While there are many unoriginal things in Narnia, all that is original therein and thereunto related is copyright C. S. Lewis and his heirs and assigns.
ALBEIT that the right of free speech still applies; this story is written in full confidence that "an encapsulation of [a copyrighted work] [that] exploit[s] its copyrighted characters, story lines, and settings as the palette for the new story" is still protected speech even "if its aim is to comment upon or criticize a prior work by appropriating elements of the original in creating a new artistic... work," so long as it "adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message," rather than simply trying "to avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh." (Source: Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin (268 F. 3d 1257 (2001)).) Three cheers for the First Amendment!
We have here a picture: a ship with carved dragon figurehead and purple sail, drawn in colored inks. You will see that the glass has been replaced at least once, and the wood frame is definitely not original. Of no interest, you say? The drawing is amateur; the very care of the frame shows off the shoddiness of the art by treating it like an oil work? Some might point to the skillful shading of the water and the gilded dragon wings and track the development of this talent in the artist's later works. Oh, I've listened to several of these critics; I invited them in to see if they had anything interesting to tell me. Well, one of them even offered me a mediocre sum to buy it - not so much for itself as for the artist's name. I shrugged the proposal away; he didn't tell me anything compared to the story I knew. What is it, you ask? Yes, yes, I'll tell you. The story's already out in some circles. I hear a professor - not that professor, but another one - is even writing books about it across the water. If anyone cares to ask, they can hear my part - it's nothing much, but sometimes these small details can matter. In fact, this one detail mattered a great deal... as you'll see.
You see here an early sketch, drawn shortly after the artist had moved to London. Any well-read art critic would know all about the artist now, but no one save his neighbors recognized his name when he drew it. He hadn't had any great successes in oil yet, so he drew this in ink to see if it'd be any different. Long story short, it wasn't, and none of the galleries would give it a second look, so he sold it to an acquaintance, Mrs. Wayes, for a pittance.
And there it hung until the invasion of 1900. What, you ask? Oh, Britain brags about how it's defeated every foreign invasion since 1066, and it beat this one too. It got a grand total of one newspaper reference, under the heading, "Lunatic Robs Jeweler, Escapes Capture." But we now know that this supposed lunatic was none other than Her Imperial and Despicable Majesty Jadis the White, Queen of Charn.
"Charn," you ask? Not on your maps? You're a famous traveler and you know nothing about it? You're a famous historian, and you know nothing about Atlantis? Well, I wouldn't put too much stock in Atlantis, either; I haven't been able to dig up a single thing about it except that Mr. Ketterley mentioned it once to his young nephew. And he was a liar, for all that the dust he laid his hands on was admittedly magic. He said it was from Atlantis, but -
"Magic"? Oh, yes. Pardon my digression. There were magic rings. People have used them. I've seen them; I've used them myself. No, I can't show them to you; they've gone to another world... oh, yes, other worlds. That's what these magic rings do: they transport you to other worlds. Not the other planets you can read about in scientifiction; those are really part of our world. All the scientifiction writers agree on that part: you can get there through simple natural philosophy if you build the right ships and head in the right direction. But these other worlds I'm talking about - other cosmoi, to use the Greek term - you can't get to by natural philosophy. You can only get there by magic.
Don't look so dubious. I've talked with people who've been there. I've been there myself. There. Now, what are you going to do with that? I hope you know me too well to say I'm crazy. So I'm either spinning a fable for you or telling the truth. Right? And if it's a fable... well, can't you sit back and enjoy it for the evening?
Great. Then... where was I? Oh, yes. The Invasion of 1900, by Jadis of Charn, herself, by herself. That Mr. Ketterley I mentioned before gave some of those magic rings to his nephew Digory Kirke and Digory's friend Polly Plummer. They happened upon this Queen Jadis in another world, and she forced her way back to this world with them, to conquer this world. Fortunately for everyone, her magic didn't work here. Long story short, there was a big fight. She still had her great strength - apparently that was non-magical enough to still work here - so she knocked down the bobbies and escaped by breaking down the wall of the closest house.
