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Which is the second darkest Narnia book? Poll was created on Sep 12, 2021

  
  
  
  
  
  
Poll results: Which is the second darkest Narnia book?
Voter(s): 12
Poll was created on Sep 12, 2021
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  -  votes: 0 / 0%
0
0%
Prince Caspian  -  votes: 0 / 0%
0
0%
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  -  votes: 0 / 0%
0
0%
The Horse and his Boy  -  votes: 1 / 8.3%
1
8.3%
The Silver Chair  -  votes: 11 / 91.7%
11
91.7%
The Magician's Nephew  -  votes: 0 / 0%
0
0%

Which is the Second Darkest Narnia Book?

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Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I'm sure we all agree The Last Battle is the darkest Narnia book, so that raises the question (to me at least) which is the second darkest. I remember a while back Fantasia did a thread talking about why some people say The Silver Chair is the second darkest when she doesn't see it that way. It was an interesting discussion but I'm pretty sure it's closed now so I thought it'd be OK for me to revive the topic.

As for my opinion, I'd say the second darkest is...The Silver Chair. (Sorry, Fantasia. And people who've gone on record as agreeing with Fantasia.) It begins with the main character, Jill, in a really bad situation, something none of the other Narnia books do. (Well, I guess The Magician's Nephew does, but Lewis softens the impact by having Polly, not Digory, be the POV character in the first chapter. The Horse and his Boy arguably does too, but Shasta's pretty resigned to his bad situation. He's not crying behind a gym.) And while previous Narnia books tended to have the bad guys, like the White Witch, the Telmarines, and to a lesser extent, Eustace's parents, be killjoys and the good guys be all about fun and feasting, The Silver Chair has a much stronger theme of self discipline. Anything pleasant, like Harfang, the LOTGK, even Cair Paravel to an extent, is a trap and the characters have to take a bleak, gruelling, joyless experience to achieve their heroic goal. Even when they do so, the mood is less euphoric and more relieved. While Ettinsmoor has its natural beauty, the characters show very little appreciation for it. The only scene that feels like a romp, the Snow Dance, is abruptly cut short. 

But what really seals this as the second darkest book for me is the ending, which is probably the least happy ending to any Narnia book. While he's free now, Rilian has lost more than a decade of his life, trapped underground, and it was the last decade he could spent with his father. Lewis manipulates the plot, so we don't feel this too much, by showing Caspian in Aslan's Country and having the final scene take place in our world and consist of bad guys getting their due. But nothing can change what's happened to Rilian and the fact that Lewis mentions him in the penultimate paragraph means we're definitely supposed to realize that. The poor guy's probably traumatized for life. 

I hope I'm not making The Silver Chair sound all gloomy and doomy. I actually consider it a more fun than the less dark Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (That doesn't mean I think it's better than The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I find them equally great in different ways.) You have to understand when I speak of the book being dark, I mean by Narnian standards, not judged against the backdrop of storytelling in general. 

If I were to change my vote, it'd be to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of Aslan's death and because it's the one where a main character (Edmund) comes the closest to being evil. (Eustace is a jerk, but more annoying than actively evil. Aravis is snobby and callous at first, but the worst thing she does to a slave is off-page and she has a sympathetic motive. Tirian and Jewel killing the Calormenes without giving them a chance to defend themselves might be worse than what Edmund does, but it seems like we're supposed to forget about it after a few chapters.) But I'd say The Silver Chair for the above reasons.

So what do you think? Do you disagree with my reasoning? Is there anyone out there who actually thinks The Last Battle is the second darkest and another Narnia book is really the darkest in the series? 

This topic was modified 2 weeks ago by Col Klink

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Topic starter Posted : September 12, 2021 11:36 am
Courtenay liked
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I'm not sure. There is certainly darkness and danger in several of the books. In addition, most of them have a journey through the darkness and danger. In PC there is threat and danger within the context of the children's joy at being back in Narnia. In VDT there is a journey through dangers and adventures, with several dark episodes.

