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Reflection 25: The Chronicles of Narnia 2

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Movie Flick – The Chronicles of Narnia 2

 

Prince Caspian: Two days ago, I didn’t believe in the existence of talking animals… of dwarves or… or centaurs. Yet here you are, in strengths and numbers that we Telmarines could never have imagined. Whether this horn

[raises horn for all to see]

Prince Caspian: is magic or not, it brought us together… and together, we have a chance to take back what is ours!

 

  1. What is the major theological, philosophical theme in the film?

 

Susan Pevensie: Why wouldn’t he stop?

Trumpkin: I suspect he was hungry.

Lucy Pevensie: Thanks.

Edmund Pevensie: He was wild.

Peter Pevensie: I don’t think he could talk at all.

Trumpkin: You get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become. You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.

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That major theological, philosophical theme in Prince Caspian is faith, or in some cases the lack thereof. In chapter four Miraz tells Caspian:

 

And never let me catch you talking – or thinking either – about those silly stories again. There never were those Kings and Queens. How could there be two Kings at the same time? And there’s no such person as Aslan. And there are no such things as lions. And there never was a time when animals could talk. (Lewis,Prince Caspian 44)

 

It is apparent here that Miraz is attacking Caspian’s belief in much the same way as often happens in our modern world today. There are many – especially among those that consider themselves intelligentsia – who consider the Bible a book of fairy tales and believe none of it really happened.

 

It is also worth noting that in the previous quote Miraz offers no reasoning behind his statements; he merely commands them. Lewis in a way mentions this in The Screwtape Letters:

 

“The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too … By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?” (2).

 

The issue of faith is also brought up in chapter nine, which is titled “What Lucy Saw.” The scene takes place shortly after an incident with a bear that attacked them and had to be killed. Trumpkin’s thoughts on this are: “Her majesty may well have seen a lion … There are lions in these woods, I’ve been told. But it needn’t have been a friendly and talking lion any more than the bear was friendly and talking bear” (Lewis, Prince Caspian 132). In this case he used their previous experience with the bear to discredit Lucy’s account of seeing Aslan. As the scene continues Peter decides that since Trumpkin is the eldest (and therefore most experienced) he should have the deciding vote on whether they go the way Lucy says Aslan wants them to go, or not. Trumpkin — who does not even believe in Aslan – chooses to go down, away from where Aslan had been leading them. They seem to be following a combined epistemology of empiricism and rationalism, using experience and reason as ultimate evaluators of truth (Schick and Vaughn 531). There is some irony to this event; Lucy had experienced seeing Aslan and her three siblings had experienced being wrong about her in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which Edmund expresses:

 

“Well, there’s just this … When we first discovered Narnia a year ago – or a thousand years ago, whichever it is – it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot, I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time? (Lewis, Prince Caspian 134)

 

Edmund logically reasons that given their past experience they should trust Lucy in spite of the fact that they did not experience seeing Aslan themselves.

 

Later Lucy meets Aslan face to face and learns a lesson about faith. Aslan gives her orders to go wake the others and that they must all get up and follow me; even if they do not believe her she is supposed to follow Aslan (Lewis,Prince Caspian 149-150). This is an excellent picture of sticking to faith even when the crowd does not. Lucy gets her vindication when in the next chapter they all see him and Aslan even pounces on Trumpkin, playfully.

2. Please discuss Lucy, Prince Caspian, and Philosophy?

 

Peter Pevensie: It’s only a matter of time. Miraz’s men and war machines are on their way. That means those same men aren’t protecting his castle.

Reepicheep: What do you propose we do, Your Majesty?

[Both Caspian and Peter begin to speak over each other; Peter turns and silences him with a glare]

Peter Pevensie: Our only hope is to strike them before they strike us.

Prince Caspian: Well, that’s crazy. No one has ever taken that castle!

Peter Pevensie: There’s always a first time.

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Unlike some of the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian doesn’t delve too often or as deeply into philosophy. It does address matters of faith, belief, and unbelief, but I think one of its most insightful comments is more philosophical in nature.

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In chapter 9, the Pevensie children and Trumpkin the dwarf encounter a bear that turns out to be wild rather than a kind talking Narnian bear. After the incident Lucy comments, “Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?” Susan quickly dismisses the question, but it is one worth pondering, especially in light of Lewis’s ideas relative to the matter.
In fact, Lewis did ponder such a question in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength. But before I get to that, in brief, the passage quoted from Caspian is also reminiscent of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. After escaping the island, wherein experiments in blending humans and animals were taking place, the main character writes of the people he meets back in civilization, “I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another, still passably human, Beast People, animals half-wrought into the outward image of human souls; and that they would presently begin to revert, to show first this bestial mark and then that … I feel as though the animal was surging up through them; that presently the degradation of the Islanders will be played over again on a larger scale.”
Creepy stuff. Wells, as usual, mixes his social and philosophical commentary within the guise of what is ostensibly science fiction. But back to Lewis. What Lewis hints at via Lucy’s remark about the bear is what he wrote about elsewhere. One of his concerns in The Abolition of Man is that human beings will remove themselves from God’s transcendent moral standards–what Lewis calls the Tao in the book, meaning natural law–such that these individuals are no longer human beings, but something else.
Stepping into the moral void, they no longer are restrained when it comes to experimentation and, ultimately, some sort of conquest or the achievement of power over others. This, argues Lewis, will lead to the destruction, or abolition, of the human race as God intended it to be.
So, you see, Prince Caspian is not “just for kids.” At another time I’ll write about this abolition as represented in another Narnia book, The Magician’s Nephew.

3. Prince Caspian in a nutshell?

 

King Miraz: What do you know of Queen Susan’s horn?

Doctor Cornelius: It was said to be magic.

King Miraz: Magic?

Doctor Cornelius: The Narnians believed it could summon their Kings and Queens of old.

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What’s better than finding a magical kingdom? Becoming its king or queen, duh. And what’s better than becoming king or queen of a magical kingdom? Again, duh: being totally beloved by a host of talking animals and mythical creatures. Okay, so what’s better than finding a magical kingdom, becoming its king or queen, and being totally beloved by a host of talking animals and mythical creatures?

 

Returning to that land to do it all again, of course.

 

And that’s exactly what you get with the second novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian. Knowing he wanted to return to Narnia himself, C.S. Lewis began writing the sequels before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was even published in 1950. He finished the first sequel in 1949, meaning the eager paws of many a Narnia fan could snatch up a copy of Prince Caspian as early as 1951. If only George R.R. Martin fans were so lucky.

 

This time, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie return to Narnia only to discover that hundreds of years have passed since their time as the high kings and queens. After rescuing a dwarf named Trumpkin (because why not?), they learn that Narnia is at war with the Telmarines, a race of humans that conquered Narnia. And leading the rebellion is none other than this Prince Caspian guy. So the Pevensies join forces with the would-be king to defeat his uncle, Miraz, and return the old ways to Narnia again.

 

For you major Wardrobe fans, Prince Caspian continues to build the history and culture of Narnia first introduced in the original. But for those of you looking for something different, the sequel sends the series in new directions. Wardrobe‘s central themes of forgiveness and transformationare downplayed here to make room for war and chivalry.

 

(Yeah, kind of different.) Lewis also expands Narnia’s unique mythology by mixing and matching original mythological figures with those from Greek, Roman, and Norse traditions. This fancy blend may have caused his BFF, J.R.R. Tolkien, to let loud a giant d’oh of dislike, but plenty of other readers thought it was a dandy idea.

 

Although Prince Caspian won no major awards (come on, award people!), Lewis’s gifted storytelling voice made it a popular read—back then and today. Like other Narnian novels, Christians have used it as an allegory for teaching their religious philosophy, and it’s been adopted by environmentalists and psychologists to explore other worldviews, too.

 

Of course, having a couple of movies based on the novel hasn’t hurt its growing fandom. The BBC took a go at a made-for-TV feature back in 1989, and then Walden Media and Walt Disney Studios teamed up in 2008 to give us the big screen version. The 2008 film starred Ben Barnes in the title role and put Aslan in league with Gollum and Yoda in terms of eye-poppinglysweet CG creatures.

 

So what’s better than reading a book filled with magic, adventure, and battles between the forces of good and evil? Reading a sequel that’s just as good—maybe even better?—than the original.

4. Why should one care about the battle of good and evil?

 

Peter Pevensie: Lucky, you know.

Lucy Pevensie: What do you mean?

Peter Pevensie: You’ve seen him. I wish he’d just given me some sort of proof.

Lucy Pevensie: Maybe we’re the ones that need to prove ourselves to him.

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Please take note: The key word in this question is I. Not why we here at Shmoop care. That’s not important, and to be honest, the answer is kind of embarrassing in its simplicity. Hint: it involves Reepicheep twirling his whiskers like a moustache; we just love that mental image (6.23). So this question centers on why you—or I since you are you—care.

 

Prince Caspian may be a children’s story, but it’s not the type with a one or two sentence moral at the end telling you exactly what the take-away message is. This novel can be cared for in many distinct ways. Children might care for it one way and parents another. Literature majors may praise some aspects while fantasy fans will love it for other aspects. That’s right: there’s more than one reason to care. (Gasp!)

 

In our extensive Narnian search, we came across a whole boatload of different types of caring. Here are some examples we hand picked:

 

  • In Narnia and the Fields of ArbolThe Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis. Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara say that Prince Caspian(and all of the Narnia series) promotes an environmental message centered on the idea of hospitality for nature. Go green, Shmoopers.
  • David Holbrook’s The Skeleton in the Wardrobe lays Narnia on a couch and then goes all psychoanalytic on it. He argues Prince Caspian‘s Narnia is the “timeless world of the unconscious mind” where Aslan becomes a mother figure and war embodies that “zany kind of delight” we associate with a child’s game. Confused? You can thank Freud for that one.
  • Michael Ward notes that Prince Caspian has a martial or warring spirit that promotes “patterned orderliness,” “[c]hivalry impos[ing] restraints,” and the evils of “passively allowing aggressors to have their way”. Translation: war is bad.
  • And, of course, plenty of people read the novel as a Christian allegory.

 

Even Philip Pullman, who called the Narnia series “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read” (ouch!), cared about the books. Sure, he didn’t like them, but he cared about them because they provided a counter to his own beliefs: a Lex Luthor to his own philosophical Superman; a Joker to his Batman; a—well, you get the point.

 

So throughout this learning guides, we’ll suggest some reasons why you should care, and if you take another gander at those bullet points, you’ll see we’ve already gotten under way. But it’s up to you to ultimately decide why you should care. Good luck.

5. How do you examine mythology “In the Chronicles of Narnia”

 

Lucy Pevensie: What happened?

Peter Pevensie: Ask him.

Susan Pevensie: Peter!

Prince Caspian: Me? You could have called it off, there was still time.

Peter Pevensie: No, there wasn’t, thanks to you. If you had kept to the plan, those soldiers might be alive right now.

Prince Caspian: And if you just had stayed here, as I suggested, they definitely would be!

Peter Pevensie: You called us, remember?

Prince Caspian: My first mistake.

Peter Pevensie: No. Your first mistake was thinking you could lead these people.

[turns around and begins to walk off]

Prince Caspian: Hey!

[Peter turns to look at him]

Prince Caspian: I am not the one who abandoned Narnia.

Peter Pevensie: You invaded Narnia. You have no more right leading than Miraz does.

[Caspian pushes past Peter]

Peter Pevensie: You, him, your father! Narnia’s better off without the lot of you!

[Caspian and Peter draw swords, intending to attack each other]

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The wonder of opening a book feels very similar to the experience of opening a wardrobe door and finding oneself in another world.  Stories told to children as they prepare for bed act also as vehicles for transportation of imagination, and when the book opens, a journey begins.  When C.S. Lewis wrote his seven-part series for children, The Chronicles of Narnia, he realized that not only the children in on Earth going to read the stories, but children in future generations of Narnia will also enjoy the stories as they pass down.  Therefore, for both group’s enjoyment, Lewis created in his novels a solid mythology all its own for the Narnian world, and in the books also created an anthological story of how his myth filtered down throughout Narnian history.  In the seven books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis creates a viable mythology that stands alone according to his standards, passed down through oral, prophetic, and natural means.

 

C.S. Lewis delighted in all forms of Earth’s mythology.  Many studies of Lewis’s life comments upon the different references to Greek, Norse, Arthurian, Christian, and many other mythologies in the Narnia books.  David Downing asserts in his book Into the Wardrobe that “for Lewis, a well-constructed story draws upon…universal images and meanings.  Much of the thematic richness of the chronicles derives from Lewis’s skill in drawing on mythic patterns” (34).  C.S. Lewis did many scholarly studies on mythology and had definitive ideas of what made a myth and what did not.  In judging the idea of myth and truth, Lewis in his sermon “Myth Became Fact,” deemed that “myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to” (141) and later, speaking specifically in reference to Christianity, “The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be a myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history.  It happens” (141).  Understanding this aspect pinpoints exactly what Lewis believed determined a “myth.”  Lewis, according to his own work, believed that even true events fit into the category of “myth,” though generally society equates “myth” with “false.” He, in An Experiment in Criticism, creates a checklist of sorts for deciding if stories fit the elusive “myth” category.   Therefore, in determining that Lewis wrote a complete and viable mythology that lives inside Narnia and affects its people, those specific characteristics all must pertain to the Narnian stories and determined fit within the stories and their world.  While Lewis published these characteristics in An Experiment in Criticism, Leland Ryken and Marjorie Mead, in their book A Reader’s Guide Through the Wardrobe, simplify the wording and summarize the explanations when Lewis’s wording could confuse the reader. Application of these shorter explanations sometimes better describes Lewis’s meaning.

 

The first characteristic of a myth states that “mythical stories are so striking in themselves that their power over the human psyche is inherent in the stories, quite apart from the literary skill, or lack of it, with which a given storyteller has told the story” (Ryken and Mead 107).  One instance of the Narnian myth severely impacting the human psyche shines in the second book, Prince Caspian (PC), where Aslan heals the crying schoolgirl’s sick auntie.  Healed from near death, the aunt opens her eyes to see Aslan, and she exclaims, “Oh, Aslan!  I knew it was true.  I’ve been waiting my entire life.  Have you come to take me away?” (217). This quote bears significance because when the aunt opens her eyes and sees a lion’ face before her, he does not identify himself as Aslan, the aunt simply knows.  Lewis never tells readers if the aunt has ever seen any sort of lion, only that her niece has never (216).  The aunt then says, “I’ve been waiting for this my entire life,” suggesting Aslan never before visited her, and she therefore relies on faith to believe the myths.  This woman takes to heart the myths that she heard long ago, and she fervently believes, even to the point of wishing for it her whole life and asking immediately, without fear, if Aslan takes her away.  She wants to go with him.  The personification of Aslan who represents the central belief in the Narnian myth, means that, when characters react to Aslan’s presence or lack thereof, they react to the myth itself and that character’s belief in them comes to the surface.

 

The second aspect of myth, which C.S. Lewis does not consider among his checklist in Criticism, but noted by Ryken and Mead, states that “mythical stories ‘have a very simple narrative shape—a satisfactory and inevitable shape, like a good vase or a tulip’” (107).  Most of the time, humans or animals hear the story of Aslan or Peter the High King or King Caspian the Seafarer as children, therefore the storytellers must speak simply, but a good mythology always possess innumerable depths in which one may explore in adulthood.  This fact perhaps determines why Lewis chose to have the Pevensie children young when they first come to Narnia, and in fact nearly all heroes of the stories, excepting King Frank and Queen Helen, the first Narnian royalty, help Narnia while still children or young adults.  The stories about heroic children mean to inspire the children listening to the stories into faith in Aslan and his work.  Peter Schakel, in his book Reading With the Heart: The Way Into Narnia, discuss this child-like simplicity when dealing with the theme of Deep Magic:  “Through Deep Magic,” he says, “Lewis is depicting in a form which appeals to imagination and emotion, in a form children can relate to, what he described conceptually in the opening chapters of Mere Christianity” (23).  Therefore, the myth and the aspects of the myth, must present in a simple, clear manner in which children can understand.  If the complexity of the myth befuddled the children, less people would believe in Aslan because of hindrances one usually achieves as adults, like skepticism, ideology, and negative attributes of  the Narnian adults and would halt the acceptance of Aslan and other stories.

 

The third characteristic of a myth states that the myth must, “even at first hearing…is felt to be inevitable” (Ryken and Mead 107) and “the pleasure of myth depends hardly at all on such usual narrative attractions as suspense or surprise” (An Experiment in Criticism 43).  In PC, the very young Caspian, speaking to his Uncle Miraz about Old Narnia, in other words, Narnia before the Telmarine invasion in 1998 Narnian time (NT) (Duriez 136), says that he wishes he lived in Old Narnia primarily because, “the animals could talk and there were nice people who lived in the streams and the trees.…And there were Dwarfs.  And there were lovely little Fauns in all the woods.  They had feet like goats” (43).  Caspian only brings up elements of surprise and suspense when his Uncle Miraz says, “At your age, you ought to be thinking of battles and adventures” (43).  Caspian then highlights those elements of Old Narnia, and retells the exciting events of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe(LWW) to Miraz.  While Lewis’s myth contains many elements of suspense and surprise, the story forgets them quickly and the hearers instead relish in a peaceful Narnia.  For Lewis and Narnia, the battles provide a means to a new ending that lacks surprise or suspense, for Aslan brings only peace and whenever men rule on the throne of Narnia in his name or according to his will, peace abounds. Schakel notes that “victory for the Narnians comes only through Aslan: that is, perhaps, the central theme of the series” (15).  Therefore, however the Narnians must get to this state, they will, for they relish in peace, not battles.

 

The fourth characteristic of a myth states that “the characters in a mythical story do not primarily appeal to us as fellow human beings; rather, ‘they are like shapes moving in another world” (Ryken and Mead 107).  Two places within the Chronicles highlight this element well.    The first place, in The Last Battle (LB), King Tirian, the last king of Narnia, thinks about the old Narnian stories in a time of sorrow.  He ponders his great-grandfather’s great-grandfather King Rilian’s adventures with the “two mysterious children” and determines that “it’s not like that with me” (51) because the stories appear so magical that Tirian cannot relate himself to the characters in that story.  He then thinks about the events told in PC and again decides, “that sort of thing doesn’t happen now” (51).  King Tirian holds the stories to such a high regard, and the stories contain so many magical elements to persuade him to think they operate higher than everyday life, proving the fourth characteristic of myth.  Trumpkin the Dwarf in PC, still struggling for solid belief in the myth of Aslan and Cair Paravel, does not accept the children as participants in the stories because of their young age, which Trumpkin views as a weakness. He imagines older, larger-than-life superstars and not the bunch of children in weird clothes who stand before him.  In the short time he considers the myth possible, he already elevates Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy to a status which the actual children do not qualify; the conjured picture in his head contradicts reality, and Trumpkin therefore will not accept the truth of the children at fiThe fifth characteristic states that “myth is a type of fantasy story that ‘deals with impossible and preternaturals’—in other words, it transcends our natural world and moves into the realm of the ‘supernatural’” (Ryken and Mead 07).  In LWW, Aslan embodies a figure living above the laws of physics and time, subject only to the laws of the Deep Magic.  Aslan possesses abilities to disappear, reappear, possess invisibility, and selective invisibility, and many things humans and animals cannot accomplish.  Aslan does not have to follow the ways of humans, nor the will of the humans, for, after all, “he’s not a tame lion” (LB 19).  Paul Ford, in his encyclopedic Companion to Narnia, identifies that  the Emperor-Beyond-The Sea produces the Deep Magic, and “the Deeper Magic against which Aslan cannot work” (193).  In fact, Aslan would not dare to work against the Deep Magic if he could, for when Susan asks, “Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic?  Isn’t there something you can work against it?” (LWW 156), he says, “Work against the Emperor’s Magic?” (156) and the narrator mentions that “nobody ever made that suggestion to him again” (156).  As stated in earlier paragraphs, the concept of Deep Magic supposes a Narnian equal for what Lewis describes in Mere Christianity as “The Law of Human Nature.” Lewis asserts in the text God’s creation of the Law of Human Nature.  He states that “I should expect to find that there was, so to speak,…a Power, behind the facts [of the Law of Human Nature], a Director, a Guide” (25). For Narnia, Aslan acts specifically as a guide, and his father, the Emperor-Over-The-Sea, portrays the creator of the Law.  Therefore, Aslan portrays both Guide of the Deep Magic and subject.  The presence of Magicians, such as the Magician of the Dufflepuds’ island, develops another aspect of supernaturalism in Voyage of the Dawn Treader (VDT). The Magician calls any sort of magic with books and wands “rough magic” (499), a phrase Aslan also calls “dark Magic” on page 206 of Magician’s Nephew (MN).  The Green and White Witches from The Silver Chair (SC) and LWW, respectively, generally work in this Rough Magic. From Earth, the amateur Magician of Uncle Andrew works with Rough Magic in an extremely rudimentary fashion.  To the children who hear the stories and have never met a talking animal, this element also develops a vapor of transcendence from the natural world.

 

The sixth characteristic that makes a myth states that “the experience may be sad or joyful but it is always grave.  Comic myth…is impossible” (An Experiment in Criticism 44).    To find this characteristic in Narnian myth, one must focus on endings.  In LWW, MN, PC, VDT, and SC, the children always leave when their work finishes, excepting in LWW, where they grow into the roles of Kings and Queens of Narnia and then accidently leave, ending a very prosperous and abundant life to come back to living as school-age British children during World War II.  At the end of LB, all die in a horrific train accident, Narnia ends, and any New Narnian Myth ceases possibility.  With looking specifically at MN, the audience hears an enjoyable, even funny tale, such as when the animals ruthlessly abuse Uncle Andrew (154-158) but the end of the story feels bittersweet, for King Frank and Queen Helen get to rule Narnia while the children must go back living as children in England, although their lives improve significantly.  Only Horse and His Boy (HHB) has a truly “happy ever after” ending in which “Aravis also had many quarrels…with Cor, but they always made up again, so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently” (241). In the realm of the entire Narnian myth, however, this instance portrays one happy ending in a sea of hardships.  Deep subjects such as death, battles, and struggles with a lack of a multiple number of comical characters flood Narnia myth.  The reader must endure as Reepicheep, one of the select few funny characters, sails off in search of Aslan’s country, not again seen until the end of the series.  Reepicheep’s leaving shows one of many, many sad partings.  In SC, Puddleglum, the other truly comic character, must ride into the sunset, so to speak, also never seen until the end.  In LB, C.S. Lewis does not allow Narnia to continue to grow and prosper, he must destroy the world.

 

The seventh and final myth characteristic states that all myth “’is not only grave but awe-inspiring.  We feel it to be numinous.’  In myth there is a sense of awe and if the wholly transcendent ‘other’” (Ryken and Mead 107).  The hearers of the stories such as LWW most likely amaze in the sudden appearance of the four children from another world.  No one born in the Narnian world has ever traveled to earth (Jadis comes from an entirely different world, Charn.)  In fact, Mr. Tumnus, unfamiliar with her home planet, calls Lucy’s home “the far land of Spare Oom where the eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe” (LWW 13).  Significant magic weaves throughout the story, manifested mostly in this transcendence between worlds, and brings the wonder of other places into the tales at which Narnian children would marvel.  Not contextual evidence gives the impression the Earth children discuss their home planet at length, except in HHB when Lucy, “told again (they had all, except Aravis and Cor, heard it many times but they all wanted it again) the tale of the Wardrobe and how she and King Edmund and Queen Susan and Peter the High King had first come into Narnia” (238). This quote suggests Lucy has told the stories before, but any references to England in the Narnian myth disappear into obscurity.  Aslan certainly never mentions England to the Narnians.  Until the final events in LB, the world of Earth presents a significant, unanswered mystery.  From this mysterious world, people important to their history have come.  C.S. Lewis created a myth so powerfully developed with magic that the Narnians could not possess other stories quite of this caliber without the Deep Magic and transcendence, nor as fantastical as the ones presented.

 

Now that the stories in The Chronicles of Narnia prove a viable myth according to the basis of C.S. Lewis’s own characteristic checklist for myths, the question remains of what happened to these stories after they happened.  The story as it happens tells only half the history…the second half of the story tells how the stories pass down: either orally, naturally, or prophetically.

 

The story seems, by context, handed down most often by much the same method as Lewis employs by authoring children’s books—adults telling the stories to children at their bedtimes.  No contextual evidence records that the myths appear in book form in Narnia, although this does occur in the “Prince Caspian” movie.  This method of storytelling to the very young occurs widely—while many people in the books do not believe the stories; nearly every character in the book has at least heard the tales.  Noticeably, many in Calormen have not heard the stories of Aslan, for Shasta and Aravis do not realize that the lions they encounter can protect them instead of eating them.

