#Narniathon21: the Lost Prince

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Esteemed Narniathoners, we are now at the halfway point in our readalong of the Chronicles of Narnia. The Silver Chair (1953) is the fourth published title in the septad of titles C S Lewis set in his portal world although, chronologically speaking, it’s actually the penultimate story.

You will, by now, have hopefully read The Silver Chair but, if not, never fear! It’s never too late to complete it and return here to add your comments.

As is usual, in this #Narniathon21 post I shall pose three general questions to get you started on a discussion — but of course it’s not compulsory to answer them! Feel free to state your thoughts or respond to others who’ve expressed themselves, for this is yet another tale rich with images, ideas and emotions. And don’t forget to link to your own posts and reviews.

© C A Lovegrove
  1. The Silver Chair is a quest story, its progress determined by four signs which, Aslan says, will confirm that Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb are on the right track. The children believe they have failed in recognising three of the signs: have they really failed or do you think the signs, like many oracular sayings, were too obscure or ambiguous to be of practical use?
  2. The narrative brings in so many themes and motifs from folklore, myth, medieval epic and children’s literature. What are your favourite moments in the novel, and why do you think that may be so?
Perithous receiving the centaurs at his wedding to Hippodameia (wall painting, Pompeii)

Finally, a fun question:

3. There’ll be a winged horse in The Magician’s Nephew and a talking horse in The Horse and His Boy, Eustace as a dragon gives rides to the crew of the Dawn Treader, and of course Lucy and Susan are privileged to ride on Aslan’s back in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In The Silver Chair the children are also very privileged: “To ride on a Centaur is, no doubt, a great honour (and except Jill and Eustace there is probably no one alive in the world today who has had it)” we’re told, “but it is very uncomfortable.” Uncomfy or not, is there any Narnian or other creature you would like to travel on the back of — with their permission of course? [1]


#Narniathon21 image after Pauline Baynes

The next discussion to be held will be on Friday 29th April, and the title up for consideration will be The Horse and His Boy. I’m already looking forward to what your thoughts on this instalment will be!

[1] see Brenton Dickieson, ‘The Thing about Riding Centaurs: A Note on Narnia, Harry Potter, Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, and the Black Stallion.’ A Pilgrim in Narnia. https://wp.me/p1L28Z-3QK. Accessed 14/4/2022.

40 thoughts on “#Narniathon21: the Lost Prince

  1. Well, I have read and loved this one too, and am trying to bring my thoughts together at the moment! I certainly sensed more of a Christian aspect to this book, the signs kind of representing the blind obedience that religion often demands. I did wonder why Aslan had to make it so complicated…

    But I recognised lots of symbolism, the journey to the underworld, the enchanted prince etc and did rather enjoy all that. I suspect I recognise more now than I would have as a child!

    As for having a ride in Narnia – well, it could only be on Aslan!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, but that was always the impression I got, Karen, Aslan making everything complicated! I think that’s I’ve always felt iffy about the Narniad, because Aslan seemed to be playing games on the youngsters. As a child, and later a teacher, I’ve deeply resented grown-ups (and that includes deities) giving trick questions or cruel challenges as a kind of preparation for the School of Life. Why set people up to potentially fail? — I hope to later say something about fantasies, fairytales and religions testing individuals, how they’re similar and how they differ.

      Riding on Aslan? Lucky Lucy and Susan get that privilege, don’t they! Jill here gets to ride on Glimfeather, but I don’t think she enjoyed the experience…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: #Narniathon21: the Lost Prince – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  3. For a ride in Narnia, definitely Fledge! Second place would be Aslan, and perhaps Jewel the unicorn.

    A few of my favorite moments: when the travelers have to saunter out of the giant house looking as though they are going nowhere special … such tension. When Prince Rilian is confined in the Silver Chair and calls on the name of Aslan, and they have to decide whether to set him free, also a tense moment. And when the Underland gnomes are telling about their homeland of Bism and Rilian is tempted to explore there … I’ve always wished we got to go there too!

    The Four Signs, as I will write in my post, were indeed irritatingly obscure. Why did Aslan have to make it so complicated? Why not just blow them all the way to the North, if it comes to that, and avoid the whole arduous journey and its dangers? Or why not rescue Rilian himself? The line drawn between his power and that of the humans/Narnians often seems so random and arbitrary. But unless he gives them something to do, there would be no story, and this one is quite excellent purely as an adventure narrative. As there were four signs, not the more traditional three, they could mess up three times and still redeem themselves. This leaves hope for those of us who are inveterate messer-uppers.

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    1. Yes, I think a ride on Fledge would be delightful, and less precarious than on Glimfeather! I wonder if there were still winged horses in the later Narnian epochs? And Lewis definitely teased us with Bism without satisfying our curiosity.

