Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
What follows is the sixth entry of blog posts where I share insights about the character Aslan who reminds me of Jesus the Christ from the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. You can read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Aslan "Unscales" to see the post before this one. We find ourselves in The Silver Chair, and it is a fantastic adventure. Lewis engages the reader's mind with great imagery and a compelling narrative through what he pens. As I was rereading this book, the theme that spoke to me deeply was that of "Remembering Aslan's Signs."
Eustace has fallen off the mountain down into Narnia, leaving Jill at the top. It is Jill's first time in Narnia, and she meets Aslan on the mountain. Aslan reveals to her that he was the one who called them into Narnia, and he has a mission to send them on. Aslan then gives Jill these four signs she must remember:
"First; as soon as the Boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once; if he does, you will both have good help. Second; you must journey out of Narnia to the north till you come to the ruined city of the ancient giants. Third; you shall find a writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you. Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan."
Before Aslan uses his breath to blow Jill into Narnia, he tells her:
"Remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs."
Jill ends up in Narnia, and she is doing great with remembering and following the first two signs, but she has more difficulty remembering the others as she goes on after meeting back up with Eustace. They are on a mission to find the lost prince of Narnia, and after following the third sign with instructions that "appear" to be "coincidental," they find themselves in Underland.
The Warden of the Marches of Underland finds Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum, a marsh-wiggle who has joined Jill and Eustace on their journey after they have fallen into the Deep Realm. He and his henchman, who are enslaved Earthmen, take the traveler's and lead them to the Green Witch's palace. The Warden hands the three captives to the Black Knight, the Green Witch's right-hand man. The three travelers recognize the Knight because he was up in Overland when they met the Green Witch earlier.
The Green Witch is away, and it "so happens" to be the last night that the Black Knight must be bound to a chair until morning because the Green Witch told him that he undergoes a bad transformation at night. Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum promise to each other not to unbound the Knight no matter what during the transformation! The three travelers find themselves locked in the room with the Black Knight bound to the chair when he undergoes his transformation. The Black Knight they met earlier is gone, and another man begins to speak. He says His name is Prince Rilian and he says: "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you — "
THE FOURTH SIGN! But... they promised each other to not free the Knight no matter what! So Jill, Eustace, and Puddlgum follow the sign and free the lost prince Aslan sent them to find. The Green Witch returns and enters the room to see her plan to bewitch Prince Rilian forever foiled, but she doesn't give up. Lewis goes on to pen this marvelously eye-opening paragraph:
"[The Green Witch] moved gently across the room, always keeping her face and eyes very steadily towards the Prince. When she had come to a little ark set in the wall not far from the fireplace, she opened it, and took out first a handful of a green powder. This she threw on the fire. It did not blaze much, but a very sweet and drowsy smell came from it. And all through the conversation which followed, that smell grew stronger, and filled the room, and made it harder to think. Secondly, she took out a musical instrument rather like a mandolin. She began to play it with her fingers — a steady, monotonous thrumming that you didn't notice after a few minutes. But the less you noticed it, the more it got into your brain and your blood. This also made it hard to think. After she had thrummed for a time (and the sweet smell was now strong) she began speaking in a sweet, quiet voice. "Narnia?" she said. "Narnia? I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia."
Did you notice it? She was using her magic to fog their minds so that she would confuse them and cause them to stop believing in what was true. Lewis uses this narrative to communicate a warning and reminder to us Christians: We must "remember the signs" Jesus has given us.
God the Father has redeemed for Himself a people and has sent them into this world broken by sin; Jesus has given His Church the Gospel of the Kingdom, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Good News brings restoration to this whole world and reconciles man back to God.
Satan works the same way that The Green Witch does. Satan uses the culture the Christian finds themselves in and tries to seduce them. Satan strums his guitar that plays a sweet melody to get us distracted. Satan puts green powder in the air that we smell to mesmerize us to forget that Jesus calls us to find the lost and point them to Him.
Aslan instructs Jill to "remember the signs" and repeat them back to herself, but she ends up forgetting, and she has great difficulty fighting off the Green Witch's spell. Lewis pens another marvelous scene that captured my mind:
"[Puddleglum], desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once. First, the sweet heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes. Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, "What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire inside your veins." Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic."
To fight off the spell he was falling under, Puddleglum shocked himself. He did what he had to do. Christians must be intentional and repeat to themselves the truth about the Kingdom of God and the Good News of reconciliation He has sent us out as Ambassadors to accomplish and share.
Satan is doing his best to get Christians distracted and "spellbound," if we begin to fall for his deception, we must "lift our eyes to the hills" and seek help from our LORD, "Who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV).
C. S. Lewis' The Sliver Chair is a great narrative that helps me see more clearly that I need to "Remember Jesus' "signs."
Lewis, C. S.(2005).The Silver Chair. New York: HarperCollins.