13

In at least two books of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, a group of "four trees" is mentioned.

Shortly after Digory has planted the tree to protect Narnia in The Magician's Nephew, his Uncle Andrew is brought forth to be shown to Aslan. Andrew Ketterley is put in a cage made of trees.

"Digory now saw that where four trees grew close together their branches had all been laced together or tied together with switches so as to make a sort of cage."

The Magician's Nephew

Then, when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie are wandering about Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver brings them into a spot to talk to them.

"Only when it had led them into a dark spot where four trees grew so close together that their boughs met and the brown earth and pine needles could be seen underfoot because no snow had been able to fall there, did it talk to them."

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

My question is, are these two sets of trees the same? Both passages reference them being "four trees" and growing close together. The wording is also very similar.

Are they the same? Is it meant to connect the books? Or did Lewis just unintentionally use a similar landmark and similar descriptive language in two books that were years apart?

10

Nice find! I'd never noticed this.

Surely they can't be the same trees ...

There's sooo many years between the two books (around 1000 years!) that the original trees would be either long dead or far too massive to stand between. Note that in The Magician's Nephew they're so close together that their branches can be used as a prison to contain a grown man, and that's when they're still young trees. In a thousand years of growth, their trunks would expand so much that they'd be basically one tree instead of four, and certainly there wouldn't be enough space enough between them that beavers and children could easily get into what had been a valid prison a millennium earlier.

For reference, here's a real tree which is thought to be 800-1000 years old, with humans for scale:

enter image description here

... but it's definitely interesting that the same description is used.

Lewis made a lot of intentional parallels between The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, especially in descriptions of places - the lamppost being the most obvious example. The similarity you've noticed is so close that it seems like it must have some significance, but I don't know what it could be since the trees can't be literally the same ones within the story. Maybe there's some kind of Christian symbolism in four trees close together??

8
  • 9
    Would an untended lamp post still look the same after 1000 years? In a world built by magic, hard to say that the rules of our world would apply. The similarity of description is striking, and the physical locations have to be close together.
    – Michael
    Nov 8 '21 at 7:34
  • 2
    Potentially trees with tree spirits (the dryads and hamadryads) are different to regular earth trees, and can live for a thousand years without changing much; but it's hard to know for sure.
    – Showsni
    Nov 8 '21 at 11:51
  • 2
    "and certainly there wouldn't be enough space enough between them that beavers and children could easily get into what had been a valid prison a millennium earlier" - Lewis says that the Dwarves and Elephants made quick work of the thatching to get Andrew out in The Magician's Nephew. Nov 8 '21 at 14:44
  • 1
    I don’t believe all trees grow in the same manner, and some of them last very long times indeed. It doesn’t seem a given to me that a thousand years of growth necessarily means they’d grow together; I know that can happen but I don’t know that it must. Can you back that up?
    – KRyan
    Nov 8 '21 at 20:48
  • 4
    In Canada's north, trees grow minute amounts every year, mostly due to how short the summer is. I've seen a 50-year-old tree that was only about 10cm (4 in) in diameter. If Narnia was in perpetual winter for an extended period of time, it's not inconceivable that the trees grew very little, or not at all. Nov 8 '21 at 21:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.