Up Through the First Joke

JackdawFrom The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis:

The Lion, whose eyes never blinked, stared at the animals as hard as if he was going to burn them up with his mere stare.  And gradually a change came over them.  The smaller ones– the rabbits, moles, and such-like– grew a good deal larger.  The very big ones– you noticed it most with the elphants– grew a little smaller.  Many animals sat up on their hind legs.  Most put their heads on one side as if they were trying very hard to understand.  The Lion opened his mouth, but no sound came from it; he was breathing out, a long, warm breath; it seemed to sway all the beasts as the wind sways a line of trees.  Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music.  Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody) either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying:

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake.  Love.  Think.  Speak.  Be walking trees.  Be talking beasts.  Be divine waters.”

It was, of course, the Lion’s voice.  The children had long felt sure that he could speak: yet it was a lovely and terrible shock when he did.

Out of the trees wild people stepped forth, gods and goddesses of the wood; with them came Fauns and Satyrs and Dwarfs.  Out of the river rose the river god with his Naiad daughters.  And all these and all the beasts and bords in their different voices, low or high or think or clear, replied:

“Hail, Aslan.  We hear and obey.  We are awake.  We Love.  We think.  We speak.  We know.”

“But please, we don’t know very much yet,” said a nosey and snorty kind of voice.  And that reall did make the children jump, for it was the cab-horse who had spoken . . .

“Creatures, I give you yourselves,” said the strong and happy voice of Aslan.  “I give to you forever this land of Narnia.  I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers.  I give you the stars and I give you myself.  The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also.  Treat them gently and cherish them but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts.  For out of them you were taken and into them you can return.  Do not so.”

“No, Alsan, we won’t, we won’t,” said everyone.  But one perky jackdaw added in a loud voice, “No fear!” and everyone else had finished just before he said it so that his words came out quite clear in a dead silence . . . The Jackdaw became so embarassed that it hid its head under its wing as if it were going to sleep.  And all the other anumals began making various queer noises which are their ays of laughing and which, no one has ever heard in our world.  They tried at first to repress it, but Aslan said:

“Laugh and fear not, creatures.  Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave.  For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”

So they all let themselves go.  And there was such merriment that the Jackdaw himself plucked up courage again and perched on the cab-horse’s head, between its ears, and clapping its wings, and said:

“Aslan! Aslan!  Have I made the first joke?  Will everybody always be told how I made the first joke?”

“No, little friend,” said the Lion.  “You have not made the first joke; you have only been the first joke.”  Then everyone laughed more than ever . . .

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