“He didn’t change them back? What?!”
“He should have, I agree.”
“It’s wrong! Mom, I really don’t like this.”
As they prepare to send Lucy into danger, Edmund and Caspian discuss the Duffers. The boys wonder if the Duffers are really grasshopper creatures, since they jump around. Edmund tells Caspian not to tell Lucy about this grasshopper hypothesis, to protect her once again from information due to her female nature. (Bugs and girls, amirite?) In reality, when the magician changed the Duffers’ bodies it was not just a change in ascetics, but a change in the more basic ways they used their bodies: how they slept and ambulated. the Duffers legs were melded together into one limb so that’s why they are forced to jump.
He also dehumanized (deDwarfanized?) them. They were once “common little Dwarfs,” but now our main characters have to ask, “Do you think they’re human at all?” The physical differences put upon them have effectively excused their treatment. Or at least no one seems particularly sympathetic to the Duffer’s plight. It’s fine to do something to, say, a grasshopper that you wouldn’t do to a human. And fine to do anything to a stupid one at that, as we learned last chapter.
The Duffers treat the party to a feast that night. Eustace, being from a teetotaler family, is said to be “sorry afterwards” that he had drunk alcohol. His horrible upbringing had not made him used to being drunk. Keep in mind he is a small child.
The next morning Lucy goes upstairs and finds the magician’s book of magic.
She’s jumpy and scared, as expected, and when she tries to shut the door to the room the book is in, so nothing scary can jump out at her from behind, she finds she cannot. (Invisible Aslan is there and it’s implied that he was holding the door open for some reason. Probably so he could watch? Never mind her terror. Aslan wanted to see her tested, and she soon would be.)
Lucy flips through the book and finds a spell that would make her super beautiful and appealing to men, so much so that men would fight for her and this would lead to war. (The tournament to win her, the one that would lead to bloodshed, is said to occur at Calormen because that’s where every bad thing happens.) Seeing it would start a war didn’t dissuade her. Girls just want to be pretty, okay! The only thing that stopped her from saying this spell was a realistic vision of Aslan growling and showing most of his teeth so that she “became horribly afraid.” This is not the first or last time Aslan rules or controls the children through being horribly afraid of his moods.
Lucy does end up saying a spell that lets her eavesdrop on her friend. (Spells on social relationships, gossip, and looks are the only ones that tempt the only girl character.) The friend betrays her to another girl and their friendship, it’s implied, is ruined forever.
Next, Lucy finds a story in the book that was the loveliest story in the world. It was about “a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill.” But she forgot it upon finishing it and she couldn’t turn the pages back to read it again. Many have said it is about the crucifixion of Christ, as it has similar elements: the tree could be the wooden cross, the hill could be where the crucifixion took place, the cup the holy grail that catches Jesus’ blood (extra biblical element) or it could be the cup used at the last supper, and the sword could be the same that was thrust into Jesus’ side to prove he had died. Or it could be the one Jesus will return with to slaughter people who have done him wrong in Revelation (the biblical description of Jesus there has him with a sword for a tongue). Or it could be the sword Jesus says to take to members of one’s own family who reject him in Matthew 10. Of course a sword, an instrument of death or pain, would be included in the loveliest story in the world in Lewis’ mind. That makes sense as the passion of Christ includes torture and death and I was raised to find that gruesome story beautiful. Seems the Christian idea of loveliness is completely macabre.
Then, finally, Lucy finds the spell she was hunting for that makes invisible things visible. Which works! Even on Aslan himself!
I want to make two observations about the spell making Aslan visible. First off, Lucy is said to have had an expression when she first discovered him behind her that was as beautiful as if she had used the beautification spell. So Aslan made her something pleasing for men to look at–something we are told inspires war. But that’s a good thing now, because Aslan. I’m being overly picky here, I realize.
