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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary and Analysis

by C. S. Lewis

Chapter 11: Aslan Is Nearer

Edmund is not particularly happy at the home of the White Witch. He is hungry, but she gives him none of the promised Turkish Delight, feeding him nothing but water and old, dry bread that do little more than prevent him from fainting dead away. The Witch sends several of her swiftest wolves and Fenris Ulf, the Chief of her Secret Police, to the Beavers' house with instructions to kill the group. If they have already left, the wolves are to proceed to the Stone Table. She herself will have to go many miles west to find a place where she can cross the river on her sledge.

The wolves arrive at the Beavers' house only to find it empty and the scent cold, having been covered over with snow. Meanwhile, the Witch takes Edmund with her in the sledge, while the Dwarf drives. Freezing without his coat and wet through to the skin, Edmund is miserable, and realizes that he was wrong about the Witch. He begins wishing he could be with the other children, and decides: "The only way to comfort himself now was to try to believe that the whole thing was a dream and that he might wake up at any moment."

Time passes; daylight comes, and the Witch halts her sledge at the sight of a merry party of a squirrel, his wife, their children, two satyrs, a dwarf, and a dog-fox, all gathered around a table set with holly, eating plum pudding. The Witch asks the assembled party what they are doing: "What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?" The fox stammers that Father Christmas has arrived. She accuses the fox of lying, but one of the young squirrels excitedly confirms the fox's tale. Edmund senses something terrible as she lifts her wand, and shouts for her stop. The Witch, however, turns them all into stone, and hits Edmund. As Edmund looks upon the sad stone figures, he feels sorry for someone other than himself for the very first time.

As the Witch and Edmund continue their journey, the weather grows warmer and foggier. Everything is melting, and Edmund notices the dark green of the fir trees emerging through the whiteness of the snow. The sledge can barely move on the ground without a thick covering of snow, and becomes stuck in a hole. The Witch orders Edmund into the slush to help the Dwarf free the sledge. They succeed, but the sledge can no longer move across the patches of grass. The Witch commands them to walk, and ties Edmund's hands behind his back. As they walk, delicious sunlight begins to shine overhead. Edmund pauses to look at the little yellow flowers called celandines; although the Dwarf pushes him forward, "this didn't prevent Edmund from seeing." During the walk, Edmund feasts his eyes on the crocuses, primroses, and trees, and listens to the birds singing. Suddenly, the Dwarf stops and says that this is no mere thaw: spring has arrived because Aslan has returned. The Witch says that if she hears Aslan's name again, she will kill the person who has uttered it.

Analysis

Edmund's character undergoes a profound transformation in this chapter as he accepts that the White Witch is, in fact, evil. The first indication of the White Witch's true nature is her broken promise about the Turkish Delight; she does not give Edmund the promised treat, but rather feeds him only water and old, dry bread. This meager meal is barely enough to sustain him, symbolizing the spiritual poverty from which he is now suffering as a consequence of his weakness in the face of temptation. Edmund suffers even more when the White Witch takes him along on the sledge; still without a coat, he is cold and miserable. He begins to regret his choices, and wishes that he could he back with his brother and sisters. He realizes that he has misjudged the White Witch; he had only sided with her in the first place because he thought she might help him get the things that he wanted.

Edmund's transformation begins in earnest when Edmund, the White Witch, and the Dwarf come upon a small party of forest creatures who are feasting on delicious food brought to them by Father Christmas. When the White Witch turns them all to stone out of anger, Edmund, for the first time, forgets his own suffering - the cold, his hunger, the poor decisions he has made - and considers the plight of others. While he reacted with fear and mockery to the stone statues in the Witch's courtyard, here he comes to realize how the Witch seeks needless vengeance on innocent creatures. This moment marks the inception of Edmund's ability to sympathize with others. He is finally able to recognize the Witch's actions as "unjust," paving the way for his eventual ascension to one of the thrones at Cair Paravel, where he is given the title "King Edmund the Just." In other words, Lewis seems to be implying that a "just" ruler cannot think only of him or herself; they must be able to consider the welfare of others. This moment marks the beginning of Edmund's capacity to see beyond his own selfish needs and desires.

The celebratory Christmas breakfast shared by the forest creatures reemphasizes the link between nourishing meals, friendship, and sharing. The White Witch, however, brandishes the gathering as "self-indulgence" and "gluttony"; ironically, these are precisely the characteristics that mark the White Witch's illicit reign. Indeed, it was she who infused Edmund with a voracious, gluttonous need for Turkish Delight. She mistakes genuine happiness and celebration for the type of false desire that she is more accustomed to.

As evidence of spring spreads through the forest and the Witch, Edmund and the Dwarf must abandon the sledge, Edmund begins to "see" the details of spring. He takes special delight in the flowers, the sounds of rushing water, and the birds singing. This newfound, genuine appreciation of life signals not only the that the Witch's magic is weakening, that Aslan draws near, and that Father Christmas has come and gone, but also that Edmund himself is experiencing a rebirth. He initially misjudged the Witch and repressed his own intuitions, but the truth has been revealed to him, heightening his ability to "see" the world around him.

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