from Chapter 8 of The Princess and Curdie, illustrated by Charles Folkard
Curdie opened the door—but, to his astonishment, saw no room there. Could he have opened a wrong door? There was the great sky, and the stars, and beneath he could see nothing only darkness! But what was that in the sky, straight in front of him? A great wheel of fire, turning and turning, and flashing out blue lights!
Ed: On the whole, I think Folkard’s line drawings far superior to the color plates in his edition of The Princess and Curdie, and this one might be my favorite of all.
A reccomendation for the works of Charles Williams (aka 'the Third')
To those of you in the Chronicles of the Imaginerium Geographica fandom( whether you are aprentice Caretakers, Mesengers, or Mystorians), raise your hand if you only found out Charles Williams existed because of this series. Let me be the first to raise mine, because it’s the truth. At the end of the first book, I of course recognized the full names of his contemporaries, but not his. For a while I kept reading the books enjoying them, and enjoying Charles as my favorite of the Inklings Trio of Caretakers( no disrespect to John or Jack of course). The sixth book came around and the joke was made about how none of Charles’ books survived among the Ray Bradbury inspired reality (I forget the name of the society, apologies). After that, I made of my mind to eventually read something by Charles Williams.
After finally getting around to going out to find his books (as well as the works of George MacDonald (read the Light Princess if you haven’t. It’s perhaps my favorite Art Fairytale)). However, in a not too surprising turn of events, I found out both are out of Print. That’s where Amazon came in. I debated a while about which to buy, since all had equally interesting premises. I finally decided on Many Dimensions (one of his earlier novels). Overall I suppose you could say I enjoyed it, but I had a problem or two with the book. Being my introduction to Williams, I had a bit of difficulty getting used to his writting style. The characters were also a mixed bag. Chloe Burnete was good (although some of her inner thoughts became very confusing, and hard to follow). Giles Tumulty was a great villain IMHO. Did not care much for Lord Arglay and constantly bringing up Organic Law ( something I didn’t and still don’t understand that well).
After reading Many Dimensions, I debated whether or not to read another. I decided since I had read at least two works by his contemporaries (including the first book of Lewis’ Space Trilogy), I should at least read one more. I decided on his last novel All Hallows’ Eve, getting an Ebook this time. I enjoyed it more than Many Dimensions for sure. The characters had actual growth, I had an easier time understanding the seriousness of the conflict, and the descriptive writting and dialogue was fantastic. Simon Le Clerk was a great (if problematic ) villain that came off as a legitimate threat.
Since then I have read The Place of the Lion (also good for character growth), and War In Heaven. I’ve taken a break from reading Williams, but if I do start again, I’ll probably read Descent into Hell (which I hear is supposed to be his best according to a Professor of mine).
To be brief (TOO LATE), I would highly reccomend anyone read the works of Charles Williams, whether they are in the CotIG fandom or not. His strengths are in dialogue and description of the supernatural/spiritual. Mind you it should be pointed out, While the Christian elements of Tolkien and Lewis can be pushed aside as allegory or something that can be looked into on top of the fantasy, The religious aspect of Williams is right in front of you, and there is no ignoring it. Mind you, it’s done well, and it never is shoved down your throat (mostly). And it’s in the descriptions of the supernatural/ spiritual that his writting really shines…wait, I already said that.
On another note, it should be pointed out there is an element or two that could come off as problematic. In a Shylock from the Merchant of Venice sort of way. In All Hallows’ Eve for example, several mentions are made of Simon Le Clerk having Jewish features. He seems to be ethnically Jewish, though he is by no means practicing. If anything what makes him so evil would seem to be how he misuses the Hebrew Language. Also, he’s basically the Anti-Christ. On another note though, Williams does seperate Le Clerk from being Jewish (even points out how Jesus was Jewish), I only mention it since the several references to Le Clerk being of Jewish heritage seemed…off to me. Mind you I am not Jewish so….I don’t know what point I was trying to make there. Another character in War in Heaven is referred to as The Jew, more so than his name. And in Many Dimensions which has an artifact that would be of importance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, only the later two perspectives are brought up. Thankfully little to nothing problematic about the Muslim characters (though one is shown to be wrong, another is shown very positively and highly respected)
So, I would reccomend the works of Charles Williams. Partly to give an idea about how and what he wrote. Partly because of actual enjoyment. And Partly so one may compare him with his contemporaries and draw their own conclusions as to why he is generally forgotten. Apologies for my poor writting, and make of this what you will.
“…though I cannot promise to take you home,“ said North Wind, as she sank nearer and nearer to the tops of the houses, "I can promise you it will be all right in the end. You will get home somehow.” ― George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind
That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say 'Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’; little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin.
George MacDonald in The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis
I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.