Prince Caspian: The Battle Within
By Andrea D. Hedlund
CBN.com When English Professor Devin Brown started writing a literary analysis of C.S. Lewis's timeless Chronicles of Narnia in 2003, he soon realized how the incredible depth of each book warranted invididual attention. Thus, the idea of having an "inside" for each book was birthed.
Brown says devoting an entire book to each of the Chronicles has worked well for him. To date, Inside The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Inside Prince Caspian have been published prior to the big screen releases of these films. Currently, Brown is in the process of writing Inside The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which he says will come out in advance of the third film in 2010.
When CBN.com contacted Brown recently about his insight into Narnia, he was delighted to share the spiritiual lessons he observed in Prince Caspian, particularly how we all expericence the battle within.
HEDLUND: What is it about Prince Caspian that makes it unique to the series?
BROWN: Prince Caspian corresponds to an older time in the Pevensies’ lives and in ours as well, a time when the world is more complicated and less black and white, a time when it is not always easy to know what is the best thing to do. For a good part of the book, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are unsure of where they are. After they realize they are back in Narnia, they next have to figure out what they should do and what is the best way to do it.
I think many people will be able to identify with the Christian parallels here. I think that for many mature Christians, the question of what God wants them to do is often more of a struggle than the question of whether they will do it or not.
HEDLUND: What surprises you the most about Prince Caspian?
BROWN: Lewis had a difficult task in writing this sequel. He had to make it different from the first book but not too different, familiar but not too familiar. People who liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will be pleased to find the same four heroes, but they will find them one step further along in their spiritual journey. In this sense, we as readers get to grow up along with them and share in their development.
There is a certain innocence that is lost here in the second book. And while, in our own lives, we all regret this loss, there comes a time when we all must leave our childhood world and enter the real world a bit more.
HEDLUND: Do you think there are some lessons in Prince Caspian that perhaps only children will understand and others that make more sense to adults? Why?
BROWN: Children will easily relate to the idea that we all, big and small, have a responsibility to stand up to evil where ever and however we can. Caspian’s wicked uncle has seized power unlawfully, he has mercilessly driven all the Old Narnians into hiding, and he must be stopped. Even the diminutive Reepicheep and his band of merry mice have a role to play.
I hope adults will understand that Lewis choose to have Bacchus and Silenus return with Aslan to emphasize that happiness and celebration are supposed to be part of our everyday life, not just something reserved for holidays and vacations. If we can’t be filled with joy in our ordinary daily life, then we are choosing to live in a world that is a little like Narnia under Miraz.
HEDLUND: So what is it about Lewis’s writing in Narnia that connects with readers of all ages?
BROWN: Lewis gave the Chronicles a mythic and universal quality, and in this sense they are somewhat like the parables Jesus used to convey spiritual truths. The Narnia stories are quite simple; the truths they communicate are quite profound, transcending age, place, and time.
HEDLUND: In what ways are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy more realistic than other protagonists in children's literature? How might that encourage young readers?
BROWN: There are more squabbles this time, the kind of small disagreements and petty bickering that all siblings have. This makes our four heroes more like us, and this is encouraging. If, after all their “grousing,” they can be heroic when they need to, then there is the suggestion that maybe we can we well.
There is a lovely passage at the start of chapter nine where Lewis’s narrator tells us: “As they all grew more tired, their spirits fell. Up till now the children had only been thinking of how to get to Caspian. Now they wondered what they would do when they found him, and how a handful of Dwarfs and woodland creatures could defeat an army of grown-up Humans.” Again, it is encouraging to know that like us our four heroes get tired, that their spirits sink from time to time, and that they too have their doubts.
HEDLUND: C. S. Lewis presents a number of moral and, spiritual themes in Prince Caspian. For example, evil often comes in disguise or the virtuous life is a difficult, but adventurous journey. Which theme do you find most significant in terms of the overall message Lewis was trying to convey to his readers?
BROWN: These two themes are really important. First, evil nearly always comes in disguise — whether as a beautiful White Witch who promises Turkish Delight, or Miraz who pretends to take the throne as Caspian’s friendly Lord Protector, or we ourselves when we mask and excuse the sins in our own lives. Second, Prince Caspian shows that the virtuous life is not dull, it is difficult, adventurous, and exciting—the opposite of what the secular media would have us believe.
