One of Narnia’s Oddest Heroes

April 19, 2017 — 7 Comments

Puddleglum

Narnia is populated with fascinating characters. (Which is your favorite?) The forests, mountains and seas teem with distinctive creatures. Their diverse personalities shine light on the peculiarities of our own lives, in this mundane world.

One of Narnia’s “residents” is Puddleglum. The aptly named marsh-wiggle lives in the wetlands that are derisively referred to as bogs or swamps by elitists who prefer remaining high and dry.

Marsh-wiggles are also notoriously pessimistic, and Puddleglum sets a firm standard when it comes to adding a sour or glum note to all he says. Listen to his greeting to his fellow protagonists in The Silver Chair, the day following their meeting.

“Good morning Guests” he said. “Though when I say good I don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I daresay.”

Again, on their journey to rescue Narnia’s prince from a dangerous cavern, he offers his version of optimistic encouragement.

“The bright side of it is that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”

My affinity for Puddleglum may be due to the fact my modest surname (Stroud) refers to “marshland which has been overgrown with brushwood.”

Life on Puddleglum Pond

After a transient military life including 21 inter-state moves, I felt more blessed than the average sojourner when the Lord provided me and my precious wife the home we always longed for. We’ve retired to acreage in Washington’s woods where again just an hour ago I was watching a lovely young deer grazing in our yard.

And, we are also able to enjoy a sizable riparian space that includes a pleasant pond. While many would dislike having natural water on their property, due to the heavy-handed government oversight that it invites, we love our pond. In fact, we named our “estate” after the pond.

How did the pond itself earn its name? Our first spring on the property, the metamorphosis of 3.7 million silent tadpoles into incessantly croaking frogs sealed the deal. The fact that the lowland expanse around the pond resembles Puddleglum’s habitat in the original Narnian illustrations confirmed the choice.

Unsurprisingly, due to their environment, frogs are quite important to marsh-wiggles. Thus these familiar amphibians hold a place of honor in the quintessential maxim of marsh-wiggelian philosophy:

“You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.”

So very true.

Another Lesson Taught by Puddleglum

The title of this column refers to Puddleglum as a hero. I have written in the past about his courageous confrontation with the witch, during which he proclaims his unflagging faith in Aslan. On the verge of surrendering to her lies, he regains mental and spiritual clarity and, with his unclad foot, stamps out a magical fire she is using to bind her deceptive spell. Puddleglum then declares:

One word, Ma’am . . . All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.

Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.

And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world.

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.

Puddleglum is not denying his faith that Aslan is real. What he’s saying is that even if Narnia did not exist, its virtues—its essence—would still provide a nobler and richer philosophy for life than anything the world has to offer.

Good News

Fans of Narnia who have enjoyed the films are still looking forward to next release. It’s been a long time coming, and it just may get to the theaters a year from this next Christmas. Puddleglum will play a major role in the production.

In December 2016, Narnia Web reported that Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, said that he believed production on The Silver Chair could begin in early 2017. Gresham also stated that he believed they had “the best Narnia movie script we have ever had,” and that the film will include the famous speech the character of Puddleglum gives after stamping out the queen’s fire.

Something to look forward to, indeed.

_____

The image above is from the classic work of Pauline Baynes, who provided illustrations for the work of both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

7 responses to One of Narnia’s Oddest Heroes

  1. 

    Not to be confused with Puddinghead.
    Puddleglum has some pretty good philosophies. Ponds’ deep water often inspires/encourages wading into their depths

    • 

      Our pond is half covered with reeds. Gets fairly shallow (three feet or so) by the end of the summer. No telling how deep your feet would sink into the mud, though… seeing as we don’t have webbed feet like those marshwiggles.

  2. 

    beautiful entry. here we’ve learned that the place beside portland maine, called Stroudwater, is so for this reason. it also has a river of this name, and still has something of the salt wetlands geology, despite the nearby road and buildings. thank you.

    • 

      Very interesting. I wasn’t familiar with those place names. Could have also been named after a Stroud, since a number came quite early to America.

      Speaking of England… there are lots of places beyond the city named Stroud in the U.K. The first town where we lived, Newbury, has a downtown park named Stroud Green. We felt it provided us with a warm welcome.

  3. 

    What always struck me about Puddleglum is that Lewis does not bother to really describe him well, or explain what a marshwiggle is.

    • 

      It is curious, isn’t it? We are expected, I think, to grow in our understanding of Marsh-wiggles as the book progresses.

      Appearances, after all, are less important than character and actions.

      “As they drew nearer, the figure turned its head and showed them a long thin face with rather sunken cheeks, a tightly shut mouth, a sharp nose, and no beard. He was wearing a high, pointed hat like a steeple, with an enormously wide flat brim.

      “The hair, if it could be called hair, which hung over his large ears was greeny-gray, and each lock was flat rather than round, so that they were like tiny reeds. His expression was solemn, his complexion muddy, and you could see at once that he took a serious view of life.”

  4. 

    Hi Rob,

    Yes, I am excited for this new movie. Great point that Lewis used special characters, unlikely heroes, to share his doctrines of the faith.

    Thank you,

    Gary

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