Sunday, January 10, 2010

There are distinct signs of a thaw: the temperature has risen above zero for the first time in about ten days and the car tyres on the road are making 'wet' rather than eerily muffled noises. It reminds me of the chapter in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe where the traitorous Edmund is being driven in a sleigh to the Stone Table by the White Witch who realises that her reign of terror is drawing to and end.
'Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. At first he thought this was because the reindeer were tired, but soon he saw that that couldn't be the real reason. The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower. Ther also seemed to be a curious noise all around them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf's shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what is was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn't go on at all. When that happened there was a moment's silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. A strange sweet, rustling, chattering noise - and yet not so strange, for he'd heard it before - if only he could remember where! Then all at once he did remember. It was the noise of running water...'

The Narnia Chronicles were among the first books that I can actually remember reading. I thought at the time that they had been around for ages (probably because of the L,W & W's second world war setting) but when I read them they'd probably been in print only a decade or so. I enjoyed each one of them individually and each one was, in turn, my favourite of the cycle. Even to this day I'd be hard pushed to name my favourite book, but I most certainly did have favourite scenes; the sinister hall of statues, red-lit by the dying sun, in The Magician's Nephew; Doctor Cornelius' midnight revelation to Prince Caspian in the book of the same name; Shasta's unnerving night amongst the tombs outside Tashbaan in The Horse and His Boy, the selfish Eustace's discovery that he had turned into a dragon in the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; the metamorphosis of the Queen of the Underworld into a serpent in The Silver Chair. I found, at the age of eight or nine or so, that The Last Battle was unbearably sad, and the dying talking bear's bewildered murmur of 'I don't understand...I don't understand' reduced me (and still can reduce me) to tears. These books, read again and again for want of alternative, informed my literary imagination in a way that no others have.

No comments: