a swiftly tilting planet, a wind in the door, a wrinkle in time, beginnings, book reviews, brian jaques, c.s. lewis, castaways of the flying dutchman, catholic culture, creative writing, endings, j.r.r. tolkien, john flanagan, lord of the rings, madeleine l'engle, ranger's apprentice, reading, redwall, reviews, robert louis stevenson, star wars, the chronicles of narnia, the hobbit, time quintet, treasure island, writing
Now, before I get into the TCWT post, I want to just make one little announcement.
Today is the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! *confetti flies everywhere* Happy birthday to the Ringbearers!
Okay, now that I’ve said that… 😉
Beginnings and endings. Now this reminds me of a paper I wrote in high school! Which will never see the light of day until it gets a boatload of revising. So don’t ask. Or you can ask, but be prepared for it to not happen for a very, very long time.
Specifically, my favorite beginnings and endings.
Let’s do this by series.
First of all, favorite beginnings and endings for The Chronicles of Narnia.
- The Magician’s Nephew, both as a beginning to the series, and its own beginning and ending. This. Book. Rocked.
First of all, we have the story of how Diggory and Polly met, and the fact that they were sent into Narnia by a ruthless pseudo-scientist/magician who was also partly insane (wouldn’t any number of YA authors just love to try their hand at a plot this juicy nowadays?!), but it’s not just that that makes the book great. It foreshadows World War II and people like Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler. (I would not be surprised to hear that Lewis did not approve of the US’s alliance with the USSR. Good grief, I don’t approve of it. And I’m American.)
Well, this book as a whole is the beginning of Narnia and the Chronicles of Narnia series. But its opening, while modest, is no less of a favorite for me. And its ending! The hiding of the magic rings (we’ll get to Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings later, I promise!), the cure of Diggory’s mother, and the promise of hope.
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The book that began it all. Seriously. Was ever story so well encapsulated? It wraps itself up very well, and smaller elements that were included (especially the Professor, who is–guess who? Diggory Kirk [yes, that is really his last name!], all grown up! and Susan’s horn, which becomes a major point in the plot of Prince Caspian.)
- The Horse and His Boy. Unlike the rest of the Narnia stories, this one actually does not have anything to do with “our world”, unless you count the presence of the Pevensies (SPOILER! 😛 Who cares, anyway?! Most of you have already read all of the Chronicles of Narnia!) The ending is good, okay, but it’s the ending I really love. This is the one Narnia book that describes Archenland, and it tells us about the people of Archenland, and gives a very satisfying ending.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Okay, yes, I love pretty much all of the Narnia series, but Dawn Treader stands out among the Narnia books. Again, the beginning is not nearly as euphoria-inducing as the ending is. It appears that Lewis may have been playing with the idea of the Seven Friends of Narnia at this point–of course, though, at this point only Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and Dawn Treader were written, which means that Diggory was only a flight of imagination, and Polly probably hadn’t ever (in Lewis’ mind) come into Narnia at all yet. The three aforementioned books were intended to be a trilogy, complete in themselves, and it seems that Lewis didn’t plan to write any more books. However, step back and take the series as a whole. If you read them in Narnian-time order, not writing order, then by the end of Dawn Treader there are seven friends of Narnia. (Susan hasn’t left the group yet, remember.) And Dawn Treader and The Last Battle are the most similar in style, and ending as well. Coincidence? Most likely not.
- The Last Battle. If I have to pick one favorite Narnia book, it is this one. (Dawn Treader is a close second.) First of all, the opening is riveting. An impostor Aslan? Narnia’s King captured? WHAT?! IT DOESN’T EVEN BEGIN IN “OUR WORLD”?! WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?! *squees*
Seriously, though. ❤
This Narnia book raises the stakes like no other. (I plan on making a list of the top villains who made an impression on me, to show you what I mean.) However, this book is also probably the one which is hardest for a child to read. (You’ve been warned.) It is both heartbreaking, exciting with its call to war, the rage against the lies… It is a true emotional rollercoaster. This one, more than any other of Lewis’s books, made me understand what “passion” really meant. More than any other book, really.
And now, for the ending. While some people are upset that Susan didn’t get to the “True Narnia” in Aslan’s Country at the end of the series (read more about that here, and I highly recommend the rest of his blog for thought-provoking stuff on theology and popular culture!), I was both saddened by the fact that Susan had made herself not to believe in Narnia (which was, by the way, a recurring theme throughout the book–which is why, now, whenever I hear anyone say anything REMOTELY smacking of “We’re out for ourselves!” [*cough cough* “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!”], I always throw a fit and demolish their argument in a blaze of righteous flurry and the occasional lightsaber-to-their-newspaper), and gladdened by the fact that by the very fact of her leaving the Friends of Narnia she was given a second chance. The problem, really, that we’re talking about here, is the bland/blase reaction of the remaining Friends of Narnia to her exclusion. But you’ll just have to read Malcolm’s post, linked in above, if you want to know what Lewis’s thoughts on the whole “Problem with Susan” issue was. I’m not giving it away to you! You wouldn’t go find his completely awesome blog otherwise!
Anyway, back to the ending, proper. It is, in my opinion, a very satisfying close to the series. It was a blissful, happy, euphoric ending. It echoed the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse to Tridentine Rite lovers like me). In fact, I am thinking about making myself a T-Shirt that says “The Rapture only happens to people who loved The Last Battle!” (DISCLAIMER: The author of this post does not believe in the Rapture as preached by certain Christian sects. She does, however, believe that reading The Last Battle will bring you pretty freaking close!)
