Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rereading Cair Paravel

I have a confession: I never really read the ending of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Don’t get me wrong…I sort of read it. But, after the final battle scene, who really follows the last few pages that carefully anyway? The rest of the book is just laughing at the four siblings because they start to talk funny and skimming their culture shock when they come out of the wardrobe.

Because of this, I missed—well, a lot of things, probably, but one section in particular that stood out to me this time around:

“The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them all; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?”

And you can find it there, in those words—the longing of a grown man who can still hear the echoes of seagulls from a childhood holiday. Maybe the castle there was listing to one side, the foundation a crumbling mess, all ready to be swept away by the tide in a few short hours.

But it was Cair Paravel, just for a moment, because he was young enough to truly believe that all was right with the world.

I don’t have strong positive memories of the seaside, but I have others: brief snapshots of joy where for once I wasn’t afraid or tired or angry or vaguely disappointed with the way this world has turned out. Times when I was safe and warm and loved, and that’s all I felt, for just a little while.

Those are the moments when we are quite sure that Aslan has won and we are kings and queens, moments when we look out over the sea and it is beautiful.

Sometimes we forget to enjoy those moments. Other times, we forget to remember them. Not in a way that makes us live constantly, miserably in the past. But as an act of faith, as a way of saying, “I believe we’ll make it to Cair Paravel again someday.”

The scene is not always a coronation; the sound is not always seagulls. It’s the second chorus of “Silent Night” sung in the glow of candles. It’s in the rousing finale of a Broadway show that reminded you that “to love another person is to see the face of God.” It’s the quiet snoring of someone you love. It’s children’s laughter and guitar solos and conversation over coffee and film credits and windchimes in the garden.

It’s in the sound of church bells, but also in every sound, every memory that reminds us of our true home, someplace where we can be children again, safe and triumphant at last.

Have you heard it? Do you remember?


  1. My sister has a song about this: "Something about the room tonight reminds me of a memory of years, years ago..." and then the whole song is about a bunch of her memories of growing up and how even though they're past, they still come around and make us smile wistfully as we think about them.

    Just finished reading this book to our 4 year old (and getting started on Prince Caspian). It's fun to revisit the world of Narnia through her eyes.

  2. I love those books, The Horse and His Boy is my absolute favorite of them though. Speaking of books, The Giant's Staircase was written in 2011, do you know when or if book five of Amarius Adventures will come out? If not, would you mind just telling me what happens? I was left in suspense, never to know how you would end it. Thank you!