The Dalek Chair

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, the second-last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, the third to feature Prince Caspian, the second in which that world extends for a moment into our own, and the one with the most obvious Doctor Who connection: in the BBC movie, Puddleglum the (highly respectable) Marshwiggle was played by Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor).

I loved Puddleglum. This was not my favourite book, but I am hard pressed to commit to one. Many of my favourite scenes are in this: Puddleglum, of course – his misery and bravery and selfishness and speeches. The immense hospitality of the giants. The first comprehension of the enormous ruins. Jill trying to run for safety in her dress and cloak. The press and darkness of the world beneath the ground. The lamps going out one, by one, by one. And the wholesome, laughing, dangerous Lady of the Green Kirtle.

One of the many things I love about the Chronicles of Narnia is how various the books are. The series isn’t a neat sequence of events, like most, or one book split into one (Lord of the Rings), or even the measured progression of styles that echoes the path of growing older (Chronicles of Prydain). Each has such a different feel, from the heavily allegorical The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the elegiac The Last Battle, the Edwardian adventure of The Magician’s Nephew (which name-checks E. Nesbit after all, in addition to letting she-who-would-become-the-White-Witch rampage around London), the splendid, heart wrenching nautical adventures of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the truest goodbyes are in that book), the embroidered and stylised The Horse and his Boy, the cloak-and-dagger, die-in-a-ditch adventures of Prince Caspian. And I love the way they nest and overlap, telescope and view each other from great distances: The Horse and his Boy takes place within the last paragraphs of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which in turn takes place within a wardrobe built from the wood of a tree grown in the last paragraphs of The Magician’s Nephew, and yet the Pevensie children have grown so little older when they discover the ruins of what they had known as a beautiful palace. In The Silver Chair Jill meets Caspian as an old, old man while Eustace still remembers him as a young King, and yet when they return to the dying world in The Last Battle, they have come from a meeting with the Pevensies and Polly and Diggory who were still alive in ours.

As a result, I find it difficult to disentangle the books – oh, I could give a good accounting of the plots, but my love of each is coloured by the others. They are some of the earliest books I was given and learned to read. Whenever my little sister had the choosing of books to be read in the evenings she would choose the Silver Brumby books, and I would choose Narnia. I read them aloud to her, and at Easter when the regular crowd of friends (still good friends! camp with one this weekend, coffee with three yesterday and the marriage of another in a week!) came to visit us at the property, we would sprawl in afternoons across my bed and read. I read them to friends at college. I went to Camp Narnia – a week long camp on a macadamia nut farm in the Gold Coast hinterland, where we lived and breathed a book for a week. I was possibly somewhat obsessed. But the scenes and the feel and Pauline Bayne’s illustrations still colour so much of my imagination.