Sadly, I have not read Lewis’s Space Trilogy often enough to include it in the runners. I haven’t even finished it. :’-( Still, enjoy my dear friend Rosalie’s description of Dr. Ransom here. ;-P *notices some people in the crowd gawking at the picture* *bangs them on the head with a newspaper* READ THE DESCRIPTION! NO GAWKING AT THE PHOTO!!! (I don’t care HOW attractive you may find Ewan McGregor, keep the fawning off my blog!)
Next up: Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet!
A Wrinkle in Time begins with the cliche beginning “It was a dark and stormy night.” It doesn’t stop there, though. It makes it its own. And in the end, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which vanish in a gust of wind.
However, A Wind in the Door gets the top place on this list, I think. It begins with “There are dragons in the twins’ vegetable garden.” and ends with the unforgettable:
“You were gone long enough. Did you count the stars or something?”
“We don’t have to count them,” Meg said. “They just need to be known by Name.” Calvin’s eyes met hers for a long moment and held her gaze, not speaking, not kything, simply being.
Then she went up to Charles Wallace.
Seriously! BEST. ENDING. EVER!
A Swiftly Tilting Planet, both beginning and ending, is tied up in Mrs. L’Engle’s adaption of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, called “Patrick’s Rune” in the story:
In this fateful hour
I place all heaven with its power
And the sun with its brightness
And the snow with its whiteness
And the fire with all the strength it hath
And the lightning with its rapid wrathAnd the winds with their swiftness along their path
And the sea with its deepness
And the rocks with their steepness
And the earth with its starkness,
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and all the powers of darkness.
Does that give you goosebumps? It does to me!
And finally, for the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. Now, I think that, while LotR’s beginning was interesting enough, it’s not quite the same as Hobbit‘s. “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” How’s that for a great opening? It certainly gets questions started as to what a Hobbit is and why it lives in the ground! However, since Hobbit is the prequel to LotR, it makes a lot of sense that way. Frankly, though Hobbit‘s ending is satisfying enough, LotR’s is, in my opinion, the stronger of the two. Both bring about great changes in the world of Middle-Earth. Hobbit sees the return of the King Under the Mountain and the cities of Dale and Esgaroth, while LotR has no less than the return of the King Elessar to both Gondor and Arnor, and the destruction of the One Ring and the overthrowing of Sauron to boot!
In Hobbit, it was Bilbo’s poem that made the greatest impression on me.
Roads go ever on and on
Over rock, and under tree
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass, and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever on and on,
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that have a-wandering gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows greenAnd trees and hills they long have known.
And in LotR, Frodo sums it up best: “We set out to save the Shire, Sam, and it has been saved; but not for me.”
In the end, both the Bagginses go into the West with the Elves, in search of Valinor, and Sam returns home to his wife and children. “Well, I’m back.”
Note to Ranger’s Apprentice fans:
I am so sorry, but RA is not eligible to run. Like the Space Trilogy, I haven’t read it enough to know the beginnings and endings very well.
Now for Brian Jaques’ work.
I especially love Mariel of Redwall for its beginning and ending. The book begins with an amnesiac Mariel arriving on the coast of Mossflower country, promising (as Liam would say) the search for the truth about her past. And it closes with the defeat of Gabool and the departure of Mariel and Dandin to go in search of adventure. However, The Legend of Luke and Martin the Warrior, not to mention Mossflower, were close seconds: Legend of Luke for its opening and closing sequences, detailing the building of Redwall Abbey, Martin the Warrior for its description of Martin’s barely-existent childhood and (SPOILER ALERT!) the cheek to kill off a character we really loved to drive Martin southward, toward Mossflower Country, and Mossflower for the arrival of Martin at Kotir in Mossflower and the closing defeat of Tsarmina, who had enslaved the woodlanders.
And as you’re probably already tired of this, I think I will stop after just one more.
Castaways of the Flying Dutchman trilogy.
WHY MR. JACQUES!? WHY!? *bursts into tears*
Each of these books is complex, detailed, involves a much intenser battle between good and evil (sometimes more openly manifested!) than the Redwall books, and remains vivid in the imagination for days and years afterward. (Why do you think I keep on forgetting and naming yet another protagonist “Ben”?! Hint: It’s not just Obi-Wan’s doing! *Obi-Wan shoots an annoyed glance in my direction*) It’s like… gah! I don’t know what to compare it to! Think Jedi Apprentice (Melida-Daan specifically), only little Obi-Wan has a dog and his destiny is tied to the sea, and gaaah the feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelsss…. *breaks down crying* *Obi-Wan relents and comes over to pat me on the back*
Okay, bad comparison. Let’s see. I think the closest I can get is it’s a bit like Treasure Island (which had a marvelous ending in its own rite,) a bit like what Star Wars would have been if the story centered around Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had survived to train Anakin, and the sorrows the Elves must face when the younger Children of Illuvatar die. It also has strong resonances with Ranger’s Apprentice (shut it with the whatever-apprentice similes, Erin, before you burst into tears again!) It’s the only series with a ‘young’ protagonist (SPOILER the protagonist is eternally fourteen) I’ve ever read where the hero had no permanent mentor. Sure, he has a mentor/father figure who dies, but after that other people mentor him as well… sort of.
The thing about these books is that the endings are always both sweet, and at the same time, heartbreaking, since Ben and Ned (that’s Ben’s telepathic friend, the dog) must wander the world constantly, helping those they come across, and they can’t let anyone know that they’re immortal.
I just want to give them both a great big hug.
*sigh* Excuse me, please. I just wanted to make myself reread all those books. (Dare I say, oops?)
Thanks for reading (and especially for sticking through until the end!), and God Bless!