Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Further Up and Further In!": C.S. Lewis' Narnia in the TVCU

To Ted Gregory
Who put me on the right track more than Once. 

Part one of A Sense of Place, a four part series on fictional locations.

“Further up and further in!”
Thus ended The Last Battle, the final novel in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. But let us backtrack. There is much untold in those books, and much more that transpired after Narnia ended and the sky came down. Let us investigate, and plumb the last few mysteries.
Unusually for the TVCU, the series’ author had a massive role in this essay. Discovered among C.S. Lewis’ papers, upon his death, was a massively detailed timeline of Narnia. This timeline forms the backbone of what you are about to read. Lewis’ entries are listed, unchanged, under the non-italicized entries. The posts offset by bold are entirely my own.
1889 (Earth time)—birth of Polly Plummer (probable birth of Digory Kirke)
1900 (Earth time); 1 (Narnia time)—The Magician’s Nephew
Polly and Digory carried into Narnia by magic rings. Creation of Narnia. The beasts made able to talk. Digory plants the Tree of Protection. The White Witch, Jadis, enterns Narnia but flies into the fear North. Frank I becomes King of Narnia.

The Bastables (from E. Nesbit's fiction) and Sherlock Holmes (who needs no definition) are mentioned as real people.
As Ted Gregory wisely notes, “In The Magician's Nephew, Uncle Andrew talks a bit about a box that he inherited from his Fairy (as in, "is part Fay") Godmother, full of dust from Atlantis. Now, we know from the Space Trilogy that when Lewis refers to Atlantis he's referring to the version originally known as Numenor, as chronicled by his good friend J.R.R.Tolkien. The interesting thing is that during their final, decadent period, the Numenoreans were keenly interested in gaining access to Valinor, home of angelic powers and the more evolved (mostly) sorts of elves. When they finally achieved this goal, not only was Numenor drowned but Valinor removed from the earth into what seems to be another pocket dimension, possibly the same celestial plane as contains the Woods. Assuming that the Numenoreans were able to indirectly get one or more samples of Valinorian soil, this could explain the ultimate origin of Uncle Andrew's green and yellow rings.”
The apple tree planted at the end of the story is also mentioned in The New Traveller’s Almanac, from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume II.
1990 (Earth time); 1 (Narnia time)—“Music from a Garden”; The Grey Havens: Where Eyes Don’t Go
Where The Magician’s Nephew is totally concerned with Aslan’s own efforts in creation, this song explores the role “The Composer” and “The Dove” played. They were particularly influential when it came to colors.
180 (Narnia time)—Prince Col, younger son of Frank V, leads certain followers inot Archenland (not then inhabited), and becomes first King of that country.
204 (Narnia time)—Certain outlaws from Archenland fly across the Southern Desert and set up the new kingdom of Calormen.
1927 (Earth time)—Peter Pevensie is born.
1928 (Earth time)—Susan Pevensie is born.
300 (Narnia time)—The Empire of Calormen spreads mightily. Calormenes colonize the land of Telmar to the West of Narnia.
1930 (Earth time)—Edmund Pevensie is born.
1932 (Earth time)—Lucy Pevensie is born.
302 (Narnia time)—The Calormenes in Telmar behave very wickedly and Aslan turns them into dumb beasts. The country lies waste. King Gale of Narnia delivers the Lone Islands from a dragon and is made Emperor by the islands’ grateful inhabitants.
1933 (Earth time)—Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole are born.
407 (Narnia time)—Olvin of Archenland kills the Giant Pire.
460 (Narnia time)—a group of pirates from the Earth take possession of the deserted land of Telmar.
570 (Narnia time)—Moonwood the Hare lived roughly around this time. His hearing was so sensitive, he could hear a whispered conversation in Cair Paravel above the roar of a waterfall.
898 (Narnia time)—The White Witch returns to the land of Narnia from her lands in the far North.
900 (Narnia time)—The Long Winter begins. It’s always winter, but never Christmas. A horrible state of affairs.
Before 1000 (Narnia time)—The Young Ones—“Flood”
Vyvyan the punk, after a surreal game of hide and seek, finds himself offered Turkish Delight by the White Queen. Her designs are dashed, however, once Vyvyan mentions the lion he keeps back home (cluelessly fooling her into expecting Aslan), and stumbles back into his own basement.
As discovered by Toby O’Brien, the world of The Young Ones is a microscopic universe. It’s tempting to designate it as TVCU-minus.
1940 (England time); 1000 (Narnia time)—The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Lewis’ comment: The Pevensies, staying with Digory (now Professor) Kirke, reach Narnia through the Magic Wardrobe. The Pevensies arrive in Narnia. The treachery of Edmund. The sacrifice of Aslan. The White Witch defeated and the Long Winter ended. Peter becomes High King of Narnia.
Strangely, Lewis neglects to mention that Susan, Edmund, and Lucy all become High Queens and Kings of Narnia alongside Peter.
1014 (Narnia time)—A Horse and His Boy

