I've been thinking a good bit about how story often invites us into history, often by bringing "alive" a certain time and place in ways that textbooks just can't. And I came across a funny incidence of that just this morning.
I'm trying to read a certain amount of "church history" (in any form) every day, preparatory to teaching my class again in the fall. I'm not limiting myself to just re-reading the texts we'll use in class; I'm letting myself range wherever my interests take me. One of the books I'm reading is Paul Cavill's book on Anglo-Saxon Christianity. He provides commentary about the Anglo-Saxon period and then supports it with excerpts from primary texts from that period.
I was reading along this morning rather drowsily, mostly just trying to stay faithful to the discipline of reading a set amount per day. I was working my way through an excerpt from Tacitus, who was describing the Germanic tribes (the Angles and Saxons) who were coming into Briton. And then I got to these words: "On the field of battle it is a disgrace to a chief to be surpassed in courage by his followers, and to the followers not to equal the courage of their chief. And to leave a battle alive after the chief has fallen means lifelong infamy and shame. The chief fights for victory, the followers for their chief."
Suddenly I found myself awake and chuckling. I didn't have to stretch too far in my imagination to form a picture to accompany these words. I had the whole scene from Prince Caspian right at my fingertips. Remember when Lucy revives Reepicheep, and he stands before Aslan, dignified but mortified by the loss of his tail?
"Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?" said Aslan.
"May it please your High Majesty," said the second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, "we are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honour which is denied to the High Mouse."
"Ah!" roared Aslan, "you have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the stone table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again."
Reepicheep...honorable Anglo-Saxon warrior? Who knew?!