Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Skeptics in The Last Battle

Since I mentioned skeptical dwarfs in my previous post, I thought it might be of interest to post this excerpt from my book The Heart of Narnia, from "Chapter 8: Repentance and Unrepentance." Beware of some Narnian spoilers if you have not read the books ...

Whereas Rabadash is impetuous and unrepentant from his first appearance in The Horse and His Boy to his last, the group of dwarfs in The Last Battle appear to have followed a progression that ultimately leads to their unrepentance.

The notable exceptions in their number are two dwarfs: Poggin, who leaves the renegade dwarfs to join King Tirian and his party, and an unnamed dwarf who, although a member of the group of troublesome dwarfs, is allowed to enter Aslan's country.

The story of the unrepentant dwarfs occurs in three sections. First, some thirty dwarfs who are prisoners of four Calormene soldiers encounter Tirian, who is disguised as a Tarkaan, and his companions, Eustace, Jill, Jewel, and Puzzle.

Tirian eagerly reveals that the so-called Aslan they have been shown by Shift the Ape was really a fraud (it's Puzzle wearing a lion's skin) and that Tirian has come to rescue the dwarfs so they can free Narnia.

Unfortunately, the dwarfs are fed up with stories about Aslan. Their hearts have hardened to the point of extreme skepticism. Through their primary spokesperson, Griffle the dwarf, they say they are no longer interested in kings or Aslan or nonsensical tales. Then, uttering a refrain that repeats five times throughout the book, they reply, "The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs," thus emphasizing their self-centeredness and desire to separate themselves from Narnia. Only Poggin leaves the group and joins Tirian and his companions.

The second section featuring the dwarfs occurs during the last battle against the Calormene soldiers, Tirian, and Tirian's companions. Here the dwarfs mock the Calormene forces and are given another opportunity by Tirian to repent of their traitorous actions, as he urges them to return to the side of Narnia.

But they will have none of it. In fact, they consider Tirian's forces to be as bad as the Calormenes. Upon seeing the arrival of reinforcements in the form of a group of talking horses coming to the aid of Tirian, the dwarfs begin to fire their arrows, killing all of the horses, thus, committing one more act of treachery requiring repentance.

Not long after, the remaining dwarfs (about eleven) are thrown through the stable door, which leads to the third and final appearance of the dwarfs. Although the dwarfs are now in Aslan's country, they believe they have been thrown into a filthy, dark stable. Lucy has tried to help them but has failed. She asks Tirian, who has just come through the stable door himself, to try to talk some sense into them.

The dwarfs, who are sitting in a circle, can hear the approach of the others but cannot see them even though it is daylight. When Lucy offers flowers to a dwarf named Diggle so he can smell that he is not in a stable, he believes he is smelling the sort of trash and filth one might find in a stable. When Tirian grabs Diggle in order to pull him out of the circle and prove the dwarf is not in a stable, the dwarf behaves as though he has been hit against a wall and rushes back to the circle.

Only when Lucy asks Aslan to help the unrepentant dwarfs is some explanation of their condition offered. When Aslan growls near the dwarfs, they think it is a machine the others are using to trick them. Aslan then creates a feast for the dwarfs, but they do not see it as a feast and shortly begin to fight over who has the best bits of food.

Aslan explains that the dwarfs will not allow themselves to be helped because they have opted for their own perceived cleverness rather than being open to believing in Aslan. They have mentally imprisoned themselves and are so fearful of being duped that nothing can reach them.

Aslan's words echo one of Lewis's comments in The Great Divorce regarding hell as a choice. Lewis wrote of two types of people. The first humbly allow God's will to be done, but in the case of the second group of people, God allows their will to be done. In other words, they choose to live separately from God, and He grants their wish for all eternity: hell.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. All rights reserved.

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