New Discoveries

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New Discoveries

Postby Reepicheep775 » Sep 30, 2017 12:12 pm

This can be a thread for any new discoveries you make about the Narnia books, anything that Lewis included that was subtle enough to escape your notice at first. It can be references to other literature, links to Lewis's non-fiction, or anything you like.

My most recent discovery happened today when I was researching nursery rhymes for a book I am writing. One of the nursery rhymes I looked at was called "Goosey Goosey Gander":

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.

There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.


If the highlighted part of that rhyme sounds familiar, it is because Lewis referenced it in Chapter 16 of the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan is restoring the statues inside the Witch's house:

C. S. Lewis wrote:"Now for the inside of this house!" said Aslan. "Look alive, everyone. Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber! Leave no corner unsearched. You never know where some poor prisoner may be concealed."


Now I just wonder why Lewis made this reference. :-?
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Nov 30, 2019 3:46 pm

*dusts off thread*

I was going to start a discussion on exactly this sort of thing and then I remembered this one existed. ;))

I read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton recently, who was one of Lewis's greatest influences, and a couple passages in the essay "The Ethics of Elfland" stood out to me. (Of all the essays in this book, this one in particular is of especial interest to Narnian-minded people, I think.)

G.K. Chesterton wrote:My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland, but elfland that criticised the earth. I knew the magic beanstalk before I had tasted beans; I was sure of the Man in the Moon before I was certain of the moon. This was at one with all popular tradition. Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about the bush or the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of brook and bush. That is what the moderns mean when they say that the ancients did not "appreciate Nature," because they said that Nature was divine. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads.


G.K. Chesterton wrote:Well, I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since. I left the nurse guardian of tradition and democracy, and I have not found any modern type so sanely radical or so sanely conservative. But the matter for important comment was here, that when I first went out into the mental atmosphere of the modern world, I found that the modern world was positively opposed on two points to my nurse and to the nursery tales. It has taken me a long time to find out that the modern world is wrong and my nurse was right.


These passages really made me think of Caspian and his nurse in Prince Caspian, with her stories of old Narnia that turned out to be true! And the dull, modernist Miraz who wouldn't stand for her fairy tales and sent her away. I honestly would have a hard time believing that Lewis didn't have this essay in mind when he wrote Caspian's backstory.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Cleander » Dec 02, 2019 4:06 pm

I was recently reading in the Old Testament Book of Job, and came across a verse wherein God asks if Job was present when He "laid the foundations of the earth,... when all the morning stars sang together." (Job 38: 6-7). I couldn't help but think that Lewis had this in mind when writing the Narnian creation scene in the Magician's Nephew.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Col Klink » Apr 05, 2020 4:08 pm

I noticed some possible foreshadowing in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe recently. When Mr. Tumnus is leading Lucy to his cave, she briefly thinks he's "going to walk straight into an unusually large rock" before she sees the door. Did she think for a moment this guy was trying to kill her (by smashing her face against a rock?) If so, that could foreshadow Tumnus's true intentions. I also noticed that there are "heavy darkish clouds" when the Pevensies start on their way to Tumnus's trashed house and when they follow the robin, who leads them to Mr. Beaver, the first character in the book to mention Aslan, the sun comes out and the snow grows "dazzlingly bright."

It also occurred to me that Caspian (in Prince Caspian) and Shasta use the term "kid" for child, which feels a lot more modern than I'd expect from Narnian characters. I guess that's because C.S. Lewis wanted young readers to relate to them more than, say, to Tirian or the older Caspian in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Cleander » Apr 06, 2020 11:45 am

Great points, Col Klink! I need to keep an eye open next time I read them...
My brother just told me about the story of The Mountain King, an old Germanic legend about a king kidnapping a young girl and bringing her to his underground kingdom to be his wife. He also put a spell on her that would make her forget God... and the world above.
Sound familiar, anyone? ;)
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Courtenay » Apr 06, 2020 2:05 pm

Reepicheep775 wrote:
My most recent discovery happened today when I was researching nursery rhymes for a book I am writing. One of the nursery rhymes I looked at was called "Goosey Goosey Gander":

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.

