(This post may contain spoilers for those who have not read The Silver Chair. I’m aware that it is an old book, and many have read it, but I shouldn’t wonder if I’m spoiling it for somebody.)
I recently finished reading The Silver Chair with my little brother. Although he’s familiar with the story, it was our first time going through the whole novel. It was a pleasure sharing one of my favourite stories with lil’ bro, laughing over the funny parts, revisiting the powerful symbolism, and enjoying a good story overall.
But the best part was, and always has been, the paradoxical Puddleglum.
Puddleglum ranks among my list of favourite characters. But lately I’ve been thinking that there is something to the Marsh-wiggle’s character, something more relevant then what I’ve previously thought.
Puddleglum’s doomsday predictions made little brother chuckle every time. Meanwhile I found myself taking note of his words of hope.
“But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather.”
“Now don’t you let your spirits down, Pole…There’s one thing you’ve got to remember. We’re back on the right lines…We’re following the instructions again.”
The first quote is silly, a little overblown and not of much help. However, with the second quote Puddleglum directs Jill’s attention away from their troubles and towards their mission instead.
For someone who appears to be looking high and low for the worst possible outcomes to anything, Puddleglum has a way of surprising us and finding the truly bright points in the darkest situations. I suspect this is because he keeps his webbed feet on a firm foundation.
He shows this most dramatically in the confrontation scene. The witch’s spell may have caused him to deny the sun, but that’s as far as he goes. The witch has mocked the heroes, laughing at their belief in the real world, and even telling them how they came to imagine it. Although she speaks persuasively, she never offers any solid evidence that her world is all there is. Puddleglum recognises the hollowness of her words, and remembers the solidity of Aslan and the real world.
That’s the reason I love Puddleglum. It goes beyond his subtle sarcasm and his species’ name. I find comfort in the old wet blanket.
I would make a fairly good Marsh-wiggle. I daresay I have the feet for it, and a strange affection for marshes. I’ve also noticed how I have a streak of pessimism. So when I face my own wild weather, fierce giants, deep caves, and venomous witches, the worst will probably be the most visible (and if not, I’m likely to seek it out and point it out).
But all that is shallow if I, too, have my feet on a firm foundation and my eye on the truth.