And as it happened, that closest house was Mrs. Wayes' house, where this sketch was hanging. It does catch the eye, doesn't it? Anyway, it caught Jadis's eye. She paused a moment - long enough to let another man catch up to her and get knocked out for his pains. Then, she made her escape through the house's front door. You know, I still wonder whether they don't have doorknobs in Charn, or whether she just didn't care enough to use them. But if you're strong enough, and you don't care about ever using the door again...
Anyway... doors, the Invasion, Jadis, the picture... yes. Digory and Polly dragged her out of this world with the magic rings and into another one, named Narnia. Thank goodness, though she did have her magic there, Aslan planted a tree - He called it the Tree of Protection - that kept her away for nine hundred years. (Still alive? Oh, yes, she most certainly was. She said it was due to the blood of Charn, but I wouldn't trust her to tell the truth about anything of that sort. In fact, for that matter, we've only got her word as to anything about Charn except that it existed and was destroyed.)
Meantimes, Digory and Polly came back in England with a fruit of the same sort of magic tree that was keeping Jadis away. A couple months later, when Digory's family came into a lot of money, he asked his father to do something to help the people Jadis had hurt. Fortunately, as it turned out, things were pretty much fine already. Jadis had left behind in this world the jewelry she'd stolen; the cabby whose cab she'd destroyed had stayed behind in Narnia; all the policemen were recuperating wonderfully on government paychecks. But Mr. Kirke did end up paying for some broken arms, fixing one door, and mending several walls. He couldn't just give Mrs. Wayes the money for her door and wall, though; she wouldn't take it. "I'm not a charity case!" she insisted. "I can provide for myself!" Except she obviously couldn't - at least, not without selling the house - so Mr. Kirke cast around for an excuse and ended up buying this sketch for a ridiculously disproportionate sum (the artist still hadn't been recognized, you see) that just happened to be enough to fix her door and wall.
Long story short, when Digory Kirke grew up and became a famous professor, he kept the picture. I don't know why. Maybe he liked the look of it; maybe he wanted to remember the adventure of the magic rings. Anyway, when the tree he'd planted with the Narnian fruit died, he had its wood made into a wardrobe. There were still a few scraps left over, though, so he whittled them into a frame for this sketch. So, the two leftovers from the adventure - the sketch and the tree - came together.
Now the wardrobe stayed with Professor Kirke, where it became very significant later, but the sketch didn't. You see, some time later, Polly Plummer's rather disreputable niece Alberta finally decided to settle down and get married. Maybe I shouldn't have said "settle down," because she didn't, but it appeared to the family at the time that the marriage would at least exert a mildly retarding influence. I suppose it did, too, in the long run... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Or maybe that's a different story altogether. To get back to the story, of course Aunt Polly had to attend, despite all her misgivings and all her feelings that Harold Scrubb was exactly the wrong sort of man for Alberta. So, she went - but for moral support, she brought along Digory Kirke. That meant, of course, that Digory had to bring some sort of gift for the bride and groom befitting his status as a distinguished professor, while at the same time not appearing too enthused about the marriage. Long story short, he decided on this sketch. It was more valuable now - the artist's recent death had dragged his works into some prominence, and the frame made it look more like a real painting - but at the same time, it was still just an ink sketch.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Scrubb didn't like the painting. It was too vulgar, they said. Why should one look back on medieval days with anything but revulsion? And why should an artist waste his time drawing ships that never sailed the seas when he could draw sophisticated pictures hinting at novel social principles? Still, they could hardly refuse it without offending Professor Kirke. And they wouldn't want to do that; he was quite well-known, they hadn't the least idea why he'd showed up at their wedding, and such connections might prove useful to the Cause of Reform. Nor could they very well give it away - suppose the Professor came to dinner some day; mightn't he want to see it? So they stashed this preposterously passe present in a spare bedroom and tried to forget about it.
