C.S. Lewis, in The Last Battle, wrote:It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia so much is because it sometimes looked a little like this."
Sehnsucht is a German word that means "yearning" or "intensely missing", and it is a concept that figures prominently in C.S. Lewis's work. Wikipedia attempts to define it thus:
- It is sometimes felt as a longing for a far-off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify. Furthermore, there is something in the experience which suggests this far-off country is very familiar and indicative of what we might otherwise call "home". In this sense it is a type of nostalgia, in the original sense of that word. At other times it may seem as a longing for a someone or even a something. But the majority of people who experience it are not conscious of what or who the longed for object may be, and the longing is of such profundity and intensity that the subject may immediately be only aware of the emotion itself and not cognizant that there is a something longed for.
We see this appear in many different ways in The Chronicles of Narnia. To name a few: Caspian's longing for the Old Days, Shasta's yearning for the North, Emeth's unsconscious quest for Aslan, Puddleglum's plainspoken defense against the Lady of the Green Kirtle's enchantment, and—perhaps most powerfully of all—Reepicheep's fierce, fearless yearning to seek the end of the world and Aslan's Country.
In the afterword of the third addition of The Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis described things that evoked the feeling of sehnsucht in him:
C.S. Lewis wrote:That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves
I imagine that experiences of sehnsucht are somewhat unique to individuals. I've often experienced a fierce, inexplicable longing when I look at a beautiful sky and shining clouds—I lose myself, the world falls away. I've felt it when listening to certain strains of music or when reading a line in a book that makes me feel as though the author knew some secret of my soul that I had forgotten. There have even been rare times when I felt like I had stumbled upon a portal to another dimension, until the spell was broken. (You can imagine how someone like Lewis, who experienced sehnsucht so strongly, might come to write stories about slipping in and out of different worlds.)
This thread was inspired by a post by Reepicheep775 in Talk About Narnia, who shared this in his remarks:
Reepicheep775 wrote:It kind of surprises me how little sehnsucht is talked or written about (there isn't even an English equivalent!). Obviously, I only have my own experiences to go by, but like Lewis, it feels like the most important thing I've ever experienced.
It does indeed feel like that... I find myself wanting to search everywhere to recapture it, longing to go back to the places where it happened before, but as the Professor says that the end of LWW: it is the sort of thing that happens when you're not looking for it.