Monday, August 08, 2005

Story Synopsis: Holiday in Harfang

Editor: The Silver Chair represents a shift in character focus for the Narnian chronicles. The Pevensie children have all aged beyond recurring magical trips to Narnia, and after his life-changing experiences in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, cousin Eustace Scrubb now becomes the main protagonist. Joining him is a school acquaintance, Jill Pole. This synopsis of the story is a compilation of two recently discovered travel diaries—Jill’s, and that of a Marsh-wiggle named Puddleglum who was their guide on an amazing journey to find a lost Narnian prince. None other than Aslan himself mandated the quest; and from this point I will allow these two to tell the story.

Jill Begins…
Alas, it is autumn and a new term at school. Today I somehow caught the fancy of the school bullies and was crying behind the gym, where Scrubb—Eustace Scrubb—found me. After talking with him for a while I realized that he has changed since the last term. He told me an amazing story of a magical visit to a place called Narnia, and we both decided to call on the name of someone called Aslan, in order to evade the bullies. We ran to the stone wall at the edge of the school property, wishing that the always-locked door in that wall would be open by some miracle. When Eustace tried the handle, the door did open. We found ourselves looking not onto the dingy heather-covered moor surrounding Experiment House, but into a dazzlingly bright and sunny different world. I was scared and worried. Would it be safe? Would we be able to get back if we entered? I didn’t have time to voice my concerns as, pressed by the advancing bullies, Eustace grabbed my arm and pulled me through the door. England vanished and we entered another world.

We soon came to the edge of a cliff. I looked down to see the tops of clouds and tiny details of a land far below us. I guess I was hypnotized by the dizzying height because Eustace tried to pull me back from the edge. In the struggle, he lost his balance and fell from the cliff. In horror I watched him fall and became aware of a huge animal rushing to the cliff edge and beginning to blow hard. It seemed to be controlling Eustace’s fall with its breath! As Eustace became a tinier and tinier speck below me, I turned to find that I was standing next to a great lion.

The lion finished blowing and disappeared into a nearby forest. I sat down and had the pity party of all pity parties. Eventually, however, realizing that I was desperately thirsty, I entered the wood to perhaps find a stream. Well, I found my stream, but right across from me laid that huge Lion. He invited me to drink but I didn’t trust him until I realized that he was bigger and probably faster than I was anyway so I might as well die with my thirst quenched. He asked me about Eustace and I found that I had to confess that Eustace had fallen off the cliff because of my need to show off. Aslan (for that was his name) also told me that we were both there because he called us—wait, because we called for him. Well, the two are actually the same, I guess.

Aslan gave me four signs needed to complete a quest for Rilian, the lost Prince of Narnia. He made me repeat them and repeat them until I became very testy, but he admonished that things in Narnia wouldn’t be as clear as they were on top of that mountain and that I must be careful to repeat the signs regularly so that I wouldn’t forget them. Aslan then “blew” me into Narnia where I landed near a coastal castle, within a few feet of a very disheveled Eustace.

We saw an old and frail king surrounded by courtiers and strange beasts and creatures who had apparently gathered to bid him farewell. The king spoke (I couldn’t hear what he said) and then boarded a ship and set sail. At that point, I tried to tell Eustace the first sign—he was supposed to greet an old and dear friend at once—but we were interrupted by the arrival of a huge, white owl. This owl, Glimfeather, took us immediately to the Lord Regent, Trumpkin the dwarf, after I stated our mission of finding the prince. Eustace nearly vomited when he realized that the old friend he was supposed to have greeted was the king who had just sailed away. It turned out that he was the Prince Caspian in Eustace’s Narnia adventure last term; and since time is different in Narnia, he was now an old man and the father of the lost prince. After cleaning up, Eustace and I had a great blame-game argument because we had muffed the first sign already. With nothing solved, we went to supper and then looked forward to a soft bed. Before I could get undressed, Glimfeather appeared at my window and told me that he was flying me to a secret parliament of owls to which he had already delivered Eustace.

