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Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Join us during the next several weeks as we examine seven points of discussion from 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' by Dr. Devin Brown.

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Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Tirian » Oct 29, 2010 7:51 pm

What Was the Magician’s Transgression?

In chapter fourteen, Ramandu reveals that Coriakin is also a former star. But when Lucy asks if Coriakin is a retired star, too, Ramandu provides an enigmatic answer.

“Well, not quite the same,” Ramandu replies, “It was not quite as a rest that he was set to govern the Duffers. You might call it punishment, He might have shone for thousands of years more in the southern winter sky if all had gone well.”
Caspian wants to know what the misdeed was that led to Coriakin’s punishment, and it is hard not to share his curiosity. What exactly was it that did not go well? Ramandu replies to Caspian, “My son, it is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what faults a star can commit.”

Despite Ramandu’s statement, is it possible that Lewis provides some hints about Coriakin’s transgression?

In chapter ten, we find the account of Lucy’s mission at the Magician’s house. After going upstairs, she must walk past room after room and dreads that “in any room there might be the magician—asleep, or awake, or invisible, or even dead.” At the sixth door, Lucy has what the narrator refers to as “her first real fright” when “a wicked little bearded face” seems to pop out of the wall.

The scary face turns out to be nothing more than a little mirror with “hair on the top of it and a beard hanging down from it.” With it Lewis reminds his readers—young and old—that many of our fears exist only in our minds. Earlier the Dufflepuds turned out to be not as menacing as they first seemed. Here the Magician’s mirror is no threat at all—and, in fact, is actually comical. Lewis will repeat the lesson a few pages later when Lucy finally meets the Magician, whom she has been fearing the entire time, only to find an ally and a friend.

Lewis leaves it to the reader to speculate why Coriakin has chosen to hang the little mirror with the hair and beard—the Bearded Glass, as it is called—in the hallway. Perhaps Lewis includes it just to reinforce the lesson about needless fears and to insert a comic break in the suspense Lucy is facing. However, perhaps Lewis wants to suggest that Coriakin became too prideful earlier in life and now has hung the mirror as a reminder that he must not take himself so seriously.

In chapter eleven we find what may be another possible clue to the Coriakin’s transgression. After a brief visit with Lucy and the Magician, Aslan takes his leave, claiming that he must visit Trumpkin and bring him news.

“Gone! And you and I quite crestfallen,” the Magician says to Lucy after Aslan vanishes. Then he adds, “It’s always like that, you can’t keep him.” The use of the word always implies that Coriakin has had other experiences with Aslan leaving sooner than desired. Perhaps Coriakin is referring to Aslan’s previous appearances on Dufflepud Island, but perhaps he is also remembering his days as a star in the Narnian heavens and Aslan’s visits with him back then.

In the Magician’s first words to Aslan, he admitted, “I am a little impatient” and Aslan responded with the mild rebuke “All in good time.” Perhaps a lack of patience was Coriakin’s downfall, and this is why Aslan set him to govern the Dufflepuds—because the experience will help him acquire this virtue.

There is another possible hint in the conversation after Aslan’s departure. After the Magician points out to Lucy, “You can’t keep him,” he adds, “It’s not as if he were a tame lion.” Again the former star may be speaking from experience. Perhaps when Coriakin was a star, he tried to enforce his own wishes on Aslan in some way—in some way tried to “keep” Aslan rather than accept Aslan’s will. Perhaps this is where his acknowledgement “You can’t keep him” comes from—from personal experience trying to do just this. If so, then perhaps an alternate reason Coriakin was set to govern the Dufflepuds was in order to see the role of authority from the side of the one doing the governing.

Despite these possibilities, Lewis never reveals the exact nature of Coriakin’s transgression. We never get more than hints. Perhaps Ramandu would tell us, “It is not for you readers to know what faults a star can commit.”

We can say for sure that Coriakin was guilty of some fault and was given a corrective punishment. In this sense the Magician, although an unworldly being of great power, is no different from the other characters in the Chronicles or, Lewis might say, from the readers themselves.

Lewis describes the cure for our rebellious nature in The Problem of Pain where he points out, “While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us?” Coriakin’s life was made “less agreeable” by being assigned the frustrating and thankless task of overseeing the Dufflepuds.

