This post written by Alexis Record is a continuation of the series – Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia.
“Mommy? Why did you laugh when they said they were going to wind Susan’s horn?”
Caspian’s army is discovered by Miraz’s army and they are engaged in battle. Caspian is losing. Now it’s time for Susan’s deus ex machina magic horn to call for magic help. Yes, the horn they couldn’t find in the treasure chamber has been with Caspian this whole time. The horn was a weak bugle sound in the first book, but now it’s described as “loud as thunder” and “strong enough to shake the woods” but also paradoxically “cool and sweet as music over water.” It’s had some sort of awesomeness upgrade now that a boy is using it instead of a girl.
It gets revealed that the Dwarf telling the children the story of Caspian is named Trumpkin. He was one of the two Dwarfs Caspian first met after fleeing Miraz. (Not the black one who tried to kill him.) Trumpkin is a messenger for Caspian now, and has come to retrieve the children so they can fight Caspian’s war. Susan’s horn was the magic that ripped the children out of the train station.
We’ve seen a couple of times before this idea that anyone who doesn’t believe in Aslan is lying to themselves and actually does believe “deep down.” We saw this with Edmund when he took the White Witch’s side. In this book we are informed that humans are afraid of the woods. Now, they say it’s because of the ghosts living there, but in reality, as Cornelius and the rest confirm, they are afraid because they know Aslan is said to come from the east and would come through those woods. Never mind that the first two humans we see at the beginning of this book are terrified of Susan’s arrow when they think it came from a spirit. People are actually afraid of Aslan… who they don’t believe in… but really do… deep down. This Romans 1 faulty logic is back, and we’ll get a big uncomfortable and unreasonable dose of it in a few chapters, but for now we’ll turn our attention to Trumpkin who seems to defy this general rule and be an actual, legitimate skeptic. Of course it’s mostly because he will become a believer later and maybe has to be seen as a good guy all along.
Trumpkin is no true skeptic in every sense. He believes in the ghosts that turn out not to be real, for example. (But really he was afraid of Aslan? See, that doesn’t make sense. We get that Aslan has to be the big mysterious and terrible force everyone is unconsciously aware of, but this bait and switch of ghost fear for Aslan fear was a stretch. Over and over again the characters display true ghost fear.) The book makes clear that Trumpkin doesn’t believe in Aslan yet. He needs evidence, and he’s often confounded that everyone around him is a believer. At one point Caspian and the others are talking of magic rather than strategy so Trumpkin complains, “I wish our leaders would think less about these old wives’ tales and more about victuals and arms.” In this way, Trumpkin is every atheist.
It’s almost as if Trumpkin is retroactively bathed in the privilege of being Aslan’s elect. (Certain humans being “elect of God” is also a theme in the Bible.) He’s going to believe in Aslan later on in the story so his character qualities are allowed to be appreciated before that fact. Every goodness is bestowed upon him except the “goodness” of faith, which he’ll get eventually. Although Aslan does scare him and toy with Trumpkin later, possibly as a punishment for his skepticism. Trumpkin is primed and ready to accept Aslan into his heart, so to speak, and he was never so rotten that he did not deserve the mantle of a correct belief system.
It’s not like he’s got a black beard or anything disqualifying.
Trumpkin mirrors the language of Isaiah 6:8 to be the willing vessel to be used by God (or Caspian) in a religious task, “Send me, Sire, I’ll go,” he says.
“But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,” says Caspian in return.
“No more I do,” Trumpkin confirms before following orders.
“I will never forget this, Trumpkin,” promises Caspian.
Trumpkin’s reward for obedience is becoming a believer. Then the reader can enjoy Trumpkin’s continuous reliance on reason getting pummeled every time faith is warranted.
“I’ve made as big a fool of myself as ever a Dwarf did,” Trumpkin concludes of his questioning, slow-to-be-fooled, evidence-dependent belief system. (Sigh.)
We return to the children who have heard Trumpkin’s entire tale. The four feel as if they got pulled out of their lives just to go into their second war for Aslan when Lucy says, “But we want to be here, don’t we, if Aslan wants us?” Yes, no matter what you personally feel or want, if Aslan wants it then you want it, too. If it means killing a bunch of people, even better!
When I was young I was told that I should want what God wants. “Not my will, but yours be done,” was modeled by Jesus himself. Don’t want your own things. Don’t think your own thoughts. Follow. Submit. Be obedient. God knows best. Or rather, those appointed by God do since God is conveniently never around. When Peter gives an order to be fitted for battle, Edmund hesitates, but Lucy corrects him, “Hadn’t we better do what Peter says? He is the High King, you know.”
Reminds me of a song:
“Always submit to the church administration. For they were placed by Lord God to lead His nation. If we obey then we will receive salvation! Sing along with me!”
Because Trumpkin is the kind of damned skeptic who won’t just let magical savior children jump into battle, the children go about proving themselves and embarrassing him. Edmund beats him in a sword fight, Susan beats him in archery, and Lucy heals his wound even though it’s “not a sight for little girls.” Susan, of course, is female so did not enjoy her match because she was “tender-hearted” and didn’t want to beat him. She immediately makes excuses for her victory to spare the guy’s feelings. She may be capable, but she’s a proper lady who knows her place. Susan, Protector of the Man Feels.
The party sets sail to meet Caspian. Susan thinks they should have gone by the river, and her reasoning is sound, but she was told no and thus they end up lost in the woods. Does she think at this point that anyone values her opinion? She reminds them again they should have taken the river and Edmund replies, “Oh, don’t take any notice of her. She always is a wet blanket.” She was also right, jerk.
The boys hash out a plan to get to their destination. Susan says she can’t remember it all and Edmund strikes back, “That’s the worst of girls. They never carry a map in their heads.” Lucy responds, “That’s because our heads have something inside them,” which inspires a hard “Ha! Good one,” from Little Bit, who followed it up in her wisest tone, “But girls can have maps in their heads. It’s not a girl/boy thing.”
Suddenly a bear attacks and Susan hesitates because she is a girl hates killing things so Trumpkin saves them. She hesitated because it could have been sentient (a “talking bear”) and the others assure her that she was foolish and it didn’t look sentient. Already she is a better person than Caspian. (And for that reason, a worse person by Lewis logic.) The boys skin and hack at the bear for meat while the girls go off to save their dainty eyes from watching, even though they are headed to a battle, but whatever.
Trumpkin is a new believer and the children are solid ones, so what better test of all of them than a test of faith. We get this test when our most valiant believer of all, Lucy, sees Aslan and wants to follow him onto the steeper path. So far Little Bit and I have had issues with this book, but that was nothing compared to the confusion and frustration these next chapters inspired.
July 15, 2017