Some people have a problem with Father Christmas showing up in Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. J.R.R. Tolkien hated it. Me? I loved it, and I never had a problem with it, especially once I read The Magician’s Nephew, which is the prequel to all the Narnia stories. So I wrote a short story which explains how Father Christmas (along with some other stuff you may not have thought about) shows up in Narnia. In order to fully understand this story, it is best to have read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, which I’m sure many of you have. But if you haven’t, I highly recommend them; boy, are you in for a treat, no matter how old you are.
What King Frank and Queen Helen Brought With Them Into Narnia
By Paul Blackham
I, Zebnus, Chief Scribe and Recorder of Histories in Their Majesties’ royal court, and graciously chosen by Aslan to be among the first of my people the Fauns in the young Land of Narnia, in order to record the origins of various and sundry customs that Their Majesties King Frank and Queen Helen have hereby established in Narnia, as well as to preserve ensamples of their most unique manner of speech, now endeavour to inscribe an account of His Majesty’s story in His Majesty’s own words. Insomuch as His Majesty the King has expressed the desire that Their Young Royal Highnesses Prince Robert and Princess Florence and any and all future royal children should learn to speak “the Queen’s English” (as His Majesty describes the speech that Aslan has given to us who serve in the royal court; the origin of His Majesty’s description of our language remains a wonder to us, since Her Majesty Queen Helen herself shares the same exalted speech as the King), yet it has pleased His Majesty to allow me to transcribe this account for the royal record. This narrative, being in His Majesty’s own words, of a truth fails to make a just account of all of the noble qualities, talents, deeds, and wisdom of His Majesty King Frank, for which his subjects love him, and which in his most steadfastly humble and self-forgetting nature, His Majesty, most admirably, fails to mention.
I was raised by my mum and dad in the country, in the county of Sussex, parish of ‘Aywards ‘Eath. Like my dad, from a young’un, I worked on farms, and ‘ventually found I ‘ad a way with ‘osses. I had schooling of a couple of years, where I learned reading and writing and ‘ow to do sums and figures, but mostly, I worked on farms for as far back as I can remember. But old Dad always made sure to bring me to the parish church every Sunday morning (fact, it was ‘e what gave me my little Testament, the same what was in my pocket when I was brought ‘ere, the same what is, to this day, still present in my room ‘ere in the castle). I inherited a fine singing voice of my mum and so as a growing lad I started singing ‘ymns in the church choir.
That’s where I first seen my Nellie, Miss Helen Mason as was christened, Queen Helen as you know ‘er [“Please write ‘Helen’ with an ‘H’ as is proper, and not ‘elen as I says it” His Majesty directed me], at the parish church it was, on Christmas Day no less, sitting with ‘er people the Southwicks (which were not ‘er family, but were the people she were in service with). Mr. Southwick, good man, were always kind to my Nellie, as were the missus, as were the Southwick girls (what used to wear bows on their ‘eads near as straight and tall as they were!). Anyways, I looks out and sees my Nellie (still a young gal then, mind), singing them Christmas ‘ymns, looking up with them shining eyes of ‘ers—‘til she notices me looking at ‘er (couldn’t ‘elp myself, truth be told), then she looks down, and keeps looking down. But day come when she got to liking to look back up at me with those eyes well ‘nough—‘nough that we was married in that same parish church.
Fact is, later on when we came ‘ere, Aslan says to me, ‘e says, “That is one of the reasons that I chose Queen Helen for Narnia, because of the way that she looked down and the way that she looked up.” Said it brought ‘im to mind of another Lady who was very dear to ‘im [“Please start the word ‘Lady’ with a capital letter,” His Majesty instructed me, “the way Aslan said it, it put me to mind like it needs to start with a capital letter. And whenever Aslan talks in this ‘ere tale, please to write it down the way Aslan would say it, not as it sounds when I relate it. And please do write ‘Aslan’ and not ‘Haslan’ as I hoften pr’nounces it.”].
Anyways, Nellie and me was married. But we were finding it ‘creasinly ‘ard to make a living in the country, so we decided to ‘ead up to the big Town of London. And since I knew a thing or two ‘bout ‘osses, we decided, my Nellie and me, to take all the money we ‘ad put by, and buy ol’ Strawberry, before we left, from a good and honest chap of my haquaintance (“son of a warhorse, ‘e is” s’what ‘e told me, and I believe it, to this day–Strawberry as was called then, Fledge as is called now), and also buy me my own ‘ansom, and enter the trade of a cabman. And my Nellie would take in peoples’ washings. Till one day I find me and Strawberry in sich a row as you never seen, and we end up ‘ere (as you ‘course know)—but that tale ‘as already been told by me many a time and been wrote up (as you know, mate, since you wrote it)—aye, we finds ourselves in this new world of Narnia, jist being born before our eyes and ears, and being made King and Queen of it by Aslan ‘imself, which was a bit of a shock to us, and no mistake.