At the conclusion of Eustace’s corrective punishment, the narrator reported, “The cure had begun.” When we meet the Magician in chapter ten, we might say that the cure for his earlier transgression seems to not just have begun but to have been very successful.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?


In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?


For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.
4. Where do we see this principle or its reverse to be true at other places in The Chronicles?
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Ithilwen » Oct 30, 2010 4:08 am

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

I suppose it is possible he gave hints, but I rather doubt it. If there were, I believe they would have been made more clear. And I think that if Lewis wanted us to know, he would have just come right out and said it, not hinted at it.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

I think Lewis didn't say anything because he had nothing to say. He may never have decided what Coriakin's transgression was at all. He may have just decided that Coriakin committed some transgression and left it at that. The sin that the star committed was not important to the plot, so he left it unsaid, or undecided in his own mind.

In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?

Because Aslan loves Coriakin, and therefore punished him in order to shape him. Same with the other characters.

For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.
4. Where do we see this principle or its reverse to be true at other places in The Chronicles?

One example, I suppose, is how much stronger the children get the longer they've been in Narnia. When they first arrive, they still have the breath of our world in them, and are weaker. But the longer they are in Narnia, closer to Aslan and doing Aslan's will, the more the Narnian air changes them and strengthens them.


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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Eavis » Oct 30, 2010 9:50 am

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

I do not think so.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

I think that, as Ramandu said, it is not for us to know what sins a star can commit. Edmund and Eustace were human - we relate to their sins, and can understand them. Quite probably, even if we were told what the sin was, it would make no sense.

In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?


If God did not love us, He would have no interest in making us like Himself, and certainly would not have died for us. Aslan is, through the trials all the characters go through in all the books, making them more like Himself - their characters, if you will, are being formed to reflect His glory.

For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.

4. Where do we see this principle or its reverse to be true at other places in The Chronicles?

It's not during the punishment we mind seeing Him or talking to Him - it's before we've confessed it. There is always forgiveness, and after we are forgiven, it doesn't matter that we are being punished. He is always with us, even when we don't see Him. Edmund hated the thought and Name of Aslan, but that was before he met Him. After they had talked, Edmund would not even listen to 'fears' (the Witch) because he knew Aslan was sovereign, and the only thing that mattered was what the Lion said.
Conversely, Caspian, in VDT, did not welcome instruction and counsel ("A fool will not listen to advice, but in the abundance of councillors there is safety"), and Aslan's visit left him in tears. Yet we see that he has the mark of a true leader - humility - by his response to the admonishment.

But really, can we understand the Stars? They are continually praising the Creator - perhaps Coriakin's fault was pride, like unto Lucifer, called 'son of the morning'. In our world, Venus is sometimes called that.

Of course, for the final word we'll have to wait. Fortunately, for some of us, the day is coming soon...
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Eustace » Oct 30, 2010 3:46 pm

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? We will always be wondering about this one.If so, what do you think it might have been? But if he did leave clues, I think the magician was impatient and wanted something done and instead of waiting for Aslan to help he went and did it on his own.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified? You will always wonder about some one's sin. If we were to hear about Coriakin's sin he should be the one telling it not some one else. I think it reminds us to not judge others by their sin.


In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?
Coriakin was still very impatient while working with the Dufflepuds. Eustace only began to be a different boy. He went to Narnia again and his character grew then too. The book says he still had many problems and still could be tiresome at times.


For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.
4. Where do we see this principle or its reverse to be true at other places in The Chronicles?
At the end of VDT, Caspian is rebuked by Aslan. I got the feeling that he wasn't angry that Aslan came to him and rebuked him but that he had to be rebuked. I think most of us who are truely sorry or didn't mean to do anything wrong are sorry that we had to be rebuked or punished but that doesn't mean we are made at the person giving us the punishment.
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Aravis Narnia » Oct 30, 2010 5:31 pm

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

Maybe in the kinds of other things that the rest of the characters get into trouble for. I think that Coriakin may have used magic for his own selfish gain. And even if he had no malicious intentions of hurting someone else in the process, he may have. And now he is restituting for it and has received correction.