But then things started happening. You'll remember that the wardrobe and picture frame were both from the wood of a magical Narnian tree? Well, one day during the War, when Professor Kirke had opened his country house for children evacuated from London, four children stepped into the wardrobe and stepped out into Narnia.
Narnia was very different by then. The Tree of Protection had somehow died - I don't really know why - and so Jadis had conquered the country. She had an army and navy, though I hardly think she needed most of them when you think of how much magic she had. Why, she'd brought eternal winter over Narnia for a hundred years! Her one fear was a prophecy Aslan had given:
"When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone
Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done."
"Wrong will be right
When Aslan comes into sight."
Jadis was terrified. She tried to bottle up that prophecy, but it ran all across the country when she'd barely begun. So she gathered secret police and secret agents and ordered that any and all humans spotted in Narnia - particularly in groups of four - should be instantly brought to her as traitors and enemies. Then she bethought herself of the sea, for it was always said that Aslan came from across the sea. So, from all appearances for the first time in her life, she built a fleet to patrol up and down the sea to watch against Aslan's arrival. The old castle of Cair Paravel, where she had refused to set foot while the four thrones still sat magically inviolate, became a great naval port. She even sailed to the Lone Islands - far-distant isles which were nominally Narnian - and turned them into a watchpost fortified against Aslan.
Yet before any ships or watchposts caught sight of Aslan, He had already landed. Three of the four children evaded Jadis, and the other was rescued, and Aslan slew Jadis in fair battle, and the entire fleet struck flag the moment they sighted Aslan's banner flying, and the four children were crowned at Cair Paravel: King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just, Queen Lucy the Valiant... "Once a King in Narnia, always a King; once a Queen in Narnia, always a Queen"...
Yet, still, they did return to England, and they told Professor Kirke everything. He was somewhat surprised, of course, but nowhere near as much as they'd expected. Of course, both he and they tried again to cross through the wardrobe, but it didn't work. Then the RAF started beating back the Nazi bombers, and the children returned to London, and everything seemed - if decidedly not forgotten - at least finished. Professor Kirke paid the Scrubbs a very surprise visit, in which - at the cost of an evening's worth of praise for the Soviet Union - he learned they'd never before heard the name "Narnia." He returned somewhat disappointed as well as irritated and started funding anti-Communist causes. Apparently, the picture was much quieter than the wardrobe.
What he didn't learn was that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy's mother, Mrs. Pevensie, was Harold Scrubb's sister. Relations had been somewhat strained, you see, since the Pevensies had categorically refused to send their children to the new school the Scrubbs had helped found. Nonetheless, Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union and the resulting sharp rise in support for Progressivism helped reconcile them. When Mr. Pevensie had to go to America in 1942, he and his wife accepted the Scrubbs' offer to take Edmund and Lucy in for the summer. (They would have stayed with Professor Kirke, except that the Nazis had bombed his house shortly after the Soviet alliance. Since he was in some disrepute due to being a strident anti-Communist, he'd been forced to move to much smaller lodgings.)
It wasn't that Edmund and Lucy opposed Progressive ideas. They were King and Queen in Narnia, but economics has to work differently in a country mostly populated by talking animals. Yes, I said talking animals. And there're also Fauns and Dryads and Hamadryads and Dwarves and all sorts of other creatures. Why, Bacchus and the Maenids have been known to show up for evenings of festivities... But I am getting off the story. I've got a horrid taste for parentheticals. Anyway, as I was saying, Edmund and Lucy didn't dislike Progressivism as such, but they hated the Scrubbs' idea of Progressive behavior. And you have to agree, if someone's being a horrible bully and his parents don't do anything at all except ask him why he's doing it, something really is wrong. For that matter, even bringing up your son on social science books without a single adventure story strikes me as liable to cause severe problems ahead. And Eustace Clarence Scrubb was just the sort of child you'd expect to come out of a home that frowned on normal patterns of behavior.
