Sunday, August 16, 2009

Narnia's First Citizen: Mr. Tumnus

C.S. Lewis said that the ideas for his fictional stories often first came to him in the form of a single image. In the case of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (TLWW), the picture in his head was that of a faun. He said:

“All my seven Narnian books…began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. [The Chronicles of Narnia]…began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been I my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’”

Since the fawn was the inspiration for all that follows in the Chronicles of Narnia, it is only fitting that Mr. Tumnus is the first citizen of Narnia whom Lucy meets upon entering the land beyond the wardrobe. The following video clip from the Walt Disney movie is of their first encounter:

Mr. Tumnus, like several characters in the Narnian Chronicles, are multi-faceted creatures, embodying both good and bad characteristics. In the case of Mr. Tumnus, our initial reaction is that he is good; he seems pleased to meet Lucy and readily invites her to join him for tea at his home. He is compassionate, understanding, and concerned for Lucy’s well being. The two seem to be developing a very nice relationship. He even plays his flute for Lucy, which relaxes her to sleep. The following clip is of Mr. Tumnus playing the Narnia Lullaby:

It isn’t until Lucy wakes up that readers discover Mr. Tumnus is, in fact, a spy for the wicked White Witch who has instructed her minions to capture all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve and turn them over to her. She wants to eliminate the humans so the prophecy ending her reign will not come to pass. After Mr. Tumnus gets to know Lucy, he regrets being in league with the witch and resolves to defy her orders. (It is likely that the image of Aslan in the flames shocks Mr. Tumnus to his senses, and is a turning point in his change of allegiance). Mr. Tumnus tearfully admits to Lucy that he has not been honest with her, and has not been a true friend. Lucy hands Mr. Tumnus her handkerchief to dry his tears, she forgives the deceit, and a true friendship is forged.

In the embodiment of Mr. Tumnus, the first citizen we meet in Narnia, Lewis portrays the duality that exists in all of us, and the price we pay for disobedience. We all have the seeds of good and evil in us, and we choose on a daily basis the direction our lives will take. Even though Tumnus expresses sorrow for his evil intentions and returns to doing good, he eventually pays the price for not turning Lucy over to the White Witch when the witch turns him into a stone statue. We, too, must pay the price for our wrongdoings as part of the process of repentance. And just as Aslan restored the stone statues to life, Christ’s atonement and grace make our redemption and eternal life possible.

Serendipity: Parallel Worlds

Devin Brown, in his book Inside Narnia, suggests a comparison between Mr. Tumnus and the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

  • Like Mr. Tumnus, the White Rabbit—who wears a waistcoat and has a pocket watch—is a wild creature who has been transformed into a civilized one and thus also demonstrates a blending of two worlds.
  • When Alice speaks to the White Rabbit, he is startled and, like Mr. Tumnus, drops what he has been carrying, white gloves and a fan.
  • Mr. Tumnus’ first words are “Goodness, gracious me,” an expression which could be said to parallel the first words of the White Rabbit, “Oh, dear! Oh, dear!”
  • Mr. Tumnus begins to cry and ends up using Lucy’s handkerchief, which he must wring out again and again. Soon Lucy finds herself standing in “a damp patch.” A similar image can be found in an early scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice is descried as “shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool around her.”
Other comparisons between Lucy in Narnia and Alice in Wonderland include:
  • Like Narnia, Alice’s Wonderland is bigger on the inside than it seemed from the outside and is entered through a tunnel-like or hole-like opening.
  • After Lucy and Alice enter their imaginary lands, both encounter hostile queens.
Music Video of Lucy and Mr. Tumnus

There are dozens of music videos that use clips from the Walt Disney movie of TLWW. Here is one that nicely summarizes the relationship between Lucy and Mr. Tumnus (running time approx. 5 minutes).

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