(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)
If y’all haven’t met Katherine Reay yet, I have two things to say: WHY NOT? And also, please go remedy that. She’s not only a fabulous author (I love every one of her books), she’s a fabulous person. She joined in the Inklings fun last year and I’m so excited she is part of it again this year! Be sure to connect with her around the internets at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hope y’all enjoy this piece as much as I did (plus there’s another giveaway!)!
I’m delighted to celebrate Inklings’ Week here again. This year, rather than chat about Lewis’s influence on my own writing, I’d like to introduce you to my two favorite characters from all the Inkling members. I do love Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee, but the winners are C. S. Lewis’s Edmund Pevensie and Eustace Scrubb from his Chronicles of Narnia.
Edmund is the third of the Pevensie children – he is mean and truculent; he lies and teases. He’s generally annoying. And he’s a traitor. With so much stacked against him, one might think Edmund is beyond redemption. But, in many ways, that’s the point. Lewis gives him, I think, the greatest story and development as a character within all Narnia. Edmund starts as traitor and ends as a king – and what a king!
By the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund the Just is loyal, logical, and courageous. He’s a serious and mature character who knows the true cost of grace and of his very life. Lewis never lets Edmund falter after this. In subsequent stories such as Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and his semi-cameo appearance in The Horse and his Boy, Edmund handles his authority with measured grace. In his final appearance in The Last Battle, we find the same stalwart friend and leader. That’s not to say Lewis made everything easy for Edmund after Aslan saved him. He didn’t. The memory of his betrayal in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe plagued Edmund in later years and in later stories. Yet in those moments, rather than giving into despair or or regret, Edmund discerns the difference between truth and feeling – and he acts on truth. Edmund reminds us all the cost of freedom, redemption and the wisdom in keeping our “eyes wide open.”
Then comes Eustace…
Eustace Clarence Scrub is Edmund’s cousin. We meet him in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we find him possibly worse than we found Edmund…
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
What an opening line! Eustace didn’t almost deserve that name and introduction — He did. Eustace was a weasel-y, arrogant, and annoying boy. He was a whiner, a coward and a friend to only himself. But Lewis doesn’t leave him there either. He takes him on a remarkable journey that begins with my most beloved Narnian scene.
I used this passage in Dear Mr. Knightley and that is what I’ll quote here as it summarizes the moment. Eustace provided guidance for Dear Mr. Knightley‘s heroine, Samantha Moore, as she too was trying to figure out how to change and who to become.
Dear Mr. Knightley,
… I feel like Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray. Mr. Gray sold his soul for external beauty and only his portrait, hidden in an attic, displayed the horror and depravity of his life. His face remained young, unlined and perfect. I’m no better than he. My insides feel so horrid. But that’s not what I want or who I want to be. I want to be so much more.
Isabella Conley gave me a book a few weeks ago with the most haunting and beautiful passage I’ve ever read. I found a character within it that offered me hope, not just understanding. But I don’t know what to do with it, what it means.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I found the story of a boy saved internally and externally from the grim life he’d created. Eustace, a perfectly pugnacious little twerp, turns into a dragon while thinking greedy, dragonish thoughts. Can’t you just see it? Eustace’s pettiness and green color; his truculence and self-absorption; his sourness and fear? I can. And he pays a physical price for all that internal mess. But once Eustace recognizes his true state, as a real dragon, he starts to behave more kindly. He strives to change inside. But it’s too late and he’s too far gone. He can’t do it and his anguish made me cry.
Only Aslan, this amazingly huge and glorious lion, holds that power. Eustace is completely incapable and insufficient; but Aslan shows grace and turns him back into a boy. Eustace then finds his friends and describes Aslan’s powerful work: The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
Edmund, the traitor in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, understands perfectly and so do I. But I’m still under that skin. It suffocates me, chokes me and is killing me. There’s no Aslan in the real world, so there’s no hope. Mrs. Muir would say I’m wrong. She says there is hope in God and hope in Christ. They’ve invited me to dinner weekly since Thanksgiving and, during each meal, she drops hints and hope like breadcrumbs for me to follow. But I can’t see it. I just feel swallowed by darkness…
After that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Eustace compare notes. I appreciate Edmund’s humor and honesty here. “You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”
That line right there is one reason I love these characters. No self-deception about who they were or who they want to become. I also appreciate that their stories aren’t too big for me to learn from and even appropriate. Yes, they battle witches and armies, lead countries and fight evil. Yes, they sail to the ends of the world and back again. Yes, Eustace became a dragon. But their greatest battles and transformations take place inside where, I suspect, often the most dangerous battles are fought. They warred against selfishness, arrogance, pain, betrayal, insecurity and countless other vices I encounter and wage war against within my own life and often on a daily basis. Better yet, they show me victory.
Edmund and Eustace make their final appearance in Narnia in The Last Battle – as do really all Narnians and humans, except Susan. In this final story, Edmund and Eustace, along with Lucy, Peter, Jill, Professor Digory Kirke and Miss Polly, find themselves first in Narnia and then, upon its defeat, in Aslan’s country forever. And as sad as I was to see the Chronicles end, I was pleased my two favorite characters made it to Aslan’s country and we left them traveling “further up and further in” to eternal life and happiness.
Thank you for joining me here today and thank you, Jamie, for inviting me once again!