Literature / The Silver Chair

The fourth installment of The Chronicles of Narnia and the sixth book chronologically. A few months after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, with schoolmate and fellow outcast Jill Pole, returns to Narnia, and is sent on a quest to rescue Caspian's long-kidnapped son Rilian from a witch, who rules an underground kingdom preparing for invading Narnia.

A film adaptation of the book has recently been greenlit by The C.S. Lewis Estate and The Mark Gordon Company. It is currently unknown when it will be released.

Not to be confused with the band of the same name Silverchair.

This book provides examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: The Queen of the Giants of Harfang.
  • Advertised Extra: The titular chair is important, but doesn't really feel important enough to have the whole book named after it.
  • Animal Nemesis
  • Author Tract: At the end of the book, where the Lady of the Green Kirtle is set up as a Hollywood Atheist of the "completely evil" variety and Lewis puts into her mouth some dubious philosophical arguments against the existence of Aslan, although given her supernatural powers, she could be read as more like a demon than an atheist. Though she certainly is tempting the protagonists to atheism.
    • Specifically, the Lady of the Green Kirtle's arguments are all based on the Genetic Fallacy, to dismiss an idea on the basis of its origin. All the more egregious for the fact that the Lady knows full well that both Aslan and the outside world exist. Of course, the magic of her mandolin makes the arguments more convincing to the protagonists than they otherwise would be.
    • The introduction rails against schools that go easy on bullies, the horrific environment they create, and how easily the system can be manipulated to make even the worst of bullies Karma Houdinis. C.S. Lewis was famous for considering schools a necessary evil, but this is the only Narnia book where it was front and center.
  • Beneath the Earth: Underland
  • Big Bad: The Lady of the Green Kirtle.
  • Big Eater: When Eustace is told the centaurs haven't finished their breakfast, he incorrectly assumes that they started late. Actually, they started before he awoke, and have been eating for several hours!
    "A Centaur has a man-stomach and a horse-stomach. And of course both want breakfast. So first of all he has porridge and pavenders and kidneys and bacon and omlette and cold ham and toast and marmalade and coffee and beer. And after that he tends to the horse part of himself by grazing for an hour or so and finishing up with a hot mash, some oats, and a bag of sugar. That's why it's such a serious thing to ask a Centaur to stay for the weekend. A very serious thing indeed."
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Jill's and Eustace's school, which is a mix of the author's personal experience and educational theories he spoke against in The Abolition of Man. Unusually for the trope (and interestingly considering C. S. Lewis's own childhood experience under a Sadist Teacher), the school's abuses stem not from draconian discipline but from an indulgent lack of discipline that allows gangs of bullies to run wild, terrorizing ordinary students like Jill and Eustace.
    • The children's school seems to be more inspired by the "Wyvern" period of Lewis's life, as detailed in Surprised By Joy.
  • Brainwashed: A lot of people.
  • Brown Note: The Lady of the Green Kirtle's mandolin has a pacifying brainwashing effect.
  • Call Back: Eustace's introduction in this book, like his first appearance, notes his awful name. This time, however, it's noted that "he wasn't a bad sort," rather than the "he almost deserved it" from Dawn Treader.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Puddleglum has one, I shouldn't wonder.
    • The Gnome warden ends all his speeches with, "Many sink down, and few return to the sunlit lands".
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: Puddleglum finally gets tired of all the "few return to the sunlit lands" stuff supplied by the warden and cuts him off, explaining that he already knows what's coming as the warden seems to only think about that one idea.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: The Lady of the Green Kirtle turns into a serpent and Rillian chops its head off
  • Collapsing Lair: Underland, after the queen's death.
  • Cuckoo Nest: The brainwashing sequence.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Is the man in the Silver Chair telling the truth or lying?
  • Dark is Not Evil: The army of the Lady of the Green Kirtle is mostly composed of mind-controlled slaves who turn out to be friendly and fun-loving once freed from the witch's control. The witch herself plays the opposite trope.
    • Not to mention that said mind-controlled slaves were taken by magic from their home deep in the ground, farther than anyone has ever gone. They think it's a fantastic place to live and describe some nice things about it before returning there.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Puddleglum, in the most extreme sense of the word "deadpan".
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: The gnomes reveal that they do this in Underland, with gems that they describe as juicy and alive - apparently, what we mine out are the "dead" ones no good for eating.
  • Ear Trumpet: Trumpkin uses one. This is both for comic effect (he mishears a good bit of information before he finally gets his ear trumpet) and to emphasize how old he is, and thus how much time has passed since the last trip to Narnia.
  • The Eeyore: Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, though unusually for this trope, his pessimism saves their lives more often than not.
