How Owen Barfield Saved The Appearance Of Princess Violetta In The Silver Trumpet

A book with rivers flowing out of it

Once upon a time there were two little Princesses whose names were Violetta and Gambetta; and they lived in Mountainy Castle. They were twins, and they were so like each other that when Violetta came in from a walk with her feet wet, Gambetta was sometimes told to go and change her stockings…

The Silver Trumpet

So opens The Silver Trumpet, a fairy-tale written by Owen Barfield in 1925. It was his first published book and the first fantasy book ever published by the Inklings. According to the author himself, he felt that in all his books he was “saying the same thing over and over again.” But what is this “one thing” he was saying over and over again? And how did he say it in The Silver Trumpet?

The Silver Trumpet is a mythical depiction of what Owen Barfield would later unfold in his other works and, in some way, a prelude to what seems to be the overall message of the Inklings — the world is God’s music clad in matter. In Saving the Appearances, Barfield points out that we live in the world of unsaved images — images that have been taken literally and turned into idols.


The images (or appearances) we observe around us are so much “like” the things they represent that we have a hard time distinguishing between them. We take a representation for the reality behind it. For us, the image and the thing it represents look alike, almost indistinguishable — like the two little princesses, Violetta and Gambetta, who were so like each other that even the Queen had a hard time distinguishing them.

The Queen used to be so fussed and worried by the confusion that, what with one thing and another, she persuaded the King to appoint a special Lord to distinguish between them [the princesses]. And he was called the Lord High Teller of the Other from Which.

The Lord High Teller of the Other from Which was the only one who noticed the difference between the two princesses. But it was not in their appearances but in what transpired through the appearances.

Moreover, he “knew a thing or two about the magic power of names,” and so he found a way to tell the two princesses apart — by changing their names. By calling them Violet and Gamboy he brought out into the light of day what was otherwise invisible — the princesses were “as different inside as a Church and a Booking Office.”

In Barfield’s mind, the two little princesses who were almost identical in appearance represent the confusion of the modern mind about observable phenomena. We tend to equate appearances with the reality they point to. This anthroposophical dilemma Owen Barfield would later explore in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. 

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The Third Theme of the Music of Iluvatar – a Mighty Echo of Owen Barfield’s “Final Participation”

Sunrise over a lake

If there is one connective tissue between the fantasy imaginations of the Inklings, it is the theme of our participation in the Divine Music – the Music of Iluvatar.

The worlds of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are born in Music and governed by Music.

In Tolkien’s legendarium, the Ainur descend into Arda, the created Realm, as individual themes of the Music of Iluvatar to behold their unique part becoming incarnate in the visible elements of air, earth, water, and other substances.

Enamored of their part in the celestial symphony, the Ainur follow this “music-made-flesh” into Arda and dwell therein because each yearns to participate in the Divine Thought.

They didn’t yet know how the Music would end – the only thing they knew was that the discord of Melkor would somehow be resolved by the coming of the Second-born to whom Iluvatar gave “strange gifts.”

The Third and final theme in the Music of Iluvatar announces the coming of Men in a soft, slow, and immeasurably sorrowful theme, from which its beauty chiefly comes.

How does Narnia start?

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia also begins in Music, the Song of Aslan, which is “the deeper magic” of his fantasy world – the magic of growing that opposes the black magic of domination.

Aslan sings his world into existence, and all the stars join him in the Song.

Owen Barfield’s The Silver Trumpet is a metaphor for the Music from the invisible realm that awakens us from the spell of unconsciousness when we hear the call. Its call is irresistible and shatters all man-made idols, or the “unsaved images,” so our transformed consciousness can commune with the Music.

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Amazon’s The Rings of Power Review – An Alternative Way to Begin the Series

I wasn’t planning to write a review on Amazon’s The Rings of Power, but my son asked me a question I couldn’t ignore.

And thus there awoke in the world the Two Trees of Valinor. Of all things which Yavanna made they have most renown, and about their fate all the tales of the Elder Days are woven.

As we finished watching the first episode of The Rings of Power last night, my son asked me after a pause:

“What do you think?”

“Don’t know yet,” I answered, “not too bad, I suppose, but I hoped there would be much more Tolkien in it.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, “there’s Galadriel, Elrond, Sauron, hobbits. What else?”

“Hm…” I scratched my head, “I guess to have more Tolkien there you need to start the tale how he started the tale.”

“Do you mean with the creation of Arda?” he pressed.

“No, with Music. The Music. The world of Tolkien began in Music.”

“So, how would you have started the series?” he finally asked.

I smiled.

“Let me think,” I said, and there was silence in the room for about half an hour broken only by the chirping of a cricket outside.

And silence was over all the world in that hour, nor was there any other sound save the chanting of Yavanna.

 Finally, I broke the silence.

“All the tales of Elder Days are woven around the fate of the Two Trees. Do you have any idea why?”

He shook his head.

“Imagine Galadriel and her brother Finrod sitting by a murmuring brook at twilight. He asks her: ‘Do you know how Elves came about?’

‘No.’

The camera zooms in, and we see the following scenes unfold in Galadriel’s big blue eyes as she listens to Finrod’s tale.

‘By the starlit mere of Cuivienen, Water of Awakening, the Elves rose from the sleep of Iluvatar; and while they dwelt yet silent by Cuivienen their eyes beheld first of all things the stars of heaven. Therefore they have ever loved the starlight, and have revered Varda Elentari above all the Valar.’

Galadriel sees in her mind’s eye the mere of Cuivienen and then looks up and suddenly sees Varda walking among the heavenly hosts.

‘Who is it?’ she asks her brother in amazement.

‘Varda, the spouse of Manwe, the chief of the Valar.’

‘Who are the Valar?’

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