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A Celebration of Joy: Christian Romanticism in the Chronicles of Narnia, by Mike Bellah
Abstract and Table of Contents
Introduction
Definitions
Myth and Imagination
Children's Stories
The Ideal Reader
Fantasy and Realism
Friendships: Love in Narnia
Quest and Adventure
The Eucatastrophe
Romanticism in the Chronicles
The Failure of Romanticism
The Triumph of Chrisitian Romanticism
The Baptized Imagination
Works Cited
 

CHAPTER VIII: QUEST AND ADVENTURE

"Romance as we know it," writes Eleanor Lincoln,

begins with the knight in a land of faerie, alone and pale, on a mysterious quest, facing exotic and completely improbable trials that have, nevertheless, ritual implications. The object of the quest, be it a magic sword or the Holy Grail, is an image of the ideal, which is central to romance; it is a dream of glory. (4)

Certainly the Chronicles share this dream of glory. The quest motif is central to their plots as are adventures. Paul Ford points out the difference between the two: "There may be many adventures within the framework of the [one] quest," he writes (238). Ford goes on to say that adventure is itself "a metaphor for life in its highest realization" (2).

Lewis believed that the knight on a quest is a good metaphor for the Christian life. He writes, "The idea of the knight--the Christian in arms for the defense of a good cause--is one of the great Christian ideas" (Mere Christianity 107). In another work he elaborates, "Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage" (qtd, in Green 209).

Both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian have quests which sound very much like Lewis's "great campaign of sabotage." In the first, the White Witch has usurped a sovereignty which rightfully belongs to Aslan and his appointed sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. In the second, Miraz has usurped his brother's throne which rightfully now should belong to his nephew Caspian the tenth. In both stories the children go underground, as it were, to join the resistance and overthrow the illegitimate leaders.

In The Horse and His Boy Shasta, Aravis, Bree, and Hwin embark on a quest to escape Calormen for Narnia and freedom. In addition Shasta is on a quest (unknown to him) for his lost identity which he discovers in the palace of King Lune of Archenland.

The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" is the best example of a quest with multiple adventures. In it King Caspian sets out on a quest to find the seven noble lords of Narnia. The quest involves numerous adventures including the struggle with fear at Dark Island, the magician in the Land of the Duffers, the slave traders in the Lone Islands, and the dragon on Dragon Island.

All of the Narnian stories involve a common quest as Aslan calls children out of this world to accomplish a task in the land of Narnia. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the alpha and omega tales: The Magician's Nephew where Polly and Digory are called to participate in the creation of Narnia and The Last Battle where Jill and Eustace are called to participate in its end.

The clearest quest command in the Chronicles is found in The Silver Chair where Aslan charges Jill (with Eustace) to seek the lost Prince Rilian: "I lay on you this command," says Aslan, "that you seek this lost Prince until either you have found him and brought him to his father's house, or else died in the attempt, or else gone back into your own world" (19). Jill is given a series of signs to guide her on her quest. In the end, she ignores the first two, but follows the third, and, with Aslan's help, is successful in her search. Rilian is found and restored to the throne at Cair Paravel. When Jill faces Aslan again, he is both forgiving and complimentary: "Think of that no more [her failures]. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia" (210).

Since quest is the principle motif in the Chronicles, and adventures are indispensable to quest, then courage is the principle virtue in Narnia, for courage is indispensable to adventure. Adventures are not undertaken by cowards, and thus the struggle to overcome their fears and develop courage is always the first battle children entering Narnia must fight. This they successfully do, though not without some difficulty, and even Eustace becomes brave (although his courage comes slowly because he had gone to all the wrong schools and read all the wrong books).

"True courage," writes Paul Ford, "is the strength of Aslan, and Reepicheep is its embodiment" (78). Reepicheep is the leader of the talking mice who are the bravest of the brave talking animals of Narnia. And Ford is right. Reepicheep is the embodiment of courage. Nowhere is this bravery more apparent than in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." Approaching Dark Island where all is darkness and all of one's nightmares come true, the crew of the ship discuss the merits of entering the thick blackness. The consensus is to turn back until the voice of Reepicheep rings out:

"And why not?" he said. "Will someone explain to me why not."

No one was anxious to explain, so Reepicheep continued:

"If I were addressing peasants or slaves," he said, "I might suppose that this suggestion proceeded from cowardice. But I hope it will never be told in Narnia that a company of noble and royal persons in the flower of their age turned tail because they were afraid of the dark."

"But what manner of use would it be ploughing through that blackness?" asked Drinian.

"Use?" replied Reepicheep. "Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventures. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours." (152)

So the "Dawn Treader" continues on, only to be turned back because "there are some things no man can face," says King Caspian (157). Reepicheep's response is predictable: "It is, then, my good fortune not be a man" (157). One cannot help both chuckle at and admire the brave mouse. In the end Reepicheep is left alone at "the beginning of the end of the world" to pursue his quest for the land of Aslan himself. His final words epitomize the relationship between courage and adventure in the Chronicles:

"My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the "Dawn Treader." When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia." (184)

To chapter 9

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