It was a dull Autumn day and Jill Pole was crying behind the gym.
She was crying because they had been bullying her….
C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
Jill Pole is one of my favorite characters in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Introduced in The Silver Chair‘s first lines, a case could be made that she is the central figure of the book. Indeed, she changes the most of all the characters. Jill’s transformation manifests in a multifaceted way. Her hardness at the beginning is a cross, ill-tempered, sort of bravado which transforms into a meeker and yet a great-hearted willingness. As the story grows, she dissolves into tears less and by the end seems to have a broader range of emotional expression — emotional maturity, one might call it. She is a wonderful character.
Early in the book Jill meets Aslan. Here is a part of their interaction,
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“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.
The Silver Chair, Chapter Two
This sonnet is written in honor of her and more so in honor of those in my life who are dearer to me than Jill.
“Dear child, come to me from your crying place
Where you hide from giants (bullying brutes)—
You, whose confidence masks another face
Waxing white at the sound of their jackboots.
Dear daughter, you who thirsts but dares not drink,
The stream is yours; it’s water satisfies,
Yet your conditions, the safety you think
Keeps safe, finds water but leaves you to die.
Eve’s Daughter, draw near. Dare not to not dare.
Though I, The Lion, have devoured kings of old,
If you’ll lose for me, you’ll gain all that’s fair,
Keep all your silver and get all the gold.
Rightly fearing, making the first of me,
You’ll drink of joy, be filled with love, set free.”
© Randall Edwards 2019
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Illustration by Pauline Baynes from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Published by HarperCollins.