Releasing a certain drug into the air that clouds their thinking, the Queen tries to convince the group that Narnia, Aslan and everything they believed to be true was all a fabrication and the only thing that was real was the underworld in which they belong. It is here, in the darkest of hours, that Puddleglum is able to see through the lies of the Queen and hold to what is true, stating that even if everything they stood for turned out to be a lie, he would rather spend the rest of his days searching for a fake Narnia than serve a woman like her.
Puddleglum was able to rise above physical discomfort, logic, reason and disbelief to stand on the foundation he knew was the only vessel of hope. He stood right in the face of the devil and told her that he didn’t care if she was right or wrong. That it mattered not at all what she thought, said or did. He was standing firm no matter how foolish it made him. Not only would he stand, but he would seek Narnia, strive to please Aslan and live as a Narnian- even if Narnia never existed. Not even the devil can argue with that.
I cheer Puddleglum on every July when I get to his shining chapter. He’s certainly not as interesting as Badger, as entertaining as
Reepicheep or as endearing as Mr. Tumnus but in my opinion, he’s the bravest of them all.