There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.


If the highlighted part of that rhyme sounds familiar, it is because Lewis referenced it in Chapter 16 of the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan is restoring the statues inside the Witch's house:

C. S. Lewis wrote:"Now for the inside of this house!" said Aslan. "Look alive, everyone. Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber! Leave no corner unsearched. You never know where some poor prisoner may be concealed."


Now I just wonder why Lewis made this reference. :-?


Coming to this one a bit late, but I hope Reepicheep775 will still read it!

I was familiar with that nursery rhyme when I first read LWW with Mum (when I was 5) — I know it was in at least one of our books of nursery rhymes when I was little, as I can still picture the illustration that went with it (a sinister-looking goose at the top of a staircase with an old man in his pyjamas lying at the bottom). I don't remember my reaction to it when Aslan unexpectedly quoted it, but I definitely would have recognised where it came from.

I've since read in a commentary — Devin Brown's Inside Narnia — that the rhyme originally referred to the Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell's soldiers who marched out ("goose-stepping") to look for Catholic priests, who were persecuted by law and would hide away in "priest-holes" built into grand houses, especially behind the bedroom ("my lady's chamber"). A Catholic priest — one who "wouldn't say his prayers" in English using the Book of Common Prayer — could be imprisoned and tortured if caught, hence "threw him down the stairs." Brown concludes "We have no indication that Lewis knew the background behind the origins of the verse. In fact, we must assume that he did not, because if he had known its origins, he likely would not have chosen to include the lines in TLWW." (Inside Narnia, p. 229)

However, I'm aware it's a good idea to take purported nursery rhyme origins and meanings, especially sinister ones, with a grain of salt (like "Ring a Ring o' Roses" supposedly being about the plague... it's not). And as it turns out, going by Wikipedia, the earliest known forms of the rhyme do NOT have any references to the old man who wouldn't say his prayers. The earliest known versions also date from the late 1700s, over 100 years after Cromwell, so I suspect the whole idea that it's about persecution of Catholic priests is a furphy. 8-| (That's Aussie English for an untrue rumour.)

That's all off topic as to WHY Lewis might have quoted the rhyme, anyway. Devin Brown also points out that, like Father Christmas in an earlier chapter, this is a surprising inclusion of something from our world that "may briefly break the spell for some readers, as its use may seem out of place in Narnia." It does always seem a bit odd to me, although as I said, I don't remember how (or if) I reacted to it as a child.

My own thoughts about it are that Lewis, in this first Narnia book he wrote, was perhaps still finding his voice (so to speak) as a writer of books for children and trying to take a friendly, jolly, avuncular sort of tone — that's certainly how he comes across in a lot of his little interjections and asides as narrator, more so in LWW than he tends to in the later books in the series. I'm guessing he felt that as Aslan is ordering the newly freed creatures to search the whole of the Witch's house for other statues, "Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber!" would fit with where they are and have a jokey ring to it, as young children would recognise the phrase and find it whimsical that Aslan is using it to refer to searching even in the Witch's bedroom while she's out.

Ultimately I think it does fall flat, and I assume it's a bit baffling for those in countries where the original rhyme isn't known, but it must have felt right to Lewis at the time when he wrote it (and unlike a few other things, he didn't decide to revise it for American readers), so there it is. He doesn't quote earthly nursery rhymes in any of the later books, so perhaps he decided afterwards that it did sound a bit silly and he was better off not doing that again. That's what I make of it, anyway.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Wanderer Between Worlds » Apr 15, 2020 10:31 am

The story of the mountain king reminds me of the Greek myth about Hades and Persephone, Cleander.

Interesting points, Courtenay! I did not know all of that background to the verse. I didn't notice the verse being out of place as a child, but as I was recently re-reading LWW, it did stick out to me. Maybe Aslan picked it up in one of the "other countries" he had to attend to. I had always thought that the "Ring a Ring o' Roses" rhyme was a reference to the black plague. Thank you for the information.

