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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary and Analysis

by C. S. Lewis

Chapters 7-8: A Day with the Beavers & What Happened After Dinner

After hopping from branch to branch for some time, the robin flies away and disappears. The children realize that they are lost, but then notice a beaver gesturing for them to be quiet. Lucy says, "I think it's a nice beaver," but Edmund - always the skeptic - responds, "Yes, but how do we know?" Susan says that there is little to do but risk following the animal into an area surrounded by a thick curtain of trees. In the small clearing, the beaver explains to the children that some of the trees are spies for the White Witch. He then asks whether the children are Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. When they say that they are, but then ask him how they can be certain that he is a friend and not an emissary of the White Witch, the beaver presents them with Lucy's handkerchief - the very same one that she had offered to Mr. Tumnus as a token of friendship. He tells them that Mr. Tumnus had gotten wind of his imminent arrest and had brought Mr. Beaver the handkerchief for safekeeping. Mr. Beaver then suggests that the children follow him home to seek shelter and eat some dinner.

As they follow Mr. Beaver through the woods, he tells them that someone named "Aslan" is on the move. When the children hear Aslan's name for the first time, they each have a strange reaction: Edmund feels a sense of horror, Peter feels brave and adventurous, Susan feels something that reminds her of music, and Lucy experiences the feeling that she gets at the start of the holidays or summer. They walk for an hour, cold and hungry, but finally reach a valley with a frozen river. The children politely compliment Mr. Beaver on his dam, although Edmund continues to be distrustful of the creature. In the distance beyond Mr. Beaver's house, Edmund sees the two hills that the Witch pointed out to him on his previous journey to Narnia: the two hills between which she lives.

Inside the house, Mrs. Beaver welcomes the guests and prepares dinner while Mr. Beaver catches fresh trout. They all sit down to eat. Outside, it begins snowing - a good thing, because the snow will cover their tracks. Mr. Beaver says that a bird told him that Mr. Tumnus had been taken away by the police from the north. This could only mean that Mr. Tumnus was taken to the White Witch's house to be turned into a statue. The children want to rescue Mr. Tumnus because he saved Lucy, but Mr. Beaver explains that Aslan will settle things with the White Witch when he returns. Aslan, he insists, is the only one who can save Mr. Tumnus. When the children hear Aslan's name again, they are filled with a strange feeling, "like the first signs of spring, like good news." When they ask Mr. Beaver about Aslan, he tells them that Aslan is the King of the Wood, and is not always around. Aslan, however, cannot be turned into a statue. Lucy asks whether Aslan is a man, and Mr. Beaver replies that he is a benevolent lion, the son of the Great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea, the King of the Beasts. Aslan has sent word that they are all to meet him at the Stone Table the very next day. Peter asks whether the White Witch is human, and Mr. Beaver explains that she is not, though she would like everyone to think that she is. She is, rather, half-Jinn (a descendant of Lilith, Adam's first wife, before Eve) and half-giantess. A prophecy has been made that the White Witch's reign and life will end when the four thrones of Cair Paravel are filled by two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve.

Suddenly, Lucy realizes that Edmund has disappeared. Everyone rushes out into the night, but they are blinded by the snow. Peter insists that they form search parties, but Mr. Beaver tells them that Edmund has most likely gone to the White Witch with the news about Aslan and their meeting at the Stone Table: "He has betrayed us all." Mr. Beaver asks whether Edmund has been in Narnia before, and Lucy whispers that he has. Mr. Beaver says that the look in Edmund's eyes suggested that he had eaten the food of the White Witch. They can't go after him now; the key is to reach Aslan. They determine that Edmund was still present during the discussion about the meeting at the Stone Table, and feel certain that the White Witch will try to catch them this very night. Mr. Beaver tells the children that they must prepare to depart, and quickly.