SC is probably the second darkest, since the main characters are one child who has been to Narnia (and transformed), one fearful child who has no idea what she is getting into, and one unfamiliar humanoid creature whose ways are strange to the two children; they undertake an unknown journey into a dangerous situation, without official support from the Regent or others at Cair Paravel, meet owls in a dark place (which is fine for owls!), have to walk a long way, eat unfamiliar food, hunt for their own food, deal with severe weather and many risks, and THEN go underground! - where it gets worse!

It is not the darkest, because they know that somewhere out there is Narnia, where there is still joy and beauty and love.  But yes, I agree that it is the second. I wouldn't vote for LWW as the darkest, because its journey is one of discovery, and the children are given a lot of assistance all the way from kind and brave creatures.

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : September 12, 2021 5:12 pm
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KingEdTheJust
(@kingedthejust)
NarniaWeb Nut

I actually never thought of which book is the second darkest, but I have to agree with you that if I were to pick one, it would be the Silver chair. As you mentioned, the joyful scenes are not many and if they come, very short-lived. The Silver chair deals with dark themes and the character are all too often getting into life and death situations. There are many times where they almost died. For example, At Harfang, they were going to be eaten, also when they were mesmerized by the LOTGK, and if Puddleglum had not stepped in, they wouldn't have gotten out. When they were underground, and it was getting destroyed, they had barely escaped with their lives. The ending is very bitter-sweet as with LB, because of Caspian's death and Rillian's mourning. The ending of SC almost gives a foretaste of LB, by showing a glimpse of Aslan's country, especially this line : 

"No, my dears," he said. "When you meet me here again, you will have come to stay. But not now. You must go back to your own world for a while."- Silver Chair 

 

Posted by: @col-klink

If I were to change my vote, it'd be to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I don't think I would choose LWW because although it's scary and suspenseful, all the scary and sad parts are evenly balanced out with happy scenes. Generally LWW, is not really a dark book or at least I don't think of it like that. It seemed more of an adventure story at most. If I were to choose something to replace SC , then I'd perhaps choose VDT because it has more suspense and plot and the characters we know are starting to grow up. It's not necessarily dark, but there is a scene with slavery and the beginning of the scene with the Dufflepuds is very mysterious before they become visible. Also, how can we forget Dark Island! It's as scary as it sounds. With all your worst nightmares coming true! In fact now that I recall, the sea serpent scenes are pretty dark as well. Lastly, both Edmund and Lucy are less innocent then they used to be in the other two books and they are in fact, as I mentioned before "growing up." 

"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)

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Posted : September 12, 2021 6:31 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

The Silver Chair has the Underworld, which is one of the darkest places in Narnia when it is ruled by The Lady of the Green Kirtle. “Many go down to Underworld but few return to the sunlit lands”.  The only thing darker than that is Narnia ruled by Tash in The Last Battle.  Of course there are dark chapters in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but the return of Aslan brings change when spring arrives to replace winter.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago 3 times by Narnian78
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Posted : September 12, 2021 8:21 pm
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I'm gonna have to jump on the Silver Chair bandwagon here, partly because of the Underworld, the cold mountains, and the night meeting in the tower lending to a generally darker aesthetic, but also because of the dark elements like mind-slavery, man-eating giants, and hideous snake-lycans. Not really typical fare for a Narnia book.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago by Cleander

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Posted : September 12, 2021 9:35 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

I'm on the "Silver Chair bandwagon" myself, for much the same reasons others have mentioned! It's a fantastic book — they all are, and I've never been able to pick my most or least favourite, let alone put them in any definite order of preference. ALL the books have things in them that I wouldn't be without, so to speak. But SC definitely has more "dark" parts than most, literally and figuratively.

Some reasons I don't think others have mentioned: the two child characters from our world aren't really friends when they start out — they're not enemies either, but there's not much of a bond between them and they only gradually warm to each other. Their relationship involves quite a lot of bickering and squabbling for much of the book, which is a big point in the plot (their lack of getting along well with each other does a lot to impede the quest). Of course Shasta and Aravis are in a similar situation, but their relationship plays out differently and of course the plot is quietly geared towards them eventually getting married. Jill and Eustace seem to barely even become friends until not that long before the end.

