Narnian time flows differently from ours. If you spent a hundred years in Narnia, you would still come back to our world at the very same hour of the very same day on which you left. And then, if you went back to Narnia after spending a week here, you might find that a thousand Narnian years had passed, or only a day, or no time at all. You never know till you get there.
This conversation from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, between Prof. Kirke, Peter and Susan concerning Lucy’s mad story is explanatory of what Kirke thinks of other worlds; especially since he has been to another world himself.
“But there was no time,” said Susan. “Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”
“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know little about it)—if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”
Narnian timing is illustrated in the ending of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a valid demonstration of Professor Kirke’s theory.
So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamp-post, and before they had gone twenty more they noticed that they were making their way not through branches but through coats. And the next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe door into the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens in their hunting array but just Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in their old clothes. It was the same day and the same hour of the day on which they had all gone into the wardrobe to hide. Mrs. Macready and the visitors were still talking in the passage, but luckily they never came into the empty room and so the children weren’t caught.
Once you are out of Narnia, you can never tell how Narnian time is going. In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children come back to Narnia, only to find that Cair Paravel is in ruins. They learn later from the news of Trumpkin the Dwarf that Narnia is at war with an usurping tyrant and that it’s been about a thousand years since the Pevensies were Kings and Queens of Narnia.
“But, Peter,” said Lucy, “look here. I know I can’t swim for nuts at home—in England, I mean. But couldn’t we all swim long ago—if it was long ago—when we were Kings and Queens in Narnia? We could ride then too, and do all sorts of things. Don’t you think–?”
“Ah, but we were sort of grown-up then,” said Peter. “We reigned for years and years and learned to do things. Aren’t we just back at our proper ages again now?”
“Oh!” said Edmund in a voice which made everyone stop talking and listen to him.
“I’ve just seen it all,” he said.
“Seen what?” asked Peter.
“Why, the whole thing,” said Edmund. “You know what we were puzzling about last night, that it was only a year ago since we left Narnia but everything looks as if no one had lived in Cair Paravel for hundreds of years? Well don’t you see? You know that, however long we seemed to have lived in Narnia, when we got back through the wardrobe it seemed to have taken no time at all?”
“Go on,” said Susan. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”
“And that means,” continued Edmund, “that, once you’re out of Narnia, you have no idea how Narnian time is going. Why shouldn’t hundreds of years have gone past in Narnia while only one year has passed for us in England?”
“By Jove, Ed,” said Peter. “I believe you’ve got it. In that sense it really was hundreds of years ago that we lived in Cair Paravel. And now we’re coming back to Narnia just as if we were Crusaders or Anglo-Saxons or Ancient Britons or someone coming back to modern England!”
“How excited they’ll be to see us—“began Lucy, but at the same moment everyone else said, “Hush!” or, “Look!” For now something was happening.
In The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ When Edmund, Lucy and Eustace join King Caspian on board the Dawn Treader, the pace of time has slackened since they were in Narnia last. It has been one year in England and three years in Narnia, opposed to the time differences of the previous books which was about twelve hundred years.
“Meanwhile,” said Caspian, “we want to talk.”
“By Jove, we do,” said Edmund. “And first, about time. It’s a year ago by our time since we left you just before you coronation. How long has it been in Narnia?”
“Exactly three years,” said Caspian.
“All going well?” asked Edmund.
“You don’t suppose I’d have left my kingdom and put to sea unless all was well,” answered the King. “It couldn’t be better. There’s no trouble at all now between Telmarines, Dwarfs, Talking Beasts, Fauns and the rest.
When Edmund, Lucy and Eustace come back to England at the end of The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’, the time that they have spent in Narnia (approximately four months) has taken no time at all in our own world.
In The Silver Chair, Eustace comes back to Narnia, though this time he has one of his schoolmates with him; a girl called Jill Pole. It has only been about two or three months since Eustace came back to our world from his visit to Narnia, but it has been about seventy Narnian years since Eustace was on the Dawn Treader with Caspian. In this conversation, Eustace and Jill are at Cair Paravel for the night, with the invitation of Trumpkin the Dwarf.
“Come in,” said Jill. And in came Scrubb, also bathed and splendidly dressed in Narnian clothes. But his face didn’t look as if he were enjoying it.
“Oh, here you are at last,” he said crossly, flinging himself in a chair. “I’ve been trying to find you for ever so long.”
“Well, now you have,” said Jill. “I say, Scrubb, isn’t all too exciting and scrumptious for words.” She had forgotten all about the signs and the lost Prince for the moment.
“Oh! That’s what you think, is it?” said Scrubb: and then, after a pause, I wish to goodness we’d never come.”
“Why on earth?”
“I can’t bear it,” said Scrubb, “seeing the King — Caspian –- doddering old man like that. It’s — it’s frightful.”
“Why, what harm does it do you?”