 

In the Narnia controlled by the usurper Miraz, who wants to crush all knowledge of everything to do with Old Narnia, history lessons in schools and with tutors only allow coverage of the time period after the Telmarine invasion of Narnia in 1998 NT.  Everything about the Old Narnia country lives covered up, denied, and forbidden.  The stories come alive in this hostile environment by children’s nurses, such as Caspian’s nurse, secretly telling their young charges the stories at bedtime.  Not everyone learns of Old Narnia, but the ones who do seem to know of it learn about it this way.  Caspian’s nurse probably learned of Narnia this way, for the reader meets her again as the auntie who has waited “my whole life” (PC 217) for Aslan when he heals her.  Caspian’s tutor, Dr. Cornelius, later reaffirms Caspian’s stories and the young prince learns much of Old Narnia.  Interestingly, unlike many oral traditions on Earth, Narnian myth does not change with the telling by many people or by age of the story.  The Narnian myth played out in LWW lives as the same myth Tirian knows in LB, and Tirian’s correct knowledge of the myths enables him to see through the deceiver, Shift.  After Caspian’s coronation and the overthrow of the Telmarine government, the knowledge of the myths expands freely and openly throughout Narnia through schools.  Tirian most likely learns the myths this way, although he, the son of the king, likely had a private tutor instead of a schoolroom.  The Narnia under Tirian regards the knowledge, forbidden under Miraz, as fact and history.

 

The myth also filters down “naturally.”  A myth may pass itself down naturally by affecting the hearer’s instinct or by proving itself using strictly metaphysical means.  Myth asserts itself using natural means in PC when Edmund delivers the proposal from Peter to Miraz for the one-on-one battle.  Sopespian, an evil man high up in the Telmarine government says to his confidante, Glozelle, when Edmund walks up, “he is…a kinglier man than ever Miraz was” (192).  Like a true Telmarine, Sopespian does not know the Old Narnian myth, or if he has heard it secretly, disbelieves it, nor does he know the true nature of the man standing before him.  In SC, a similar thing happens, when Prince Rilian, after “he has been held captive for a decade” (Ford 374) by the Green Witch, comes face-to-face with Narnians for the first time in a decade.  The narrator says, “there were some old [Narnians] who could just remember how…King Caspian had looked when he was a young man and saw the likeness.  But I think they would have known him anyway…there was something in his face and air which no one could mistake.  That look is in the face of all true Kings of Narnia, who rule by the will of Aslan” (238).  This recognition of Rilian portrays another instance in which the truth of the Narnian myth and the rule of Aslan flutters down through metaphysical means.  Rilian’s descendant, Tirian, has a similar instance with Eustace and Jill before he realizes their identities.  The narrator records that “the wonder of walking beside the creatures from another world made him feel a little dizzy: but it also made all the old stories seem far more real than they had ever seemed before…anything might happen now” (60).  Tirian, like Rilian and Sopespian, grabs onto the truth of the myths without instruction by man or animal, and the myth reveals itself to them without needing physical means to spread itself.

 

The myth also uses a natural factor that manifests itself more as an “instinct” that grows within a character.  Shasta in HHB gives the prime example of an instinctual factor.  Raised on the eastern coast of Calormen by a fisherman, Shasta feels unhappy and does not feel like he belongs.  He “had never been able to love [his father] and he knew that a boy ought to love his father” (8) and relief washes over him when he finds out the truth about his supposed father instead of feeling devastated.  Shasta constantly looks to the North and wonders greatly what lies there, over the mountains.  Even though his body resides in Calormen, his soul lives over those mountains.  He does not know about the princely blood that ruins through his veins, blood from the line of Archenland, located directly North of the eastern coast of Calormen, over the mountains.  Shasta’s origin truth manifests itself in his instincts.

 

Caspian, on the other hand, comes from the lineage of Telmar, but despite growing up under Telmarine rule, longs to live in the time of Old Narnia.  Surrounded by oppression where talk of the old tales jeopardize one’s life, Caspian refuses to believe his uncle’s assertions that the tales of Aslan and the Pevensie children never happened.  The young Caspian, realizing his Uncle’s beliefs about the old stories, could trust that Miraz tells the truth and stopped believing, or succumb to forceful persuasion, and then punish Dr. Cornelius when he, too, tells Caspian stories of Old Narnia, but he does not.  Caspian could easily disbelieve the stories about Old Narnia and seek employment as another mindless Telmarine drone, but he stands by his convictions and constantly asserted what he instinctually knows as truth, and for that faith, Aslan rewards him.

Narnian myth passes down by prophecy, the third way.  The first prophecy, encountered in LWW, happens when the Beavers tell the Pevensie children of Aslan’s role in defeating the White Witch.  Mr. Beaver calls the prophecy an “old rhyme” (85).  The other prophecy told by the Beavers involves the Pevensie kids potentially crowned the future Kings and Queens of Narnia, and will bring peace.  In VDT, Reepicheep tells of a personal prophecy given to him by a Dryad when he still slept in a cradle as young mouse that “Where the sky and water meet,/ Where the waves grow sweet,/ Doubt not, Reepicheep,/ To find all you seek/ There is the utter east” (433).  Lewis used prophecy to tie the elements of Narnian myth together and give it a fantastical feel.  Ford states in his Companion, “all these prophecies are fulfilled in the Chronicles, and Lewis felt that prophecy could be used in a story for giving a sense of providence and of how free will and destiny work together” (355).  One sees fulfillment of Reepicheep’s prophecy on page 247 of VDT, when he finds sweet water suggested in the second line of the prophecy, and sails off for “where the sky and the water meet,” Aslan’s Country.  Later, in LB, Reepicheep’s presence in Aslan’s Country confirms that he has indeed reached “all you seek.”  Prophecy furthers the story in a form of foreshadowing and carries the truth of the Narnian myth with it.  The prophecies reaffirm the facts of the myth by foretelling orally what will happen naturally.  In this way, two of the methods of passing down myth unite.

 

When Lucy Pevensie stumbled on the snow of Narnia for the first time, she stumbled upon a country with a life, history, and a myth of its very own.  By C.S. Lewis’ own definitions of myth, the stories held in The Chronicles of Narnia create a viable, living myth, passed down through oral, natural, and prophetic means.  While children on Earth have reveled in the stories for over fifty years, the children of Narnia, also listening to the stories read by their mothers or nurses, have enjoyed the stories for many thousand years, and both sets of children remain equally entertained with the strong narrative myth of Narnia.