I also find that SC has a "colder" feel overall to it than most of the other books, bar LB. Look at Aslan's appearances in this book. When Jill meets him after her own foolishness has led to Eustace falling off the cliff, Aslan is a scary, threatening presence; Jill is terrified of him and he does nothing to allay that fear. It's a powerful part of the plot, but it's mitigated for most first-time readers by the fact that most of us have read at least some of the earlier books first. We know who Aslan is and we know he truly has Jill's best interests at heart, even though she needs to be spoken to sternly at this point and she has more hard lessons to come. But if I had never read any other Narnia books and the second chapter of SC was my first introduction to Aslan, I wouldn't be struck with the wonder and joy and excitement that I first felt in LWW (my own introduction to Narnia) and every other Chronicle I read after that. I'd be left wondering "So who on earth is this pretentious, menacing, creepy talking lion, and what am I supposed to think of him? If it's true what I've heard, that he's meant to be a representation of God / Jesus, well, this doesn't make Him sound very attractive, sorry..."

I think there are in fact fewer appearances of Aslan "in person" (in lion??) in SC overall than in any of the other books apart from LB, going off the top of my head. After Jill's uncomfortable conversation with him by the stream, he doesn't appear again until the dream she has at Harfang, which is also a rather disturbing and none-too-comforting experience (although it does get them on the right track again at last!). And then we don't see him again until right at the end, on the mountain again, when he brings Caspian back to life — and it's only then that he indicates to Jill and Eustace that they're forgiven for all their quarrelings and mess-ups during the quest. But there are no scenes of pure, boundless joy associated with him, unlike his resurrection in LWW, or Lucy's encounters with him in PC and VDT. Again, if we didn't know anything more about Aslan than what we see in SC alone, we'd be left thinking of him as a rather distant and joyless and unlovable deity. Which of course is not the case, but you really wouldn't know that from this book by itself.

If I had to pick a runner-up — third darkest, that is! — I'd nominate The Magician's Nephew. Where else in the Narnia books do we encounter a character who literally has the power to destroy every living thing in the world with one word, and has used that power, with no remorse whatsoever?! And the fact that for most of the book, Digory is near heartbroken with the knowledge that his mother is dying — and then when Jadis tempts him to take the apple to heal his mother, that makes for one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the entire series. But there's still a lot more light and joy in that book than there is in SC, particularly with the creation of Narnia — and the fact that, while he is still mysterious and awesome, Aslan shows a lot more warmth and compassion in this book than he does in SC, encouraging the new Talking Beasts to value "jokes as well as justice", and, of course, having those shining tears in his eyes when Digory asks him for "something that will cure Mother". In MN, you can totally "get" why Aslan is someone to be trusted completely, even when one is confronted with an incredibly hard choice. I don't get that impression at all from SC.

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

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Posted : September 13, 2021 3:55 pm
Cleander, Narnian78, coracle and 2 people liked
Mrs Smooshy
(@mrs-smooshy)
NarniaWeb Regular

I certainly concur with the idea that "The Silver Chair" is the second darkest of the series.  I think "The Horse and His Boy" could end up near the top as well as it seems to take on a more dangerous, serious adventure with the political maneuvering of Prince Rabadash as well as his plans to forcibly marry Queen Susan.  It's a nasty piece of business.  But I still think "The Silver Chair" is darker.  I may be influenced by the wet, cold and dreary climate/time of year the novel takes place in and that so much happens underground in the literal dark.  As a child, I always hated stories of people lost in caves and would inwardly will that those sections of the book to be over quickly.  I actually didn't like the story very much at all when I was younger and I only came to appreciate it when I returned to it as a young adult.   There is an air of spiritual and mental oppression throughout and comes to a head with the final confrontation with the queen.  It makes the resolution all the more euphoric but, as the original poster pointed out, it is tainted that both Caspian and Rillian only have the briefest of reunions and those last 10 years not truly atoned for.  It's a bittersweet ending but realistic.  

The Silver Chair doesn't really have the magical sparkle and enchantment that the other books contain throughout, minus the moonlight snow dance at the end.  That almost feels out of place with the rest of the novel (though I guess that was the point).  Even the beauty of Aslan's Country has the moment of mourning the loss of Caspian.  Any moments of triumph--even the flouting of the schoolyard bullies--feels as if it comes through gritted teeth.  The Narnian series, along with its readers, are starting to put behind any childish ways.  There is a price to be paid even in victory.