    • Though the other Marsh-wiggles don't get much screen time, it's shown (in part by other Narnian's reactions to Puddleglum) that it's the entire species' hat; Puddleglum is said to be one of the most optimistic examples.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: The Lady of the Green Kirtle claims not to believe in lions or any other aspect of the outside world. She's lying, but she nearly bewitches the overlanders into agreeing with her. This is a typical C. S. Lewis allegory; in order to describe Aslan or Narnia to the Lady who says they don't exist, they have to do so in terms of things that she does accept the existence of, allowing her to dismiss it with "So you made up a bigger version of a cat, and called it a lion", in the same way as heaven, whether or not it exists, can clearly only be described in terms of the mortal world by those who haven't experienced it (which may be everyone).
  • Exotic Entree: The protagonists discover that the venison served at the table of the "Friendly Giants" came from a Talking Stag. Talking Animals are fully sentient and sapient beings with all the same rights as humans and other humanoid races such as dwarves, so the author notes that for anyone of Narnian culture, this is the equivalent of cannibalism. If that weren't enough, the characters later find out they are on the menu for the following night.
  • First-Name Basis: Eustace and Jill when the group begins to escape Underland.
  • Fish People: Marsh-wiggles, though they're more like amphibian people.
  • Foreshadowing: Since this book was published before The Horse and His Boy (though written afterwards) the mention of Cor and Aravis (as recited by a Narnian poet) and the ballad of Corin Thunderfist (whistled by Rilian in the Underworld) become this. Chronologically, they're a Continuity Nod, considering that in Narnia, they lived over a thousand years ago. Confused?
  • Friend or Foe: After the death of the Lady of the Green Kirtle.
  • Gang of Bullies: The progressive teaching methods at Experiment House have the effect of indulging bullies while making learning difficult for other students. Jill and Eustace's attempt at escaping the bullies sets off the plot and provides a satisfying moment of Bully Hunter revenge at the end.
  • Genre Savvy: Puddleglum on several occasions explains how quests like theirs tend to turn out, hanging a few lampshades as he goes, such as his guess of the Queen's reasoning for being a Load-Bearing Boss.
  • Grim Up North: A notable use of this trope; the whole book takes inspiration from Norse Mythology. Ettinsmoor, for example, is a Shout-Out to the Norse Jotunheim.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Gay", said Puddleglum... "That's what we've got to be. Gay. You must watch me, and do as I do. I'll be gay. Like this."
    • Also, "[Jill] made love to everyone — the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, and the elderly giant lords..." (In the parlance of the time, it meant "flirting.")
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: A potential interpretation of Jill and Eustace's relationship, given Jill developing genuine affection for Eustace during their time in Narnia.
  • Homage: Jill and Eustace's conversation with the witch before she turns into a snake is an homage to Plato's allegory of the cave.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In his first chapter, Puddleglum says he could tell a story about a girl but that might get their spirits down and he never does that. Though apparently, by the standards of his species he's an optimist.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: See below.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Not literally, but it's mentioned that, in Narnian culture, eating talking animals is considered equivalent to cannibalism, as they have human-level intelligence. When Puddleglum finds out what the giants served him, he has a massive attack of Fridge Horror and is momentarily almost Driven to Suicide.
  • James Bondage: Rilian.
  • Kicked Upstairs: This happens to the Head of Experiment House, after it is revealed that she is utterly incompetent at running the school. Played for laughs when she ends up in Parliament.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Puddleglum. He will fight to the bitter end on the side of good and never doubt for a second and assume the worst every step of the way. His cynicism keeps Eustace and Jill firmly grounded and sensible.
  • Lady and Knight: The children meet the Lady riding with her Knight (who turns out to be Rilian in disguise).
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Subverted in that Puddleglum overhears some giants talking about the stag they were eating and how it had told them that it was tough and that they would not like it. Cue in-universe Fridge Horror.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The Underland floods once the Lady of the Green Kirtle is killed. Justified since she's a witch who set the place to magically self-destruct if she died.
  • Mondegreen: Owing to being hard of hearing without his Ear Trumpet, Trumpkin at first mishears "The girl's called Jill" as "The girls are all killed." He also mistakes "Eustace" for "Useless."
  • More Than Mind Control: The Lady's attempt to convince the four that Narnia doesn't exist and the Underland is the only world. It almost works, until Puddleglum decides their so-called fantasy world is far superior to the dreary "real" world of the Lady, thank you very much.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Puddleglum says that he's actually quite cheerful, at least compared to all the other marsh-wiggles.
  • No Matter How Much I Beg: Rilian.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The tactic by which Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum escape from Harfang.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aslan gives Jill a series of signs that will help in accomplishing the quest that she's being sent upon, but she, Eustace, and Puddleglum miss their chance at each one and get progressively more reactive to each one, culminating with the final one: when the knight is tied to the eponymous silver chair, he begs them to help in the name of Aslan. As helping someone who invoked Aslan's name was the final sign, they panic as they're not sure if the knight is mad or who they're supposed to help. They decide to trust the sign. Though, as Puddleglum points out:
    Puddleglum: Aslan only said to follow the signs. He didn't say it'd be safe.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Eustace and Jill receive some guidance from Glimfeather and the Parliament of Owls.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech/Shut Up, Hannibal!: Puddleglum does an incredibly awesome one. The BBC Television adaptation is more concise without losing any of its impact, especially when delivered by Tom Baker himself. It can be seen here.