Lewis’ comments: “King Peter carries out a successful raid on the Northern Giants. Queen Susan and King Edmund visit the Court of Calormen. King Lune of Archenland discovers his long-lost son Prince Cor and defeats a treacherous attack by Prince Rabadash of Calormen.”
1015 (Narnia time)—Whilst hunting the White Stag, the Pevensies return from Narnia to the house of Kirke moments after they originally left.
1050 (Narnia time)—Ram the Great succeeds Cor as King of Archenland.
1502 (Narnia time)—Queen Swanwhite of Narnia lived at about this time. There are some chronological issues with this statement. To quote WikiNarnia: “Queen Swanwhite was a queen of Narnia, known for her great beauty. Swanwhite was, according to Jewel the Unicorn, so beautiful that if her face were reflected in a pool the image of her face remained for a year and a day. Jewel the Unicorn also says that Swanwhite ruled before Jadis. There is some confusion as to her actual rule, however, the timeline provided by C.S. Lewis states that she ruled around the year 1502. This has led to speculation that there are actually "two" Swanwhites, a beautiful one who reigned before Jadis during the Age of Conquest and a namesake in the Dark Age who reigned around 1502.”
1998 (Narnia time)—The Telmarines conquer Narnia. Caspian I becomes King.
2290 (Narnia time)—Lewis’ comment: “Prince Caspian, son of Caspian IX, born. Caspian IX murdered by his brother Miraz who usurps the throne.”
1941 (Earth time); 2303 (Narnia time)—Prince Caspian

Lewis’ comments: “The Pevensies, while waiting to board the train to their school, are pulled into Narnia. Prince Caspian escapes from his uncle Miraz. Civil War in Narnia. By the aid of Aslan and of the Pevensies, whom Caspian summons with Queen Susan's magic Horn, Miraz is defeated and killed. Caspian becomes Caspian X of Narnia.”

2304 (Narnia time)—Caspian X defeats the Northern Giants.

1942 (Earth time); 2306-2307 (Narnia time)—Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Lewis’ comments: “Edmund, Lucy and Eustace reach Narnia again and take part in Caspian's voyage. Caspian X's great voyage to the end of the World.”

2310 (Narnia time)—Caspian X marries Ramandu’s daughter, Lilliandil. She is a star, quite literally speaking.

2325 (Narnia time)—Caspian X’s son, Rilian, is born.

2345 (Narnia time)—Queen Lilliandil is killed by a serpent (actually, the Lady of the Green Kirtle). Rilian disappears.

1942 (Earth time); 2356 (Narnia time)—The Silver Chair

Lewis’ comments: “Eustace and Jill, from Experiment House, are carried away into Narnia. Eustace and Jill appear in Narnia and rescue Prince Rilian. Death of Caspian X.”

2534 (Narnia time)—Lewis’ comment: “Outbreak of outlaws in Lantern Waste. Towers built to guard that region.”

1949 (Earth time); 2555 (Narnia time)—The Last Battle

Lewis’ comment “Serious accident on British Railways [Resulting in the deaths of all the human friends of Narnia, save Susan]. Rebellion of Shift the Ape. King Tirian rescued by Eustace and Jill. Narnia in the hands of the Calormenes. The Last Battle. End of Narnia. End of the World.”

c. 1960 (Earth time)—The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles

Five young women with auspicious names move into an Chicago apartment, and discover Wonderland and Oz have fallen prey to an all new Wicked Witch of the West…

The five young women are named Alice, Dorothy, Wendy, Polly and Susan. All have had encounters, explicitly or implicitly, with the obvious magic world. Three of them, however, are not the original but namesakes (Ace, Dorothy, and Wendy); Polly's identity is unclear; Susan, however, may very well be the original Susan Pevensie. Note that in order to fit a twenty-or-thirty-something Susan into the timeline—as well as the geo-political state of Wonderland into another timeline—this series has been backdated to occur sometime in the 1960s.

