This, the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia is in many ways the most complete, and satisfying, and mature of the series. Rather than merely being along for the ride as the children often are in the other stories, in this book we have Eustace and Jill at the center of the action from the first page to the last. And what a joyous adventure they have.
The central quest here is the rescue of Prince Rillian, Caspian’s long lost son. The children are given four “signs” to follow in their search and, in what strongly seems to be a metaphor for the role of Scripture in the Christian life (Deut 11:18), they are exhorted by Aslan to memorize them, repeat them to themselves, lest they miss the help they will receive. Indeed, the role of Providence and prophecy, as well as scenes at the End of the World at the beginning and end of the book are give this story weight and transcendence.
Of Marshwiggles and Misadventures
The most enjoyable aspect of this story, though, is probably Puddleglum. He is such an original character. A “wet blanket” as the children call him who is always looking for the lead lining instead of the silver, but who turns out to have the heart of a lion when it really counts. His speech during the climactic scene is one of the most rousing calls to cling to faith in a skeptical age which you will find in all of literature. It really is a stand up and cheer moment.
The only quibble I have with the story is the decision to refer to Eustace and Jill by their surnames. The explanation is that this is what they were taught at Experiment House. While no doubt it’s a valid and accurate point, it adds unnecessary between the reader and the protagonists. We don’t want the air of Experiment House to linger beyond the first chapter. And a version which simply swapped out their last names for their first would be an improvement.
But it’s a minor gripe. The story is fabulous. A literary delight. The kind of tale that you just want to roll around in and enjoy as long as it lasts. You will find the world a little brighter for having read it.