    Puddleglum: There is one thing to say. Suppose we have only dreamed and made up these things, like sun, sky, stars and moon and Aslan himself. In that case, it seems to me that the made-up things are a good deal better than the real ones; and if this black pit of a kingdom is the best you can make, then it's a poor world. And we four can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow. As for me, I shall live like a Narnian! Even if there isn't any Narnia, so thanking you very much for supper. We're going to leave your court at once and make our way across your great darkness to search for our land ABOVE!
  • Playing Drunk: That's Puddleglum's story, at least.
  • Plot-Sensitive Latch: Near the beginning, Eustace and Jill are escaping from some bullies towards a door that is always locked, and of course it turns to be unlocked. Justified in that Aslan has magically caused this to happen, but they don't know it at the time.
  • The Pollyanna: Other marsh-wiggles consider Puddleglum to be this, and advise him to go on the trip for his own good - to sober him up.
  • Pretty in Mink: At one point, Jill is given a mantle trimmed with white fur.
  • Quick Nip: Puddleglum drinks often from a brown bottle kept on his person, offers spirits to children (they don't like the taste), and on one occasion ends up utterly legless after downing a large cup of giant-strength liquor. It's cool; no one minds.
  • Remember the New Guy: The species of Marsh-wiggles, which appear to be a familiar part of the Narnian landscape, but have never been mentioned before this book (oddly, not even in the genesis of Narnia, which C.S. Lewis wrote after this one).
  • Scaled Up: The witch.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: The title item has brainwashing powers.
  • Slap Yourself Awake: Puddleglum employed this technique when he stomped out the fire that the Lady of the Green Kirtle was using as part of her hypnotic magic. Not only did it quash the aroma that was lulling the heroes into a trance, but the pain (he was barefoot) is specifically said to give him a moment's perfect clarity.
  • Sour Supporter: Puddleglum.
  • Strawman Political: Experiment House is basically Lewis' critique of modern secular education, and especially of experimental/progressive schools.
  • Take That!:
    "The Head's friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn't much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after."
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork/Fire-Forged Friends: Eustace and Jill.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The Green Lady has prepared spells that will cause her kingdom to be destroyed in the event of her death, thus presumably also taking out whoever killed her.
    Puddleglum: "She's the sort that wouldn't so much mind dying herself if she knew that the chap who killed her was going to be burned, or buried, or drowned five minutes later."
  • The Vamp: The Lady of the Green Kirtle for Prince Rillian, even resorting to Mind Control.
  • To Serve Man: The "gentle giants" are quite happy that the Lady of the Green Kirtle sent the three heroes to them for the Autumn Feast...
  • Trailers Always Spoil: A subtle example. Eustace and Jill hear the tale of The Horse and His Boy (which had not been published at the time) while in Cair Paravel. The narration describes it as "the grand old tale of Prince Cor and Aravis and the horse Bree", spoiling Shasta's true identity.
  • Uncanny Village: Harfang, the castle of the Gentle Giants.
  • Unfortunate Names: "His name unfortunately was Eustace Scrubb, but he wasn't a bad sort."
    • This line is also a Call Back to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace was a lot meaner in that book, and was introduced with the line "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
    • Eustace's unfortunate name may have been inspired by Lewis' own terrible name (Clive Staples), which he hated; he used Jack as his name among friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lord Drinian (who was the Captain of the Dawn Treader) plays a fairly central role in the story of Rilian's disappearance, but is not accounted for in the present-day.
    • Considering how old Caspian is, and the fact Drinian is probably older then him, even being referred to as one of the older courtiers about ten years before the story begins, it is likely he died in the intervening time.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Underground?: Jill's claustrophobia makes the trip to Underland through several dark, incredibly cramped passages and tunnels paralyzingly terrifying for her.
    • Eustace has a similar aversion to heights.
  • Wish Fulfillment: When Aslan, Caspian, and Eustace teach the bullies at the boarding school a lesson. Note that Lewis' autobiography, Surprised by Joy, reveals that he had a bad experience at a boarding school.
    • An in-universe example as well. Caspian says several times how it is his dream to visit a land on a planet that's round. Aslan allows him to briefly visit Earth.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: After Rilian kills the Green Witch, he mentions that he's glad she turned into a snake, because he would have felt guilty for killing a woman.
  • You Have to Believe Me: The man in the Silver Chair really doesn't do much to dispel their suspicions that he's a raving lunatic. He's really just, during his brief moments of sanity, very aware of how strongly he's enchanted and he is beyond desperate to escape it, thus coming across as insane and reinforcing the lie that those few moments are of madness rather than clarity.
  • You killed my Mother: After his mother was killed by a serpent, Rillian then spent his time searching the area to kill it. It turns out the witch entrapped him this way and was the serpent...