The Chronicles of Narnia: The Culture of Marsh-wiggles

Narnia is replete with abnormal creatures, both small and large. Although C. S. Lewis employed various creatures that are often found in mythology and fairy tales, he also created his own, the Marsh-wiggle being one of them. Marsh-wiggles are purely Narnian beings, and are a favorite amongst readers of The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Silver Chair is the only book in the series that really mentions Marsh-wiggles, though in earlier maps of Narnia a marsh is present. This excerpt is from The Silver Chair, after Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb have made the decision –with the help of a parliament of owls– that they must go north in search of the lost prince of Narnia, and are taken to the guide that the owls have arranged. This would have been their first good look at a Marsh-wiggle, though they had briefly met him the night before.

 

As they drew nearer, the figure turned its head and showed them

a long thing face with rather sunken cheeks, a tightly shut mouth, 

a sharp nose, and no beard. He was wearing a high, pointed hat

like a steeple, with an enormously wide flat brim. The hair, if it

could be called hair, which hung over his large ears was greeny-

gray, and each lock was flat rather than round, so that they were

like tiny reeds. His expression was solemn, his complexion

muddy, and you could see at once that he took a serious view of

life.

“Good morning, Guests,” he said. “Though when I say good I

don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or

fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.”

Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle

The next smidgen of text is from the paragraph further down, and describes more about the peculiar features of the Marsh-wiggle.

 

 “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it. I

can always tell you again.”

The children sat down on each side of him. They now say that he

had very long legs and arms, so that though his body was not

much bigger that a dwarf’s, he would be taller than most men

when he stood up. The fingers of his hands were webbed like a

frog’s, and so were his bare feet which dangled in the muddy

water. He was dressed in earth-colored clothes that hung loose

about him.

 

Marsh-wiggles, on the whole, are tall and have long arms and legs, along with a pessimistic view on life. Though they speak gloomily, they aren’t being mean, it’s just their nature; they are actually cheerful pessimists (even though that’s an oxymoron, its true). Though Puddleglum seems to be the epitome of Marsh-wiggles, among his own friends he is considered an oddball because of his ‘uncommon cheerfulness’.

 

They all say—I mean, the other wiggles all say—that I’m too

flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once,

they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’

they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of high spirits. You’ve got

to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want

something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your

own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say.”

 

It seems as if a wiggle’s diet mainly consists of eel, and that they have created many varieties of cooking them as well. It appears that they eat frogs too.

 

Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle fishing for eels

“I’m trying to catch a few eels to make an eel stew for our dinner,”

said Puddleglum.

“Though I shouldn’t wonder if I didn’t get any. And you won’t

like them much if I do.”

“Why not?” asked Scrubb.

“Why, it’s not in reason that you should like our sort of victuals, though I’ve no doubt you’ll put a bold face on it.” 

 

Jill and Eustace enjoyed their dinner of eel stew, much to the surprise of Puddleglum; he says that their ‘just putting a bold face on it.’

This is what Puddleglum said, when Jill and Eustace had arrived at his wigwam:

 “There you are. Best we can do. You’ll lie cold and hard. Damp

too, I shouldn’t wonder. Won’t sleep a wink, most likely; even if

there isn’t a thunderstorm or a flood or a wigwam doesn’t fall

down on top of us all, as I’ve known them do”.

 

As was proved in the morning, the bed that Jill and Eustace slept on in the wigwam wasn’t cold, or hard, or damp. There wasn’t a thunderstorm, nor was there a flood, and the wigwam didn’t fall down on top of them either.

Marsh-wiggles are mesmerizing creatures, with many curious habits and personalities. They do a lot of the watery work in Narnia. They all live together in a marsh, though their dwellings are a comfortable distance away because they value their privacy very greatly. Their choice of a home is a wigwam, which seems a reasonable preference as they live in a marsh.

Puddleglum by his wigwam and pot of eel stew. As seen in the illustration, Puddleglum smokes a pipe. It is said of Marsh-wiggles that they smoke a heavy tobacco, perhaps even mixed with mud.

The name ‘Marsh-wiggle’ is indicative of the creatures in general. ‘Marsh’ is obvious because they live in a marsh. ‘Wiggle’ comes in because Marsh-wiggles have feet and hands that are webbed like a frog’s or perhaps a duck’s feet, thus seeming wiggly or floppy.

Further along in The Silver Chair, Puddleglum accepts a drink from the giants at Harfang; though he is skeptical, he does drink it, and in turn, behaves like a frog. As you might be able to see, Marsh-wiggles have about the most amusing character traits and speech habits that you can possibly find in the entity of Narnia.

At the end of The Silver Chair when Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum have completed their quest to find Prince Rilian, Puddleglum inquires about the news that he might have missed while he was away.

 

The whole crowd began to move away through the trees toward

the cave. Jill heard Puddleglum saying to those who pressed

round him.

“No, no, my story can wait. Nothing worth talking about has

happened to me. I want to hear the news. Don’t try breaking it to

me gently, for I’d rather have it all at once. Has the King been

shipwrecked? Any forest fires? No wars on the Calormen border?

Or a few dragons, I shouldn’t wonder?”

And all the creatures laughed aloud and said, “Isn’t that just like a Marsh-wiggle?”

 

Marsh-wiggles are a lugubrious sort, and as was said of Puddleglum at the end of The Silver Chair:

Puddleglum often pointed out that bright mornings brought on

wet afternoons, and that you couldn’t expect good times to last.

 

 

 

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Works Cited:

Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

About Debbie Clark

Debbie Clark currently resides in Cair Paravel, where she works in historical documentation as an Assistant Chronicler of Narnia. She enjoys creating topographical maps of the realm of Narnia, with sundry lands adjoining. Debbie also takes archery lessons from a Narnian Dwarf; in addition, she likes to hunt the white stag (although she has, as of yet, not yet been successful in her hunt).
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