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Posted : September 13, 2021 9:13 pm
Lady Jill the Loyal
(@lady-jill-the-loyal)
NarniaWeb Regular

I find this interesting, because on the whole, I actually find The Silver Chair the darkest book. The Last Battle is dreadfully awful, worse than SC, for a while, but then we get that glorious ending that isn't really got in SC. I would say LB has some darker scenes, but overall, I consider SC the darkest of all the books.

Which is why I want a good, sensitive, delicate, and yet real portrayal of SC on screen, not plunging further into nastiness or anything, just showing the story as it is, the good bits and yet the bad bits as well, the despair and half-triumph. Even more than I want LB; because after all I don't think anyone can really do justice to that, just as they can't to Aslan's song in MN.

Also Jill is one of my favourite characters, probably because of this. The story feels so real and relatable.

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Posted : September 14, 2021 5:49 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

So I think I must be the lone voter for "Horse and His Boy" at present, and whilst to some extent there is a lot of flexibility in terms of how you define the word "darkness", I still think HAHB fits the bill in most senses of the word.

I should note that HAHB is by far my least favourite book of the series (probably for a lot of reasons I'm about to mention below) and therefore it's not a book I've read in a long time, so kind of going of long term memory here...

  • The fact that the main children aren't from our world takes away somewhat of the "safety net" in the story. In the other books I always find something comforting about knowing that the children have the anchor point of the real world to retreat back to at the end, and that the real world is never too far out of reach for them, no matter how perilous things get on their quest.
  • HAHB is to my mind the only story where the Children are actively running away from something, and where they are also being actively pursued by an enemy. Almost all of the books are quest narratives, but the others are all about journeying to get somewhere or find something - HAHB is about running away from something unsettling (slavery) and being pursued by a hostile threat (Calormen).
  • The depictions of Aslan in HAHB are also much more threatening than other books. The few times he does appear he is not a source of warmth and comfort, but as a wild and intimidating lion chasing the children down.
  • The fact that the story is not set in Narnia means there aren't many of the usual sources of fun or whimsy in the story to break things up. Everything feels like it's much more serious business, set in a much more brutal world.
  • My primary mental images of the book are of them fleeing across the desert at night. I'm sure other readers probably have more vivid memories of HAHB being a story of bright colours in the markets of Tashbaan, but to me HAHB is a both literally and figuratively a "dark" story

 

All these things above for me contribute towards HAHB being a much more unsettling read than the other books. The tension is higher, the threat is persistent, and the danger more real.

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Posted : September 14, 2021 6:39 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @lady-jill-the-loyal

I find this interesting, because on the whole, I actually find The Silver Chair the darkest book.

Posted by: @icarus

whilst to some extent there is a lot of flexibility in terms of how you define the word "darkness", I still think HAHB fits the bill in most senses of the word.

It's actually kind of nice that some people disagree with me. It makes for a more interesting discussion. 

Posted by: @icarus

HAHB is to my mind the only story where the Children are actively running away from something, and where they are also being actively pursued by an enemy. Almost all of the books are quest narratives, but the others are all about journeying to get somewhere or find something - HAHB is about running away from something unsettling (slavery) and being pursued by a hostile threat (Calormen).

I wouldn't recommend you waste your time rereading a book you dislike, but I feel like if you did, it wouldn't strike you this way. An enemy isn't really pursuing the main characters. The main villain is pursuing Susan, which could certainly be considered dark (See Mrs. Smooshy's post) but I don't feel like the main characters come across as vulnerable the way you describe. It's true that Aravis's father is pursuing her, but we only hear about that in one chapter and we never actually see him. Anradin might also be pursuing Shasta and Bree, but we hear even less about that. And while it's true that Shasta and Aravis aren't journeying "to" somewhere, Bree and Hwin have good memories of Narnia and the North, so they are. 

Posted by: @icarus

The depictions of Aslan in HAHB are also much more threatening than other books. The few times he does appear he is not a source of warmth and comfort, but as a wild and intimidating lion chasing the children down.

