The Fine Print, Which I'm Only Doing Once: Clive Staples Lewis wrote, in 1962, in response to a child's letter: "And why not write stories for yourself to fill up the gaps in Narnian history?" I'd like to think he extended this blessing to all of us. Jack's stories illuminated my childhood. If he says it's okay for me to do this, then it must be, because he was always honest with us when we were young. At any rate, be assured this story is done for love, and with respect.
In which a Walk is taken, a Frog is met, summertime is accepted as nothing short of miraculous, and an Idea is planted.
Narnia in summer, Tumnus thought, was a thing he would never take for granted. He'd been a very young Faun when Jadis had cast her wintry curse, and some days he wasn't sure if he ever remembered otherwise.
Miraculous was what it was; the defeat of the Witch; the return of Aslan; yet as far as Tumnus was concerned, the most miraculous thing of all was, at this moment, eagerly towing him towards a small, murky pond ringed with thick mud.
"Tadpoles!" the youngest Queen of Narnia exclaimed. "Look at them! Are they talking tadpoles?"
"I think not," Tumnus said, edging back from the water so as not to get wet above the hooves. He did not like the feel of mud in his fur, especially the way it itched as it dried. "If they were, their parents would be nearby, and would have said hello."
"P'r'aps we didn't know what you were," a small earthy voice said. "You'd be the Queen then?"
Lucy cast about on the shore and eventually found the source of the voice: a small brown frog whose eyes shone like burnished copper. She squatted on the bank – trailing her skirts in the mud; she would hear about this when they returned to Cair Paravel – and smiled at the frog. "My name is Lucy, please," she told it, holding out a hand. The frog stared.
"You shake it," Tumnus added helpfully.
"Dare say she could shake me," the Frog said, but it put out one webbed foot and touched Lucy's finger. "It's an honor to meet you, Majesty. My name is Hopleaf."
"Pleased to meet you!" Lucy exclaimed. "Are these your children?" she asked, turning back to the wriggling water. "How old are they? How many of them do you have? Can they talk yet? Can I – would it hurt them if I touched them?"
The Frog glanced up at the Faun, with a rather un-frog-like expression of befuddlement on its face. Tumnus smiled as if to say: yes, she was always like this.
"They're a bit young for talking yet," Hopleaf said. "If you put your hand in the water they'll come to you – the young'uns are a bit scared of things they don't know." It leapt into the water, and the tadpoles eagerly swarmed it.
"Look!" Lucy said. "They know their—" She turned to Tumnus, and in a whisper a shade too loud, "Is that their mum or their dad?"
"Their father, I believe," Tumnus whispered quietly.
Their father, for so he was, had meanwhile led his children across the pond, swimming with swift, sure kicks of his long legs. He crouched in the shallows next to Lucy's hand. The little tadpoles eagerly wriggled around, making small rubbery noises that were not entirely unlike babies' talk.
"They tickle!" she giggled. "That one's got legs! How long before they can leave the water?"
"Be about another two weeks, Majesty," the Frog said.
"However can you tell them apart?"
"A parent always knows," the Frog said with a smile. "That 'un right there, he's my youngest. And the one with the legs, sitting on your finger, she was hatched first."
"They're lovely," Lucy said. "Tumnus! Come meet the tadpoles!"
"But I'd really—"
"Have you ever met a tadpole before?"
"Well, no, but—"
"Then you must!"
Tumnus knew it was most unwise to say no to one's Queen. Besides, mud could always be brushed out of one's fur once it had dried.
Tumnus and Lucy had made a habit of taking walks in the forest. After a hundred years of winter, Tumnus could not bear to keep himself indoors all day, and Lucy – well – Lucy was always happiest outdoors. They could be found in the forests and fields, rain or shine, summer or winter, and during the colder and wetter months they both nursed near-constant sniffles. Now that Lucy's education had started in earnest, they did not have as much time as before, but as Lucy said, being out was even sweeter after days spent indoors poring over dusty old books.
Tumnus liked the dusty old books, but he doubted he would ever get his fill of walking through the Narnian forest with sun – summer sun! – warming his back, and his dearest friend holding his hand, or resting her head on his shoulder, for Lucy had grown much taller since she had arrived in Narnia.
"And that tree – what is it?"
"Next to the birch? That is a holly," Tumnus said.
"They look different without the berries," she said. "How can you tell which ones are Talking trees?"
"I'm not quite sure how to explain it," Tumnus said. "Something about the bark, I think. But you always can tell."
"I always can," she agreed. "But how? They don't look any different."
"You are a Narnian. That is how you know."
The tree, as they both knew, was a Talking Tree, and it bent its branches in salute as they passed. They stopped at a blackberry bush soon afterwards, and the youngest Queen of Narnia, dress already muddied up to the knees, stuck her tongue out and asked if the berries had turned it blue. Indeed they had.