One day, one of the first days of us being King and Queen of Narnia, when Aslan would come ‘round much more hoftener than these days, my Nellie, Queen Helen as was now called (who real soon-like could look in Aslan’s eyes and not look away more than hanyone else, more than myself even—still can) says to Aslan, she says (after ‘er proper curtsey, mind), “Dear Aslan, if you please, Sir, and if it weren’t no trouble, since you been so kind as to make us King and Queen, could you make it like King Arthur’s days? I always loved those stories ever so much, with knights, and ladies, and swords, and lances, and tournaments, and castles, and banners, and feasts, and banquets and things.” You see, the Southwick girls was always reading books and lending ‘em to my Nellie. “Yes, my dear,” says Aslan, “I know what is in your heart, as well as what is in your husband’s heart, for a longing for those days can always be found in the hearts of the true sons and daughters of Britain.”
And so it is to this day, we ‘ave a reg’lar castle and lords and ladies and knights like in olden times, ‘cept there’s much more ‘telligent creatures besides ‘umans ‘ere, as you well know. But being like we’re in “mid-evil” times as my Nellie says they called them (though it don’t seem too evil to me, jist yet), we don’t ‘ave none of the new conweniences that ‘Er Majesty back ‘ome ‘as (I speak at present of the Queen back in our old world, God save ‘er), sich as them new ‘lectric lights, no gaslights neither (‘cept for that lamppost, what grew up of hitself like it were a tree, but you ‘eard tell of that before), no hindoor plumbing, no steamships nor locomotives, not even any guns nor firearms to speak of. Even my wisest ones hain’t been given any of that type of knowledge yet. And me not ‘avin’ much eddycation, I can’t figure out ‘ow they all work anyways so as to explain any of it to ‘em, you see.
Aslan gave to some of my people (I call ‘em all “people”, no matter what creature they be—hactually, I should say Aslan’s people, not mine—but I’ve grown so fond of all of you, as I don’t mind saying), as I was relating, ‘e gave some of ‘em great ability to build things (like this ‘ere castle), and some to be smithys (that’d be the dwarfs), some to be wise and write down things and give counsels and sich (like yerself), some are real ‘andy with a bow ‘n arrow, some are hartists and makers o’ moosic, and some of my people can prepare a meal of food like I never even ‘eard tell of in my old country, or even in London—they seems like they was jist born with the knack. I s’pose it’s King Arthur-like food. And to be sure, we like it very much, I won’t deceive you.
But time come when I get a longing for some of the good country food like as Nellie used to cook back in the old ‘ome days. So I tells this to my Nellie (Queen Helen, ‘course), and before long she starts to going down reg’lar-like to the kitchens (we got more ‘n one) and puts on ‘er apron, the very same what she was wearing when she was brought ‘ere (“fergets ‘erself” as was commonly said—the people loves ‘er all the more fer it) and asks if she might, if it weren’t too much trouble, show the cooks ‘ow to prepare some of the meals like we ‘ad in Sussex. And then the cooks go to teaching their folks outside the castle and soon everybody’s famil’r with the Queen’s cooking. And I don’t mind saying it, those are the victuals what are now most preferred in all the land, though we still ‘ave the good and fancy food at banquets and sich.
As I mentioned, I ‘ad my little Testament with me from the very hour I stepped into Narnia, so one day I says to Aslan, I says, “Since I ‘as my Testament, and these people’s grown mighty dear to me, shouldn’t I, you know, let ‘em ‘ave a look in it? Maybe ‘ave these scribes ‘ere copy it down for ‘em all?” And ‘e says to me, “Son, the truths in your Testament hold fast in all worlds and for all times, but the stories in it are for your world. The reason that I called you from your world, was that knowing me there, you may know me better here. Narnia will have its own stories that will unfold over time and will be written down in due course. I am in all worlds, but with different names, and appear in different forms. Even in your own world, on the planets apart from yours, I have a different name, though I will always appear there in the form that you read about in your Testament.”