Perhaps that was why one of the first things Edmund and Lucy did at their aunt and uncle's was to explore the house. Eustace at once volunteered to show them around. "There're loads and loads of things you need to know about. I'm trying to run an Experiment in the washroom - acids and such. If you knock it over, it can eat into your shoes and -"
"Where is this?" Edmund interrupted.
"Oh, right next to the faucet. And you mustn't try to move it, or it could splash out and then -" Eustace gestured emphatically.
Lucy looked pleadingly at Aunt Alberta.
To her disappointment, she smiled. "Eustace is such a wonderfully Progressive boy. You really should try to learn some of the Sciences from him while you're here."
"I hope you haven't been doing anything in Lucy's room, at least?"
Eustace shrugged with exaggerated slowness. "I've cleaned them all out."
It was only after being shown the planned kitchen, the Progressive window gardens, the filter-papers under the windows (to let in fresh air even while keeping bugs out), and a dozen abstract paintings that Edmund and Lucy went to see their rooms. Edmund quickly dragged his trunk under the bed Eustace pointed out and turned to leave.
"Where're you going?" Eustace called over a book.
"Your sister'd better watch out," he hissed. "There just might've been some Experiments I missed..."
Edmund quickly slipped out and over to Lucy's room. "Look!" she excitedly gestured.
On the wall hung a picture of a dragon-like ship running before the wind. "I'm glad Aunt and Uncle at least have one good picture in the house," Edmund said. "I wonder how they got it."
"But look at it, Ed! Don't you remember - well, not this ship, but one so like it it might as well be its sister?"
"The ship, as a ship?" Edmund looked it over with an eye that had studied many ships as King of Narnia in its Golden Age. "Why - that's third cousin at least to our Priamus and all its kin!"
"Yes. It's a very Narnian ship, isn't it?" She gazed at the ship and sea eagerly.
"But how did a Narnian ship come to be hanging on the wall of our aunt and uncle's?"
"I don't suppose Eustace came to Narnia as well?"
"Him?" Edmund thought a moment. "If so, I'd have to say he needs to go back and actually meet Aslan."
They were planning to ask over supper where the picture had come from, but as a topic of conversation, Narnian ships lost roundly to the Labour Party and the Soviet Union. "Besides," Edmund said afterwards when they were safely back in Lucy's room (and both unpacking her trunk), "it'd be just like Eustace to tease us about it mercilessly. Or maybe Uncle would even give it away."
"Do you remember how someone - Bogwight, I think - was about to chop the dragon's head off the Priamus now that the Witch was dead and the ship was serving Aslan now?"
"Ah, yes." Edmund grinned widely. "That Bogwight. He'd tell you ten thousand ways the ship could sink, and foretell storms all along the way, but he'd get you safely to shore at the end of it. Oh - but then he'd say everyone would think it was a real dragon coming, and we really should've replaced the prow with a lion's head or something."
"As if the flag wouldn't tell everyone!" Lucy laughed.
"'Ah, but your Majesties, there might be a fog'!" he replied in a fair imitation of the Marsh-Wiggle's voice before succumbing to laughter himself. Then, he continued, "Whenever I saw the dragon's head, I remembered..."
"The day the watch-fleet flew up, right after our coronation? When disaster turned to rejoicing?"
"Well, yes. But I remembered what a fool I'd been, and how I turned back, and I hoped... I hoped that sometime, we'd be able to turn a dragon to the right as well."
Lucy kept staring at the ship for another minute. "Then I'm glad we have a picture of it here."
Edmund slowly nodded. "I wonder what the Witch intended by building her ships like that."
"I don't think it really matters. Haven't the Narnians used them for... well, much more than a hundred years by now?"
"The question is," said Edmund one day several weeks later, "whether it doesn't make things worse, looking at a Narnian ship when you can't get there."
"Even looking is better than nothing," said Lucy. "And she is such a very Narnian ship."
"Still playing your old game?" said Eustace Clarence, who had been listening outside the door...
