Chapter one opened with the children’s arrival at the Professor’s and closed with Lucy’s arrival in Narnia. Chapter two will have a similar symmetry. It opens with Lucy’s meeting with Mr. Tumnus and will conclude with her saying good-bye to him and returning through the wardrobe.
After Mr. Tumnus picks up the parcels which he has dropped, his first concern is to know if, in fact, Lucy is a “Daughter of Eve” (11). At the end of the chapter, Lewis will return to this point when we are told that the White Witch has been on the lookout for Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve (20). At that same time we also learn that four thrones wait at Cair Paravel and when they are filled, something will happen with the creatures the Witch has turned into statues, but it is not until chapter eight that readers learn precisely what the prophecy is (82).
Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy that he has never met a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve before and that he is “delighted” (11). He stutters over what to say next, and Lewis tells us that the faun “stopped as if it had been going to say something it had not intended but had remembered in time” (12). What is Mr. Tumnus Faltering about here? Readers have no clue and may even miss Lewis’ hint of what is to come. We will learn at the end of the chapter that Mr. Tumnus is in the employ of the White Witch and is supposed to hand over any humans he happens to encounter.
Next the faun introduces himself as Tumnus. While he will be the only faun readers will meet in TLWW, In Prince Caspian Lewis will briefly mention nine others by name. By giving them Latin sounding names such as Tumnus here, and later Mentius, Obentinus, Dumnus and so on, Lewis clearly intended to evoke the fauns’ connection to Roman Mythology. Paul Ford notes that the origin of Mr. Tumnus’ name “is not clear, although it is a Latin diminutive of some sort” and may be from tumulus, meaning ‘hill,’ as Tumnus lives in a hilly country”
Mr. Tumnus asks how Lucy Cam into Narnia, and this is the first time readers hear the name of the imaginary Land (12). How Lewis came up with the name is unclear. While several references to a historical city with the name Narnia exist, whether Lewis intended to refrence them remains unclear. Some say he “simply liked the name.” At the same time, Lewis had majored in the classics and ancient history at Oxford and he, quite possibly, came across “at least seven references to the Roman Narnia in Latin literature.”
Several Critics have suggested a comparison between Mr. Tumnus and the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Like Mr. Tumnus, the White Rabbit—who wears a waist coat 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 him, the rabbit is startled and, like Mr. Tumnus, drops what he has been carrying, white gloves and a fan. Like Narnia, Alice’s Wonderland is bigger on the inside than it seemed on the outside and is entered through a tunnel like or holelike opening. After Lucy and Alice enter their imaginary lands, both encounter hostile queens.
Among the books Lucy looks at on Mr. Tumnus’ shelves are two that refer to humans: Men, Monks, and Game Keepers; a Study in Popular Legend and Is Man a Myth? (15), titles which suggest that humans have already had an encounter with Narnia prior to the events in TLWW—but possibly one which was either very fleeting or in the distant past. (Here is another example of why I read the books in the order I do.) In The Magician’s Nephew, set in a time long before Lucy’s visit, Lewis will have a human couple—a London cabdriver named Frank and his wife Helen—serve as the first king and queen of Narnia. King Frank and Queen Helen later have human children who will then marry with Narnians. In that story readers are told, “ The boys married nymphs and the girls married wood-gods and river-gods”(MN,200). We are left to assume that the children’s offspring also married with Narnians, so that by the time of TLWW their human genes and any memory of humans have long since dissipated. Presumably the myths and legends of man that Lucy finds in Mr. Tumnus’ cave have their origins in this earlier time.
The Horse and His Boy, one of the later books in the Narnia series, is set during the time Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are reigning as adult kings and queens of Narnia. In that story we find that human beings are living in Archenland, a country to the south of Narnia, and in TMN we are told that the second son of Frank and Helen would go on to become king and queen there. At this point in writing TLWW, Lewis had not yet conceived of Archenland and the human who would be there or why the author of Mr. Tumnus’ book would think of man as a myth or legend. Perhaps the Witch’s imposed winter has prohibited any contact with the outside world for a long time.
Finally, one should note that when Lewis wrote TLWW and had Mr. Tumnus tell stories about “summer when the woods were green,” he had not fully conceived the timeline of Narnian history. In later books this time period will be referred to as the “Hundred Years of Winter”, leaving three ways to interpret Mr. Tumnus’ remarks about summer. Perhaps Mr. Tumnus is over a hundred years old and is remembering the actual summers of his youth from a time before the Witch’s arrival. However, the fact that he will become “stout” and “middle-aged” over the relatively short course of the novel may undercut this possibility (184). Alternatively, he may simply be recounting tales he has heard of events that took place before he was born. Finally, readers could choose to read this passage as a handful of inconsistencies which resulted from the fact that when Lewis wrote TLWW he did not foresee that it would lead to a series and so had not yet decided that the Witch’s winter wpuld last a hundred years. I tend to follow the second line of thinking.
In Part 2 we will discuss the second part of what happened during Lucy’s trip to Narnia and “what she found there.”