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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian is the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia as numbered by the order in which Lewis wrote the series. In this story the four Pevensie children are called back into Narnia and find themselves in the ruins of Cair Paravel. It has been 1,000 years since they were last in Narnia and it is in this book that they discover that Narnia time is quite different than it is in our world. While in between Narnia visits, a few days might have passed or, in this case, 1,000 years.

They are called back in order to help Prince Caspian reclaim the throne from his evil uncle, Miraz. Miraz had Caspian's father killed and banished all of the true king's supporters from the kingdom so that he could gradually and almost unknowingly take the power that was not his. At this point in Narnia history, people have forgotten that there were such things as talking animals and dwarfs. Such things are characters in old fairy tales and lores - such stories which Miraz strictly forbids being told in Narnia. In this book the "ancient kings and queens" of Narnia return, along with Aslan, of course, to overthrow evil once more and restore Narnia to its true and former glory.

I have to say that Caspian is not really a very exciting character. He just sort of falls flat for me. Perhaps it's because I have the movie freshly in my mind and I really didn't like the way the character was portrayed in the movie version. (BTW, movie reviews on Narnia are forthcoming tomorrow.) He's just, well, boring! Caspian grew up in a palace and had all his needs and wants met. He was, however, schooled by a Professor Cornelius who is a half dwarf and teaches Caspian about Old Narnia which is full of talking beasts and magic. When Caspian finds himself in a position where he must flee the castle, which is the home of his Uncle (King) Miraz, he seems unable to function in some ways. He's been protected so long and then suddenly cast into this whole new world where he must learn to think for and defend himself and he's not quite capable of it. Somewhat. But not quite. I find this annoying. I much prefer a strong male role where he's been schooled the point of being able to not only fend for himself but others who are placed in his care. It's a maturity issue and I find Caspian lacking a bit.

However, I'll say this for Caspian - he does like King Peter and accepts the help that Peter comes and offers him. Caspian is willing to follow the lead of someone who knows more than he does and has experienced more of life in the real Narnia and he bows to that maturity (in spite of the fact that High King Peter returns to Narnia in boy form). Not only does Caspian's deference to Peter show true humility but it also displays wisdom. Therefore I don't really dislike Caspian, even though I don't really like him.

My favorite character in this book has to be the dwarf, Trumpkin. Trumpkin is surprised by the appearance of Caspian into his relatively unknown world of anonymity in which he is supposed to not exist. Ironically, Trumpkin (a dwarf, the likes of which Miraz insists does not exist) does not believe in a deeper magic, Aslan or the kings and queens of old. Even when presented with physical evidence it takes some convincing. Yet, despite his unbelief, he faithfully helps lead the opposition to the false king, Miraz. In my mind this makes Trumpkin a truly admirable character. With humility of service and quite a bit of disbelief, he does what he knows is right even when it is hard for him to do so. He presses on to secure a prize he knows is worthy and in so doing, Trumpkin himself becomes worthy. Eventually, of course, Trumpkin is introduced to the great lion and unbelief vanishes and true love and affection takes its place. Trumpkin is evidence of great character development on the part of Lewis. I like him.

A great Narnia book but not my favorite. It continues the story and is a "don't miss!" though. So don't miss it.

****

See my review of the first book in Chronicles, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I just revisited the movie version of this one. I like the tension between whether to wait for Aslan, or go out and do it on their own.

I checked this and 'Dawn Treader' out of the library for my 7-year-old on audiobook. We've read them together before, and I thought she'd want to listen to 'Caspian' again since we just watched the movie. But she goes for 'Dawn Treader' every time! Chalk it up to a vote in favor of your judgment of 'Caspian' here.

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