2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

I think that C.S. Lewis wants readers to use their imagination. Perhaps it would make a good open-ended question for a test in school. It may lead to a side story as well. Or for extra development in a movie or play.
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Bother Eustace » Oct 30, 2010 6:51 pm

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

I don't think there are many hints, but I have imagined what I think it may have been. Stars in Narnia follow Aslan's bidding in order to inform those below of coming events (I believe it is called the "dance of the sky" somewhere? Am I mistaken?). I sometimes think that maybe Coriakin became proud, thinking he was the one controlling future events, rather than simply heralding them. Maybe he changed his movement and course contrary to what Aslan or the Emperor-Over-the-Sea commanded, and for that he was exiled. Perhaps Aslan gave him charge over the rebellious Duffers because his own crime was one of rebellion. The Duffers think they know better than Coriakin, though they are really quite foolish. That could parallel what Coriakin's own sin was; trying to do things in a way he thought 'better' than Aslan's way.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

I think the reason he did that is precisely for what we're doing now, thinking it over ourselves. Lewis knew that simply telling his audience everything makes a dry and boring story; readers are intelligent and imaginative, and he wanted to make sure we thought things through ourselves.

In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?


It's quite clear that Aslan is not simply punishing Coriakin in a cruel and disciplinarian way, but actually trying to mold him to become better. That's what God does in our lives as well. I think that Coriakin's punishment was made to fit his crime, whatever that may have been.
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 31, 2010 2:51 am

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

It is hard to say. In VDT, Caspian is curious enough to ask and Ramandu as good as tells him to mind his own business. But earlier, when Prince Caspian was taking lessons on the astronomy tower with Doctor Cornelius, Caspian asks if Tarva and Alembil will collide and Dr Cornelius says "The great lords of the upper sky know the steps of their dance too well for that".

Could it be that Coriakin got bored with being in the Southern Winter sky and wanted to be somewhere else? Did he get out of step somehow and cause a collision? Tried a different rhythm that put everyone out of step? Impatient dancer, treading on someone's feet? We aren't told but Aslan likes the correction to fit the crime to be truly just. And from what Ramandu said, clearly something did go badly wrong. "He might have shone for many years in the Southern Winter Skies if all had gone well".

Governing the Dufflepuds does look like patience management, doesn't it? Maybe Coriakin had to learn to see things from a governing point of view - the other side of the counter you might say.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

Because the sins of those appointed elsewhere are none of our business really. How could a past folly since atoned for affect people who weren't born when it happened? This is Coriakin's misdeed and he has learned better. It is enough to know that even those in high places can do the wrong thing and have to be accountable for their actions. And the more exalted the position, the bigger the responsibility.

For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.

The Dufflepuds don't listen to reason, therefore they fear Coriakin and have to be ruled by 'this rough magic', itself a famous quote. Coriakin, himself, however, is wise and learned and, knowing the reasons for his being there, he welcomes the opportunity to meet someone to whom he can confide and who understands and loves him. The Dufflepuds would never be someone to fulfil those roles.
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Pepper Darcy » Nov 02, 2010 5:39 am

hmm, I don't think i'm even going there! I couldn't even speculate! I was always wondering myself what he did, so I couldn't suggest. But it eats at my imagination: what DID he do?!
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby daughter of the King » Nov 03, 2010 2:16 pm

1. No, I don't really think Lewis gave us any hints in the books. However, I once read an interview where Douglas Gresham said that Coriakin's sin was pride. I don't remember if he elaborated on that or not; I will have to find the link.

2. Well, other than the fact that it is not for Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve to know the sins that a star can commit, I think Lewis did not tell us because there was no reason to. Sure, the reader is left wondering what happened, but it is not necessary for the reader to know what happened. It is not an essential part of the story.

3. Christianity is not a one-time commitment. It is a life-long commitment. God works in us continually throughout our lives. It is appropriate here because Coriakin is learning. He has been punished for his past transgression and now he is learning patience. And (I am supposing here and have no evidence to back me up), perhaps Coriakin is more accepting of the lessons he is being forced to learn. I can't imagine that he was as easy-going when his punishment first began as he is when Lucy meets him.