On another note, I was noticed that in LWW Lucy gives a handkerchief to Mr. Tumnus and then receives it back when the beavers show it to her (I could be getting this detail wrong). She then gives a handkerchief to Rumblebuffin. Could this be the same handkerchief? I thought it would be an interesting detail to play "connect the dots" with. ;)
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Col Klink » Apr 15, 2020 1:02 pm

I've wondered recently whether Lewis meant this line towards the end of The Silver Chair as foreshadowing.

(Rilian) ruled Narnia well and the land was happy in his days, though Puddleglum (whose foot was as good as new in three weeks) often pointed out that bright mornings brought on wet afternoons and that you couldn't expect good times to last.

In The Last Battle, a lot of bad things do happen in Narnia after Rilian's time. However, C.S. Lewis probably didn't intend this as foreshadowing since he also implies at the end of the book that Narnia still exists and that the reader might conceivably go there. Apparently, he hadn't planned out the story of The Last Battle yet. Still, it fits so well I can't help but wonder.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Courtenay » Apr 15, 2020 2:53 pm

Hi Col Klink,

That's an interesting thought! It could be taken as foreshadowing, I agree — or it could also be taken as Puddleglum being Puddleglum, with exactly the same attitude he's had throughout the book! :p Also, we find out in The Last Battle that Rilian has been "dead over two hundred years" at the time of that story, so although there certainly are catastrophic events in that book, they're coming a very long time after Puddleglum's era. So perhaps Lewis wasn't meaning to allude to them there, but there's no way of knowing for sure, really.

I do find it interesting that at the end of The Silver Chair Lewis says directly to his audience: "If ever you have the luck to go to Narnia yourself..." In fact, looking through the last chapter just now, I've found he also implies that Jill and Eustace are still alive in our world at the time he's writing — when they have an uncomfortable ride on the two Centaurs, we're told "But however sore and jolted the two humans were, they would now give anything to have that journey over again..." If he'd said "afterwards" or "later", that would mean that statement could refer to any time period, but saying "now" suggests strongly that they are still around to be feeling that way!

Similarly, a couple of times in Dawn Treader Lewis heavily implies that Lucy too is still alive as he's writing this book and that he's even "interviewed" her to get the story — see the part in the last chapter where he quotes himself asking Lucy, and her reply to him, about the "musical sound" on the breeze from Aslan's country! Also at the end of The Horse and His Boy, Lewis makes the wry comment about looking up Rabadash "in a good History of Calormen (try the local library)". That too seems to imply that he's thinking of Narnia and the surrounding countries as still existing — in their mortal "Shadowlands" form, that is — and potentially accessible from our world even as he's writing about them.

So from all this, I get the impression that it wasn't until Lewis wrote the last two books — The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle (I gather he worked on them simultaneously) — that he made a clear decision to end the series with Narnia being destroyed. However, I can think of another passage in The Silver Chair that sounds like a foreshadowing of the final book, as Eustace and Jill see Caspian resurrected on the Mountain of Aslan:

A great hope rose in the children's hearts. But Aslan shook his shaggy head. "No, my dears," he said. "When you meet me here again, you will have come to stay. But not now. You must go back to your own world for a while."


In The Last Battle, of course, they DO meet Aslan again in his own country, this time to stay forever. But given all those other hints that Lewis didn't yet have that ultimate ending in mind when he wrote The Silver Chair or the earlier books, maybe he simply meant (at least at the time he wrote those lines) that one day they'll die and go to heaven, without necessarily implying that it'll be any time soon or that this will be featured in a future book.