There we learned that more than thirty champions had so far gone in search of the lost prince. None had returned so King Caspian ordered that no one else was allowed to even try. We also learned how Prince Rilian came to disappear. Ten years earlier, Rilian and his mother the Queen went maying in the north parts of Narnia with a group of courtiers. While the Queen took a nap in a quiet glade, Rilian and the courtiers moved off a ways so as not to disturb her slumber. The Queen’s screams drew them to turn and see a great, green snake slithering away from her. She had been bitten on the hand and, despite all efforts to save her, she died. Rilian had tried to pursue the snake but it escaped through a crack in the ground. Devastated, Rilian traveled north often, seeking to find and destroy the snake to avenge his mother’s death. Eventually he gave up on the search for the snake but became obsessed with a beautiful woman dressed in green. Not long after, Rilian disappeared. The owls were pretty sure that the Green Lady was related to a White Witch who once held power in Narnia long ago.

Glimfeather and another owl volunteered to fly Eustace and me to the home of the Marsh-wiggles who lived at the northern border of Narnia and who could guide us north into Ettinsmoor so that we could satisfy the second sign which was to “journey to the ruined city of the ancient giants.”

Editor: From this point, the story will be related from the travel diary of Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle. Puddleglum is a philosophizing Eeyore-type character who sees the glass half-empty until he discovers that it is really half-full. Marsh-wiggles have muddy complexions, webbed hands and feet, are thin as reeds, and have extremely long legs but very compact bodies. Their hair is a gray-green and they wear clothing that blends with their earthy environment.

Day One
In the middle of the night a pair of owls deposited a Son of Adam and a Daughter of Eve in my wigwam. This morning they revealed their plan to rescue Prince Rilian, asking for my help. I fully expect to fail at this enterprise but have agreed to be their guide. This will be a long trip. These non-Wiggles argue incessantly!

Day Two
We began the long climb up a rocky moor which runs parallel to the giant’s gorge. Silly Jill thought the giants leaning on the edge of the gorge were piles of rocks and I had some real work for a while trying to keep Eustace and her from panicking and getting us all killed. The giants were playing cockshies, and boulders pelted down around us everywhere but we made it through safely to camp on the exposed moor tonight.

Day Nine
Nothing much to write. Living off the land, we have traveled across Ettinsmoor,. We were seen by only one giant who just laughed at us and continued on his way.

Day Ten
We left the moor today and entered a “different and grimmer” land. Found and crossed an enormous giant’s bridge that was connected to an ancient roadway. As we came off the bridge, we encountered a visored Knight in full armor on a black horse accompanied by a gorgeous woman dressed in green and astride a white horse. The woman did all the talking. There was something not quite right about her and I had to work hard to keep Jill from giving her too much information. We did find out that the road leads from the bridge to the Castle of Harfang, home of the Gentle Giants. We took leave of the lady and her knight. After they were gone, the three of us had a great row about why I wouldn’t allow the Lady to help us in our quest. Eventually, Jill and Eustace made me promise to go to Harfang and I made them promise not to tell the giants about Narnia or Prince Rilian. Jill has quit repeating the signs I have heard her chanting in days past. That I’m sure will become a very bad thing!

Editor: The following entries are undated.

Just surviving has kept me from writing on a regular basis but I will now attempt to “catch up.” At last we have come to a plain and can see lighted windows in the distance. One more night of camp? The weather is becoming increasingly cold.

This morning we woke to snow clouds and by mid-morning we were in a driving snowstorm. We climbed a series of high ledges which brought us onto level ground and into a biting wind. Here we encountered a series of baffling dead-end trenches that delayed us for a time. Eustace asked Jill about the signs, but she just said, “Bother the signs.” When we spotted the lights again I could not keep them from charging off to reach the warmth and comfort of the castle. Of course, I was the only one brave enough to hail the Porter and we were welcomed in by a very amused giant who had the cheek to call me “Froggy.” We were taken before the King and the Queen. Now that was interesting! The King and Queen looked like they wanted to “eat” Jill and Eustace. The Queen was extremely rude to me and Jill finally burst into tears of utter exhaustion. The three of us were rushed off to bathe, rest, and eat.