Secondly, Aslan explains he’s been a voyeur the whole time, but only became visible because he was obeying his own rules. I have heard religious folk explain why bad things happen in the world, and it’s because God follows his own rules (natural laws and free will). The world just so happens to perform as if there were no god, but that’s only because God doesn’t break the rules of physics he supposedly put in place. A pastor once told me that we wouldn’t want God to intervene even when a child is being abused (I’m not joking) by changing the laws of nature because the consequence would be getting hit by a bus as gravity stops following the rules, or drowning because we float “down” instead of up when we’re trying to swim. (Is God is too incompetent to just save the one child without messing up the whole world, Pastor Ron?)
This obviously doesn’t explain why Jesus can make claims about prayer that go against nature and evidence. This also doesn’t explain biblical miracles which supposedly upend nature’s laws without natural consequences (the sun holding still for a day). It only explains why the Bible is wrong about how God and Jesus actually (don’t) work in the real world to intercede on behalf of believers in any measureable way. This also helps Christians to accept Naturalism without having to discard faith. (What practical thing is God good for then? The Bible seems to think he’s good for a lot, but reality and the above Christian argument don’t seem to concur with this.)
The first thing Aslan does upon becoming visible is lecture Lucy for using the spell that let her eavesdrop on her friend that he sat back and watched her use. (She only didn’t do the first one because of a vision of him scaring her. Why wasn’t that present the second time, huh? Really wouldn’t it be Aslan’s fault then?) Next he lectures her for wanting to know the consequences of her action. He then promises her that the loveliest story she read will be one he tells her for “years and years.” Again, probably because it’s his own story about himself. And finally he introduces her to Coriakin, the magician, who Aslan claims to have put in charge of the Duffers. (“Do you grow weary, Coriakin, of ruling such foolish subjects as I have given you here?”) Aslan even supports the magician’s treatment of them. (Further evidence that that Aslan is a dick, as if we needed it.)
Aslan says the Duffers are too stupid to warrant his favor, and that he will not show himself to them for centuries: “Many stars will grow old and come to take their rest in islands before your people are ripe for that.” So older kids and stupid people are not God’s, er, Aslan’s favorites. Even if they cannot help how old or smart they are.
(I once babysat for a small child with a mental disability whose family as worried he wasn’t going to Heaven since they couldn’t be sure he understood all the steps to accepting Jesus. So believe me, Christianity has a mental ability issue and has had to do some theological twisting around this issue. As a parent of two kids with disabilities, I’ve seen this twisting firsthand, even participated in it. Try convincing a child that they are valuable when their physical ability and mental acuity is said to be a result of sin and it’s not how God intended them to be.)
Aslan then promises Lucy he’ll be back soon, and before we can say, “Aww, he’s trying to comfort her with his quick return,” he qualifies that his definition of soon is meaningless. This falls in line with 2 Peter 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day“) where the writer tries to explain why Jesus failed to return despite promising to do it in his disciples’ earthly lifetimes. Jesus laughably promised to return before these men died in Matthew 16:28, and let’s just say they didn’t survive 2,000 years! But it can’t be that Jesus lied or his promises failed (or he’s not real or the story was made up). No, it must be because his understanding of time is different than ours. Yep, that makes sense. It was all metaphorical. Or maybe Jesus didn’t bother to consider human perception or understanding when writing to them. Oh well.
After Aslan disappears back to Narnia, the magician gives Lucy lunch and explains that he thinks he’s improved upon the Duffers’ looks, and that other people would agree, but the opinion of the Duffers themselves over their own looks are of no importance. Since Lucy finds the new shapes of the Duffers “funny” and the magician thinks it’s an improvement over the shape of Dwarfs, they hatch a plan to get Lucy to trick the Duffers into liking their new bodies. Let’s see: taking people from what we view as inferior cultures, dressing them in a look we prefer, telling them their old ways were rubbish, telling them their new look is an improvement, and not listening to them when they cry about how bad it all is… now where have I heard that before?
In the end our group sails away from the Duffers who are forever stuck in their new monopod shapes. Little Bit has been furious on behalf of the Duffers for the last two chapters, and feels they have been grievously taken advantage of. We have to take a break to talk through her feelings before reading the last chapters and finishing up this book.
October 7, 2017