“Stop,” said Polly. “Aren’t we going to mark this pool?”
They stared at each other and turned quite white as they realised the dreadful thing that Digory had just been going to do. For there were any number of pools in the wood, and the pools were all alike and the trees were all alike, so that if they had once left behind the pool that led to our own world without making some sort of landmark, the chances would have been a hundred to one against their ever finding it again.
– The Magician’s Nephew
She was quite as brave as he about some dangers (wasps, for instance), but she was not so interested in finding out things nobody had ever heard of before; for Digory was the sort of person who wants to know everything, and when he grew up he became the famous Professor Kirke who comes into other books.
– The Magician’s Nephew
Polly is a very sensible adventurer. Reluctant, literally pushed into her Otherworldly adventures, she retains her good sense throughout.1 She knows to mark out the way home, when Digory would rather just jump into the next world and not worry about getting back. She would rather not ring the mystical bell that, though she doesn’t know it, is there to wake the ancient kings and queens in the ancient hall, for she looks on the face of Jadis and knows that this isn’t someone to mess with just for the Adventure of it. But she also knows when it’s time to take a risk to fix the chaos they’ve created. Her good sense relates, for me, to the ADF virtues of wisdom and vision.
I need my myths and metaphors to be very accessible to me personally. There are a lot concepts I’m planning to explore through the Narnia stories over the coming year – concepts that I’ve previously had trouble with. Winter Queens and seasonal cycles. Battles. Sovereignty. Magic that plays with space and time. Journeying in the Otherworld. Appreciating both sides of an apparently black-and-white issue, and appreciating gods and spirits that have been cast in the mould called ‘evil’. These are concepts I have difficulty relating to, in a ‘basic Pagan’ myth set, and that I need new perspectives on. I’m sure there will be many others, too, as I go.
Some people like their guides to the Otherworld to come in the form of modern step-by-step-journeying-for-idiots guidebooks, or ancient irrelevant tomes. Some people insist that their myths are hard-boiled: overcooked, and set to last a long time, but ending up fairly tasteless and cold. I have long taken my wisdom from wherever I find it, and I find it in a lot of disparate places.
But still… Narnia. Often not popular, seen as indoctrination.
But still… ‘pop culture Paganism’, as it’s dismissively called.
What if I could reclaim both these things, for myself? What if, like Polly, I could choose the sensible option? No, it might not make me a famous professor-adventurer when I’m old. By which I mean, it might not earn the respect of my ancient-myth-researching peers. But it might just save my life – or my faith. Or my hope. Or my love.
You might have noticed that I’ve been exploring the Wood Between the Worlds as a starting-point for Otherworldly journeying. I’m also working with the concept of the White Witch as a Snow Queen/Faery Queen type, the keeper of wisdom and magical secrets – with whom you have to be very careful, like the bean feasa/fairy doctors had to be careful with their own Otherworldly guides. And I’m working through the stories to see what the characters have to teach me. Like Polly, and her Good Sense in the face of an irresistible journey.
A Map for the Journey. Worth no more or less than ancient myths. Just as full of unease, and difficulty, and compromise, and the need to keep shifting perspective.
May the Forces that echo through every myth, ancient and modern, teach me new lessons.
And may Polly the Sensible teach me that Sense is more important even than Adventure. For without it, the great Adventure can end very abruptly.
1: I dislike the term ‘common sense’, since that was always something I didn’t find easy to develop, thanks to my Asperger’s. But good sense – now that’s something worth working on.