6. What is the symbolism and the identity of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia?

 

Prince Caspian: Why did you never tell me about my father?

Doctor Cornelius: My mother was a Black Dwarf from the Northern Mountains. I’ve risked my life all these years so that, one day, you might be a better king than those before you.

Prince Caspian: Then I have failed you.

Doctor Cornelius: Everything I told you, everything I didn’t, it was only because I believe in you. You have a chance to become the most noble contradiction in history – the Telmarine who saved Narnia.

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Aslan the Lion of Narnia

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Overview

 

There can be no denying that C. S. Lewis’ stories The Chronicles of Narnia contain explicit Christian imagery. However, the author claims that Aslan the Lion is not Jesus Christ. This raises the question of the identity of Aslan. The purpose of the paper will be to determine who Aslan is and what Lewis’ intent was in portraying him in such a way.

 

The Supposition

 

In his books The Problem of Pain and Miracles, Lewis postulates that if sentient creatures exist in the universe other than on earth, they probably would not experience God in the same way as creatures on this planet do. God has dealt with humans in a specific way to redeem them from the consequences of the Fall that occurred early in human history. Regardless of whether other worlds have fallen like earth has, God is not likely to reveal himself to them, redeem them, or interact with them in the exact manner as he has with humans (Miracles 201-2; The Problem of Pain 80-1).

 

The Chronicles are Lewis’ attempt to illustrate just this concept. They concern what such other worlds might be like. In The Magician’s Nephew, there is a forest full of entrances to other worlds. One of these entrances leads to Narnia, a world populated with sentient creatures, both animal and human. These creatures are completely different from those found on this world. Plus, the history of Narnia is not the same as Earth’s history. Thus, God must relate to them to in a way fundamentally different than he does with earth humans (The Magician’s Nephew31-43, 103-26).

 

Lewis was adamant that Aslan was not simply Jesus in Narnia and that everything in that world was not meant to symbolize things on earth as they actually are. Rather, Lewis is making a supposal about what Christ might be like in another world. In one of his letters he discusses what he was trying to accomplish with the Chronicles:

 

I did not say to myself ‘Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia’: I said ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would have happened.’ If you think about it, you will see that it is quite a different thing. (Alexander 37. Quoted in this article from Walter Hooper’s C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide)

 

Aslan is an incarnation in another world. He is the shape through which God has chosen to reveal himself to the Narnians (Alexander 37; Durie 23; Johnston 263).

 

Correlations with Christ

 

Aslan is a non-allegorical character in the sense that he is not intended to be a direct representation of Christ. However, Christian symbolism is definitely present in the books (“C. S. Lewis” Religion Facts). This should be expected because, though Aslan is not the same as Jesus the man, he is what Jesus would be like if he lived in another world. God may deal with other worlds in a different manner, but Aslan still represents the same God that controls the universe. The setting and plot of the play are changed, not the director. Therefore, the universal laws of God should still be in effect despite the fact that they are operating in a different location because the nature of God does not change.

 

Since Aslan is what Jesus would be like in Narnia, there are obvious allusions to Jesus in many of the things that Aslan says and does. The least veiled reference is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan tells the children that he is also in their world, but he goes by a different name (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader247; Stroud, “Aslan of Narnia”). When a young boy could not figure out what Aslan’s name was in this world, Lewis wrote in response:

 

I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas (2) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor (3) Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people (4) Came to life again (5) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb… Don’t you really know His name in this world? (Stroud, “Chronicles of Narnia”)

 

Other parallels between Aslan and Jesus abound. One such similarity is that the resurrection of each was first discovered by the female followers (Luke 24:1-6). Also, both broke open the gates of the enemy’s house where prisoners were held captive. Jesus holds the keys to hell, the home of Satan, and is able to bring people held captive there back to life (Revelation 1:18). After Aslan returned to life, he went to the White Witch’s house and breathed life back into the creatures she had turned to stone. Then he caused the gates of her castle to be torn down so that no one should ever have to remain entrapped there (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 162, 66-72; “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Wikipedia; Worsley 152)

 

The blood of both Jesus and Aslan can bring the dead to life. A drop of blood from Aslan’s pierced paw not only revives the dead Prince Caspian but also rejuvenates him to a younger version of himself (The Silver Chair 238-9). Christ’s shed blood will have the power to resurrect believers into new life (Hebrews 9:14-5). In the New Testament, Christ is depicted as a lamb (John 1:29), a shape Aslan takes in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Also, the Lamb is roasting fish over a fire and invites the children to “Come and have breakfast” (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 245) just as the resurrected Jesus did when he appeared to the disciples in John 21:9-13. Aslan often breathes on people and kisses their foreheads in order to strengthen them. This is similar to the New Testament (John 20:22) when Jesus breathed on the disciples in order to give them the Holy Ghost (Alexander 43; Lewis, Prince Caspian 219; The Horse and his Boy 166; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 167-71;The Magician’s Nephew 154; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 248; The Silver Chair 236-41).

 

The talking horse Bree in The Horse and his Boy doubts that Aslan is a real lion. Aslan arrives and bids him “Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers” (The Horse and his Boy 199-201). This is like what Christ tells Thomas in John 20:27. In this same book, Aslan tells both Aravis and Shasta, “No one is told any story but their own” (The Horse and his Boy 165, 202). This is reminiscent of Jesus telling Peter that what shall pass with another man it is no concern of his (John 21:22-3).

 

These are but a few comparisons between Christ and Aslan. It is obvious from reading the text that when Aslan speaks, it is “indirect echoes of the words of Jesus” (Alexander 43). In this other world, Aslan, as what Christ would be there, shares certain aspects with the Christ of this world. Each enters his world to serve the same redemptive purposes, making it natural that Aslan is portrayed as analogous to Jesus. Revelation 5:5 describes Jesus as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” It should come as no surprise that in another world, the son would take the shape of an actual lion (Alexander 46; Hourihan; Purtill 50-1).

 

In the Beginning…

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Biblical Symbolism

In addition to the plenitude of Christ imagery in the Chronicles of Narnia, imagery of biblical themes in general can also be found. The similarities are not to be interpreted as allegory. Instead they are similar because, as previously mentioned, the same God is operating in both worlds.