Analysis

From the start of Chapter 7, Edmund's skeptical nature is underscored by his inability to understand that the beaver is benevolent. Lucy's belief that Mr. Tumnus is a good faun has, however, proved accurate - just as Peter's belief that Lucy would make a good leader proved to be correct. In this case, Mr. Beaver offers substantive evidence of his good nature by presenting Lucy with the very same handkerchief that she had given to Mr. Tumnus. Token gifts are a theme that reappears frequently throughout the novel: gifts are often used as narrative devices that move the journey forward, and as symbols of trust and friendship that bind characters together even when they are virtual strangers. Mr. Beaver proves that he is trustworthy by presenting the children with Lucy's gift, and then cements their opinion of him by offering them dinner and giving them information about Narnia, the White Witch, and Aslan.

The name "Aslan" is heard for the first time in this chapter, and the reaction that his name elicits is an interesting one: the children all feel a sense of mystery, but for Edmund, the mystery is mingled with horror. His character is at odds with Aslan's very existence, while the rest are filled with a sense of warmth and peace that reminds them of the coming of summer. In fact, each child's reaction to the name "Aslan" appears to express their very essence: Peter feels brave; Susan feels graceful; Lucy feels excited; and Edmund feels frightened.

The character of Aslan himself is introduced with great care. We hear about him long before we ever see him, thereby heightening the sense of anticipation. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver both express wonder that they have met real Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. In a clever reversal hinted by the book on Mr. Tumnus's shelf entitled Is Man a Myth?, human beings are talked of, but never actually seen. Similarly, although Aslan has not been seen in a very long time, he is nonetheless a figure that the creatures of the forest have no trouble believing in. The White Witch, by contrast, is very much present: her magic is palpable, and Mr. Beaver explains that she aspires to be human, but is, in fact, an imposter. Her desire to be a real human is an expression of her insatiable craving for the power that the children innately possess by virtue of their humanity. The "almost human" aspect of the White Witch is emphasized by her genealogy, which Lewis grounds in the Hebrew myth of Lilith, Adam's first wife. Historically, Lilith has been cast as the "darker" side of femininity: she is a woman characterized by insatiable sexual cravings and alliances with demons. Eve, by contrast, is often portrayed as the "proper", obedient wife. (Note: As Lilith was created at the same time as man during the seven days of creation - and not fashioned from Adam's rib - she has since become a symbol for the feminist movement.) The link between the White Witch and Lilith has been heavily criticized by feminists, and has been interpreted as a reinforcement of Lewis's misogynistic tendencies.

Mr. Beaver also furthers the siblings' understanding of the prophecy that is a topic of much discussion in the forest. According to the prophecy, when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve assume the four thrones at Cair Paravel, the White Witch will be defeated. Mr. Beaver essentially suggests that the children are the ones who will fulfill the prophecy. The first step that they must take is to reach the Stone Table. The trouble, of course, is that without Edmund all four thrones cannot be filled. The outcome of the journey, therefore, rests on whether Edmund will be able to resist temptation and rejoin his brother and sisters.

The evening that the children spend with the Beavers is yet another example of the theme of shared meals, recalling Lucy's lunches with Mr. Tumnus and Edmund's enchanted snack in the sledge of the White Witch. The image of a house being opened to visitors and a meal being shared intensifies the trust that binds the community together. The image also recalls the story of Christ sharing a meal with his disciples and being betrayed by a single man: like Judas, Edmund leaves the Beavers' house, headed for the home of the White Witch. Edmund betrays his brother and sisters, as well as Aslan, whom he has not yet met.

It is important to note that Lewis places Lucy, the youngest of the children and "a truthful girl," in a privileged position: she is the first to visit Narnia, the first to see the red-breasted robin, and the first to notice Edmund's disappearance. The narrative seems to suggest that "seeing is believing," in that sight is the key to a belief which aims for an absolute good. Narnia is to be explored; the bird is to be followed; and Edmund's eventual transformation is to be trusted in.

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