Summary of Chapter Eight: What Happened After Dinner
After dinner over his pipe, Mr. Beaver tells the children the Secret Police took Mr. Tumnus north towards Her house. No one ever comes out again, for they are turned into stone statues. Lucy feels terrible that it was on her account. Mr. Beaver says there is no chance they can go to the Witch’s house and come out alive. He says that Aslan is on the move and that bit of news feels like spring.
Aslan is the Lord of the wood, but he doesn’t come often. Word has it that he has come back. It has not happened in a long time. He is the only one who can deal with the Witch. Edmund wants to know if she can turn Aslan to stone, and Mr. Beaver laughs. He tells an old rhyme that says, “When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death” (p. 79). Mr. Beaver is supposed to lead the children to him.
They ask if Aslan is a man, and Mr. Beaver says no, he is the son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. He is the Great Lion. Susan feels nervous about meeting a lion. Mrs. Beaver says creatures cannot see him without their knees knocking, but Peter is anxious to see him. They are to meet him tomorrow at the Stone Table. Mr. Beaver repeats another rhyme about evil being finished when Adam’s flesh sits on the throne at Cair Paravel. There have been no other humans before the children, so the time of evil must be coming to an end.
The Witch lets on she is human, but she is the daughter of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, a Jinn. She is always looking for humans, and that means they are in danger. There are four thrones at Cair Paravel, her castle, that should be the capital of the country ruled by two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve.
Just then they notice Edmund is missing and realize he left to betray them to the Witch. Peter says nevertheless he is their brother and they must find him. The Beavers assure the children that Aslan will help. They must go at once, for Edmund will raise the alarm.
Commentary on Chapter Eight: What Happened After Dinner
This chapter is pivotal, tying together background information and setting the course of future action. We learn about the two supernatural beings battling for control of Narnia: Aslan, the rightful King, and the Witch, a usurper. The children are in the middle of this drama, the key to its resolution according to the prophecies. When there are humans sitting on the four thrones, the evil will be over. The fact that Edmund has defected is a complication, for that leaves only three. The Beavers and children have to leave immediately to get to the Stone Table in time.
The lineage of both Aslan and the Witch is discussed. Aslan is the son of the Emperor-beyond-the Sea (God) and the Witch comes from Lilith, a female demon or Satan figure. This is a battle of good vs. evil. Mr. Beaver refers to the dual nature of humans who can go in either direction. This is illustrated with Edmund representing the tendency of humans to sin, while the other children are righteous. If creatures disguise themselves as humans, like the Witch does, you can be sure they are evil, says Mr. Beaver.
Mr. Beaver says he knew Edmund was trouble from the beginning: “He had the look of one who has been with the Witch and eaten her food” (p. 85). Only Edmund is afraid to meet Aslan. The others are eager, even though Aslan is fierce. The Beavers wonder how much Edmund heard about their plans before he slipped away.
Summary of Chapter Nine: In the Witch’s House
Edmund meanwhile is thinking of Turkish Delight as he walks to the Witch’s house. He imagines the others are against him, though they aren’t. He listened to Mr. Beaver say they would meet Aslan at the Stone Table. He doesn’t hear the prophecies about the children on the thrones or about the Witch not being human. The narrator explains Edmund is not evil. He doesn’t want his siblings turned to stone, but he does want more candy and revenge on Peter. He pretends nothing bad will happen. The Witch is nicer to him, he thinks, than his own family. Deep down, says the narrator, he knows the Witch is evil.
Edmund forgot his coat and now has to walk in the cold dark to the Witch’s castle. He slips and falls and is frightened. It is farther than he thought. It is a full moon, and finally he sees the castle looking evil and huge. He is afraid but goes into the courtyard and sees an enormous lion there. He assumes it is Aslan and is terrified, but when it doesn’t move, he takes a pencil and makes a moustache on it, assuming the Witch turned Aslan to stone. Then he sees dozens of statues all around, animals and nature spirits, and a giant. Across the threshold to the castle is a wolf, but it turns out not to be stone. It is alive and tells him to state his name and business. Edmund says he brought his brother and sisters to Narnia as the Queen wanted.