      I too find Aslan’s tests arbitrary, almost as if he’s setting Jill and Eustace up for failure — I’m assuming for now that there’s some step in the logic I’m not grasping. But I’m looking forward to your piece on TSC now!

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  4. Cassandra was doomed to prophesy the truth but not be believed – so Aslan was made into a Cassandra by the kids not believing his signs? My favourite moment was meeting Puddleglum who is so happy in his pessimism – but I wanted more of the underground and the Lady in the Kirtle and the Prince in the chair – it was all too easy to sort things out in the end. I’d stick with the centaur to ride on – they’re scholars and we could have a great discussion as we went.

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    1. I’m not sure that Jill, and to a lesser extent, Eustace didn’t really believe in Aslan’s sybilline signs, just that being human, with a lot else on their minds and, of course, the denser Narnian air to contend with, the pair of them can hardly be blamed for missing the signifiers. Puddleglum? He’s definitely a highlight of this instalment for both of us and, I suspect, a good many others: he epitomises the principle that pessimism is always a win-win philosophy — if things go badly then your pessimism was justified, if they go well then all’s well and good!

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  5. Pingback: #Narniathon21: The Silver Chair – Annabookbel

  6. Haven’t go around to re-reading it, I fear, so I can only answer your last question and there’s surely only one answer? Shadowfax, of course! Though if it has to be a mythical beast then I quite fancy a ride on the hippogriff in Harry Potter…

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  7. Oh, I do hope to properly join in soon! I have been too preoccupied with the Japanese Literature Challenge 15, and now the longlist for the International Booker Prize, but I have not forgotten your “challenge”! And, your questions are so enticing…

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  8. When I read the Narnia books for the first time (age somewhere between 8-11, I guess), this one didn’t make that much of an impression, but after multiple re-readings it grew on me. Puddleglum is one of my favorite Narnians, from his physical description to his Eeyore-ish affect to the stalwart friend that’s revealed as we get to know him. I also enjoy Jill as a character. It makes exposition easier to have yet another Narnia newbie, of course, but to me she’s pluckier and more interesting than Lucy.

    1. I’m with you, Chris, in resenting trick questions/challenges like the Signs. It has always bothered me that they talk about “muffing” the first sign, and blame it on Jill, when she did tell Eustace in time but he couldn’t have recognized Caspian. But it’s such a widespread trope (and only introduced to be failed!) that it doesn’t annoy me that much here. As Annabel mentioned above, it does all sort itself out rather easily. In my previous re-read (https://www.salticid.com/bookblog/2019/12/the-chronicles-of-narnia-c-s-lewis-1950-1956/), I noted how quickly the suspense resolves – but I like that!
    2. Favorite moments: Jill realizing how high the cliff is, the owls’ reactions to Trumpkin, Puddleglum getting drunk, the gnomes’ transition from sadness to joy (I also wish we had seen more of Bism!) and the Great Snow Dance.
    3. I would choose to go a-dragonback if I could, but that’s got to be influenced by other dragon rides (Le Guin’s Earthsea, the Anne McCaffrey dragon books, Spirited Away… there are so many). Despite Jill’s experience, my second choice would be riding on an owl – the silent flight would be amazing.

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    1. I loved Lucy, but by being more fallible Jill feels more ‘real’. And Puddleglum, who despite (or maybe because of) his Eeyore nature, irritated me first time around, definitely impresses me this time.

      Thanks for your comments on the Signs (and for your link, which I’ll explore presently) — I shall have a few things to say about them in a post after I’ve reviewed this book. And I like your highlights too!

      Thanks for reminding me of the dragon ride in Spirited Away, a timely reminder that a rewatch of this is well overdue for me. My partner has ridden a desert camel in Tunisia and I’ve been long envious of her experience, while our daughter when backpacking in India rode an elephant — both are experiences as exciting as a flying dragon or hippogriff I’d imagine!

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  9. As always, I feel behind on reading during the week but have finally finished the book and also got my post up

    1. From my own reading and the previous comments, I agree that Jill is probably blamed more unfairly, both in terms of not telling Eustance the signs at the beginning (since he pretty much shuts her up with his own train of conversation), and then again also later, after all once she had told him the signs, it shouldn’t fall only on her to remember, and yet it seems as though the blame falls mostly on her. Also coming back to your actual question, it would seem if one were to look at it as an adventure story, missing the signs was somewhat inevitable since, otherwise one wouldn’t have had an adventure; even from a symbolic perspective, humans don’t much of the time follow the religious/social tenets they’re supposed to, so from that perspective too, it is the expected course.

