Friday, July 9, 2010

A Narnian Character that Won My Heart

While reading The Chronicles of Narnia, I encountered a character that quickly found a way into my heart and entered my top list of favorite literary characters. Perhaps (if you've read the books), you're wondering if I fell in literary love with Lucy or Aslan or dear Mr. Tumnus or Digory or any other number of fine characters you meet on your reading journey through Narnia. The answer to all the above is "No, that's not the one." This post is dedicated to my personal favorite Narnian figure: Puddleglum.

First, how could you not have at least a little crush on someone with a name like Puddleglum? Say it out loud a few times, and maybe you'll feel the same whimsical attachment I feel for the name alone. Then add to that a character whose appearance is so awkward that he has to be lovable, and you've got the makings of a memorable character.

Puddleglum, as created by Donna Sims

Puddleglum's name and appearance aside, his character is unassuming, yet valiant. Though he thinks nothing of himself (he is the humblest of humbles), he is the first to step into a dangerous situation to protect those he's with. While his motives for doing so are often along the lines of "It doesn't matter if anything bad happens to me," I felt a certain fierce loyalty he had for his traveling companions--even when he himself was scared beyond scared, he took care of his friends. I won't get into describing too many of the situations he and his friends find themselves in because there may be readers out there who haven't yet read the books but plan on reading them sometime in the future--I don't want to give away all the good stuff from the story Puddleglum plays a part in.

Puddleglum, as drawn by Dawn D. Davidson

Along with Puddleglum's character is his language. As his name suggests, Puddleglum is a glum character, and how he chooses to state things had me laughing and yearning to reach through the pages to give him a big hug. Here are some of the choice quotes I pulled from the story that helped to engrave Puddleglum on my literary heart:

Quote 1 (taken from page 581):
“Can you help us find Prince Rilian?”
The Marsh-wiggle sucked in his cheeks till they were hollower than you would have thought possible. “Well, I don’t know that you’d call it help,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the north, not at this time of the year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather. And if we don’t get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.”
Quote 2 (taken from page 583):
“… They all say — I mean, the other wiggles all say — that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this — a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a prince who probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen — will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”
Quote 3 (taken from page 647 and said while the characters were trapped underground):
“Courage, friends,” came Prince Rilian’s voice. “Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord.”
“That’s right, Sir,” said Puddleglum’s voice. “And you must always remember there’s one good thing about being trapped down here: it’ll save funeral expenses.”
Quote 4 (taken from page 658):
“Now, speaking of funerals,” began Puddleglum, but Jill, who heard the Centaurs tapping with their hoofs behind her, surprised him very much by flinging her arms around his thin neck and kissing his muddy-looking face, while Eustace wrung his hand. Then they both rushed away tot he centaurs, and the Marsh-wiggle, sinking back on his bed, remarked to himself, “Well, I wouldn’t have dreamt of her doing that. Even though I am a good-looking chap.”
The quotations show how gloomy, yet endearing, Puddleglum can be. When I write my own stories, I hope I can create such a character that will make readers want to jump into the stories themselves, if for no other reason than to meet a single character face-to-face. And, Puddleglum, I'd jump into Narnia just for you.

Happy reading!

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