The other day, Don Williams made a comment about The Bridge to Terabithia being vague about whether Terabithia actually existed or whether it was just the children playing make believe. I asked if it really mattered and Don replied that it did. I, on the other hand, thought that playing make believe and actually crossing over to Terabithia were one and the same. Don did not agree. (Don, I respect your opinion, but I do not think you understood my point so let me explain.)
When I was six we moved to an old farm house and my sister’s and my room did not have a closet. Instead we got an old wardrobe. I don’t know about you but the first thing I did when I moved in was to peek into that wardrobe and try and see Narnia. There was a part of me that knew that if I just believed hard enough, Narnia would appear and I’d be able to cross over into that world. And considering the amount of time I spent locked up in that wardrobe you’d think that if Narnia existed it would have opened up to me. However, the gateway to Narnia was not in my wardrobe.
It never stopped me from actually going to Narnia.
You may ask me how. In fact I would encourage all children to ask me how I managed to have dinner with a fawn and dance with the naiads, if the gateway to Narnia was not in my wardrobe. It is simple really; I let my imagination take me there. I suppose you could say I never actually went to Lewis’s Narnia, but I do not think that Lewis’s Narnia is the only Narnia. Narnia is just one land out of thousands of lands that exist in Faerie. This is not the Fairyland that Disney personifies; this is the Faerie that I have talked about before, the Otherworld. This is the original Faerie Land.
There are two kinds of play that children engage in: the kind of play that is simply make-believe, and the kind that actually lets them see the world they play in. I think that the children imagined Terabithia and were given the grace to cross over the river and actually go there. Just as I, even in the locked wardrobe, could see the crack of light and know that it was not the light that was coming from my room but from Narnia. Which play was more real? The one that is only pretend or the one that takes the mud pie and knows that it is really the most decadent chocolate cake ever made?
I grew up thinking that believing was seeing. If I believed hard enough I’d see the light of Faerie. But I did not know that the only reason I could believe was because I had seen Narnia. I had seen the reality of Faerie and I believed. Every time I played and every time I write now as an adult, I know that since I have seen Narnia once, I’ll see it again. Every play and story that I participate in is an opportunity for me to glimpse Faerie and if I am lucky enough, my play or my writing will take me there. I will again dance with the Faeries and sing with the birds and walk down to the sea and look to the East.
Did they see Terabithia or did they just make it up? I think it depends on what sort of child you are. Do you see because you know that it is real?