1.09.2011

The Utter East


PictureI'd like to start by thanking Erik for his expertise in nautical terms, how to pronounce "bows" (the ones upon which waves lap, not the ones fitted with arrows) especially.
This book reading landed between such epic adventures for the Roys as the end of the first quarter of grad school, our Christmas Vacation/Marathon in California, and the coming out of the Walden/Disney movie version. At first we were trying to finish the book before watching the movie on opening night, but some early reviews instantly turned us off the desire to ever see it. Perhaps more about that later. The aesthetics of American movies is a huge and sticky subject. 
What could be more exciting than an ocean voyage?! For the first time in the course of the books no one is at war, no tyrants to depose or debilitating curses to undo or daring escapes to risk. Fairy Land is in such a state of repose that a new, more adventurous Fairy Land must be sought out. They first head out into the wild mysteries of the sea, a journey that holds a particular fascination for me and almost fit into the main thrust of the sequel to my Narnian knock-off, the Ethnos Series (what a precocious 6th grader!). The sea is constantly at motion and constantly in repose, the perfect blank canvas upon which to mark islands and happenings as different from each other as can be. I may have have more to say about this genre if I'd read the Odyssey though I see a lot of parallels to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The third Fairy Land is the final place, the granddaddy of all Fairy Lands, of imagination and reality itself, Aslan's Country. Metaphor is a wonderful thing. Tolkien's heavenly Valar was also available by treacherous ocean voyage, for a while.
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PictureLewis's life-cycle of a star is poignant. Coriakin and Ramandu each appear at a different point in the continuum with The Magician's Nephew beginning in song and The Last Battle finishing off with the stars descent. It is reminiscent of similar star mythologies in Madeleine L'Engle and the David James Duncan's The River Why Guardian Angels. Notice how Ramandu and his daughter emerge from the side of a hill like the day of resurrection.
Reading this book and noticing metaphors or allusions has me wanting to become a better student of the classics and of folklore. It's musical the way that a writer can dig into this wealth of images, the meanings of which are not always clear. It puts the writing itself upon the frontier of the forest as these images form optical illusions between reality and fantasy. SPOILER ALERT! Take Reepicheep's final farewell. There he stands in his little coracle before the waterfall leading to the snow-less foothills of Aslan's Country. He casts his sword away declaring that he shall never need it more. Already we have talking animals (a pandemic in folklore like Grimm and mythologies), reversed waterfalls (sounds Greek to me and probably found in Plato), the finality of Excalibur being cast back to the waters, and the reversal of this wonderful character, the most audacious and proud and honorable of creatures, also the smallest, as he (unlike the Painter Ghost in Lewis's Great Divorce) gives up that which was most dear, the defining point (he he) of his character, before entering upon the final adventure. So much to pluck from the ripe trees of humanity and holiness!

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