    2. Favourite moments: Puddleglum’s eel stew turning out delicious (despite knowing his nature, I know I was sceptical); the giants’ recipe book (another fun thing which one knows is coming, but still); the trip into the underworld (I wish they had gone to Bism, even if for a few moments); the centuars’ breakfast rituals (what imagination!); the bullies getting taught a lesson at the end.

    3. A creature I’d like to ride: like Fictionfan, Buckbeak for sure, though I wouldn’t mind a ride on Glimfeather either!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy whenever people comment and/or link their reviews and discussions, Mallika, and probably prefer that to everyone responding immediately the post is up with no further interactions thereafter! So no regrets needed. 🙂

      I agree about Jill being unfairly blamed here — in fact I rather like her and Eustace being grumpy and hedonistic and all the rest, anything bettet than them being goody two-shoes or pious. Even faithful and largely innocent Lucy was, in VDT, tempted and succumbed to making wishes, and as you say everything going smoothly doesn’t make for an exciting story.

      Hah, the eel stew, I’m not a huge fan of sea or river food so it doesn’t appeal, but beggars can’t be choosers, can they! But I’m interested to read readers’ favourite moments in these books — and you’re not the only one to want to know more about Bism.

      I’m surprised nobody has said they’d like like to ride one of the sandworms from Dune, because I feel that this book and its sequels are more science fantasy than science fiction and that to ride a sandworm must be an incredible experience!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I try hard not to feel inadequate when I have to confess not having read some classic in one genre or another or else the latest Booker Prize winner: I tell myself what I choose to read is entirely up to me, not what’s expected or what on trend. So don’t feel bad you haven’t read Dune; thank goodness there are screen adaptations taking a fraction of the time it would take you read the darn things!

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  10. I’m a bit late to this, Chris. This was my first re-reading of the Silver Chair since I read it a couple of times aged about 9-11. At that time I felt the adventure was a bit bleak and sad but remember liking Jill. She had then, and does on this re-read too, a refreshing honesty to her. Slightly less virtuous than Lucy too. I do like the realistic way the children bicker in this and they respond in a manner that children will recognise.

    With regard to your discussion questions I remember feeling sorry for the characters and the way in which their tasks were presented as they progressed. My frustration at Jill being blamed for missing the first sign came flooding back! Poor girl didn’t stand a chance really. As others have said there would be no quest without the need to follow the signs but it did then and still does feel as though Aslan was testing them rather than helping them. A debate about why that would be the case could go on for ages I suppose. The religious significance is much more obvious to the adult reader but I do remember as a child re-reading the final pages a couple of times and pondering on them. The whole story could be viewed as life’s challenges and how we cope with them, the choices we make etc. That we may not recognise things for what they are as we are distracted by the manner in which they appear. There’s a lot to think about with this one isn’t there?

    Riding on the back of a centaur does sound rather scary but Glimfeather would be a kindly means of transport I think.

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    1. Jill impresses me even more on this read, Anne. And I wonder at his choice of Pole as her surname: it’s obviously Welsh at some remove (Pole | Powell | ap Hywel) and there’s the distinguished family of Tudor-Poles, with Lewis’s contemporary Wellesley Tudor-Pole connected with a Glastonbury candidate for the holy grail. And Lewis, though born in Ireland, was Welsh by descent.

      But enough speculating! I see you’re also uncomfortable with the purpose of the Signs, so it’s much easier and more sensible to see the story as Jill and Eustace coping with life’s challenges, I agree.

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  11. I must say I never was a fan of The Silver Chair. As so many of the commentators here noticed, the whole setup is just so arbitrary, the journey seemingly pointless, the adventures quite often confusing. I’d like to hitch a ride on Tolkien’s eagles, though 😉

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  12. Oh, I vote for Fledge, definitely!

    I think the four signs are almost a set-up. There’s no way they would have gotten the first one. (A Fall, perhaps, to keep them humble?) I don’t know that they DO fail the second and third signs; they’re distracted and figure it out late, but they recognize the ruined city and obey the words. There’s a dangerous detour first, but such is life. I think you can see the whole journey as a metaphor for life; it’s hard, they can’t see clearly, they get tired and fed up, but they do endure to the end and win through. Asking why Aslan doesn’t just swoop them north is like asking why God doesn’t skip this earthly life junk and just put us in heaven. Lewis would probably answer that it’s –at least partly — because God isn’t interested in having puppets; He wants sons and daughters who grow up to be like Him, and we can’t do that without any effort.

    My favorite moments: when a thirsty Jill meets Aslan by the stream, practically anything Glimfeather and Puddleglum do, the time at Harfang when Jill acts like a ninny to great success, and when Puddleglum stamps on the fire.

    Here’s my post: https://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-silver-chair.html

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    1. I’d feel safe on Fledge, for sure, more than Glimfeather (however soft he might be) while a centaur — well, I’m not so sure I’d feel comfortable, they’re quite pernickety, aren’t they?

      I agree the Signs are a set-up, but then the way Aslan insists she recites them in the morning and at night like prayers is revealing: perhaps it’s his version of the fourfold affirmation in the Lord’s prayer: acknowledging God; asking for sustenance; asking for the gift of forgiving; and asking for strength to resist temptation.

      Oh yes, those are outstanding moments, Jean — I’d forgotten about Jill’s playacting at Harfang, another reason to admire her!

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  13. I had forgotten how much I like this book until I started rereading:

    https://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-silver-chair-by-cs-lewis.html

    While I like there to be some distinct vehicle or reason for entering a fantasy world (a wardrobe or a Nesbit/Eager talisman), I think Lewis sets the scene well and the uneasy alliance between Eustace and Jill works for me. She is more complicated than Lucy or Susan, thus more interesting. I did not remember the mention of The Horse and His Boy! I imagine that will be a controversial read but I love that book.

    Is it surprising that Eustace’s devoted parents sent him to boarding school? After all, there are good day schools in England.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve left a comment on your lovely review, Constance, though it’s evidently waiting to be moderated at the moment!

      As for the ‘vehicle’ or talisman, I think the youngsters calling on Aslan is the counterpart of Susan’s horn calling the Pevensies to Narnia in PC — the sound is the vehicle in both cases. But as with you Jill and Eustace for me have a more interesting relationship than we’ve observed so far.

      As I will explain in a future post, I think Lewis may have had in mind the ‘experimental’ boarding school Summerhill whose founder A S Neill wanted to give students an opportunity to become responsible citizens by encouraging democracy in the system and a freer attitude to debate and study.

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  14. I finally finished my read of The Silver Chair. 🙂 I’ll be posting my thoughts on Monday. To answer your questions:

    1. I actually liken the signs as part of the allegory in my post. It’s subtle, but they remind me of the signs Christians look for as signs of Christ’s second coming. I thought of their connection in the interpretation of the signs and in Christ’s forgiveness of those who may as Jill put it “muff it up” but are trying to follow His counsel.

    2. My favorite part is the ending when Caspian is brought to Aslan’s Country. I think it’s beautiful in how Lewis uses the allegory of Christ upon the cross with Caspian’s resurrection. It’s my favorite ending in the series so far.

    3. I’d either like to ride a winged-horse or a lion, not Aslan, though, because that’s too presumptuous and weird to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I look forward to your thoughts, Jenni! I appreciate your responses here interpreting TSC in religious terms, but I’d only quibble with your analogy of Caspian’s ‘resurrection’ with Christ. Surely Caspian at the end is more a Lazarus figure, or an Everyman redeemed by Aslan’s blood (in an echo of the spear thrust into Christ’s side as he hung from the cross)? Meanwhile, I think Aslan’s insistence that Jill repeat the Four Signs rubric morning and night is deliberately redolent of saying prayers before and after sleep.

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      1. I posted my thoughts today. They’re at https://jennielyse.com/the-silver-chair-a-discussion/.

        I can see where you’re coming from with thinking that Caspian’s resurrection is more akin to Lazarus or being redeemed by Aslan’s blood. Maybe, it is. I just thought the thorn in his paw was more reminiscent of the nails in Christ’s hands and feet on the cross than the spear in His side. And, I believe that without Christ’s death and resurrection, an Everyman wouldn’t have been able to be redeemed.

        I also see what you mean by Jill reciting the signs as morning and night prayers. I think they could definitely be likened unto prayers. However, the fact that the characters don’t recognize the signs before they come upon them reminds me of how many Christians aren’t recognizing the signs of Christ’s second coming OR that there are many, many interpretations of the signs. Look at the book of Revelations, for example. Scholars can argue as to what they think John the Beloved meant by what he wrote, but until the actual events take place, I think we all are going to be surprised as to what he meant by what he wrote.

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        1. Yes, I saw your discussion, thank you, I found your points very interesting! I love that there can be so many individual responses to this particular instalment.

          Revelations is a fascinating text. I of course would come to it more from an historian’s perspective than a theological, and would aim to interpret the signs there in terms of the symbolism, politics and culture of the time, all of which wouldn’t necessarily align with contemporary religious beliefs about what’s to come — but that’d be my personal approach!

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  15. Pingback: JenniElyse The Silver Chair: A Discussion

    1. What a lovely review, Anne — I’m glad glad TSC made more of an impact on you this time, even if the read came around the time of a death. As you say, humour can help to ease feelings of sadness and grief.

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