Our next question is from Elena, who asks:
I was wondering about the whole wood thrush theme. In the first book, Heartless, the wood thrush keeps asking Una to wait for him and to love him, and that made sense, because Aethelbald was the wood thrush. This might be a dumb question, but... the wood thrush keeps saying that he loves Rose Red. Are there multiple wood thrushes, or is it another sort of love than he feels for Una?
This is a great question. But once again, let me mention for the rest of you, SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read Veiled Rose yet, you probably want to skip this one. Don’t want to ruin any key plot elements!
The key to this question lies in Part Four, Chapter 10 of Veiled Rose. In that scene, the Prince of Farthestshore tells Rose Red that the Dragon was mistaken, that Rose Red was not the princess he was looking for.
“Not your Beloved?” Rose Red asks him.
And the Prince responds: “You are beloved. You are my child.”
The Prince of Farthestshore demonstrates true love to all the characters he interacts with in this story. Princess Una is the only one he seeks for his bride, but she is not the only one he loves. We also see him reach out to Prince Lionheart both in Heartless and Veiled Rose. He doesn’t need Lionheart’s help to kill the Dragon . . . but he wants to help Lionheart face the Dragon and become the man he was always intended to be. We see Prince Aethelbald’s love for Felix and Fidel demonstrated many times over throughout the course of Heartless as well.
The symbolic role Prince Aethelbald plays in Heartless is that of the “Bridegroom.” There are many references throughout Scripture comparing Christ to "a bridegroom waiting for his bride," which means those who come to Christ for an intimate relationship, the True Church. Una represents the modern church, wayward and vain, losing sight of true love as she runs after substitutes (I’ll talk more about her role in answer to a later question), while Aethelbald steadfastly pursues her and calls to a true and loving relationship with him.
The wood thrush is my humble representation of the Holy Spirit. God is the Three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The wood thrush, speaking both to Una and Rose Red, calls them to trust him and to build a true relationship with him. We also see the wood thrush speak to Lionheart, but Lionheart does not understand. His heart is too hardened to discern the words, though the voice is clear. Aethelbald is the incarnate form of the Prince of Fartheshore, the form of a mortal man (which shocks and horrifies the Dragon later on). He is only in one place at a time. The wood thrush is also the Prince of Farthestshore, but we see him in many places, speaking to many people.
The Prince of Farthestshore has profound relationships with many characters throughout the series. Some of these relationships we see in detail: that with Una, Rose Red, and, later, Lionheart. Some of them, we only get hints at. In Heartless, we get the strong indication that Dame Imraldera and Sir Eanrin have long and powerful relationships built up with their Master, but we only get glimpses. The same is true for Beana and Sir Oeric and all the others knights of Farthestshore. But we see how they love him and how devoted they are to his service.
Prince Aethelbald’s love certainly doesn’t extend to Una alone. Una represents but one small part of his love. But, as my representation of Christ, his love is vast and would take many, many novels to try to define . . .
Note: I don’t pretend that any one of these stories is a complete analogy of Christ’s love. The Bible uses SO MANY different descriptions of Christ to illustrate his love, which cannot be defined in one simple analogy. So in Heartless, we see Prince Aethelbald, as a type of Christ, standing in the role of wooer and bridegroom. In Veiled Rose, the analogy is much more of the father figure and constant guide. Both true forms of a deep and abiding and relational love . . . but different aspects.
We will continue throughout the Tales of Goldstone Wood to see the Prince of Farthestshore in various representations. No one of these is a complete picture of Christ. To write a complete picture of Christ’s love would be impossible! Even C.S. Lewis did not manage that with his brilliant Chronicles of Narnia. After all, if we thought that Aslan is a complete representation of Christ, that means he died for one traitor and let his true followers be slaughtered in the wake of his unnecessary death! But Lewis isn’t saying in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe that this is exactly what Christ did. He is using Edmund’s unworthiness and Aslan’s substitute death to portray the incredible love of Christ for his wayward people.
We betray God every time we sin. And yet Christ died the most horrific death for the sake of bringing us back into grace and glory. Lewis’s brilliant novel is a small picture of that. Small, but profound! He makes it personal by placing the story directly between Aslan and Edmund. This small focus reminds me that Christ died for me. Yes, he died for the “sins of the world.” But he also died for me, personally. And he wants a relationship with me, personally. Not me in the context of my church or my family. Me, as an individual. Though, like Edmund, I am a traitor, more than happy to run after things like Turkish Delight rather than turn my heart to things of lasting glory and true beauty.
Lewis makes us see the brilliance and wonder of Christ’s sacrifice in a whole new light.
I hope that is what Heartless and Veiled Rose will do for some of my readers as well. In Heartless, we see Aethelbald’s steadfast love for a girl who does not deserve it and who throws back in his face. In Veiled Rose, we see his constant love extended to a girl who often doesn’t believe he really cares or will really help her in her need, despite how often he has proven himself caring and faithful. Both of these girls represent you, they represent me. And these stories are small snippets of the complete Gospel Story. But I hope and pray they will lead others to view the Gospel Story with new eyes.