The reader is immediately reminded of God in Genesis 1 when Aslan sings Narnia into existence. Both God and Aslan use only their voices to create (Genesis 1:1-26). Aslan makes creatures and gives them a commission of stewardship similar to that given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:29-30). Aslan tells the creatures, “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers…The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also” (The Magician’s Nephew 128).  Like on earth, evil enters the creation near the beginning. Problems arise in both worlds because of fruit from magical trees. Eve and Adam were tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. This is what causes the Fall of the human race (Genesis 3:1-7). In Narnia, the Witch eats of the tree of life, which makes her immortal. As a result of this, she is able to gain strength and take over the country and oppress its inhabitants many years later. Allusions to the serpent in the Garden of Eden can also be seen in The Silver Chair. A witch who can turn herself into a serpent holds Prince Rilian captive (The Magician’s Nephew 174-5; Johnston 255; The Silver Chair 182-5).

Aslan is represented as a divine figure and is treated in a similar fashion to God in the Old Testament. In the Narnian Chronicles, Aslan “is the one who defines reality…issu[ing] commands, usually in a natural, matter-of-fact tone rather than in a peremptory or imperative manner” (Alexander 41).  Aslan informs “characters what their story has been and he also fulfils a prophetic function, foretelling what will happen or dispensing judgment” (Alexander 42). “All beings innately offer deference to him,” (Stroud, “Aslan of Narnia”) both friend and enemy alike. This all shows that Aslan “takes it for granted that the kingdom, the power, and the glory are his” (Alexander 44).

Aslan repeatedly uses sentences with the verb structure “to be,” hinting at the divine name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Aslan tells Aravis in The Horse and his Boy, “I am the only lion you met in all your journeyings” (The Horse and his Boy 201).  Jill asks Aslan in The Silver Chair, “Then you are Somebody, Sir?” He answers her, “I am” (The Silver Chair 25).  The reply God gave Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” is further suggested by Aslan’s reply when Shasta asked who he is. Aslan simply say, “Myself” (The Silver Chair 165).

When the characters first come into contact with Aslan, they react in much the same way as people in the Old Testament react when they have an encounter with God. They are overwhelmed by the numinous that is now face to face with them (Duriez 149; Bane). An example from the bible is in Judges 6:22, when Gideon realizes he is talking to an angel, he fears that he is going to die. Similarly, there is a common formula for these encounters with Aslan in the Narnia narratives. First the character is afraid that the lion might devour them or hurt them. After he or she realizes that they are not going to be eaten, “a new a different sort of trembling came over him” (The Horse and his Boy 165; see also The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 106-7; The Silver Chair 22).

The imagery used in the Old Testament is used in the books also. God is described as “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 17:13). In The Silver Chair, Jill is dying of thirst. Aslan tells her the only way for her to live is to drink from his stream.  Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader must bathe in Aslan’s well in order to cleanse himself from the dragon form (The Silver Chair 23; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 107-9; Stoud, “Aslan of Narnia.”).  Another example is Psalm 23:5, which says, “my cup runneth over.” Aslan leaves a paw print that filled with water, which “was full to the brim, and then overflowing” (The Horse and His Boy167).  Shasta was able to drink from this makeshift cup. The image of God’s holy dwelling is pictured as a mountain (Psalm 48:1-2). So also is Aslan’s country depicted as a mountain. A further parallel is that Aslan anoints kings to rule over his people just as Yahweh anointed kings to rule his people Israel. Like David (1 Samuel 16:12-3), Peter is the ideal king (Duriez 23-4; Purtil 128-9; The Last Battle193; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 181-4; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 243; The Silver Chair 237).

The Horse and his Boy is a story that rings of providence. Because of this, it can be compared to the books of Ruth and Esther in which the role of God is less overt. Aslan functions in a similar manner throughout most of the book. It is only revealed at the end that Aslan was the one who had worked out the circumstances in the lives of the characters to bring them to where they needed to be. This story also demonstrates that Aslan is omnipresent as he still has control of events even though the characters are in a different land, Calormene. God is still in control even though Ruth and Esther are not in Israel. Both God and Aslan control even foreign rulers. Prince Rabadash’s transformation into a donkey is similar to Nebuchadnezzar transformation in Daniel 4 that made him have the mind of an animal (The Horse and His Boy 164-5, 201-2, 217-20; “The Horse and His Boy,” Wikipedia).

There is a Stone Table in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that is reminiscent of the stone tablets on which the Law of Moses was written (Exodus 24:12). It was on the table that the Witch slew Aslan (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 153-5; “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Wikipedia; Worsley 152).  But she did not know of magic even older than the stone table “that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 163).  This symbolizes the Old Covenant of Law that Christ broke when he took the penalty of the law himself (Galatians 3:13).

Finally, The Last Battle is a depiction of Revelation for the world of Narnia. It is an Armageddon type battle. A beast that has disguised himself as Aslan fools the people. This is like the Beast in Revelation 13:3-4. Aslan defeats his enemies and his faithful are drawn into a new Narnia, Aslan’s own country (Bane, “Myth Made Truth”; “C. S. Lewis,” Religion Facts; Johnston 256; The Last Battle 14-5, 46-7, 171-211; Stoud, “Aslan of Narnia”). This is like the new heaven and earth ushered in by Christ in the last days (Revelation 21:1).

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Narnian Uniqueness

 

Even if one ignorant of the Christian undertones in the story, “he or she can still enjoy the stories in their own right” (Duriez 23). Although the similarities between Narnia and Christianity are numerous, Aslan is not Jesus and Narnia is not the earth. One should not read the stories and notice only the Christian nuances. The stories should also be read for the unique ideas and perspectives they offer by their own merit as great works of fiction.

 

Besides a few brief mentions of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea and vague intimations to the Holy Spirit, Aslan is the only aspect seen of god in Narnia. He takes on the role of all three members of the triune. Aslan is also much more anthropomorphic than God is in the Bible. Aslan is more imminent. He is physically present in each of the seven books (Alexander 38; Stroud, “A Compendium of Information”; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 79).

 

Things that are metaphorical in the Old Testament become much more literal in Narnia. Aslan literarily fights in battle for Narnia. He is really a lion and really a lamb. Other mythological figures are a reality in Narnia also. Father Time is real as are dwarfs, centaurs, giants, and satyrs (Duriez 70; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 167-72, 177).

 

Evil enters the world of Narnia differently than on this planet. This evil has a different form than evil on Earth. Therefore Narnia’s plan of salvation must be tailored for them. More often than not, the problems from which Narnia suffers are flesh and bone enemies whom Aslan must defeat (Worsley 152; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 174-7; The Magician’s Nephew 146-7; Prince Caspian204; The Last Battle 130-42). The Chronicles of Narnia are stories about a world in which the presence of the divine has manifested itself in a completely different way than on Earth.