I'd argue that the fact that we don't know it's Aslan until the last act of the book lessens the impact of that somewhat. Compare this to what Courtenay wrote about The Silver Chair above. While the lion attacks are certainly scary when they happen, the climactic revelations make them less so in retrospect.

Posted by: @icarus

My primary mental images of the book are of them fleeing across the desert at night.

You see to me that sounds like a really fun, exciting, invigorating image. ROFL My primary mental images of The Silver Chair are probably the characters trudging across a barren wilderness, which makes the book sound...boring, which is emphatically not what I consider The Silver Chair to be. Guess that shows how much mental images are worth.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Topic starter Posted : September 14, 2021 7:32 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @icarus

The depictions of Aslan in HAHB are also much more threatening than other books. The few times he does appear he is not a source of warmth and comfort, but as a wild and intimidating lion chasing the children down.

Except when he's a cat. Grin I must admit that on my first reading, while I didn't guess that the apparently wild and scary lions were Aslan, I did suspect that the cat must have something to do with him (although I don't think I guessed that it WAS him!)...

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

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Posted : September 15, 2021 3:28 am
Swanwhite
(@swanwhite)
NarniaWeb Newbie

I agree with you about “The Silver Chair”. I think Lewis did an amazing job of giving each book its own “atmosphere” and for my part, I’ve always seen “The Silver Chair” as quite bleak. Jill really struggles to remember the signs (compare the competency and skill of Jill in TLB). The landscape of the moors and beyond seems very grim and bleak. Puddleglum is wonderful, one of my favourite characters, but his pessimism adds to the bleakness - though the humour does offset this somewhat and lift the book. The way the weather, landscape and food are described is fairly grim - eels, yuck! And Aslan is absent after the children get to Narnia whereas I think I guessed the lions and the cat etc were Aslan when I read those passages in THAHB

I can see why, on the face of it, The Horse and His Boy has the ingredients for a darker book, but the atmosphere is somehow lighter than The Silver Chair. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that it’s set in a hot country and so you envisage blue skies throughout? I do think Lewis was quite careful to give each book its own underlying flavour and the atmosphere does matter, not just the events c.f. Michael Ward’s “Planet Narnia”. 

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Posted : September 15, 2021 1:43 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @icarus

HAHB is to my mind the only story where the Children are actively running away from something, and where they are also being actively pursued by an enemy. Almost all of the books are quest narratives, but the others are all about journeying to get somewhere or find something - HAHB is about running away from something unsettling (slavery) and being pursued by a hostile threat (Calormen).

I know I already commented on this Giggle , but I just wanted to say that I think The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is darker in that respect. I've written about why I don't think the protagonists being pursued is a huge part of The Horse and his Boy. With LWW, the White Witch and Maugrim pursuing the Pevensies and the beavers is more of a plot point. And the White Witch actually has Edmund under her power! And she has the legal right to execute him! (I guess Anradin has the right to execute Shasta too for horse stealing. So there is that.)

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Topic starter Posted : September 15, 2021 4:04 pm
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

In The Horse and His Boy I disliked the city of Tashban and was glad when Shasta, Aravis, Hwinn, and Bree were out of it. I thought C. S. Lewis had created a city which had almost nothing good in it at all.  I wondered if others believed that Lewis should have put something positive in it to make the story more believable.  Perhaps Lasaraleen is the only good Calormen in the story since we don’t meet Emeth until The Last Battle.  And even she had many faults— especially her silliness and gossiping. I was not completely unhappy with the story.  One of the best parts was Aslan’s meeting Shasta when he revealed himself as a Lion.  However, I find that the darkness in the story does not work as well for me as it does in The Silver Chair. In that book there are no stereotyped villains like the Tisroc and the Grand Vizier, who is very servile and accepts mistreatment by the Tisroc. The good vs. evil conflict is more realistic and complex. I think The Silver Chair is a much better Narnia adventure.  🙂

This post was modified 1 week ago 9 times by Narnian78
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Posted : September 16, 2021 4:25 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@narnian78 

In many ways HHB is on a different level from the others. There are no children from our world (just Pevensies at their most grown up ). Its place in the series is an event that occurred during a different book. And its darkness is lessened by the humour and frequent fairytale style.

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : September 16, 2021 5:29 am
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