Monday, July 10, 2006

Burnt Marshwiggle

I just went through bits of The Silver Chair this weekend. I had already read it once as a child and once as an adult, but this time with a special eye towards Puddleglum as my wife points out... he is just like me.

Depressing, pessimistic, noticing problems, anticipating catastrophe, cautious to a comical extreme (except I'm not sure he's more extreme than I am). Apparently, this character was based on CS Lewis' gardener (I suspected Puddleglum had to be based on a real person because not even Lewis could make this stuff up).

We've all seen characters like this in other fictional works but only as the butt of jokes and exemplars of incompetence to be disregarded in the interests of saving the day. Lewis must be a man of profound insight and kindness to see in his gardener (who must have sorely tried his patience at times) elements of heroic virtue.

(Warning - Spoilers ahead)

Suspicious of going to Castle Harfant for the Autumn Feast, his mistake is in letting the children have their way (usually, when people ignore prudent advice in books they stumble across something that was needed to begin or complete the quest). When they receive the Final Sign, his fearless obedience to Aslan shines through. When fighting the Enchantments of the Emerald Witch, it is Puddleglum's dutiful commitment to the ideals of Narnia which saves the day.

It is nice to know that despite the annoying characteristics we have, the Puddleglums and wet blankets of this world have a place in the Narnian Hall of Fame. I don't think I've ever read another book (except perhaps the book of Timothy) in which a character that I identified with got to be the hero.

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