... I don't know how important the ship's looks were. Probably no more so than whatever designs were on the wardrobe door, but one can hardly tell. But as it turned out, Caspian the Seafarer had built the Dawn Treader after the old Narnian model, delved up from ancient records dating back to the Golden Age, when the Priamus and other ships of the White Witch's patrol fleet had surrendered at once to the Lion Who had eluded them without an effort. I don't know whether Jadis had a navy in Charn, but I doubt it. At any rate, she probably couldn't have built any Charn ships in Narnian yards. Nor, I think, did she want to continue building the old models from King Gale and such. So she chose a totally different design: she built the ship she'd seen in a picture while rampaging through London.
In Narnia, I'm sure, the Dawn Treader inspired many generations of shipwrights. In England, the picture had a much more ignominious ending. Everyone instantly marked how dramatically Eustace had improved - except for his parents, who observed how commonplace and tiresome he'd now become. They couldn't get rid of the Pevensies at once, but they could embark on a new Great Purge of every other part of his environment. Few reactionary influences were left, but the picture was first on the chopping block. At a Labour Party benefit auction, it was sold to a minor politician for four pounds sterling.
Perhaps it was fortunate, though, that the Scrubbs' attention turned to the picture. One day shortly after Eustace had been bundled back to Experiment House, they invited Professor Kirke out for a lunchtime argument. What had he been thinking when he gave them the picture? Why, he replied, it seemed a suitable wedding present. Why, then, had he specifically brought it up not one year before? He'd been thinking of the old tree which he'd whittled into a frame for it, he replied - the truth, even if not all the truth, of course. But, the Scrubbs shot back, why did those horrid Pevensies take to it like iron to a magnet? They then sat back smugly at Professor Kirke's confusion, quickly confirmed his questions with a deluge of information on their nephews and neices, and bid him farewell at his hastily stammered apologies.
The next weekend, the Friends of Narnia held their first meeting. Not everyone could attend, of course - Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer had given Peter and Edmund enough train fare to meet Susan and Lucy outside their school, but Experiment House frowned on its pupils leaving for undisclosed purposes, and of course I was all the way over in America. Still, that's when we date our meetings from, since that's when it became clear that Aslan is always laying seeds for future plans. And we wanted to be ready if - when - He called for us again.
And He did. Seven years later, when all of us except me and Susan were there... well, but that's another very long story, and you asked about the picture. What's that? Sure, I'll tell you some other time. Aslan may never tell you any story but you own, but you can find that your story stretches a whole lot of places you'd never imagined. But anyway, back to the picture. The wardrobe was blown apart by the bomb, the picture was lost who-knows-where, and the Rings were buried under a tree in London. Then after that one night, they all decided Aslan was inviting them to Narnia again - and He certainly was inviting them to something, for all that I don't know what actually happened - and... well, the Rings aren't in this world any longer. As for where they are, I've got some ideas... What's that? No, not Narnia. At least, I certainly don't think so. Haven't heard of anyone getting there since that night.
Anyway, we were talking about the picture. After that, I decided I'd better get my hands on it. It was the last remaining passage between worlds that I knew of, and... well, I wanted to see it for myself. It took some time, but the Scrubbs finally gave me the receipt from the Labour Party, and I traced it down to that politician. He didn't mind selling it at all and even sensed a press release opportunity when he heard I knew the previous owner.
What's that? No, no one's gotten into Narnia this way again. The same way's never used twice. Must be some lesson in there, I'm sure. But I'm glad to see the Priamus's grandfather, even if I can't get to Narnia in person anymore. And I'm glad I know where it came from... There're a lot of those stories lying around for anyone to pick up. And Aslan even hinted there're still doors out there waiting for the right people...
The Priamus was named after one of King Arthur's knights found in Malory: a Saracen who got defeated in battle, converted to Christianity, and returned to Britain to join the Round Table. Apparently, King Peter thought it'd be a suitable name for a ship that used to belong to the White Witch.
The professor writing books mentioned near the start is, of course, Lewis.
And who is this narrator? Well, if you want to find out, please review; I've got several other stories about him... If you want to hear more, please review! If you wanted to hear less, please review!