Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Never Forget to Wipe Your Sword

Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. That stroke never reached the Wolf. Quick as lightning it turned round, its eyes flaming, and its mouth wide open in a howl of anger. If it had not been so angry that it simply had to howl it would have got him by the throat at once. As it was -though all this happened too quickly for Peter to think at all - he had just time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute's forelegs into its heart. Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead and he had drawn his sword out of it and was straightening his back and rubbing the sweat off his face and out of his eyes. He felt tired all over.

Then, after a bit, Susan came down the tree. She and Peter felt pretty shaky when they met and I won't say there wasn't kissing and crying on both sides. But in Narnia no one thinks any the worse of you for that.

"Quick! Quick!" shouted the voice of Aslan. "Centaurs! Eagles! I see another wolf in the thickets. There - behind you. He has just darted away. After him, all of you. He will be going to his mistress. Now is your chance to find the Witch and rescue the fourth Son of Adam." And instantly with a thunder of hoofs and beating of wings a dozen or so of the swiftest creatures disappeared into the gathering darkness.

Peter, still out of breath, turned and saw Aslan close at hand.

"You have forgotten to clean your sword," said Aslan.

It was true. Peter blushed when he looked at the bright blade and saw it all smeared with the Wolf's hair and blood. He stooped down and wiped it quite clean on the grass, and then wiped it quite dry on his coat.

"Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam," said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, "Rise up, Sir Peter Fenris-Bane. And, whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword."
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)


On this day:

1943 Christian Behaviour: A Further Series of Broadcast Talks is published by Geoffrey Bles/The Centenary Press, London.

7 Comment(s):

At Tue Apr 19, 06:39:00 PM EST, Blogger MrKimi said...

Yet another of my favorite passages. Lewis seems to capture the nasty blood-and-guts part of the business, possibly because he experienced some of it first hand. The passage also conveys that although war is a messy business Lewis was not a pacifist and believed that killing the enemy is a valid moral action. It is easy to agree with him here, and not so easy when it is other humans and in real life, perhaps. I hope I never have to find out for myself.

At Tue Apr 19, 09:18:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Yes, I agree, hypothetical killing of the enemy is much easier to stomach than actual killing.

We're still puzzling over the "clean your sword" admonition. Perhaps, could it mean that once your duty is done, you must continue on and put it behind you?

At Wed Apr 20, 12:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerewyn (waving and popping in...):
Hi Revie! Well...the uncleaned sword brought to my mind the image of Lady MacBeth trying to wash away the blood of her murders. While Peter's slayings are for the greater good of Narnia, perhaps it's necessary to wash any blood off before it dries and stains, and leaves a tarnish on the soul... because even killing of bad guys is not an action to be proud of.
Just my random thought... but possibly quite the opposite to Lewis's take that killing of the enemy is vaild.

At Wed Apr 20, 06:05:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Thanks Kerewyn! Nice to see you.

The thought that came to my mind (and I know it is a current example) is that "mantra" in The Gangs of New York, where the father tells his son "The blood stays on the blade." Meaning that he shouldn't clean his knife after killing someone because no matter what, you should never forget a killing, that it becomes part of your identity. (It was an evil movie, and I didn't last until the end, however!)

At Wed Apr 20, 03:11:00 PM EST, Blogger Bob said...

A practical reason to clean a sword is that, left uncleaned, it will dry and adhere to the inside of the scabbard making it very difficult to draw next time it is needed. A sword that is but slowly drawn and only with great effort is a danger to its owner. Also, a sword left uncleaned can be damaged and weakened by rust, I believe. Read what larger implications into that as you will.

At Wed Apr 20, 07:50:00 PM EST, Anonymous Kimi said...

Perhaps it suggests (aside from the practical, as expressed eloquently by Bob) that life mostly isn't the big, epic, heroic events; it's mostly mundane and low-key (even in Narnia!). And duty lies in the small things as well as the big ones.

Or something :-)

At Sun May 25, 06:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger evansj2000 said...

To Christians, the sword is the word of God used in Warfare against the wolf or Devil. Under temptation Christians use God's Word to counter...anger, greed etc.
Scripture must be learn't so that God's Holy Spirit can reawaken it inside you when needed. There can be an association between the Holy Spirit and water and so the cleaning of the sword may be seen as an allegory for Christians in spiritual warfare.....Or then again I may be completely wrong and we can all have a laugh about it later when all is revealed...!


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