The Oz seen here is almost certainly an alternate Oz.

c. 1990 (Earth time)—“The Problem of Susan”; Neil Gaiman
Susan has grown bitter and distant. Narnia has grown vile to her. If she encountered Wonderland and Oz, as we have supposed, it meant less than dirt to her. All she has is her academic work—all learned, all self-important, all useless—and a house too large and too empty for life. A young woman comes to interview her about Susan’s angry books railing against children’s literature; during the discussion, she discovers that it’s true—all of it is literally true. The young woman goes home, shaken.
The main events of the story are not controversial. And, though the unhappiest of endings for Susan, it does correspond with everything else we know.

But then we have the prologue and the epilogue. The prologue, of Susan admiring the manhood of a centaur from the distance, may be ignored or adapted into the events of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as the reader desires. The epilogue, however, seems to be nothing more than a nightmare on the part of the young woman. Someone, perhaps, could read into it that a reflection of Narnia exists in the Dreamlands; but, from all evidence available, it seems to be nothing more than a dream left by meeting the bitter, broken old Susan.

A pity that, until offered another choice from another author, this is the TVCU’s canonical end for Susan: alone, angry, and empty.

1999 (Earth time); unknown, perhaps before The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Narnia time)—Return to Labyrinth; Joke T. Forbes & Chris Lie

Toby, the little brother of the Sarah who defeated the Goblin King in the 1986 film Labyrinth, travels to the same world his sister did and does things of varying levels of interest. He meets Uncle Traveling Matt (from the infinitely strange universe known as Fraggle Rock), learns that hobbits should not be battled against with riddles, finds Candide’s professor Pangloss in hiding, meets the demons from The Storyteller, and, lastly, in the Ministry of Prophecies, he hears two very strange promises.

The first, “When single shines the triple sun,” does not concern us at all. Dark Crystal and muppet people are outside our influence. But the other whisper, “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve” is for us.

Perhaps it has been stored a long time, with the other dead prophecies; perhaps, from the world in which he finds himself, the prophecy has yet to find its truth. But, still, it is on file with every other true prophecy.

c. 2000 (Earth time)—One Bright Star to Guide Them; John C. Wright

You know the story. You certainly know it by now. Four young children, while visiting an elderly professor, are thrust through to a fantasy realm where they do great deeds and save the people from a terrible mage. They are assisted by animals; a lion is the king. And yet…

And yet, there is no Peter—only a Richard. 

And yet, there is no Susan—only a Sally.

And yet, there is no Edmund—only a Tommy.

And yet, there is no Lucy—only a Penny. 

The decades pass and these children grow up, and grow into the world. Some grow evil, some grow weak. And then, on the day when no-one is prepared, the great evil from the magical world comes to conquer the earth…

The magical world is not Narnia, nor even a reflection of Narnia. Their leonine friend, however, is strongly hinted to be another aspect of Aslan, just as the four children are slightly hinted to be rembodiments (not reincarnations) of the heroic spirits of Pevensies.

If this summary is slight, consider it a strong inducement to pick this novel up. Of all the post-Lewis works on this timeline, it is the finest—and the only one that begs to be read.

(If Susan’s heroic spirit was rembodied in Sally, she is promised a much happier ending: one where her soul is healed, and she marshals her courage for one last great adventure. But this is mere supposition…)

2002 (Earth time)—Fables #4; Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Craig Hamilton, Todd Klien, Sherilyn van Valkenburgh, & Zylonol

The “Kingdom of the Great Lion” is said to have been destroyed by the Adversary. But, when we consider Narnia’s apocalypse, and that Aslan allowed it to begin, it seems much more likely that one day Narnia disappeared from the multiverse—and the Adversary took credit for events in which he was not at all involved.

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