But for me the most significant theme in Prince Caspian is that help often comes in unanticipated forms, in ways that are so unexpected and strange that they may be recognized only as help when we look back on it.
HEDLUND: We see Peter’s expectations shattered when the children are summoned back to Narnia by Prince Caspian blowing Susan’s horn. How does this “strange help” Doctor Cornelius mentions relate to our own misconceptions about how God operates?
BROWN: When we pray asking for help, our version of blowing Susan’s horn, many times we want God not just to answer our prayer but to answer it in a certain way, often in exactly the same way as he did before. Lucy complains to Aslan, “I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away—like last time.” A famous line in the Chronicles points out that Aslan “is not a tame lion,” not confined to what others think he should do. In the same sense, we could say there is a wildness to God’s mercy.
In Letters to Malcolm, Lewis writes, “It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good.” Hopefully the story of strange help in Prince Caspian will make us more open to God’s blessings in disguise the next time one comes our way, and thus more able to respond with gratitude and adoration.
HEDLUND: As far as character development, who shows the most growth in Prince Caspian? Least? And what does this say about the maturation process?
BROWN: You could say that compared to the start of the first book, Edmund has come the farthest. You could also say that Lucy does the most growing on this trip. By the final chapter, she is definitely not the little girl she is at the start. At one point Aslan tells her, “Now you are a lioness.”
I think that each of the children has been prepared to take the next step in their spiritual growth — whatever that may be. We probably can’t and shouldn’t compare them, in the same way that we probably should not compare our own growth with others. God wants us each to take the next step, where ever we are on our journey. No matter where we are, he invites each of us to come “further up and further in.”
I don’t want to say too much and spoil the story for others, but the step that Susan takes on this adventure is not a step forward, and in this Lewis shows that at each step we all have a choice to make.
HEDLUND: What does Lewis teach us in Prince Caspian about the battle of good versus evil?
BROWN: First off, we see that the war between good and evil is never going to be over once and for all — not in Narnia and not in our world either until the end of time. We may win a battle, but for every White Witch that is defeated, there will always be a Miraz waiting to take over. Narnia is not a land where everyone lives happily ever after with no further problems or conflicts, and in this sense it is like the world we live in.
Secondly, in Prince Caspian we see that there will also always be a battle within to fight as well. We are not going to be perfect. Certainly Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are not perfect on this trip. They are simply called to do the best they can, and so are we.
HEDLUND: Why do leaders like King Miraz obsess about the element of control?
BROWN: Lewis never tells us why Miraz was not content to be the brother of the king, why he had to be king himself. So we can only speculate. Certainly Miraz has an odd idea of happiness. There is never a time in the book where he seems happy in the normal sense. It would be hard for most of us to relate to what might be a good day for him. Miraz’s version of happiness means being the boss and making everyone obey his orders. In his very first scene, he tells Caspian what he may say and even what he may think. This, as far as we can tell, seems to be his prime source of pleasure.
Miraz does not want to be a king under Aslan, like Peter and Edmund, and like Caspian presumably will be. He scoffs at the idea that there could be “two kings at the same time” during Narnia’s Golden Age. Miraz wants everyone under him and no one over him. Each of us knows someone who is a bit like Miraz. Perhaps there is a bit of Miraz in all of us.
HEDLUND: On that note, to what extent do you think modern Western society parallels to life in King Miraz’s Narnia? In what ways, does Lewis suggest we help restore our own world?
BROWN: When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy arrive in Narnia, they don’t recognize it. Not only is it 1,300 years later, but more importantly the land under Miraz has lost the enchantment it once held. In this way, it may seem a bit like our own disenchanted world which, according to Lewis, is under the spell of materialism.
Just as the four Pevensies are called to help restore Narnia’s enchantment, Lewis tries through his novel to help restore the enchantment to our world as well, to help us see the invisible spiritual qualities behind the visible world.
Watch for more from CBN.com's Prince Caspian special feature
Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury College, where he teaches a class on C. S Lewis. He is the author of Inside Narnia (Baker 2005) and Inside Prince Caspian (Baker 2008). This summer he will serve as Scholar-in-Residence at The Kilns, Lewis’s home in Oxford. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife Sharon and Mr. Fluff, their 15-pound cat.
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