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06/29/2003

Deeper Magic from the Dawn of Time

This was the book that made me a reader. Or, more precisely, Miss Smithy reading the book aloud to our class is what turned me from reluctant to insatiable.

Reading aloud always took place in the last half-hour of school, when the humiliation of multiplication, the savagery of recess, and the cattiness of the cloakroom were all done for the day. The words slipped over our heads like our old crib blankets.

We liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. American schoolchildren in the '60s, we weren't completely sure what a wardrobe was, of course, or if Turkish Delight was like saltwater taffy, or if a sledge was the same thing as a sleigh. No matter, we loved the story and followed Lucy through the wardrobe time after time, watched Edmund form his alliance with the White Witch, slogged through the snow to the Beavers' lodge.

Then, on a Friday, came the chapter where the Witch wins. Aslan the Lion keeps his sacrificial bargain with her and Lucy and Susan hide and watch as he is bound and tormented and finally killed:

They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling, some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him on to the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.

"The cowards! The cowards!" sobbed Susan. "Are they still afraid of him, even now?"

...Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms... Then she began to whet her knife.
...
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn't bear to look and covered their eyes.

—p. 152

Miss Smithy stopped there. It was time to go home and the weekend stretched very long before us.

I couldn't stand it. Aslan couldn't really be dead. I made my mother take me to the public library and I found The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and I picked up the story where Miss Smithy had left off:

As soon as the wood was silent again Susan and Lucy crept out onto the open hill-top. The moon was getting low and thin clouds were passing across her, but still they could see the shape of the great Lion lying dead in his bonds.

—p.154

They cry over him and work hard to take off his muzzle:

And when they saw his face without it they burst out crying again and kissed it and fondled it and wiped away the blood and the foam as well as they could.

—p. 155

And wiped away the blood and the foam as well as they could. Well, that made it quite real. Aslan was dead.

I kept reading. I didn't stop at the end of the chapter, joyful as that turned out to be, but finished the book and went back to the library and took out the next one in the series. On Monday I was the only one in our class who knew what was going to happen. I didn't tell, of course.

June 29, 2003 in good reads, influences | Permalink

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