Lunch on these days was what Tumnus called 'nothing special' although Lucy always disagreed; it was taken from the leather satchel Tumnus carried and eaten whenever they felt like stopping in the cool shade of a tree. While they ate, Lucy would tell Tumnus the things she'd learned and Tumnus would reassure his queen that she was very smart indeed, and learning much better than he had, all the while remembering which bits she'd got wrong so that he could tell her tutors later. Then Tumnus would tell her the stories and tall tales the wood-people knew. When they grew tired of that, there were interesting shapes in the clouds, and the Talking Animals who lived in the forest would stop to chat awhile, and Tumnus always carried his flute in case Lucy wanted him to play it.
"Why can't I have hooves?" Lucy asked, sitting on a stump and examining her foot. A bright red spot of blood showed on her small pink heel, which she'd nicked on a rock.
"Because they would look silly on your hairless legs. Why do you insist on going barefoot and making me carry your shoes?" Tumnus asked, handing her a handkerchief to blot the blood.
"I like feeling the grass under my toes. And there, see – it's stopped already."
"Will you put your shoes back on now?"
"But you'll get the cut dirty."
"My feet are already dirty," she argued, and this was not untrue. "But if you insist—" and he did – the shoes went back on, only to be shucked off and put in the satchel for good fifteen minutes later when a stream needed crossing. Small things weren't worth arguing about, even if they flattened the cakes Tumnus had saved for a midafternoon snack. Tumnus knew it didn't matter much; Lucy would say they tasted the same anyway.
"I hate to go back on a day like this," Lucy said eventually, as their shadows grew behind them and they made their way back to the Cair, shining white and orange in the sun. Lucy was slightly sunburnt across her cheeks and nose; she had a pocket full of pretty rocks, flowers plaited in her hair, and a new bracelet made from a Centaur's braided tail-hairs. Tumnus, who did not bother with shirts, was sun-pinked on the face and shoulders too, except for where the satchel's strap crossed his back. The cakes had long since been eaten and Lucy's crown was probably bent under her shoes. The five bags of nuts pressed on them by overenthusiastic squirrels likely did not help matters any when it came to keeping crowns unbent.
"Can't we stay out?" Lucy asked, even as her stomach betrayed her by rumbling. "We should do that sometime, camp in the woods – for a week or two – oh, could we? Have you ever? Do you think Peter would mind terribly?"
"I have never known a Queen to ask so many questions," Tumnus said wryly, shifting the bag's strap. "You could ask him, I suppose."
"What's south of here?" she asked, ignoring the familiar complaint. "We never go south."
"I thought you weren't good at geography."
"I'm not, but everybody knows to stay away from the wilds beyond the borders."
"Why? Can't we go there sometime?"
"I should think not. It is not a particularly safe place for one Faun and his Queen. Things are wild there. Dangerous."
"I thought there'd be other countries," Lucy mused. "Are there maps?"
"We could find some in the library, if you'd like."
"Can we do that after dinner?"
"Would this be before or after we unbend your crown, see to your foot, give that message to the frogs in the courtyard pond and press all those flowers?"
"We can look tomorrow." Tumnus opened the gate leading into the orchard, and let Lucy precede him. While he busied himself closing and latching the gate, she fished around in the bag and pulled her crown out from under the nuts and shoes.
"It's not even bent this time," she said, eyeing the silver circlet.
"That's a relief. Those Dwarves had quite a time sticking the leaves back on."
She put it on her head, and if it was skewed sideways, it didn't make her any less a Queen. "What's for dinner tonight?"
"How do you know?"
"I can smell them." Tumnus had, before they set out, asked the head cook this very question with Lucy standing next to him, but everyone knows that old jokes are the best ones, even – or perhaps especially – in Narnia.
The First of Many Lengthy Author's Notes:
On this story: Here's how it is. I've got a nice big stack of things I'd love to address and introduce and deal with in a story – which likely involves a whole bunch of stuff less happy and wholesome than a day in a forest with our favorite Faun. I love Jack to death, don't get me wrong, and I know he didn't write LWW with a big long series in mind; it did, unfortunately, leave a few plot points you could drive a battalion of Centaurs through without anyone feeling crowded. How come nobody from Archenland (who, unless I have my Narnian history wrong, were all descended from Narnians) tried to help out? How come nobody from Calormen tried to invade? Yeah, I know – if I want big histories I should be looking into LOTR. Jack hadn't invented those places yet, is why, but since that doesn't really work in a story, well... you'll find out what I think if you keep reading.
On copper-eyed Frogs: I've got Hopleafs a-plenty living in my back yard; there is, in fact, one who lives in the palmetto outside my bedroom window. Google up a Cuban Tree Frog and you'll see what I imagined. They're tree frogs, not pond frogs, but I suppose the Narnian Septentrionalis is a bit different.