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This paper was written by Dr. Don W. King.


Included with the gracious permission of "Dr. Zeus", creator of "Into the Wardrobe", a popular website devoted to C.S. Lewis. The original online copy of this paper can be found here.

cslewis.drzeus.net

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Articles > The C.S. Lewis Archive > The Childlike in George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis

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Curdie's mother, like Irene, has the childlike ability to see, and her story does influence Curdie although it is only later, after Curdie has been wounded by the goblins, that he also regains his childlike eyes. As he lies in a bed unable to move so as to alert everyone of the goblin's forthcoming attack, he sees "a lady with white hair, carrying a silver box in her hand, enter the room. She came to his bed, he thought, stroked his head and face with cool, soft hands, took the dressing from his leg, rubbed it with something that smelt like roses, and then waved her hands over him three times" (182). Still later, when he is trying to decide how to find Irene in order to protect her from the goblins, "something touched his hand. It was the slightest touch, and when he looked he could see nothing. Feeling and peering about in the grey of the dawn, his fingers came upon a tight thread" (188). He follows the thread that he cannot see and that he had earlier doubted, and is led to Irene's hiding place.

In Curdie MacDonald pictures the character who loses his childlike innocence and awe but who regains them. Earlier the grandmother assures Irene that Curdie will one day see the truth, although it will take some time: "You must give him time . . . and you must be content not to be believed for a while" (155). Indeed, she further reveals that Curdie cannot see her because she "did not mean to show myself. Curdie is not yet able to believe some things. Seeing is not believing--it is only seeing" (156). Here MacDonald underscores the idea that childlikeness is a quality of the soul or spirit, characterized by attributes unmeasurable by empirical methods. It is only when Curdie learns that truth may involve more than what can be seen and tested that he gains the insight truly to see and to understand. His is a pilgrimage that many of us are on.

Within the stories of Lewis and MacDonald we can find many childlike characters. From the Chronicles of Narnia such characters abound: Reepicheep, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Jewel, Tirian, Dr. Cornelius, Caspian, Emeth, Hwin, Strawberry-Fledge, King Frank and Queen Helen and many others. In MacDonald's tales we find Phosy from "The Gifts of the Child Christ," Diamond from At the Back of the North Wind, Mossy and Tangle from "The Golden Key," Mr. and Mrs. Raven, Lona, and the Little Ones from Lilith, and scores of others. Regardless the name, childlike characters evidence innocence, awe, and longing--all attributes linking them to childlike readers.

In conclusion, Lewis and MacDonald write for the child within the adult. Often they contrast childish characters and childlike characters, perhaps in order to remind us that "there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done'" (The Great Divorce, p. 72). In the childish characters we see our own capacities for conceit, cruelty, deceit, vanity, and egocentricity; on the other hand, in the childlike characters we see a more constructive side of ourselves--the abilities to sacrifice self, to wonder at life's mysteries, and to yearn for a world somehow cleaner, somehow more compelling than our own. Because of our vicarious experiences with the childlike characters we meet in Lewis and MacDonald, we may be able to ask with Lucy: "Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?"

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