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The Problem of the Lamppost  

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Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Hey guys,
Tonight as I flipped through The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, something strange popped out at me. In the final scene, where the kids (now adults) find the lamppost, they act confused by it, and only vaguely remember having seen one before. They don't even remember what it is called until later.
How is this possible? The entire Western wilderness of Narnia is called Lantern Waste, implying that most Narnians are aware of the Lamppost and even regard it as a landmark. Tumnus even calls it a Lamppost when he meets Lucy. Even if they forgot everything else about coming to Narnia, how could they forget the Lamppost?
Also, in the Horse and His Boy, an adult Lucy tells the story of how she came to Narnia through the wardrobe... so how she could forget the first notable thing she would have seen in Narnia is quite beyond me.
Thoughts, anyone?

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Posted : May 7, 2020 6:04 pm
Ryadian
(@ryadian)
Member Moderator

The part with Lucy telling the story in The Horse and His Boy but not remembering at the end of LWW is one of the plot holes that I haven't found a satisfactory explanation for. Perhaps there's a significant amount of time between the two books, but it seems strange that adult Lucy can remember enough details to tell the story then, but then forget it entirely within the next few years.

That strikes me as one of those things that works much better when you're telling a single Narnia story, but stops making as much sense as soon as you write more. The idea that Narnia was so real to the children that they forgot the real world makes sense as a way to end that book, but starts to lose cohesion when you want to have continuity in that world. I do kind of pity the film makers who have to decide whether to keep that plot hole, adapt it out, or come up with some explanation.

As for them forgetting what the lamppost was, that is one I've never thought of before, but you're right. I can't really think of a good explanation for that, either. Maybe... maybe they were just so caught up in Narnia, they started to lose all memory of home? Even the things that Narnians would recognize as normal (or at least identifiable)? Something like when the dwarves were unable to see Aslan's Country because they'd convinced themselves they were in a stable. (Though that would be a really strange self-delusion for these good Kings and Queens.)

I could go for a wild idea and suggest maybe the White Stag somehow confused their memories. After all, he's rumored to have the ability to grant wishes, so why not also the ability to confuse his pursuers? ;)) I don't really think either of those is a good explanation, these are barely better than wild guesses.

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Posted : May 7, 2020 6:37 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

Perhaps following the White Stag had an odd effect on the four Kings and Queens, and they didn't remember where they were.

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Posted : May 7, 2020 7:32 pm
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

I wonder if that was part of the reason Lewis supposedly wanted to re-work the Chronicles and tighten up the continuity...because of areas like this where callback references seem to contradict what he had written in the book in which the event actually happened.

Although it's definitely easier to keep details straight in one book than in a series, when you didn't initially plan it to be series (much less 7 books long).

This is the journey
This is the trial
For the hero inside us all
I can hear adventure call

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Posted : May 8, 2020 7:47 am
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Here's a headcanon that might help: Lucy and Co. can recall the story of the wardrobe, but not the lamp-post, because the lamp-post is the landmark by which they would return home, and until the hunting of the White Stag, it wasn't yet time for them to go home. Sort of like how the king in Sleeping Beauty orders that all the spindles be destroyed to protect the princess, until one fateful day she finds one.

It's still odd that Lucy would be able to tell the story of LWW in HHB, but I suppose "we once lived in a world that now feels like a dream and we entered Narnia through a thing called a wardrobe, and then we were made kings and queens of Narnia after many adventures..." while omitting the memory of the lamp-post.

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Posted : May 8, 2020 8:09 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

I've wondered about this too. I think it has to do with the fact that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first Narnia book Lewis wrote, and although at the end he hints there will be more adventures to come, he hadn't fully thought those out at the time he was writing the first book. Then as the rest of the series developed, it seems that along the way he genuinely forgot some of the details of what he'd said in that original book, and apparently he never read back over it to check that things matched up.

The area with the lamp-post isn't identified by any name in LWW; there was no map of Narnia published with the first book and all we're told (by Tumnus) is that Narnia itself is "all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea". In Prince Caspian, the second book published, it does have the name of Lantern Waste and is shown on the map at the front of the book. Doctor Cornelius describes it as "Lantern Waste, up-river, west of Beaversdam, where the Royal Children first appeared in Narnia, as the records tell".

This already seems to jar a bit with the fact that at the end of LWW, the adult Kings and Queens have forgotten what the lamp-post is and have only a vague feeling that "strange adventures or else some great change of our fortunes" lie beyond it. They're clearly no longer aware of it as the place where they "first appeared in Narnia". So how did that fact come to be in Narnia's historical records for Doctor Cornelius to know about it some 1300 years later?? Maybe Tumnus wrote something about it, since of course he was the one who first met Lucy there, and being a native Narnian, his memory isn't affected over time by the "air" of Narnia the way the Pevensies' memories of their world apparently were?

