Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Glory and the Dream: Lucy Pevensie and I

I am a magnet for all kinds of deep wonderment
I am a Wunderkind
I am a pioneer naive enough to believe this
I am a princess on the way to my throne

Rewatching two of my favourite movies, the first two in the relatively recent Narnia adaptations, I realised that contrary to what I had thought as a child, the character with whom I most  identify from of the Narnia chronicles is not Susan, but Lucy Pevensie. In fact - the more I understand myself, I come to believe that out of all my fantasy heroes - she embodies most the kind of person I am, my outlook on the world; my insecurities and my delights.

Lucy is the one who discovers Narnia first - the girl who enters the snow-clad forest, not with fear (as most people would enter an strange, cold place at the back of their wardrobe), nor with the assumption that she is hallucinating or dreaming. Instead she laughs with wonder; not astonished but delighted. Clearly, she had always believed such things were possible - perhaps had imagined them, and longed for them, unuttered. The snowy, bitterly cold Lantern Waste is to her a marvelous place - a miracle - her kingdom. From her first visit, she is the most at home of all the Pevensie children in Narnia, the one who feels the most joy in its air and beauty in its every aspect. She is the one who makes friends with the faun and the beavers - and who feels closest to Aslan. 

I think I am very like Lucy. But when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia that very similitude was what made me ignore her. After all - she was just a little girl, the same age as I was when I picked up the books for the first time. And I knew I was no hero. Susan however - the responsible and superior elder sister - had all the qualities I felt I lacked but passionately desired. She was older - taken more seriously than a little girl. She had beauty (something both Lucy and I felt we lacked, though I've later come to learn that we were both wrong), and she had deadly (and admirable) skill with a bow. But with all her qualities, she is the one who feels the least connection to Narnia, who is the most content to live in the "real world"... Now I understand this, I question - is this what I really want?

There's a telling exchange between Lucy and Susan in Prince Caspian, where Susan wonders why she didn't see Aslan when her younger sister did. Lucy answers: "Perhaps you didn't really want to." Susan says wistfully to her, "You knew we were always coming back, didn't you?" Lucy replies, as if it was obvious - "I hoped so".  It is clear here that Susan had given up hope on ever returning to Narnia, and almost didn't want to come back because it would disrupt her carefully constructed contentment in her "real world" life. Even her pleasure at returning is tempered by the bleak thought - "while it lasts..." Lucy however is shocked that anyone could come to Narnia and not feel boundless joy. She had never given up hope or forgotten her time as "Queen Lucy the Valiant".

 As I grow older, I  see many Susans. I see that I could become like her, and that such would not be a bad thing to be... After all, she is queenly, strong, beautiful and kind. But she lost her magic. Lucy however, never stopped believing, and neither will I.

Two scenes in particular epitomise those elements of Lucy's character that are most like mine. The first is from The Lion,  the Witch and the Wardrobe. After having her belief in Narnia mocked by her brother Edmund and disbelieved by Susan and Peter - after having felt the wood at the back of the wardrobe depressingly solid beneath her fingers - after the humiliation of being unable to "prove" Narnia's existence to her siblings - Lucy returns to the wardrobe in the dead of night. 

Listen to the following music from the scene to perfectly understand her trepidation as she pads through the darkened house, slipper-clad, wondering if she had indeed dreamed her adventure, but hoping desperately that it had been real... and her transcendent joy when she opens the door of the wardrobe and the chill Narnian wind blows out her candle.   

This scene perfectly expresses Lucy's questing spirit, and her belief in something beyond the mundane.

The second scene is from Prince Caspian. Previously she had been disappointed to discover that the trees were still and silent on her return, but before, when she had been queen they "used to dance". But never one to be content with the explanation "that's the way things are", upon waking beside a campfire on her first morning back at Narnia, Lucy walks into the forest alone, to find the woods suffused with light and magic - just as she had always believed. The trees sway and dance before her, and dryads float on scented breezes. And between the trees - a flash of gold - the ultimate validation. Aslan waits for her in the forest of wonder. 

Lucy: I've missed you so much! Why haven't you shown yourself, like last time?
Aslan:  Things never happen the same way twice, dear one.

In the midst of her joyful reunion with Aslan, a twig snaps - and Lucy awakes in truth - to a grey dawn and a forest of still and silent trees. Though she immediately retraces her dream-steps, and the real forest is still beautiful - Aslan cannot be found and the dryads are gone - perhaps had never been.

Touching a silver birch-bole, Lucy whispers "Wake up..." But the trees do not respond.
I feel such aching sympathy for her at this point. Lucy is eventually proven right when she finally meets Aslan again and he wakes the trees for her, but in that moment I know just how she feels. I too have felt that the trees were my friends - that could I but call them at the right time - they would wake for me. I have called to them - have whispered to the wilderness, desperately hoping for reply... But there was never a response. Or - not in words at least. I did notice that whenever I felt most "magic" in nature - whenever I tried to move within the world I half-sensed to be - those were the times I saw and understood the deep beauty within the sun, the wind and all growing things, and knew myself to be a part of that beauty. But I believe the sensing and the wishing and believing are part of that understanding. 

I used to think Lucy was the least of the Pevensies - but now I have learned wisdom. She is not gifted with the weapons of war, like her siblings, but with the gift of healing and compassion. She does not win glory on the battlefield, but knows the deeper truth that "battles are ugly affairs". She feels afraid, but nevertheless accompanies Aslan on his journey to Death, rides him like a tempest and faces down the Telmarine army by his side. I love her like a sister; like myself. I have come to understand that her qualities are admirable, and her magic gifts - an eye perpetually attuned to beauty, a seeking mind and heart for marvel, and a belief in "the glory and the dream" are gifts that are innately mine. Lucy always had them, the child-me possessed them, but did not see their worth. Now, as I see more and more people around me lose their wonder and vision, and turn their gazes to the trivial, I realise that this "magic" is what makes life so wonderful for me, and that the qualities of the little girl Lucy are wondrous and rare. I feel supreme joy in my being, and in the beauty of the world, and vow never to lose it.

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