Our first day in Harfang castle: Jill, Eustace and I looked out a window and realized that the ledges and trenches we crossed to reach the castle were actually the ruins of a giant city. The trenches were the carving of the words UNDER ME. We all suddenly realized that Jill’s second and third signs had been completely fouled up, too, and expended a lot of energy trying to each take the blame. We then worked out a plan to escape the castle by pretending that we loved being there while looking for a way out. We cannot open the doors because we are so small. At lunchtime we found out that we had been dining on a Narnian Talking Stag, horror of horrors! We knew this was Aslan’s punishment for not attending to the signs. Desperate to find a way out, we finally went to the kitchen and talked to the cook who innocently told us that she usually left the scullery door open a crack for the cat. While we waited for her to drift off into her afternoon nap, Jill discovered a cookbook with recipes for Man and Marsh-wiggle and we realized that WE were on the menu for the Autumn banquet! The cook began to snore and we ran out of the castle. As we approached the City Ruinous, a hunting party spotted us and we really had to run for our lives. I spotted a crack at the bottom of the lowest step and dove in followed by Eustace and Jill. We filled the opening with rocks to confuse the hunting hounds and then discovered that we could move deeper into the crevice and eventually could stand up. It was so dark that we couldn’t see a thing and suddenly we were all sliding down a long, rocky, bruising, bone-jarring slope. It was very quiet and very warm and out of the darkness came a “dark, flat voice.”

The “Warden of the Marches of Underland” said we were in the Deep Realm. The “Earthmen” struck a strange, cold light revealing a group of strange and diverse beings, all with profoundly sad expressions. We were then forced to march. We continued on endlessly through cave after cave until we came to one with water and a ship we were forced to board. Over and over this Warden had told us that “few return to the sunlit lands” and Jill finally broke under the strain of fear. I reassured her by pointing out that we were under the Ruined City and back on track with Aslan’s instructions. This calmed her somewhat.

Okay, even a Marsh-wiggle eventually has had enough! We came to a bustling port and were taken to a great castle to meet the Queen of Underland. Guess who? Yes, the Green Lady. While we awaited her, we at last were able to talk to the Black Knight who seemed quite delusional. Over dinner the Knight admitted that he didn’t know how he had come to the Underworld and that he was bound by a spell from which only the Lady could free him. Every night (how they knew it was night I can’t imagine—I’d completely lost track of time by this point) the Knight was bound to a silver chair because of some insane fit that would make him a danger to all who are near. Except the Queen, of course, who usually attended him until he returned to normal. That “night,” he made us promise not to release him no matter how much he begged—and then we witnessed the most bizarre scene. The Knight commanded us to free him, contradicting what he’s said earlier, claiming that he was sane only at this time every night. We resisted until he invoked the name of Aslan—and we realized that this was Jill’s last sign. Still fearful, we released him and he arose and dashed the chair to pieces with his sword, declaring that he was Rilian, Prince of Narnia and son of the great King Caspian. We explained to him that he had been lost for ten years.

Leaving the room, the four of us ran smack into the returning Queen. She kept her cool and tried to convince the Prince that he was not thinking clearly. She was very clever and tried to brainwash us with a combination of sweet smelling green powder thrown on the fire and the steady, monotonous tune on a mandolin she played. Finally, Jill mentioned Aslan and I stomped my foot in the fire and the harsh reality of pain brought me back to my senses. The Witch turned nasty, and I declared that we were all for Aslan and would be leaving to spend our lives in the Overland even if it was as dull as she claimed. Well, then things got really interesting! The Queen turned into an enormous green serpent that coiled itself around Prince Rilian’s legs. Grabbing the snake’s head with one hand and drawing back his sword with the other, Rilian began to rain blows upon the neck and I jumped in with my own sword (yes, I had remembered to pack one) and between the two of us we hacked off the beast’s head! Rilian’s mother was finally avenged and his ten-year enslavement was ended.

Editor: The story will be finished from Jill’s diary.

While we rested, Rilian told us that there was a new passage to the Overworld only a few miles away. As we planned our next steps we heard the creatures of Underworld running everywhere and shouting as the fires of deep earth reflected on the ceiling of the cavern and the waters of the sea rose into the city. It became clear that the Witch had programmed her kingdom to self-destruct if she was killed. Rilian retrieved his black shield that now wondrously transformed into bright silver bearing a red rampant lion. We knew it was a sign of Aslan’s lordship over our lives. We rescued horses from the stable and rode out of the city and upward toward the red glow. Puddleglum was able to catch a miserable little gnome who was terrified of us until he learned that the Queen was dead. Glog (for that was his name) and thousands of other poor gnomes were brought from the land of Bism deep in the earth, to work for the Witch in the “Shallow Lands.” With the death of the Witch, the gnomes had prepared for war—thinking that the Witch was coming to lead them out to fight in the bright Overworld, and they were going to fight her rather than go out.

We came to the edge of a deep, bright chasm from which emanated a strong but tantalizing smell. Gnomes were everywhere clambering down into what Glog revealed was the entrance to Bism. A voice came from the depths telling all to be quick, saying that the rift was closing. Glog and many other gnomes dove in just before the crack in the rock closed and we were left alone in the dim light. We returned to our ascent. Eventually, we had to dismount and lead the horses as the way narrowed and the ceiling lowered. Eustace spotted a tiny patch of light overhead and by standing on Puddleglum’s shoulders I was able to find out that it was a hole!

I managed to get my head out and was trying to tell the others when something hit me in the face. Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I realized that I had come out into the heart of Narnia and had been hit by a snowball. I yelled for help, and the Narnians returned to dig out the rest of the group. Puddleglum and Prince Rilian were recognized and there was a great rejoicing at their return. We were ushered into a cave, given a good meal and, thankfully, allowed to rest.

Last Day in Narnia
When I awoke the next morning, I found that Rilian had gone to Cair Paravel to see his father, whom Aslan had turned back shortly after we had seen him set sail. We said good-by to Puddleglum here. We returned to the castle of Cair Paravel, arriving just as the ship we had seen upon our entry to Narnia cruised up the river and docked. We waited to see the old King come down the gangway, but nothing happened. Then four knights carried the bed-ridden King ashore. Prince Rilian knelt and embraced his father; the King raised his hand in blessing, and his head fell back on the pillows. The King was dead.

Eustace and I were so sad that I must have said, “I wish I was home” out loud. Suddenly, Aslan was there telling us that our job was done and that he had come to take us home. Instantly, we were again on the mountaintop where our adventure had begun, walking beside the stream where I had first spoken to Aslan. Looking into the stream, we saw the dead King Caspian lying on the bottom and we all wept, even Aslan. Aslan told Eustace to go into a thicket and pick a thorn which he then asked him to drive into his paw. Aslan allowed a great, red drop of blood to splash into the stream over the dead king; Caspian became younger and younger until he emerged from the water, a young man, fully alive! We longed to stay with Caspian, but Aslan was not ready for us to remain there yet. He granted Caspian five minutes in our world with us. Caspian, Eustace and I charged the bullies who had been chasing us when we fled into Narnia. Our headmistress came to see what the ruckus was, going into hysterics over the lion and flying crops and swatting swords, so we took the opportunity to slip back into school and change our clothes while Aslan and Caspian returned to their own world.

Things have been better at Experiment House since the headmistress has been removed. The school has become quite good and Eustace and I are best friends.

Editor’s Footnote: King Rilian buried his father and ruled a happy Narnia as his successor. Puddleglum’s foot healed within three weeks and he was joyful as a Marsh-wiggle can be. Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole remained friends forever. It is not known whether Eustace ever wrote down his memories of the trip they all shared. Perhaps someday there will be another journal discovered.

Contributed by Kathy Bledsoe


Anonymous George Rosok said...

George Rosok said...

Hi, Kathy
I really enjoyed your synopsis. This is very clever and an enjoyable way to get caught up on what takes place in the story. It has a nice personal feel to it. I also liked your story last month for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. That was an inventive way to take the reader into the story and convey your opinions. I have read other attempts where a writer interviews a character of a story and I think there is potential for it to fall flat, but yours was definitely not flat. It was very lively. I felt I was really getting to know the characters better.

8/13/2005 8:12 PM  
Blogger Kathy Bledsoe said...

Hi, George!
Thanks for your gracious comments. I really enjoyed doing both pieces and just within the last 3 books especially I have felt like my "voice" is coming through. I guess it also helps to really love the books and frequently see myself in the actions and attitudes of the characters!

8/14/2005 1:40 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I read these books well over 20 years ago and just recently began waxing nostalgic after checking out the website for the new movie coming out. I had forgotten so many details. Thanks for helping me remember.

8/17/2005 8:27 PM  
Blogger Kathy Bledsoe said...

My pleasure! Thank you for taking the time drop a short note. I don't know if we will be fortunate enough to get a good series of Narnia movies, but The Silver Chair would certainly make a great one, I think!

8/18/2005 7:40 PM  

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