The Characters of:
by Katie Hart
"Not one fan of the Chronicles has been there, but I don't know of one who would hesitate a heartbeat if given the opportunity to visit."
One of Lewis' trademarks is his memorable characters. Who can forget Puddleglum? Or Reepicheep?
Puddleglum is unique among a cast of humans, talking animals, and mythological characters. He is so pessimistic it's humorous, even to a pessimist like me (my family has called me a marshwiggle at times). But his gloomy outlook only partially masks his loyalty and bravery.
Ten children dominate the series. Out of the girls, I like Aravis the most. She's plucky, arrogant, and endearing all at once.
Lucy seems almost too perfect, and as an oldest child I identified freely with her siblings' disbelief. She's the one I strive to be like.
Polly is a bit of a coward, but mostly compared to Digory. She's also a writer (remember her story in the Smuggler's Cave?), witty, and a great companion.
Jill cries a lot in The Silver Chair, but I love her role in The Last Battle.
And my heart weeps over Susan. To be a queen of Narnia and forsake it in the end seems the ultimate tragedy. But "once a queen in Narnia, always a queen in Narnia." Maybe the loss of her entire family woke her up. And the rings might have been recovered from the wreckage.
Peter is the oldest child, in charge, and someone you can depend on. He seems a little distant, but I admire the way he sticks up for Lucy.
Edmund and Eustace both are "perfect beasts" until circumstances force them to grow. I like the way Lewis lets them suffer the consequences of their actions before they meet Aslan - no rapid-fire conversions here. Sin causes pain, and the price is high.
Digory is adventuresome, and the only character you get a close look at both as a child and an adult. He is also the only child with deep sorrow in his life - a sorrow that mirrors Lewis' own.
Shasta has a rags-to-riches tale, but his character growth on the journey north removes the triteness of his story.
Talking animals have been around since Balaam's donkey, and they peopled Lewis' early stories as well. Aslan is in a league by Himself. Lewis does an excellent job of making Him truly a lion and truly God.
Reepicheep is one of my favorite animal characters. His valor mixed with his tinyness make him humorous and unforgettable. Jewel is also a favorite.
I love cats, so it was disappointing to have Ginger as one of the bad guys. But with Lewis' love of mice, what can you expect? At least Aslan as a cat comforts Shasta among the Tombs of the Ancient Kings.
Strange and Not So Strange
I don't read mythology, so Narnia is my only connection with many of the strange creatures Lewis introduces.
Some are not so strange. Father Christmas adds just the right blend of familiar legend and historical figure to keep Narnia real but magical. And dwarves and giants exist, though Lewis develops them to an extreme not found in our world.
Somehow, Lewis gets all the strangeness and familiar to come together into a unified whole. Dancing fauns, dryads and dragons fit in perfectly with living stars, turbaned Calormenes, and talking squirrels. I believe this comes from Lewis allowing the creatures he wrote about to stay true to themselves - talking dogs are still quite doggy, unicorns are noble and graceful, dryads look and act like trees.
Although a feeling of strangeness is important in fantasy and science fiction (especially the latter), readers need words on a page to form pictures in their minds. All a reader knows is what is this world. To make them see another world, some connections need to be made. The same is true with other fiction, though the connections can be more overt.
It's one of my favorite names in the Chronicles. Melodious but manly. A strange flavor but taken straight from our world. Regal but not unreachable. No annoying nicknames or whiny way of saying it. A perfect name.
Caspian is unique among Narnians. He's the only character with his first name in a book title (though Prince Caspian when he's fighting for his rightful throne seems a bit out of place, but King Caspian would never work). He appears in four books and plays a major part in two, more than any Narnian except Aslan himself. He is the only Narnian to enter our world (Jadis does before Narnia was created, but she's from Charn). We know more about his family and personal history than any other Narnian (though Shasta/Cor comes close). All of the children from our world meet him before The Last Battle, except for Polly and Digory.
Not Really the End
As I conclude our look at Lewis' characters, I want to discuss his end of the Narnia saga - The Last Battle. In this book, Lewis ends the story of nearly every single character he wrote about, yet they live on in the minds of millions of Narnia fans. Why? Because they are us. Unique, flawed, speaking truth yet not believed, betraying others and struggling for redemption, acting brave but shaking inside.
And the final magic touch is the character of Narnia itself. Not one fan of the Chronicles has been there, but I don't know of one who would hesitate a heartbeat if given the opportunity to visit. We enter Narnia how we can - through the books and the movies.
Take a journey into
one of the Chronicles today! And if you pass a wardrobe, be sure to have
a look inside.
Katie Hart loves the written word. She's published several articles, poems, and nearly 200 reviews in magazines and websites such as Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, Infuze Magazine, Christian Library Journal, and ChristianBookPreviews.com. She's written two novels and is working on her third, a fantasy. Also a Christian music fan, she helps out regularly with concerts at her church and strives to promote the artists and bands she enjoys. Visit her online at her blog.