David Russell Mosley
30 June 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
The other day, I wrote a post attempting to answer the question, “are there elves in the works of C. S. Lewis.” As I noted in the original post, the idea came from a discussion on Facebook where the asker was particularly interested in the elvish absence in the Chronicles of Narnia. Well, two nights ago I was reading The Magician’s Nephew when I came across this passage I had forgotten:
“‘For my [Uncle Andrew] godmother [a certain Mrs. Lefay] was a very remarkable woman. The truth is, she was one of the last mortals in this country who had fairy blood in her. (She said there had been two others in her time. One was a duchess and the other was a charwoman.) In fact, Digory, you are now talking to the last man (possibly) who really had a fairy godmother'” (The Magician’s Nephew, 21).
There it was, an elf (for we should keep in mind that fairy and elf are, linguistically at least, interchangeable), or really three partial elves in the Chronicles of Narnia. Now this raises another interesting question for me: Why are the only elves in the Chronicles of Narnia in our world and not in Narnia? I think, and this is pure speculation, that this is because the Chronicles of Narnia is meant, roughly, to exist within the same world as Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy, which itself exists within the same world as Tolkien’s Legendarium. The only proof I have of this is that on the very next page we learn that some part of Mrs. Lefays magic appears to Atlantean origins. Now this is significant because Merlin is said to use Atlantean magic in That Hideous Strength and in That Hideous Strength we are explicitly told about Numinor which was Lewis’s misspelling of Numenor, the origin for the Atlantis myth and the island home of men and women who had both elves and humans for ancestors. Now, as I say, I cannot prove that the Atlantis in The Magician’s Nephew is meant to be the same Atlantis/Numinor in That Hideous Strength, but there’s certainly a possibility of connection.
If I am right, and I think I am, this raises another interesting idea. I think it is at least possible that the reason elves proper don’t appear in Narnia is for one of two reasons (and possibly both together). Reason 1 is this: Elves don’t appear in Narnia because they actually exist, or existed in our world, within the framework of the Chronicles of Narnia. That is, Fëanor, Fingolfin, Legolas, Thranduil, and the rest exist in the historical past of Chronicles England. Since part of the purpose of Narnia seems to be giving origin and/or reality to mythical creatures from Earth (talking animals, satyrs, fauns, centaurs, etc.) elves do not exist there because they already exist here. Now, this is problematic because giants and dwarves do appear in Narnia and yet the latter certainly, and the former to an extent (the stone giants of The Hobbit), also appear in Tolkien’s Legendarium. Reason 2, is that there is a connection between the eldila proper to Earth in the Cosmic Trilogy, and elves (hence Ransom’s first name, Elwin, being re-interpreted as friend of the eldila). Perhaps it is some connection between the two, perhaps it is neither. I honestly don’t know. What I can say unequivocally, however, is that there are elves in the works of C. S. Lewis thanks to the magician’s fairy godmother.