The topic of discussion for Parent Traditio this evening will be “Raising Readers: Cultivating a Love of Literature in the Home.” One facet of this conversation will be the importance of good literature in the forming of a child’s moral imagination. To illustrate this point, consider the scene from C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair (from the Chronicles of Narnia), where one of my favorite Narnian characters – a marshwiggle – bolding declares his commitment to the truth.
In this sixth book of the Narniad, Jill Pole and Eustace are given a task by Aslan to find the lost son of King Caspian, Prince Rillian. Their guiding companion on this adventure is an ever-pessimistic Marshwiggle named Puddleglum. After many twists and turns, the trio finds themselves in an underground kingdom confronting the evil green queen who is holding Rillian hostage and plotting to overthrow Narnia.
It seems that the children and Puddleglum might win the confrontation, but then the witch throws a potion on the fire that fills the chamber with a hallucinogenic smoke that boggles their minds and causes them to doubt the reality of Narnia and Aslan. The evil trance grows stronger with the green witch using music and persuasion to cause the children to doubt everything they have ever held to be true. Just as it seems that the right has been vanquished and evil made victorious, brave Puddleglum musters his strength and stamps out the smoky blaze with his bare webbed feet.
As the smell of burnt marsh-wiggle clears their minds, Puddleglum makes this magnificent speech:
“One word, Ma’am, one word. 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 thing more 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 that 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…” (emphasis mine)
When reading this selection to my children, my goosebumps rally and blood pumps as I remind them that this world is in desperate need of young people who will stand with Puddleglum-esque conviction against the false claims and pernicious lies of our culture that deny the existence or relevance of the Triune God of the Bible. I challenge them to raise their voices and proclaim their Spirit-given faith with moral certainty and courage that resounds throughout the kingdom and triumphs over the deafening din of this present age.