That being said, there was that time when the forest folk invite me and Nellie to be their guests at one of their night-time celebrations, with singing and dancing and story-telling, and with one of them big bon-fires, and they asks me to tell ‘em agin the story of ‘ow Narnia was first started out, which I does, and then one of the little’uns pipes up (fact, it were a little badger girl), and she asks me to tell ‘em ‘ow my world first come to be. So I looks over at Aslan (who was given an invite too, though ‘e don’t exactly need an invite anywheres, but ‘e seems to ‘preciate it all the same), and ‘e give me a little nod, ‘e does, so I makes free to proceed to telling ‘em (best I could from mem’ry, mind, cause I only ‘ad my Testament, and that story’s from t’Other Testament), I tells ‘em ‘bout the Creation of the World, in six days no less, and the Garden o’ Eden, and the first man and woman being Adam and Eve as was called. But when I started to tell ‘em the part ‘bout—well, never you mind—Aslan says to me, “That will do, Son of Adam.”
‘Course, everyone ‘eard what ‘e said, and it put ‘em to mind what ‘e had called us a time or two before, with my Nellie being called “Daughter of Eve” (fact, ‘e called the little boy and girl what was with us at the start of Narnia the same things, as well as that onpleasant old chap, but they since left—we do miss the two young’uns—can’t say as we miss t’other one) but now it was like they was putting two n’ two together and coming to an understanding of what the meaning of the phrase were. And so they started adding to the long list of names they give me (seems like it takes ‘bout ten minutes to recite the whole string of names we got), they tack on at the end “Son of Adam,” and to Nellie they adds at the end, “Daughter of Eve.” Now, I’m not sure if some of ‘em thought that our world was pract’ly as young as this ‘ere world of Narnia, and my hactual old dad was Adam, and Nellie’s hactual mum was Eve, but that’s what they took to calling us, on formal ‘casions. And when our boy Bob was born, they calls ‘im “His Royal Highness Prince Robert, (sich ‘n sich ‘n sich ‘n sich), Son of Adam,” and then they takes to calling our little Floy “Her Royal Highness Princess Florence” (which were Nellie’s mum’s name also, in point o’ fact), “(sich ‘n sich ‘n sich ‘n sich), Daughter of Eve.”
It was some months into our time ‘ere in Narnia as King and Queen, and we ‘aving nothing but the loveliest of spring-like weather (no scorching ‘eat like in summer, no cold blasts of wind like as autumn, no ‘int whatever of winter snow), that me and my Nellie one day was walking with Aslan in the fields, and my Nellie stops, and give ‘im that curtsey of ‘ers, and then looks up at Aslan with those eyes of ‘ers, and says, “Dear Aslan, Sir?” “What is it, my child?” ‘e asks. “Well, if you please, Sir,” she says, “we’ve been ‘aving sich lovely spring-like weather for ever so long, and I think it’s ever so nice, ‘deed I do. But shall we never have winter—what I really mean to ask is—could we not have Christmas?” And ‘e says to ‘er, “Remember, daughter, Christmas is one of the stories that is for your world.” But Nellie, in that shy way of ‘ers, yet at the same time bold as (well, not a lion, but close—she always could ‘old ‘is eyes) says to ‘im, “Dear Aslan, must it be always Spring and never Christmas?” And ‘e smiles at ‘er (in ‘is own way—I took it as a smile) and says, “My dear, you have conquered me. For I know that it was through Christmas that you first began to love me. Each year you shall have autumn, then a touch of winter, and you, and the whole land of Narnia, shall keep Christmas in whatever way you wish.” “Like back ‘ome, in England?” she says, “With food and sweets and presents and decorations and songs and things? Even just like in Mr. Dickens’ stories? And with Father Christmas? Even if ‘e is jist a tale.” And Aslan, ‘e says to ‘er, “Yes, even as Mr. Dickens tells it. But Father Christmas is more than a tale. You shall meet him yourself. For he manages to find his way into nearly any world that he pleases, though unlike me, he retains the same name and form.”
So, for these past several years now, whenever the air starts to getting a bit cold, and the snow starts to flying a little, the people ever’where starts getting hexcited and cheerful-like, for they know the feast of Christmas is coming. Even though no one but Nellie and me knows what it stands for, or even where the name comes from. And so we ‘ave the grandest Christmases you ever ‘eard tell of. And that Father Christmas is the jolliest bloke you’d ever want to meet.
In Their Most Beloved Majesties’ Royal Service,
Chief Scribe and Recorder of Histories, Narnia
(Illustration from The Magician’s Nephew by Pauline Baynes)