We could also assume that the area around the lamp-post wasn't given the name Lantern Waste until after the Pevensies disappeared, which might partly explain why they didn't remain aware of it during their reign. It is on the very fringes of Narnia, after all. But I think it really does come down to Lewis himself forgetting exactly what he'd said in the first book, even between writing that and the second book. Let alone later in The Horse and His Boy when we have the even more glaring inconsistency of Lucy telling "the Tale of the Wardrobe", only a year before she and her siblings walk back through it without having any real awareness that it's there!!

So basically, it's a continuity error on the author's part, not something for which there's any really satisfactory "in-universe" explanation. Like some of the other inconsistencies between LWW and the later books, it doesn't ruin the story for me, but it does mean there are some details that we just have to accept as not lining up. I often wonder what changes Lewis would have made if he'd had the chance to do a revised edition of the Chronicles, as he suggested not long before his death, but I guess we'll never know.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : May 11, 2020 12:48 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

One reason is that it wasn't written by Tolkien! He was very good at details, and already had an ancient history background on which to build.
Lewis was writing something more organic, shall we say, and didn't fill in the gaps.

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Posted : May 11, 2020 10:46 am
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Good speculations everyone!
I think the fact that this was Lewis' first attempt at something like this is probably the best explanation for the problem. ( After all, this is the same book where lions and foxes are lifting glasses, dubbing people with swords and shaking hands, so ...)

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Posted : May 11, 2020 2:08 pm
starkat
(@starkat)
Member Moderator

Or they weren't allowed to remember the true importance of the lamp-post until it was the right time. That's kind of what I always figured.

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Posted : May 13, 2020 7:07 am
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Transferring posts from Forum 2.0:

hermit » May 27, 2020 1:11 pm

Unfortunately, the idea that the Lantern Waste wasn't named as such until after the Pevensies left doesn't really hold up. In HHB Rabadash tells his soldiers that although they must regard Narnian blood as sacrosanct for now, there will come a time when they will leave nothing alive between Cair Paravel and the Lantern Waste. I suppose you could argue that was the Calormene name that the Narnians later adopted, but that seems very unlikely

Courtenay » May 27, 2020 2:06 pm

Hmmm, that's a good point — I'd forgotten Lantern Waste gets a mention in HHB.

Again, I really think the only explanation (which unfortunately doesn't work "in universe") is that Lewis simply forgot that at the end of LWW, he'd had the grown-up Pevensies forget their own world so near-completely that they no longer knew what the lamp-post was or that the way back to England lay beyond it. He presumably hadn't thought out the sequels in any great detail when he wrote that part and then it apparently slipped his mind, even by the time he wrote the next book (Prince Caspian), that it would be inconsistent for the area around the lamp-post to have a name and be memorialised in connection with the four Kings and Queens if they themselves forgot all about it during their reign!!

Sun-muffin » May 27, 2020 8:52 pm

 
hermit wrote: Unfortunately, the idea that the Lantern Waste wasn't named as such until after the Pevensies left doesn't really hold up. In HHB Rabadash tells his soldiers that although they must regard Narnian blood as sacrosanct for now, there will come a time when they will leave nothing alive between Cair Paravel and the Lantern Waste. I suppose you could argue that was the Calormene name that the Narnians later adopted, but that seems very unlikely

I don’t want to be argumentative, but I believe what Rabadash said was they will leave nothing alive between Cair Paravel and the Western waste. So it could make sense that the name Lantern waste didn’t occur until after the Pevensies had left.

But in the end it does seem more like an author error than anything else.

Wanderer Between Worlds » May 28, 2020 9:08 am

Something that makes me inclined to believe that Western wilderness was called the Lantern Waste during the Pevensies’ reign is that in Prince Caspian, Edmund is referred to as the Duke of the Lantern Waste in the letter to Miraz (the chapter “The High King in Command”). Unless he altered the title to reflect the “new” geographic names, Edmund’s title would seem to indicate that the name Lantern Waste has existed for a long time. Also, the fact that everyone had heard the Tale of the Wardrobe “many times” by Horse and His Boy and “wanted to hear it again” suggests that it is a very treasured story that would have probably been recorded and had time to become the stuff of legend by Prince Caspian.

hermit » May 28, 2020 9:18 am

Sun-muffin wrote: I don’t want to be argumentative, but I believe what Rabadash said was they will leave nothing alive between Cair Paravel and the Western waste. So it could make sense that the name Lantern waste didn’t occur until after the Pevensies had left.

But in the end it does seem more like an author error than anything else.

