Dear 100 Hour Board,
In The Silver Chair, Jill and co. go to the Underland where the Green Lady rules over a bunch of earthmen. After the Green Lady is defeated, the Underland gnome people go to a lower underworld called Bism, their homeland, which is supposed to be a beautiful and magical place.
Until the introduction of Bism, it just seemed that it was a clear allegory to the underworld or hell - led by a vain wicked ruler with an army of goblin-like minions. But it turns out that the minions aren't all that bad after all, and are more at home in a bright and colorful deeper underworld.
Given that the Narnia series has heavy Christian themes, what do you think the symbolic significance and meaning of Bism and it's inhabitants is?
I would have to agree with Anathema on this question. C.S. Lewis writes with an overtly Christian overtone in the Chronicles of Narnia series, but he doesn't always have a super direct meaning for each thing in the book. The symbolism of this instance feels a lot more generally symbolic. From this section of the series I got a lot of themes about freewill, and about spiritual bondage. The minions that live in the underworld are people that are subdued and forced to act differently than they would otherwise. In C.S. Lewis' work The Screwtape Letters there is a theme of being in the grasp of the devil, and living freely, depending on the choices we make. I think that the theme here is a lot similar, the minions are just freed by an external power.
Keep it real,
Thought I don't profess to claim that I know what C.S. Lewis' symbolic intention was in writing about the Bism, I can offer a Christian themed interpretation: Heaven is defined by the presence of light. It is the things which bring us away from the light and into darkness--no matter where that darkness lies--that truly is Hell.
As far as the goblins go, perhaps the message contained there is that we should not be quick to judge those whose situations have forced them to be less than they are.
Thank you for asking this question. Though I did not go in great depth in my answer, I love all the Chronicles of Narnia, and it brings me happiness to see references to them, and be given the opportunity to think on them.