Maugrim, the Chief of the Secret Police, takes him to the Queen. Edmund sees a sad stone Faun on the way and wonders if it is Lucy’s friend. Edmund tells the Witch everything. She is shocked about Aslan being in Narnia. She orders the sledge to be readied, the one without the bells, so they can’t be heard.
Commentary on Chapter Nine: In the Witch’s House
The narrator moves into Edmund’s mind so that we are not tempted to see him as merely evil like the Witch or Maugrim. He is a human being, and the message is that humans can make mistakes. Edmund is basically fooling himself with his thinking, because deep down he knows the Witch is bad. He can see for himself the stone statues, especially sad Mr. Tumnus. He is full of ego and paranoia, thinking himself a victim of Peter’s anger: “how he hated Peter—just as if all this had been Peter’s fault” (p. 92). He wants to gain rank over his older brother by sticking with the Witch. And then there is the addiction to Turkish Delight. He expects to be rewarded with all the candy he can eat.
Is Edmund in the power of the Queen, or has he let himself be in her power? It would seem from this chapter, Lewis would like us to believe the latter. It is the moral weakness of Edmund—his greed, desire for revenge, his negativity—rather than the Queen’s power that makes him betray his friends. By examining the boy’s psychology, the author makes us reflect on how humans deceive themselves into going down a wrong path. The reception he gets from the Queen quickly undoes any illusion he may have had about gaining rewards for his deed.
The author lets us taste Edmund’s path as well as Lucy’s path. The reader wonders, with Edmund, if the stone lion in the courtyard is Aslan, and if he is already defeated by the Queen. On the other hand, we are always aware of Edmund’s confused and narrow point of view.
Summary of Chapter Ten: The Spell Begins to Break
Mr. Beaver says they must leave at once, but Mrs. Beaver begins to pack food into bundles for each to carry. Mrs. Beaver argues that they can’t beat the Witch to the Stone Table anyway because they are on foot. They will have to stay under cover. They set off single file in the snow on the riverbank. They seem to walk forever, and the packs are heavier and heavier. Mr. Beaver finally takes them to a hole hidden in the bank. All five of them fit inside and sleep for a while.
Hours later they wake up and hear jingling bells outside. Thinking it is the Witch, they cower in the hole, but Mr. Beaver goes out to see what it is. He tells them to come out in a delighted voice, saying “her power is already crumbling” (p. 106). They see it is a sledge and there are reindeer, but this is Father Christmas!
Father Christmas explains that the Witch had kept him out for a long time, but now, “Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening” (p. 107). He brings presents. For Mrs. Beaver, he gives a new sewing machine; for Mr. Beaver, a new sluice gate for the dam. For the children, he has brought weapons for the coming battle. Peter gets a shield and sword, Susan a bow and arrows and a horn to blow for help. Lucy is given a small dagger and a diamond bottle of healing cordial. Then, for everyone, he produces a Christmas tea tray and gets back in his sleigh. The Beavers and children go into the cave and have a proper tea with ham sandwiches.
Commentary on Chapter Ten: The Spell Begins to Break
As is pointed out, the arrival of Father Christmas is a sign the Witch’s winter is beginning to crack. Father Christmas gives credit to Aslan, so it seems clear that the stone lion in the castle could not have been him. Despite the tension of the dangerous flight of Beavers and children with the Witch on their trail, there is a lot of humor in the chapter. Mrs. Beaver does not want to leave her sewing machine behind, intending to carry it with her, afraid the Witch will damage it. This makes Father Christmas’s present of a new sewing machine even more meaningful. It is also amusing how the Beavers manage to have an English tea wherever they go, even in a mud hole in the bank.
As Father Christmas arms the children for battle against the Witch, he cautions the girls that they must not fight. Lucy objects, saying she is brave. Father Christmas replies, “battles are ugly when women fight” (p. 109). Lewis wrote this thinking of World War II when women generally did not fight in battles, though they assumed other wartime duties. This sounds a bit old fashioned now with women in combat and with female action heroes a common feature in our culture.
Father Christmas is a preview of the coming of Aslan. Lewis tries to convey the idea of godlike beings who are not sentimental by making both Father Christmas and Aslan powerfully radiant. The narrator says that in our world Father Christmas looks “funny and jolly” but in Narnia he is “so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still” (p. 107).