Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Magician's Nephew: Chapters 4-5

Summer Challenge '13: The Atlantis Connection

As I mentioned on the first day, I’ve always been fascinated by Atlantis and its role in the Narnia universe. And one of the things that’s puzzled me for a number of years is the fact that I’ve always associated it with Charn. When I read the description of Charn – old ornate stone buildings, terraces, the whole palace complex – it has the feel to it of descriptions of the lost continent. It has the feel of a society highly advanced, powerful and cruel. And then there’s the desolation. While it’s true that from the earliest myths, Atlantis was lost by drowning, the result is that most stories of its “discovery” involve the discovery of an ancient and now crumbling city (sometimes underwater, sometimes not) and Charn seems so accurately to mirror those depictions. After Jadis is awakened, my sense of connection between Atlantis and Charn grows, as we learn a little about the history and people and culture of Charn. She refers to slaves, sacrificial drums and terrible battle. And then there is Jadis’ story itself, so full of arrogance and the desire for absolute power. It was arrogance of this sort that led to the downfall and destruction of Atlantis in the old myths. The way Jadis’ ancestors are described as looking grimmer, prouder and crueller in the Hall of Images as time wears on, points to an increasingly arrogant society.

Yet despite all these connections, I’ve never been able to convince myself that there is any real link between Charn and Atlantis. There’s nothing in the story that suggests that there should be. The dust that Uncle Andrew uses to make the rings comes from Atlantis, and the Atlanteans somehow got it from the Wood Between the Worlds. The Wood has pools leading to all worlds, and Charn is just one of those many worlds. Ours is another. Charn is the one Digory and Polly arbitrarily pick to explore. There is no reason that Charn should be related to Atlantis any more than our world or Narnia. For these reasons I’ve never pursued the links that I noticed between the two.

But after reading the chapters that describe Charn, I’ve been thinking about it some more. And there might be a way of accounting for the links and attributing them to more than mere coincidence. I’ve often wondered whether the Atlantis to which Uncle Andrew refers was really another world; another world of which rumours had come to our world many years ago; rumours which had been passed down in legend. That at any rate would account for there not being any trace of it in our world today. But that introduces other problems, and Uncle Andrew talks of it as a civilisation in our world and by removing it from our world, we lose the legends of its wars with Greece and many other accounts in which it is really a civilisation of our own.

But what if Atlantis was indeed a civilisation in our world, but one that had links with another? A colony from another world? We know that the Atlanteans must have had the ability to travel between worlds (at least between our world and the Wood) and so if the people who settled Atlantis were really from another world that had the power of inter-world travel; could they not have set up a colony in our world? That would account for the advanced technology and skill that the Atlanteans possessed in so many versions of the myth.

And if Atlantis were a colony of another world, that world might have been Charn. That way we have an explanation for the similarities in architecture and culture and the apparent pride of the race, but maintain the more traditional accounts of Atlantis as a place in our world that was drowned when its people became too proud. In fact, I’d even suggest that what caused the downfall of Atlantis was an attempt by one among its people to use the Deplorable Word to gain a victory. We know Charnian magic doesn’t work in our world the way it does in Charn, so instead of destroying all living things, the uttering of the word destroyed only the continent of Atlantis, drowning it in the fury of the sea.

One problem still remains. It is purely coincidence that the world from which the Atlanteans originated was the exact same one that Digory and Polly chose to explore; coincidence that the society that had the dust from the Wood between the Worlds, originated from the one world that our heroes chose to visit. We could call it coincidence and leave it at that. Maybe it happened to be the pool closest to our own. Or maybe there was more going on. We know that Jadis set up the bell and hammer in the hopes that a magician would come and awaken her from sleep and take her to a new place that she could conquer. So perhaps her magic was at work beyond the realms of Charn itself, working in the Wood to draw Digory and Polly towards it. It was not coincidence, but Jadis’ spell that made them choose that pool. And why not? If the dust from the Wood from which the rings were made had belonged to those in Atlantis who were colonists from Charn, maybe magic of Charn could work through the dust and the rings. After all, perhaps, knowing something of the Colony of Atlantis, Jadis was hoping that it would be someone from Atlantis itself, a relation with similar magic, though one inferior to her, that would come and rescue her. Unfortunately Jadis’ plan went a little awry, and it was the non-magical nephew of a weak dabbler in magic, many generations since Atlantis itself was destroyed purely on the search for an adventure that woke her up instead.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that there were some survivors of Atlantis. Just a few. These, as suggested in Stephen Lawhead’s Taliesin, escaped by boat and arrived at last on some shore, perhaps England itself. These survivors, of a different race to ours, kept to themselves and had strange practises, even “magic” of a sort. They became the fair folk, or faerie of British legend. For the most part, they died out, but a few fell in love with humans from our world and married them. Generations later, the descendants of one of these survivors was Uncle Andrew’s godmother, Mrs Lefay. She really did have fairy blood in her, and it was by her connection with Atlantis that she inherited the small chest of dust from the Wood Between the Worlds.

No comments: