Who from among the lovers of Narnia has not quoted Mr. Beaver’s famous words: “Safe? … Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
I certainly have, many a time.
Beaver was, of course, responding to Susan’s initial fear upon hearing that Aslan was a lion, not a man. When she had thought Aslan was a man, she had experienced that strange feeling – “like the first signs of spring, like good news”. But now that she knew she would be meeting a lion, she felt apprehensive. When the time came that she would actually meet Aslan, she felt apprehensive as well, begging Peter to go greet Aslan – Peter was the eldest after all.
Jill Pole’s initial experiences with Aslan were completely different. Her classmate had just fallen down an enormously high cliff and while Jill was prostate on the cliff in terror, an animal had rushed over and was breathing right beside her, so close she could feel his chest vibrating. She couldn’t move at first, but once she could, she saw that it was a lion. At that very moment, the lion stalked away.
Jill became thirsty, and when she did, she rose from her place on the ground and began to search for water, moving cautiously for fear of the lion. She safely tiptoes her way through the trees and at last finds her heart’s desire. Water. At this point, the thing she wants most in all the world. The thing she feels sure she will die without.
But the lion.
The lion was lying right there, between her and the stream.
She stopped short in terror. She could not advance towards the stream. The lion might kill her. She could not run away. The lion might kill her. She was desperate.
This was no lovely thrill of spring or good news. This was only terror.
And then the lion spoke. He offered her drink.
She asked him to move. He refused. She tried to negotiate for her safety. He refused. She tried to reassure herself that he wasn’t as dangerous as she felt he was. The lion would have none of it:
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms.”
He couldn’t get any more unsafe.
Jill decides to forgo the stream. The lion reminds her that she will die without it. She tries to find another way, another stream – one that she would not have to go through the lion to get.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
And such is the crux of Jill’s dilemma.
There was no other stream. And this stream was accessible only through Aslan.
Aslan the great and terrible – the swallower of children, of adults, of kingdoms.
The only way she could live was to throw herself at His mercy.
And so she did, with no reassurances of His goodness.
Her situation was completely different than Susan’s – she had no assurances that this unsafe god was good. She would learn that, but she didn’t know it now.
For now, her only reality was that
“There is no other stream.”
I’ve been reading The Silver Chair as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Don’t forget to check in there to see what others have been reading this month.