My Favourite Place in Narnia
Reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter reminded me that there is one place in Narnia that I would like to live. It’s a peculiar place: not the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern coast; not Aslan’s How where the great sacrifice took place at the end of the Hundred Year Winter; not in the Western Wild, though that wilderness has a tremendous appeal with its splendid mountain scenery and the special garden on the island at its heart.
It’s in the Lantern Waste. Not just anywhere in the Waste, but a particular spot.
(By the way, I have always wondered about Lewis’s choice of the word ‘Waste’ to describe it. To the modern imagination it suggests desolation, but with Tolkien as a philologist friend, perhaps Lewis was intending to draw on its derivation from the Latin word ‘vastus’, meaning ‘unoccupied, uncultivated’.)
When Narnia is first created in The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly -and by a sequence of ‘accidents’, Digory’s Uncle Andrew, a sorceress from the world of Charn, a cabbie and his horse Strawberry- all appear in the middle of darkness:
There were no stars. It was so dark that they couldn't see one another at all and it made no difference whether you kept your eyes shut or open. Under their feet there was a cool, flat something which might have been earth, and was certainly not grass or wood. The air was cold and dry and there was no wind.
A little later, as they watch the creator of Narnia, Aslan, approach slowly, the Witch Jadis throws the iron bar that she has superhumanly pulled from a London lamp-post earlier in the story straight at the Lion’s head:
Suddenly the Witch stepped boldly out towards the Lion. It was coming on, always singing, with a slow, heavy pace. It was only twelve yards away. She raised her arm and flung the iron bar straight at its head.
Nobody, least of all Jadis, could have missed at that range. The bar struck the Lion fair between the eyes. It glanced off and fell with a thud in the grass. The Lion came on. Its walk was neither slower nor faster than before; you could not tell whether it even knew it had been hit. Though its soft pads made no noise, you could feel the earth shake beneath their weight.