Receiving the Signs
Eustace and Jill, in deference to earlier visitations by children from Earth to Narnia, did not enter Narnia immediately, but rather arrived on the mountaintop of Aslan's Country. Originally, they believed they had arrived due to their calling upon Aslan at Experiment House, but Aslan was the one who had been calling to them.
After Eustace fell off the mountain due to Jill's showing off, Aslan gave Jill the signs and commanded her to remember them, a sort of punishment for her misdeed. He asked her to repeat them until she was able to repeat them verbatim. She was told to repeat them often so that she would not forget them. Aslan then warns her that the air on the mountaintop is clear, unlike the air in Narnia, and that while her mind was clear in his country it will become muddled once she sets foot on the ground.
The First Sign
- "As soon as the boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once. If he does, you will both have good help."
- ―The First Sign[src]
Eustace, having fallen off the mountain before the signs were spoken, arrived in Narnia earlier than Jill. He found himself standing on a quay outside the re-built Cair Paravel with a crowd of people, watching a weak and aged king go aboard his galleon and prepare to set sail for the east. At the time, he did not know that he was to meet an old and dear friend. When Jill arrives, she tells him immediately about the first sign, but Eustace dismisses it, saying that he had never been here before and recognizes no one.
After the king leaves Cair Paravel, the owl Glimfeather arrived to find the children, and informed them that the king was actually King Caspian. Eustace then said they had failed the first sign. They were taken to the regent, Trumpkin, and introduced. Glimfeather informed them that Trumpkin would prevent them from completing their quest, not because he was a traitor or coward, but because so many Narnians had died in the search for Rilian that Caspian had decreed that no further searches should take place.
After consulting with the Parliament of Owls, Glimfeather takes them to the northern moors and leaves them in the care of Puddleglum, who would act as a guide. The next morning, the children and Puddleglum start out on their journey to the giant city.
The Second Sign
- "You must journey out of Narnia to the north until you come to the city of the ancient giants."
- ―The Second Sign[src]
Traveling through Ettinsmoor, the trio came into the throes of a powerful snowstorm. Along the way, they climbed a high, flat land, with many large rocks that they had to climb over and around. This was very difficult, as there was no vegetation on the plane to break up the wind.
The children fell into a deep crevasse on this flat plane. At first, they believed it to be a sunken lane, but find it only led to dead ends. It is not until later when they arrived at the castle of Harfang that they realised this flat land was the remains of the City Ruinous. Once again, the children thought they had failed the second sign.
The Third Sign
- "You shall find the writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you."
- ―The Third Sign[src]
After being treated as guests by the lord and lady of Harfang, the children retired to their rooms. The next day, when the rain washed away all the snow from the previous day's storm, they were able to see the truth of the city from the window in Jill's room. They also saw what the sunken lane was. It was a giant 'E' carved into the very stone of the mesa.
From this, they were easily able to read giant letters carved into the ruins of the city: UNDER ME. Feeling they had failed the third sign, the children and Puddleglum stole away from Harfang. Following the directions of the writing as they had been commanded, they entered a gap in the earth and made their way down into Underland.
The Fourth Sign
- "You will know the lost prince, if you find him, by this: that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan."
- ―The Fourth Sign[src]
Taken prisoner by the Earthmen, Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum were brought to the palace of the Queen of Underland, and left in the care of her consort, the Black Knight. He told them of his enchantment, and how the queen attempted to free him of it. Every night, his mind was changed and he became a different person; he had to be be tied to an enchanted chair or else he would transform into a giant serpent. He invited them to sit with him in his ravings, to see this other person he became, only if they would swear to not untie him no matter how he begged them.
When they returned, they found him in a sweat, mumbling incoherently about being held prisoner. He asked, implores, pleads, and even threatened them to untie his bonds. The three companions stood their ground, each vowing to not untie him no matter what he said, that is, until he invokes the name of Aslan. For a moment, they debate whether or not they should follow the fourth sign, but eventually made up their minds to free him. When they did, he revealed his identity as Prince Rilian, whom they had come to find.
Interpreting the Signs
The signs were misinterpreted by the three travelers at several points in the story. Throughout their journey, the children believed they failed all four signs, counting their questioning of the fourth. In reality, they had followed all four of them without realizing it.
The first sign said that Eustace will meet an "old and dear friend." He interpreted this as someone he knew, even though that is not what the sign said. When they missed speaking with Caspian, they thought they had failed. In truth, Caspian did not meet the requirements given in the sign so well as another.
They were taken to the dwarf Trumpkin, who did meet the requirements. While Caspian was 66 at the time, Trumpkin was pushing 100 years of age. Additionally, he was once called "dear little friend" by the Pevensies when they had come into Narnia some fifty years earlier.
The children further misunderstand the sign about "good help" that it would be from Trumpkin and the king that the help would come, help likely in the form of soldiers and such. Going with the owls, they met up with Puddleglum, whose steadfastness and single-mindedness saw them through every danger in their journey.
The second and third signs were also followed unknowingly. They did come to the giant city, climbing right over it, even though they could not see it. They did find the writing on the stone in the city, though it was so large there was no way they could read it and do what it says. Only from the high window in Harfang could Eustace and Jill read the words. They then followed its instructions and descended into Underland.
By the time the fourth sign came around, they only had it in mind that someone would call upon them in the name of Aslan. For this reason, they hesitate before freeing Rilian from the chair. The sign actually said that they would know Rilian by the sign, though they did not realize it was him at the time. Again, they unknowingly followed the sign simply by responding to his calling out the name of Aslan.