The Silver Chair

by C. S. Lewis

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 921

The adventure in The Silver Chair begins in Asian's Country, to the east of the Eastern Sea, journeys through the magnificent Cair Paravel, the palace of the monarchs of Narnia, across marshes and blasted cold rocky mountains to the north, through the lands of giants, and then underground through the empire of the Green Witch. In Asian's Country, Jill shows her contempt for Eustace's fear of heights and nearly kills him by sending him plunging off a cliff. However, he does not hit the ground, but floats away instead. Most assuredly a victim of the Experiment House's beloved bullies, Jill nonetheless can be a victimizer herself, and in Asian's Country, she begins her growth toward spiritual maturity.

In search of a drink, Jill wanders through a woodland, only to find a stream that is guarded by a menacing Lion. "If you are thirsty, you may drink," the Lion says to her, but she is afraid. "If you are thirsty, come and drink," he says, and she carefully approaches the stream. In this passage, Lewis echoes John 7:37, which says, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." (All biblical quotations are taken from the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.) The Lion tells Jill, "There is no other stream." By this, he means not only is there no other stream to drink from but that there is no other spiritually refreshing stream because her drinking from the stream represents her receiving the Holy Spirit, which can only come from God and no other source. It is an allusion to Revelation 22:1, which says, "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." When Jill drinks she is very refreshed. The Lion is Asian, and his offering Jill a drink is another example of his offering someone a second chance, as he offered Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Rabadash in The Horse and His Boy, and Eustace in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." Jill has, through her desire to show her superiority, almost killed Eustace, but Asian offers her a drink nonetheless.

He also gives Jill a series of signs that she must follow, but she bungles them almost immediately. This should not be taken as a sign of her inferiority to Asian's other chosen children; after all, Lucy, the closest of all to Asian and akin to an Old Testament prophet, fails to follow a sign from Asian in Prince Caspian. Jill and Eustace spend a brief time in Cair Paravel, guests of the regent Trumpkin, a Dwarf who is in charge while Caspian the Navigator is away. The food is amazing, the rooms sumptuous, and the baths refreshing, but Trumpkin would imprison both children if he knew they planned to search for Rilian because Caspian has forbidden such searches.

The Parliament of Owls offers some comedy, as the birds hoot at one another in a ruined tower while deciding what to do to help Jill and Eustace on their mission. They take the children north to the marshes of the Marsh-wiggles. It is an odd place, with square plots of ground surrounded by water. On each plot is a wigwam in which a Marsh-wiggle lives. The Marsh-wiggles spend much of their time fishing and contemplating the seriousness of life. It falls to a dour Marsh-wiggle named Puddleglum to trek north through giant country with the children in search of signs from Asian.

They hike through Ettinsmoor, home of stupid and destructive giants, enduring cold weather that worsens the farther north they go. An enormous and very ancient bridge spans a chasm between Ettinsmoor and the unexplored northern lands. After crossing it, the travelers meet a woman in green and a silent knight dressed entirely in black armor, and she tells them that the civilized Harfang giants live to the north and would give them lodging. This sets the children to relentless bickering because they are tormented by thoughts of warm rooms and juicy steaks while they must endure snow storms and bitter cold. During one very fierce storm, they climb some huge steps and then trek across a great plateau. Only later do they learn that they have walked though the ruins of an ancient city of giants.

To the north of the plateau is Harfang, a walled city of giants. The giants are very hospitable, even charming. They also intend to cook and eat the children. To escape, the children race to the ruined city, crawl into a hole, and slide down a long slope into darkness. There, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum are found by a sad-looking bunch who call themselves Earthmen, meaning that they live underground. Theirs is a wondrous underground world of caves and caverns, including one populated by large rubbery plants and sleeping creatures of many kinds who will not awake until the end of the world. There is even a gigantic man, Father Time, sleeping in a cavern; he will be awakened by Asian in The Last Battle.

Across a great underground sea, far to the south of where the travelers entered the Underworld, is a shadowy city, the capital. In it, sad Earthmen bustle about, talking rarely and then only in low voices. The city rises up a hillside, and high up amid the many buildings is the queen's palace and possibly the doom of the adventurers.

Literary Qualities

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

The structure of The Silver Chair resembles that of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" in that the narrative involves the main characters traveling from place to place, having an adventure in each place, much as the voyagers in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" sail from island to island. Also like The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," the narrative of The Silver Chair is a spiritual journey. It is Jill's spiritual journey, as she learns to find her courage, to care for others, and to understand that there are high moral values for her to aspire to.

When Jill drinks from Asian's stream, she begins her spiritual growth. The process of her growth is complex, with setbacks, and it is unified by the idea of signs. "But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs," Asian tells Jill. In this, Lewis is probably drawing on two passages from Deuteronomy:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.(Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.(Deuteronomy 11:18)

These are commandments and are to be taken with high seriousness, and although she bungles the first sign, Jill tries to be serious about them, reciting them to herself before she sleeps every night. She binds "them for a sign upon thine hand."

