Journey Back to Narnia
(A Book Review of C. S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian)
The holidays are now over for the Pevensie siblings; a year has passed since their magnificent adventure in the magical land of Narnia. On the train station that will take them to a boarding school for the start of the new term a force no doubt with the working of magic yanks Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy suddenly finding themselves whisked on a forested island.
As the Pevensies suspected they are certainly back on the land of Narnia, but much to their surprise and the reader as well, many centuries has passed since their reign as Kings and Queens. As the brothers and sisters find out the landscape has drastically changed, a new line of rulers now govern and as a result of its stern control wiped out the former inhabitants of Narnia while those that managed to escape has gone hiding; stories, histories and all that pertains of the old Narnians are forbidden to be told for pain of banishment and death. Much of the magic has gone too from the land, animals with the gift of intellect and speech reverted to savagery. Yet the most severe consequence of all is that the existence of Aslan the great lion, king of all kings, has been dismissed by most as mere silly legend to the brink of being forgotten.
Prince Caspian, aptly subtitled The Return to Narnia (the only book in the series which enjoys this privilege gives reason enough to read it in the order of its original publication, or better yet The Order by Essential Completion by Lewis Himself, for as logic dictates: how can you return to a land you’ve been to twice if ever a reader started out the Chronicles via The Magician’s Nephew? That’s one food for thought for you, Gentle Reader.), understands itself as a sequel. On their second journey in this magical land the Pevensies still act as our eyes in this land’s majestic terrains and as we meet with creatures both magical and horrifying; their experiences and the things they learned our moral compass.
Though the book at the start didn’t manage enough to convey the internal feelings of the protagonists of how it was like to adjust into the real world after living in the fantastical Narnia, Lewis at the very least make do with the character growth of the siblings. Particular and most noticeable of these is Edmund’s development; from being impulsive and selfish in the first book, he is now calmer, wiser, self-possessed and is more responsible with his actions. As always, Lucy is the ray of sunshine and hope of the bunch; her innocence and sense of loyalty instilled back their faith and belief in Aslan yet she too has the penchant to be gutsy when needs be. Peter is still his kingly self and has the air of nobility, his lesson lies in the importance of humility. In contrast to her brothers and sister, Susan has now become a bit of a skeptic (which hints at a major theme in a later book in the series).
In C. S. Lewis’s second book we also get to meet a cast of interesting characters. Chiefly, there’s the eponymous Prince Caspian whose sole duty it is to hark back Narnia to its old glory. There’s the trustworthy dwarf Trumpkin together with Trufflehunter, a talking beaver, whose wisdom is always reliable. And of course, no can ever forget the swashbuckling mouse Repicheep, small as he may seem his sense of honor and bravery is no match to anyone — even in size. Never to be taken out of the picture are the enemies no less lead by Miraz, Prince Caspian’s uncle and steward of the kingdom. Certain events in the development of the book embolden him to take power no matter the cost. While the black dwarf Nikabrik will find himself at odds with his friends by virtue of blind devotion put in the wrong place. Without giving anything an old foe also makes a short appearance.
While following the basic structure of the first book in the Chronicles, nevertheless there are certain elements in the novel that I truly enjoyed. For one, Prince Caspian showcases Narnia as an ever-expanding world. The reader again confirms that time in this magical land does not work in the same rules as we have on Earth, nicely bordered by the ending of the first book and at the beginning of this one. Bodies of water and stunning landscapes are described in detail and a bit of astronomy, a form of government and history (the reign of the Pevensies as kings and queens is described as the Golden Ages) embellish the narrative. The book also hints at the deadly allure of black magic. I like, too, the thematic contrast Lewis did here. In the first book we got to see our heroes vanquish an evil spell, this second time around we see them battling it out against an oppressive military regime and I quite enjoy how the author dealt with these two themes very differently.
As Lewis intended, Prince Caspian as a novel is about “the restoration of true faith after a long period of corruption” and its importance is certainly seen through the return of Aslan and the restoration of Old Narnia. I’ve also come look at this story as an allusion in that time in our life when we can’t “feel” God’s presence. Admirably, Prince Caspian in its simplicity drives home the message that one must do the right thing even when you must go against everything that seems natural, doing it so by putting faith in a higher power and purpose and leaving one’s worries behind.