When I was young, I read the Chronicles of Narnia again and again. Not as much as read Swiss Family Robinson. But a lot.
There’s this passage I really hate in The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, where Aslan has been brought back to life, having been ritually slaughtered by the White Witch. He explains why he’s alive. It goes a bit like this:
It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.
Now, the lack of subtlety in the book aside (its intentions and allusions are written very much on its sleeve), this bit of text feels a bit like cheating. It feels like a deus ex machina, except instead of something semi-badass (the Eagles are coming!), it’s some yadda yadda. A bit of exposition to plaster over the why of it all.
I still kind of hate it.
But I also appreciate it. Not because of what it says on its face, but because (pardon the meta here) of the deeper magic it contains.
I think I’m the White Witch. But you don’t get off the hook: You’re the White Witch too.
The White Witch is someone who has glanced at something and accepted what she has found. She’s gotten the explanation she wants, and she’ll look no further. She finds the thing that lets her kill the lion but doesn’t find the next thing, the thing that lets the lion kill her.
The next thing is important.
I think a lot of thing have this deeper magic. I think we should keep digging. I think simple explanations are too easy, that there is more behind the curtain.
I think “thus far and no further” is never far enough.