Other examples of characters learning would of course be Edmund, Eustace, Aravis, Bree, and others.

4. Several of the characters go through some type of process or experience where they become more open to Aslan and more willing to listen to correction. Edmund (the classic example I suppose) goes from hating to even hear His name in LWW to being told "well done" in PC. An opposite would probably be the dwarfs in LB. They had several opportunities to have their eyes opened and fight for the good side. But, in the end, "the dwarfs are for the dwarfs" and they were shut up in a stable of their own creation.

Did that make sense? Now that I've read it over it doesn't sound quite as relevant as it did in my head. Oh well.
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Re: Week 2: What Was the Magician's Transgression?

Postby Galadrielle » Nov 10, 2010 12:17 pm

Questions for Discussion:

1. Do you think that Lewis has given us any hints about the Magician’s earlier flaw? If so, what do you think it might have been?

I think that, just as Lucy reminds me of Mary Magdalen and Jadis reminds me of Hitler, Coriakin reminds me of Lucifer. In the Narnia world, unlike in our world, there are no angels. I see the Stars in the Narnia world as the equivalent to our angels. Coriakin perhaps is guilty of pride, and just as Lucifer was punished for pride, so is Coriakin. The difference is that while Lucifer hangs on to his pride and arrogance, the repentant Coriakin is eager to learn humility.

2. Readers are told about Edmund’s and Eustace’s transgressions. Why do you think Lewis leaves Coriakin’s unspecified?

I believe Coriakin’s transgressions are private, just between himself and Aslan, although Ramandu knows of them. Ramandu points out to Caspian that a son of Adam, and I must assume, as I myself am one, a daughter of Eve, has no business prying into the transgressions of a Star.

In The Problem of Pain Lewis concludes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
3. How do you see this statement as relevant here and elsewhere in the Chronicles?

I see Coriakin’s punishment as a transformation. Coriakin is given work for which he does not care in order to shine brighter in the end. We see this in Aslan’s tearing off Eustace’s skin, and Eustace being given the ultimate pain in Silver Chair, when, upon the death of a character whom we love, but whose name I will not mention for fear of spoiling things, Aslan commands Eustace to drive a stake into Aslan’s paw. To inflict pain is harder than to suffer pain. In Magician’s Nephew, Diggory, then a teenager, is reprimanded by Aslan for reviving Jadis’ seated comatose body – his task is to facilitate bringing Lucy into Narnia, which he does by building the Wardrobe and by hosting her when she refugees from Hitler’s aircraft. Diggory must remain humble because he is destined to believe in the innocent rationale of children in order to save Narnia.


For someone being punished, Coriakin seems quite happy to see Aslan. By contrast, the Dufflepuds see Coriakin as their enemy. Coriakin regrets that he must govern the Dufflepuds by “rough magic” rather than wisdom. Here Lewis seems to be suggesting that the further along we are in our growth, the more we welcome the agents of correction in our lives and the opportunity for improvement they bring.

4. Where do we see this principle or its reverse to be true at other places in The Chronicles?

I believe that the first person to experience rough magic is Jadis in the Magician’s Nephew. In eating the sacred apple in a way in which she is forbidden, she is punished with long life, although many may consider this punishment a blessing. However, she has been given the opportunity to live out her days in Narnia as an obedient princess, subject, or even as the happily married consort, should she so wish, to the King of Narnia, had she repented and accepted her destiny, and to suffer the consequence of repeated widowhood and the loss of billions of friends until she gracefully goes to Aslan’s Country at the very end of Narnia. Instead, she ultimately usurps the Narnian throne and turns Narnia into a dictatorship until Aslan comes once again to make things right.

Conversely, I see Eustace as receiving one of the roughest magics of all in Silver Chair, which we all must experience: the death of a close friend. Both Eustace and his friend descended from Adam, and it is Adam’s downfall that has caused Eustace’s friend to die. Aslan inflicts rough magic on Eustace not because of Eustace’s sin, but because of Adam’s, by requiring him to impale his paw in order for Aslan’s sacred blood to flow and revive Eustace’s friend in his Resurrection Body.
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