Like Samwise Gamgee oft reminded Frodo on their journey through Middle Earth and Mordor, hope keeps us going. No matter what our battle is, hope is often a defining factor. Throughout C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia we see how hope encourages many characters in Narnia. As I recently re-read The Magician’s Nephew in preparation for this week, I was pleasantly reminded of so many of my favorite scenes: Aslan singing Narnia into creation, Aslan choosing the Cabby and his wife as the first King and Queen of Narnia (King Frank and Queen Helen), Polly and Digory’s friendship…
Yet, one piece of the story struck a little differently this reading – Digory’s longing for his mother’s healing, his encounters with Aslan, his mission to help plant the Tree that would protect Narnia, and the hope we see through it all.
After witnessing the birth of Narnia and the power in its lands, Digory felt hope for his Mom (who was back in our world and very sick), probably for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t that Digory wanted riches and fame (like Uncle Andrew’s reaction to Narnia), instead he longed for his Mother to be free of pain and suffering from her illness. There’s a beautiful scene before Digory goes on his journey to the tree:
“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another…
The Lion drew a deep breath, stooped its head even lower and gave him a Lion’s kiss. And at once Digory felt that new strength and courage had gone into him.
What a beautiful picture of God giving us strength in our times of grief and pain. Hope is such a powerful thing and hope has often been what has given me such needed strength and courage. It reminds me of Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
With the help of Fledge and support of Polly, Digory travels to where he needs to bring back an apple to help save young Narnia. There Jadis is, having already taken what wasn’t hers, and quickly jumps into trying to turn Digory away from his task. This scene very much reminds of another story ; ). After refusing to eat the apple for himself, the Witch says to Digory:
You simpleton! Do you know what that fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life. I know, for I have tasted it; and I feel already such changes in myself that I know I shall never grow old or die. Eat it, Boy, eat it; and you and I will both live forever and be king and queen of this whole world—or of your world, if we decide to go back there.”
How cunning Jadis is, how hard she is trying to manipulate him, not only with this, but to help his Mom. For Digory, the possibilities were never about him and his own power, but the love a son has for his mother and his deepest desire that she might be healed. But, it was another kind of love that helped Digory finally see the evil of the Witch. After multiple attempts (full of twisted lies of the apple’s power) by the Witch, we see that the love from a friendship is just as powerful:
“You needn’t take the little girl back with you, you know.” That was where the Witch made her fatal mistake. Of course Digory knew that Polly could get away by her own ring as easily as he could get away by his. But apparently the Witch didn’t know this. And the meanness of the suggestion that he should leave Polly behind suddenly made all the other things the Witch had been saying to him sound false and hollow. And even in the midst of all his misery, his head suddenly cleared, and he said (in a different and much louder voice): “Look here; where do you come into all this? Why are you so precious fond of my Mother all of a sudden? What’s it got to do with you? What’s your game?”
“Good for you, Digs,” whispered Polly in his ear. “Quick! Get away now.” She hadn’t dared to say anything all through the argument because, you see, it wasn’t her Mother who was dying.
Even though Digory knew he made the right choice, that didn’t mean there still wasn’t grief or sadness. As they are flying back on Fledge, we read that “Digory never spoke on the way back, and the others were shy of speaking to him. He was very sad and he wasn’t even sure all the time that he had done the right thing; but whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes he became sure.” It was remembering the hope of Aslan that brought him the peace he needed.
When Polly, Digory, and Uncle A came back to our world, Digory was able to give his mom the gift of the apple and while he waited, it was the memory of Aslan that kept his hope alive for her healing: “For the rest of that day, whenever he looked at the things about him, and saw how ordinary and unmagical they were, he hardly dared to hope; but when he remembered the face of Aslan he did hope.”
Hope is something all of us need and wherever you are, may you too find hope that will bring you peace in all things.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)