Having checked the book I have to admit that you're right.
As you say it seems most likely to be an authorial error. Consistent world building wasn't exactly Lewis' main priority.

Reepicheep775 » May 28, 2020 10:26 am

Well, we know that the Pevensies remember their time in our world as if it was a dream. I usually don't remember my dreams beat for beat and a lot of times, as I'm thinking about it in the morning, I'll get multiple lightbulb moments of things I forgot about.

If I were to tell my dream to someone else - even if it was a long dream and I feel like I remember most of it - I will probably leave out parts because I can't recall them.

I think my headcanon would go something like this... Lucy remembered fragments of our world and her first visit to Narnia and she tells it as is to other people. Some parts are vague and she has to make a few imaginative leaps or best guesses to fill in the gaps and thus fictional elements are added. With each telling, she becomes more and more convinced that her fictionalized story is what really happened. One of the elements that hasn't come back to her is the lamppost.

It could also be a bit like when we remember things or people or places from our childhood and over the years we build a mental image of what it looked like. Years later, we see a photograph and realize that our mental image is all wrong.

As for Lantern Waste having its name during the Pevensies reign... how many places are named after something, but we never think about where it came from? There's a place near where I live that is named after the field that used to be there (before it got paved over :( ). I never knew until someone told me. I just assumed it was a nice sounding name.

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Posted : June 5, 2020 2:31 pm
wolfloversk
(@wolfloversk)
The Wandering, Wild & Welcoming Winged Wolf Hospitality Committee

Hmmm... Not sure on the Pensevies, but in regards to the name "Lantern Waste"... it's possible that the name has been around so long that only a very few local experts would know why it was named that to begin with.  Do you know where the name of your road or hometown come from?  How about two towns over?

There was a FB meme that made the local news in my home town because a linguist showed the origins of the local city names.  Most people, even those who lived there didn't know where any of them came from except for the obvious Troy, NY was named after Troy from Ancient Greece.  But honestly I can't say I remember the origin of Schenectady, or why Buffalo is called Buffalo.  Or where did the names Catskill and Adirondack come from?  And apparently East Greenbush has nothing to do with bushes at all, but rather pine trees.

Just like in real life, Narnians may have lost that knowledge over time and generations.

Edit: I see Reepicheep775 already made a similar point!

 

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Posted : June 9, 2020 12:11 am
Geekicheep
(@geekicheep)
NarniaWeb Regular

I've often wondered about this myself; not the continuity issues, which are (as others have said) plot holes.  Not them forgetting about the lamppost, but about them forgetting our world entirely.  I have all kinds of memories from when I was their age.  I remember what school I went to, what games I played, and where we lived.  I have some bad memories too, most of which are blocked out - but that's just it: we block out the bad, not the good.  Wouldn't the kids have ever missed their parents?  Wondered if they survived the war?  What about friends?  The word "lamppost" is just a random fact, easily forgotten if they're not common; remembering the lamppost would be like remembering the name of your first teacher, or the name of your next-door neighbor.  But 6-12 years of life in another world?  I just never understood that.  Even if I had spent the past 30 years in Narnia - which, undeniably, would be awesome - I would still remember (and maybe even miss) my home.

PS: @wolfloversk It's funny you mention NY town names, because as a kid in school I heard a few theories on why Buffalo is called Buffalo.  I grew up in western NY but never really learned why - never mind Amherst, Dunkirk, Batavia etc. 😀

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Posted : June 24, 2020 9:07 pm
waggawerewolf27
(@waggawerewolf27)
NarniaWeb Zealot

I'm not sure of the problem. The Pevensies, when they went there in the first place, weren't all that aware of Lantern Waste, where they met Mr Tumnus & Edmund met the White Witch. At the end they chase a stag which leads them to the Lantern Waste. By that time they had been in Narnia far too long, & were beginning to forget their old life in England, so were returned to the Professor's house. However, Digory Kirke, ie the Professor, had never forgotten his own adventure in Narnia so then they would have plenty to talk about, afterwards.

The person I am has been known to mislay in the shopping centre carpark, her car, complete with husband at wheel, listening to the radio, & to spend some time trying to figure out where we were parked, so I'm nobody to talk. Confused  

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Posted : June 25, 2020 2:01 am
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Regular

I have wondered if the light in the lamppost was lit all of the time.  It seems that it could have served as a beacon in Narnia as our lighthouses do for ships on our coast.  It would show the way to our world, although it would not have been used for that purpose very often.  It appears that it had some historic purpose for the Narnians. And of course the name “Lantern Waste” was given to its location with the intention that it should be remembered in Narnia.

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Posted : July 6, 2020 11:44 am
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