It is the Green Witch who disrupts Jill's faithfulness because the Witch is a satanic figure. Like Satan, she appears in an idyllic place, the garden with a fountain, and she takes the form of a serpent. After murdering the Queen, she tempts Prince Rilian, appearing before him near the fountain in the form of a beautiful woman dressed in green. When she finds Jill and the others trekking northward, she makes their journey more difficult by giving them reason for discontent. The contemplative Puddleglum, more mature and wise than Jill and Eustace, sets aside her words as foolish distractions, but all Jill and Eustace can think about is how they could be comfortable, warm, and well fed, and Jill forgets to bind the signs to herself. This very nearly leads to her doom, but the sight of the words "UNDER ME," carved into the ruins of the ancient city of giants and seen from Harfang, seems to help her recover her sense of duty to Asian.

Social Sensitivity

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301

Happiness and unhappiness. Having and not having. These are aspects of the human condition, with people often concerned about finding happiness and having what they want to have. For Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum, these yearnings confuse their mission, obscuring what they should do from what they should not do. When Jill drinks from Asian's stream, she has a taste of something that transcends happiness, fulfilling a need greater than thirst and hunger. Yet, in spite of this tangible tie to Asian, she strays from his commandments, falling along with Eustace into a desperate desire to be taken care of, to have good food and physical comfort. It seems reasonable that anyone would want to be well fed and, in "The Chronicles of Narnia," a sign of prosperity is an abundance and wide variety of good food and drink, but there is more to happiness than physical comfort.

Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum are nothing near to happy when they discover their comforts in Harfang are based on cruelty and murder. Comfortable, cared for, and well fed, they learn that the venison they are fed comes from a Talking Stag. There is a very clear distinction for Narnians between Talking Animals and dumb animals. The latter may be eaten without worry, but Talking Animals of any kind are protected by Asian's commandment in The Magician's Nephew; they are equal to humans and all intelligent beings. Hunting one and killing it for food is murder. This fact draws the contrast between having what one wants and happiness, because in Harfang the adventurers seem to have all they want, yet they become unhappy. This contrasts with the happiness found at the end of The Silver Chair when Jill discovers an ordinary room and a simple breakfast bring her joy because she has fulfilled Asian's commission.

For Further Reference

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

Beetz, Kirk H. Exploring C. S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia." Osprey, FL: Beacham Publishing, 2001. This book is intended for general audiences and covers Lewis's life and career and provides extensive details about the characters and themes in "The Chronicles of Narnia," along with original maps for all the settings and in-depth chapter-by-chapter analyses of each novel in the chronicles, as well as explanations of the biblical sources for some of the events in the novels.

Bingham, Derek. C. S. Lewis: The Storyteller. Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1999. An engagingly written fictionalized version of Lewis's life, intended for young readers.

Coren, Michael. The Man Who Created Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994. This is a well-illustrated and well-rounded account of Lewis's life, intended for young readers.

Ford, Paul F. Companion to Narnia. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. A reference book for "The Chronicles of Narnia" geared towards adults rather than young adults. It is an alphabetical listing of characters and themes, with some sharp, insightful explanations of major issues.

Gormley, Beatrice. C. S. Lewis: Christian and Storyteller. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. In this spiritual biography of Lewis, Gormley traces his development as a Christian writer. It is best suited for teenaged readers.

Gresham, Douglas. The Narnia Cookbook: Foods from C. S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia." New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Gresham provides recipes for preparing foods mentioned in "The Chronicles of Narnia." Children should have adult supervision when they prepare the dishes.

Lewis, C. S. C. S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead. New York: Macmillan, 1985. Lewis had an extensive correspondence with children, who wrote to him from all over the world. He made a point of replying to every letter he received, although near the end of his life he needed his older brother Warnie's help. This book is a selection from his many letters written to young readers. He is charming, and he gives serious answers to serious questions.

Sibley, Brian. The Land of Narnia. New York: Harper Trophy (HarperCollins), 1989. Sibley finds the beginnings of Narnia in Lewis's childhood fantasies and includes some early drawings of "Animal-Land." It is well suited to young readers.

Swift, Catherine. C. S. Lewis. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1989. This is an inspirational book that uses Lewis's spiritual journey as an example of how people can discover Christ in their lives.

Wellman, Sam. C. S. Lewis: Author of "Mere Christianity." Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 1996. This thoughtful book for young readers tells how Lewis tried to show how all Christians are united by faith.

Wilson, A. N. C. S. Lewis: A Biography. London: Collins, 1990. In this biography, Wilson sorts through the legend to uncover the real C. S. Lewis, explaining much of Lewis's private life as well as his public career.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access



Teaching Guide