Aslan Shrugged: The Wardrobe

Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and Susan travel to a hidden valley. They stay at the home of Professor Galt.

“Professor Galt is perfect in every respect,” sighs Lucy.

“I guess he’d make a fine engine,” says Edmund. “But men like him should stick to their engines and leave the politics to higher minds.”

“Edmund!” snaps Peter. “That’s a rotter of a thing to say.”

“I just don’t see why we have to leave the world to fend for itself,” says Edmund. “I want to build railroads.”

“My cosmetics are too good for them,” says Susan. She’s only 12, but already her cosmetics empire rivals Avon. “They want me to live as a slave so that they can be beautiful. Edmund, John Galt is right.”

“I suppose,” sighs Edmund. “It’s just so hard—to just leave them to fend for themselves.”

“Right,” says Peter. “Still, this is a fine house. Plenty of birds to see and strange rooms to explore. And then the rest of the valley!”

Most of the Professor’s house is hallways and guest rooms, like you’d expect, but there are a few surprises. In one room they find a radical new kind of plastic. In another, an advanced Foreman grill, sophisticated beyond anything George Foreman ever created for the outside world. In a third, they find a computing device, more capable than Eniac but small enough to fit on a hardwood desk.

One day, when they are playing hide and seek to sharpen their ability to both cooperate and compete in a hostile market, Lucy discovers that the wardrobe has no back. The coats go on forever.

“Curious!” Lucy says. “Another invention?”

She proceeds inwards through the coats. She travels what seems like a hundred yards, passing more wealth in furs than she had imagined was in all of Colorado. Then she feels something cold and wet on her shoulder. “Snow?” she asks. She brushes at her shoulder. Reason quickly informs her that it is snow.

“And, why,” she says, “a lamp post!”

The lamp post shines like a monument to industry. Its light does not die even in the coldest winter. All around it is not house, or hidden valley, or even wardrobe, but rather forest—an ancient forest, in the grip of an unnatural cold. Lucy cannot resist. She ventures out a little ways into the forest, always keeping an eye on the lamp post’s reassuring light.

“Oh!” she says.

“Oh!” says another voice. For she has encountered a queer creature. This is Mr. Tumnus, the faun, a creature much like a human but with cloven hooves, and horns, and a taste for simpler pleasures.

“My name is Lucy Pevensie,” Lucy says, quite flustered. After a moment, she remembers how a doctor is supposed to introduce herself, and adds, “Doctor Pevensie, I suppose, if we should be formal.”

She is fascinated by the faun’s legs, which defy normal principles of orthopedics. If he were hurt! she thinks. Oh, let him not hurt them! It should take entirely new techniques and tools to fix such legs. But the first inklings of how to approach such a surgery are already forming in her mind.

“Mr. Tumnus,” says the faun. “And you would be . . . a daughter of Eve?”

“Yes, I suppose,” says Lucy, on reflection. “Were you . . . I mean, is your condition natural?”

“A daughter of Eve!” declares the faun. “How marvelous! I had thought all your kind had abandoned us!”

“Abandoned?”

“Well, yes,” says the faun. “One by one . . . the humans . . . no one knows where they went . . . it wasn’t our fault, you know,” he protests. “It’s all the witch’s fault. Not ours.”

“I’m sorry,” says Lucy. There is something in the faun’s protests and evasive attitude that makes her subtly uncomfortable—as if some fundamental component of the creature’s soul were absent from her view.

“You simply must come for tea,” declares the faun. “You will like tea.”

“Oh dear,” says Lucy, who spilled the tea at last tea-time. She is not good with formal occasions.

“Well, it’s good tea,” says the faun, “and you no doubt deserve the pleasure, after traveling all the way here.”

“I should like to be warm and adequately nourished,” Lucy admits.

So they retire to Mr. Tumnus’ abode.

“Tell me about this ‘witch,'” Lucy says, in businesslike fashion.

“Oh, no,” says Mr. Tumnus. He looks away. He pours the tea. “That’s far too depressing a subject for now. We should discuss the latest fashions.”

“I’m a doctor,” says Lucy, embarrassed. “I’m eight years old. I haven’t had time for fashion. I’ve barely had time for my residency.”

Mr. Tumnus looks Lucy’s outfit up and down. “Well,” he says. He looks down. “Well. Well.”

Then suddenly the faun is crying. “Of course you’re right,” he says. “Of course you deserve to know. I’m a bad faun. A terrible person. I shouldn’t have tried to divert you from your course. I can’t help it. I’m weak, you know. It’s not my fault. I just haven’t had the opportunities you’ve had. I’ve grown up here, in a medieval kingdom of talking animals ruled by a terrible white witch. I haven’t had your human opportunities for medical training and such.”

Lucy leans forward. “I can tell that you’re good at heart,” she says. She puts her hand on Mr. Tumnus’ hand. He sniffles a bit more, but the tears are drying. “You want to do the right thing. You’re just not very good at seeing what that is.”

“Yes,” exclaims Mr. Tumnus. He brightens. “Yes, that’s it. You will fix everything, won’t you? I’ll work hard! I’ll participate! But there’s only so much I can do.”

“What’s wrong?” says Lucy. “Is it a medical problem?”

“No,” says Mr. Tumnus. “It’s that all the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve left us.”

“Left?”

“To the far mysterious land of War Drobe,” says Mr. Tumnus. “For . . .”

The faun gestures.

“It was Digory Ketterley. He said, ‘Look, all of you, upon Aslan—‘”

And here, a strange thrill passes through Lucy’s heart, as if that name contained every beauty and every joy—

“‘Aslan, supporting on his shoulders the suffering of the world. It is through his virtue that all of you may sin. It is through his pain and his labor that all of you are sustained. He is the cause for all your iniquity. Well, it’s not fair! Why should he take it? What if the lion that bears up this sinful world were to . . . shrug?'”

“Oh,” says Lucy.

“And when he heard these words, it was as if a great burden fell away from the king of beasts, and his shoulders, that had slumped, grew high. And he roared, and it was full of joy and sorrow. And then he turned. And he walked away from us, then, away from the talking animals and the fauns and the women of the wood and the wells, and left us alone, and one by one the humans followed, until there were no more Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve in all of Narnia.”

“Oh!” says Lucy. “How terrible.”

For Lucy may have been persuaded to leave the world by Professor Galt, but that does not mean that her heart was not a child’s heart, or that she could hear such a story and be unmoved.

“We had no one to turn to,” says Mr. Tumnus. “No one but the witch. But she is not good at maintaining the engine of Narnia. Since she has taken over, it has always been winter and never Christmas. Only Aslan can bring the spring. Only Santa can bring Christmas. And they do not come. But now you are here. You can fix it. You can make it all right again.”

Lucy sighs. She looks down at the table. She clenches her teeth. She is determinedly silent.

“You will, won’t you? Say you will!—Oh, your face speaks of such pain!”

Then Lucy’s expression clears, and it is only a distant sadness.

“I can’t,” she says. “If I set up hospitals, if I teach you medicine, if I try to organize spring or Christmas, it’ll only reinforce the witch’s rule.”

“I see,” says Mr. Tumnus.

So he takes her back to the wardrobe and she is gone.

3 thoughts on “Aslan Shrugged: The Wardrobe

  1. Hm. I wonder if the world of Aslan is the same as the universe where the human things go…

    it’s not a man, it’s a chicken boo

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