The Dalek of the Dawn Treader

The Dalek Of The Dawn Treader

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and most particularly for Reepicheep (the bold, the indomitable, the vain, the… always reminded me very slightly of Hercule Poirot?) Dawn Treader is not my favourite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and yet it has so many of my favourite scenes – falling into the painting, Lucy in Caspian’s tunic, Eustace crying to the moon, Goldwater, the lily sea. And it does have one of my favourite first lines, out of so many: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Each of the novels has so much its own feel – the odd, mannered Edwardian fantasy and fresh discovery of The Magician’s Nephew, the childlike, wish-fulfilment, occasionally dark, myth-steeped allegory of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the untouched-by our world, desert-city-mountain, 1001-nights pursuit of The Horse and his Boy, the midnight, lost-heir, cloak-and-dagger battles (and that taste of adult loss) of Prince Caspian, the salt-air and white-sails episodic quest (within quest) Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the death, betrayal and depression of The Silver Chair, the sweeping, contained, final beginning of The Last Battle. And Pauline Baynes’ illustrations catch each style with such perfect, consistent flexibility.

This is how I most like series, I think. Linked, locked into each other, yet each complete and Its Own Story. Diana Wynne Jones did this as well, although in a more extreme fashion across fewer books. It satisfies my desire for more story, while not ruining my memory of an already-perfect tale.

Illustration Friday: Hitched

Illustration Friday: Hitched

This is a quick comic treatment of a scene from a fairytale – pen and ink with digital colouring (experimenting further with limited tones). I’d expand the fairytale further, but it taps into so many you can probably invent a satisfactory setting for the scene – that is one of the beauties of the rules of fairytales (and, as Chesterton would have it, the ethics of Elfland). The two sketches at the bottom are of the same character at other stages of her story.

The header for May, below (and, if you are reading this in May, above) is a side-effect of gazing deeply into Pauline Baynes illustrations, for nefarious purposes to be revealed in the fullness of time.

May Header / Illustration Friday: Hitched

In other news: I have paid for my tickets to North America in November! Rough itinerary is: Erie, Toronto, Altoona, maybe-possibly-Washington, Lafayette (Denver? I need to work out where my grandmother lives), San Francisco, so if you lurk along that route or go to World Fantasy or Illuxcon you can jump out and force coffee upon me (consider it a pre-emptive strike, as I am likely to do the same to you). Also I have just finished erasing all the pencil lines from a book cover and 13 internal spot-illustrations, and am avoiding scanning an A3 picture on an A4 scanner. Also I have started, wincingly, a very preliminary read-through of my LAM (Large Amorphous Manuscript). Also there is a baby gecko (its body is less than an inch long) sitting on my desk watching me. Always watching…

Small Kingdoms

I have written two fan letters, but there is a third I would have liked to have written. Perhaps I discovered Pauline Baynes at an age when I did not know to think of storytellers as real and separate people – or perhaps she was of an age I assumed had long ago become history. I only really realised today that Pauline Baynes was still alive until a few days ago.

Pauline Baynes’ illustrations are my favourite and the most influential. She taught me to see words and pictures and stories (all stories, I think, as well as those I loved because of her) as deep and beautiful things: windows, not mirrors. Those detailed maps and tiny vignettes frustrated me with their promise – the certainty! – of real and green lands just through the page. I could smell the heather and snow of Narnia, feel the hot winds of Calormene, taste the salt of the seas, know the perils of the far islands and the edge and the end of the world.

Her pictures were not inferior to the stories. They were part of them and half the enchantment. When another hand takes over, Narnia is less and different. When the exuberant marginalia are removed, Farmer Giles loses his charm and good humour and becomes a bawdy ogre.

Pauline Baynes taught me what stories and illustration – simple clear inked lines without colour or dazzle – could be. Allan Lee and John Howe may divide the rest of Middle Earth between them and welcome to it. Hobbiton and Bombadil belong to Pauline Baynes. The hills and farms of the little kingdom (before England had one king), when knights tangled themselves in chain mail and dogs spoke (dog) latin and farmers loaded blunderbusses with old nails and went out in search of hapless but well-spoken dragons – they are all Baynes’ as much as Tolkien’s.

The dying Aslan, the brave mice, Aravis seated cross-legged telling her story, the marshwiggle’s long streak of misery, Susan dancing with Tumnus, Lucy (oh, Lucy!) barefoot on the Dawntreader wearing Caspian’s tunic, Jadis magnificent and mad driving a hansome cab through London – those memories are gifts Lewis could only have given me through Pauline Baynes.

Her pictures did not explain or apologise or merely accompany. They were not aids to the words. They spoke and created and illuminated all those small bright kingdoms and I hope I never come to an age when I cannot take out those books and pore over them, and pour those bright worlds like jewels through my fingers.