It would be fascinating to know just how the whole narrative of the Chronicles developed in Lewis's imagination over the several years that he was writing the books — when it was that particular ideas and inspirations came to him, and indeed whether he was originally thinking of ending the series differently — but I don't think he ever said or wrote much about that, unfortunately. Fun to wonder about, though!
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Col Klink » Apr 15, 2020 6:27 pm

It's true that the line reflects Puddleglum's personality. But some of Puddleglum's gloomy predictions in The Silver Chair turn out to be right. So it might be fitting if his last line did too. Though of course, at the end of The Last Battle we hear about good times which never end so he was a little bit wrong in any case.
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Re: New Discoveries

Postby Varnafinde » Apr 20, 2020 3:17 pm

Courtenay wrote:I'm guessing he felt that as Aslan is ordering the newly freed creatures to search the whole of the Witch's house for other statues, "Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber!" would fit with where they are and have a jokey ring to it, as young children would recognise the phrase and find it whimsical that Aslan is using it to refer to searching even in the Witch's bedroom while she's out.

Ultimately I think it does fall flat, and I assume it's a bit baffling for those in countries where the original rhyme isn't known, but it must have felt right to Lewis at the time when he wrote it (and unlike a few other things, he didn't decide to revise it for American readers), so there it is.


To me it sounded like a quotation even though I didn't know what he was quoting. The tone of it wasn't anything Aslan himself would use. Whether it was a common saying or not, I didn't know, and I didn't know about the nursery rhyme at the time.

Courtenay wrote:It could be taken as foreshadowing, I agree — or it could also be taken as Puddleglum being Puddleglum, with exactly the same attitude he's had throughout the book!


I'm sure it's just Puddleglum being Puddleglum. He makes it as a general observation, not something to be more relevant in the future than it is already.

Courtenay wrote:[...] wrote the last two books — The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle (I gather he worked on them simultaneously)


He started working on MN quite early in the process of the series, but stopped it after getting stuck, in the text that is now known as the Lefay fragment.

He started again later, and included Digory and Polly meeting a farmer in Charn, but wasn't quite sure about that version either. A friend of his, Roger Lancelyn Green, advised him to drop that farmer, he didn't fit in - so Lewis wrote a new version, which is the LB that we know (with a London cabby driver instead). He told Green that Green had saved the book by getting rid of those parts that weren't good enough.

LB had been finished and sent to the publishers before MN was finished, with the info that this was meant to be the last book in the series, and there would be another book before it.

Courtenay wrote:It would be fascinating to know just how the whole narrative of the Chronicles developed in Lewis's imagination over the several years that he was writing the books — when it was that particular ideas and inspirations came to him, and indeed whether he was originally thinking of ending the series differently — but I don't think he ever said or wrote much about that, unfortunately. Fun to wonder about, though!


All I know about that development, I know from the biography written by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper (https://www.amazon.com/Biography-Lewis-Roger-Lancelyn-Green/dp/0006246834).

Green was probably the second person to be shown the manuscript (not necessarily even complete) of LWW. He was the one who encouraged Lewis to go on with it after Tolkien had tried to discourage him. (Green didn't like the inclusion of Father Christmas, but he says in the biography that he dislikes him less every time he reads the book.)

Lewis used Green as an informal consultant on all the other chronicles, and Green records some of the process in the biography. You get in what order Lewis started and finished his work, and some details about his contact with the illustrator, Pauline Baynes, and his publishers - but not much about "when it was that particular ideas and inspirations came to him".

The farmer in Charn is only mentioned in the biography. I've never heard of any fragment of that text. But the oldest idea we know about, was a picture of a faun in a winter wood - Lewis says somewhere (probably in the article "It all began with a picture") that this picture came into his mind when he was about 17.

Wanderer Between Worlds wrote:On another note, I was noticed that in LWW Lucy gives a handkerchief to Mr. Tumnus and then receives it back when the beavers show it to her (I could be getting this detail wrong). She then gives a handkerchief to Rumblebuffin. Could this be the same handkerchief? I thought it would be an interesting detail to play "connect the dots" with. ;)


She gave it to Tumnus on her first visit to Narnia. When all four went in together, it's likely that she then had a new one in her pocket. So when she got the first one back from the beavers (I guess they give it to her, not just show it to her), she would have two, and it could be one or the other that was given to Rumblebuffin.
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