The Chronology Nut
The Silver Chair: Story Notes

I’m the Chronology Nut, and I am taking recommendations for a new series. I’d like to do a TV, movie, or comic series. Or maybe a radio drama? Radio drama would be cool.

The Silver Chair is Lewis’s last chance for setup before Narnia’s grand finale, so the plot is well worth looking at.

Story Recap

Eustace Scrubb (recalcitrant hero from the last book) and his friend Jill Pole attend the unorthodox Experiment School in England. The administration cannot keep the school’s bullies under control, and Eustace and Jill find themselves on the run. A doorway opens into Narnia and the seize the escape.

They arrive on top of a very high mountain where Aslan the lion blows Eustace safely down to Narnia. He gives the unbelieving Jill a series of commands for a quest: she and Eustace must rescue the missing Prince Rilian and return him to the Narnian throne.

When Jill rejoins Eustace, they discover that Caspian, the dashing prince from the Dawn Treader, is now an old man and just miss greeting him as he sets out on his last voyage. The old dwarf Trumpkin takes them in, but the owl Glimfeater insists they must set off on their quest at once. The owls smuggle Eustace and Jill away and into the company of Puddleglum the marsh-wiggle, a lanky, downcast, tall humanoid.

The three set out to find Rilian, but when the weather takes a turn for the worse, they meet up with the Emerald Witch and her companion, a black knight. The witch suggests that the travelers take refuge at the giant residence Castle Harfang. When they arrive, however, they find that the giants mean to devour them after fattening them up.

One exciting escape later finds the heroes in the Underworld, where a band of Earthmen capture them and bring them to their leader, the black knight from before. He explains that the Emerald Witch has commanded him to tunnel up to the surface and conquer Narnia. After being bound in the titular silver chair, however, the black knight reveals that he is Prince Rilian, held under enchantment by the evil witch. The heroes free him, but must do battle with the enchantress. With swords in hand, the party defeats her.

The Earthmen, freed from the Emerald Queen’s harsh rule, rejoice and return to the Deep Lands, leaving the four heroes to escape an encroaching underground sea and tunnel back up to Narnia. There, they meet up with a party of helpful woodland creatures who free them. Prince Rilian returns to Cair Paravel to bid farewell to his dying father as Jill and Eustace return to our world and bring about a few positive changes at Experiment School.

Plot Analysis

It’s been a while since I did a title analysis since the titles for The Chronicles of Narnia have been pretty straightforward so far. However, I thought The Silver Chair was an odd name for this installment. The silver chair in question serves an important role in the plot, but the storyline hardly hinges on it. It gets mentioned perhaps four times in the span of five pages, and we never hear about it again. At the same time, there’s no denying that The Silver Chair is a powerful, euphonious title. The best I can offer is that the title just sounded good. If it gets people to pick up and read the book, that’s honestly more important than any thematic relevance.

The big Christian allegory here is Aslan’s freeing of the Underworld. In the New Testament, Jesus’s first act after being crucified was to travel to Hell and redeem all of its salvation-worthy denizens. Just like the Emerald Queen enslaved the otherwise-good gnomes and Earthmen, Satan held most of the population of Hell simply because their sins were irredeemable. Just as Aslan allowed the gnomes to return to their idyllic Deep Lands, Jesus brought all of his followers into Heaven. The parallels are pretty clear.

One thing I wanted to touch on is that even though Aslan mirrors and represents (and perhaps is) Jesus of Nazareth, he does not act very much like Jesus’s depiction in the New Testament. While both entities are loving and self-sacrificial, Aslan is a much more developed, rounded character (with all appropriate apologies to the gospel writers). Aslan acts more like the God of the Old Testament. While he genuinely loves his followers, that doesn’t mean that they always see his kind side. Aslan shows himself to be, at times, vengeful, petty, haughty, and apathetic. Other times, he is compassionate, merciful, supportive, and even humorous (something which would give hard-line Bible literalists an aneurism). Lewis once said that he wanted to portray God not as a paternalistic, omnipotent figure, but as a fellow adventurer. In the character of Aslan, I think it’s fair to say that he succeeded.

Just one book to go, so let’s see how the whole thing wraps up.

-CN