“Oh, you don’t understand. Now that I come to think of it, you couldn’t. I didn’t tell you that this world has a different time from ours.”
“How do you mean?”
“The time you spend here doesn’t take up any of our time. Do you see? I mean, however long we Spend here, we shall still get back to Experiment House at the moment we left it—“
“That won’t be much fun—“
“Oh, dry up! Don’t keep interrupting. And when you’re back in England – in our world – you can’t tell how time is going here. It might be any number of years in Narnia while we’re having one year at home. The Pevensies explained it all to me, but, like a fool, I forgot about it. And now it’s been about seventy years –- Narnian years – since I was here last.”
At the end of The Silver Chair, Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb come back to their school. They have spent about a month or so in Narnia, and come back at the same time as when they departed.
Though Narnian time generally takes none of our time, our time can also take none of theirs. An example of this is given in The Last Battle, when Jill and Eustace come to King Tirian’s aid while he is tied to a tree.
And immediately he was plunged into a dream (if it was a dream) more vivid than any he had had in his life.
He seemed to be standing in a lighted room where seven people sat round a table. It looked as if they had just finished their meal. Two of those people were very old, an old man with a white beard and an old woman with wise, merry, twinkling eyes. He who sat at the right hand of the old man was hardly fully grown, certainly younger than Tirian himself, but his face had already the look of a king and warrior. And you could almost say the same of the other youth who sat at the right hand of the old woman. Facing Tirian across the table was a fair-haired girl younger than either of these, and on the other side of her a boy and a girl who were younger still. They were all dressed in what seemed to Tirian the oddest kind of clothes.
But he had no time to think about details like that, for instantly the youngest boy and both the girls started to their feet, and one of them gave a little scream. The old woman started and drew in her breath sharply. The old man must have made some sudden movement too for the wine glass which stood at his right was swept off the table: Tirian could hear the tinkling noise as it broke on the floor.
Then Tirian realized that these people could see him; they were staring at him as if they saw a ghost. But he noticed that the king-like one who sat at the old man’s right never moved (though he turned pale) except that he clenched his hand very tight.
Then he said:
“Speak, if you’re a not a phantom or a dream. You have a Narnian look about you and we are the seven friends of Narnia.”
Tirian was longing to speak, and he tried to cry out aloud that he was Tirian of Narnia, in great need of help. But he found (as I have sometimes found in dreams too) that his voice mad no noise at all.
The one who had already spoken to him rose to his feet.
“Shadow or spirit or whatever you are,“ he said, fixing his eyes full upon Tirian. “If you are from Narnia, I charge you in the name of Aslan, speak to me. I am Peter the High King.”
The room began to swim before Tirian’s eyes. He heard the voices of those seven people all speaking at once, and all getting fainter every second, and they were all saying things like, “Look! It’s fading.” “It’s melting away.” It’s vanishing.”
Next moment, he was wide awake, still tied to the tree, colder and stiffer than ever. The wood was full of the pale, dreary light that comes before sunrise, and he was soaking wet with dew; it was nearly morning.
That waking was about the worst moment he had ever had in his life.
But his misery did not last long. Almost at once there came a bump, and then a second bump, and two children were standing before him. The wood in front of him had been quite empty a second before and he knew they had not come from behind his tree, for he would have heard them. They had in fact simply appeared out of nowhere. He saw at a glance that they were wearing the same queer, dingy sort of clothes as the people in his dream; and he saw, at a second glance, that they were the youngest boy and girl out of that party of seven.
“Gosh!” said the boy, “that took one’s breath away! I thought—!”
“Hurry up and get him untied,” said the girl, “we can talk afterward.” Then she added turning to Tirian, “I’m sorry we’ve been so long. We came the moment we could.”
While she was speaking the Boy produced a knife from his pocket and was quickly cutting the King’s bonds: too quickly, in fact, for the King was so stiff and numb that when the last cord was cut he fell forward on his hands and knees. He couldn’t get up again till he had brought some life into his legs by a good rubbing.
“I say,” said the girl. “It was you, wasn’t it, who appeared to us that night when we were all at supper? Nearly a week ago.”
“A week, fair maid?” said Tirian. “My dream led me into your world scarce ten minutes since.”
“It’s the usual muddle about times, Pole,” said the Boy.
“I remember now,” said Tirian. “That too comes in all the old tales. The time of your strange land is different from ours. But if we speak of time, ‘tis time to be gone from here: for my enemies are close at hand. Will you come with me?”
“Of course,” said the girl. “It’s you we’ve come to help.”
Narnian time is a tricky thing: so when you go to Narnia, remember that timing could be an issue and that however long you spend in Narnia, when you come back to this world, it will still be the same time as when you left. In that case, it is really quite handy to have Aslan come and help sort out the mess. Also, for all of you people who don’t live in Narnia, remember the time change that you’ll be having this Sunday.
Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.