We Are the Past

Remember the Turkish Delight in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe? The sweet that bribed Edmund to betray his siblings? My daughters were fascinated by this candy. Could it really be that good?

For years, I’ve been looking for this confection; yesterday, my daughter returned from a field trip with a small box. I found it, she said triumphantly.

Betrayal is far from my child’s intent – it’s not the Turkish Delight, of course, to be blamed for Edmund’s ill deed, but Edmund himself, and the story of his own particular unhappiness that carried him to that point.

I know people who insist the past is irrelevant, that what matters is only the here and now, the very present before our eyes, as if our unique stories could conveniently be swept into a dustbin and abandoned. As a writer, I think the most natural questions are of inquiry: what’s your story? How else can we understand ourselves and each other, without knowledge?

For good or too often for terrible ill, history is always with us. Standing Rock is clearly about the bitter present and an iniquitous past.

In Lewis’s novel, the Turkish Delight is not merely a square of candy in a child’s hand, but a child with a tangled past dragging behind him and a choice posed to him. Betray or refuse? I can’t help but think that’s a tantalizing element of this story: each reader can’t help but ask themselves, which way would I chose? Which way will I write my own story?

Does that story matter? Yes.

My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe