With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis
It had been, by all accounts, a rather productive day. An essay mostly penned, a Beowulf lecture delivered…and of course, three new pages of a Elvish lexicon assembled, Frankenstein-like, from the mutilated bodies of Germano-Anglo-Gaelo-Finnish words. A productive day indeed…
…until the children had arrived, that is.
It wasn't that he minded them per se. Indeed, the eldest in particular struck him as an upright sort—well-groomed, closely shaved, black jacket over broad shoulders, that sort of thing—and the younger Pevensies seemed cut from the same cloth. Their drab collection of browns and grays would have fit a Sunday sermon. The Professor thought the older girl's lipstick a tad bright, but that was neither here nor there.
Their story, on the other hand…
The Professor cleared his throat and removed a pipe from between his teeth. The older boy stopped his tale in mid-sentence and crossed his arms behind his back as if standing at attention.
This would be delicate. Without really meaning to, the Professor picked at his tweed jacket while he watched pipe-smoke waft between him and the four children. At points, it seemed to flicker in half-formed images of forests and winged men and panpipes. Doubtless his imagination. He leaned forward in his chair, which creaked.
"All very interesting, I'm sure," he said. "But tell me, Mr. Pevensie: Why me? I'm sure that many writers could record this story of yours."
Mr. Pevensie—Peter, he'd called himself—opened his mouth, paused, and closed it again. An "er…" had almost escaped when his younger brother rushed in to fill the gap.
"Your translation of the Gawain legend, for a start," he said. "And you're dead right about Shakespeare, sir. Ghastly stuff."
The Professor noticed a contrast between the two: the older boy was darker, with the build of an athlete and the sort of firm jaw that sergeants-major would envy. His brother (Egbert, was it?) was thin, almost lanky, with light brown hair and a face that vaguely resembled a weasel's. Not unpleasantly so, but enough to suggest cunning. The older girl (Susan? Yes, that was it) raised her hand.
"I read The Monsters and the Critics," she said.
A movement drew the Professor's gaze downward, where he saw the youngest girl nearly bouncing on her toes, her hand raised. Thinking it best to call on her before she burst, he smiled and waved her forward. She skipped to the desk.
"You have something to add to this cavalcade of literary criticism?" he said.
That did it. The girl's words poured out in a stream.
The girl paused for breath and beamed. Her expression evoked a bunny rabbit cross-bred with a kitten, filtered through Shirley Temple. Undaunted, the Professor threaded his fingers together and gave them a look that he usually reserved for students who asked for extensions.
"Very well," he said. "You've told me a great deal about your personal experiences in this Narnia of yours, but does it have a history?"
Suddenly, the Pevensies seemed to absorb themselves in the office's statuary and lighting fixtures. Susan leaned back on her heels, Edric (?) fiddled with his fingers, and Peter may have mumbled — it was hard to tell — "Swanwhite-something-or-other-thingummy…"
"Languages?" the Professor said.
"King's English," said Susan.
Seeing the Professor's expression, she thought it best to continue.
"Oh...and, er, I suppose the Calormenes have Spanish accents," she said.
"The horses sound a bit Cockney sometimes," Edmund offered.
The Professor sighed. He'd expected as much. The pipe came to rest on the desk.
"I'm afraid I shall have to disappoint you," he announced.
Their faces fell.
"...While your story is entertaining, I'm afraid it lacks the elements of a great epic."
Peter bristled. The youngest Pevensie went so far as to stamp her foot. The Professor carried on anyway.
"Take your creatures for instance," he said. "Minotaurs, centaurs, dwarves, and dragons simply don't rub shoulders in the same mythological setting. It's just not done, you see. And the modern conveniences you described in the beavers' house…No, I'm sorry, but there it is."
Upon reflection, he realized that he hadn't meant to put it so bluntly.
"But we do have a history!" the youngest burst in.
"Well, it all started when this fellow named Andrew forged a bunch of rings…"
The Professor raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. The Pevensies must have interpreted this as interest.
"And battles," Peter said.
"And royalty," said Eckbert. "Lots of royal genealogies."
This seemed to strike Lucy with an inspiration.
"Of course!" she said. "Why, there's King Frank, and Queen—"
"Ixnay, Lu," Edbridge whispered.
Peter inched between the Professor and Lucy.
"King Frank?" the Professor said.
Edbridge made not-so-subtle shushing gestures, which his sister ignored.
"Er…nobody, sir…" Peter said, looking rather uncomfortable.
"Early Narnian ruler. Nobody important," Susan added.
"Linguistic convergence," Edbridge said. "Same name developed separately in two different—"
"A London cabby, and proud of it!" finished Lucy.
Three Pevensies groaned. The Professor rubbed the bridge of his nose and retrieved a wad of paper from his desk drawer. He scribbled a quick note.
"Look," he said. "I'm afraid I can't help you, but I can refer you to someone who might."
Peter uncrumpled the paper and read the name. He knitted his eyebrows.
"You're sure he'll help us, sir?"
The Professor nodded.
"He's interested in allegory these days," he said. "You'll fit nicely."
Peter stuffed the name into his pocket. The usual round of so-nice-to-meet-you's followed, and the family filed out. Lucy left last. She mouthed thank you, and blew a kiss at the Professor before she closed the door.
Peace at last. He reached for a newspaper.
"You think they'll make it?"
The Professor turned to an old oak cabinet with gargoyles and olive wreaths carved into its border. Its door had come ajar. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but it seemed that sunlight streamed into the room from the crack, and if you looked closely, you could almost see green fields where the back of the cabinet should have been. A fat, jovial-looking little man poked his head out. Hairy feet, each the size of shovels, protruded from behind the door.
"Eh?" said the Professor.
"The Pevensies," said the little man.
The Professor sighed and clamped the pipe between his teeth again with a tiny clack. A few puffs of smoke rose from behind his newspaper.
"They're a young myth," the Professor said. "Not fully formed yet. Of course, that's what fanfiction's for…"
He paused and tapped a finger on his chin. His visitor waited patiently.
"Still," the Professor said, "youth has its advantages. Lively little devils, weren't they?"
"I liked the little one."
"You should have helped them, sir."
The newspaper crinkled downward, revealing the Professor's raised eyebrow.
"Don't you have some noble suffering to do?" he said.
The door shut again, though the Professor thought he heard a muffled note of grumbling. No matter. The afternoon was young, the birds were singing, and the Elvish lexicon wouldn't write itself. He put pen to paper and got to work.