 

The Purpose of the Symbolism

 

Aslan is a supposition of what Christ might be like in another world. Consequently, Aslan is a symbolically loaded figure. Aslan is very much like Christ in all he does. But the two are also different. These different nuances inject new meaning into the biblical stories.

 

Why has Lewis sketched Aslan so? He uses a work of fiction to shed a fresh light on stories very familiar to readers. He endeavored to reawaken a sense of awe and joy that can disappear when a subject becomes too common. “[B]y casting Christianity within an imaginary world, stripping it of its stained-glass and Sunday School associations” (Johnston 264). Lewis thought that the message of the bible would be rejuvenated and re-endowed with the power of the imagination (Johnston 259, 261, 4). There are many who have become so numb to the Bible “as to be unmoved by the accounts of Christ’s death, are moved to tears at the death of Aslan” (Duriez 23).

 

The Chronicles of Narnia “[couch] an old, familiar story in a new, vibrant setting in order to help us look at the story from a different angle” (Hourihan). The gospel is seen through a clean lens without the connotations it previously had. Readers can be surprised by a truth in the message because the way it was presented made it more approachable and understandable to modern sensibilities. Purtill postulates that the simplicity of Aslan’s message may make it easier for children to comprehend. The idea of redemption can be complex, but viewing Aslan as Edmund’s substitute can be more readily grasped (Purtill 50-1; Worsley 149-50). Thus, one reason to use religious symbolism in fiction is to rekindle passion for Christianity.

 

Another purpose of symbolic fiction is to introduce people to gospel truth. Lewis says that, “Any amount of theology can be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it” (Worsley 152). Fiction can be a vehicle to get across Christ’s message to young readers or others who have not heard it. It is a fun adventure story that children are drawn into little knowing that it is based on something real (Hourihan).

 

Readers are attracted to the story and “as a result of this experience their imaginations are baptized; they get the taste and smell of Christian truth” (Johnston 253). This encounter plants seeds that hopefully will germinate into true faith. Narnia and Aslan are only a copy, a mirror reflection of the real thing. The symbolism reminds readers that the real beauty of the Narnia stories is that it is true. Christ is every bit and more of what Aslan is, only not fictional. Aslan points to this truth in The Dawn Treader when he tells the children that he is in their world also:

But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 247)

 

This is true for the reader as well. Lewis introduced people to Narnia so that by knowing Aslan, they might come to know Christ a little better also.

7. What is the Tao of Narnia?

 

King Miraz: Tell me, Prince Edmund…

Edmund Pevensie: King.

King Miraz: I beg your pardon.

Edmund Pevensie: It’s King Edmund, actually. Just King, though. Peter’s the High King.

[awkward pause]

Edmund Pevensie: I know, it’s confusing.

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Many of us can hardly wait for the release of the second film in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Prince Caspian will arrive in theaters this Friday.

 

If you have read the book, or if you listened to Mark Earley yesterday on “BreakPoint,” you know the storyline: the return of the four Pevensie children to a Narnia under the rule of the evil King Miraz. But how many of us realize the tale is undergirded by natural law lessons?

 

As Tim Mosteller writes in a book titled The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, “There is a Tao of Narnia.” Tao is the term that C. S. Lewis uses to describe “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false.”

 

In other words, the Tao of Narnia is what theologians call natural law—the belief that moral truths are present in the natural world that can be known by all, which, in Narnia, includes dwarves, fauns, centaurs, and mice.

 

As Mosteller notes, Lewis does not argue for the Tao in his Narnia books; he illustrates it. Accepting the Tao involves three things: “(1) A commitment to an objective moral order that is independent of what I or anyone else thinks; (2) an openness to moral development only within the Tao, and (3) a willingness to follow the Tao in all situations.”

 

The characters in Prince Caspian illustrate various responses to the Tao. For example, the valiant mouse Reepicheep wholeheartedly accepts the Tao and strives to live by it—even at the loss of his tail.

 

By contrast, King Miraz denies that loyalty to his nephew Caspian, the true king of Narnia, is a valid moral demand. Yet, he demands unswerving loyalty from his own men. In other words, Miraz tries to pick and choose which elements of the Tao he wants to live by. But as Mosteller notes, this is impossible because “all parts of the Law rest on the same self-evident moral axioms; any moral values the picker-and-chooser may appeal to have no authority outside the Tao as a whole.”

 

We also have the dwarf Nikabrik, who wants to conjure up the White Witch for help in overturning Miraz. Nikabrik is the ultimate pragmatist: To him, moral truth is whatever works. As Mosteller observes, Nikabrik fails to realize that the Tao is not just one morality among many: “It is the only morality—Aslan’s Owner’s Manual for true success and fulfillment, for Humans and Talking Beasts alike.”

 

These days—as in Lewis’s time—schools routinely teach that there is no objective moral truth: Morality is subjective, a matter of just personal preferences. And then they wonder why kids lie, cheat, and steal. As Lewis himself observed, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue . . . We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

 

Stories like Prince Caspian reveal, in the most exciting and dramatic way, that there is an objective moral law known to, and binding upon, us all.

 

Which is why I hope that, come this weekend, you will take in a showing of Prince Caspian. Take a child with you. Both of you will emerge from the darkened theatre longing to be as brave as Reepicheep—and as noble as the Lion.

8. How does the film flounder innocence?

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Prince Caspian: [Caspian and Peter begin a swordfight. Peter’s sword gets stuck in a tree, so he attempts to pick up a rock to hit Caspian]

Lucy Pevensie: No! Stop!

Peter Pevensie: [after seeing the Narnians gathering around] Prince Caspian?

Prince Caspian: Yes. And who are you?

[Susan and Edmund run over]

Susan Pevensie: Peter!

Prince Caspian: High King Peter?

Peter Pevensie: I believe you called.

Prince Caspian: Yes, but… I thought you’d be… older.

Peter Pevensie: Well if you like, we can come back in a few years.

Prince Caspian: No! No, it’s alright! You’re not exactly what I expected.

Prince Caspian: [locks eyes with Susan]

Edmund Pevensie: Neither are you.

the-chronicles-of-narnia-2-13

Believe me when I say The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspiandoesn’t need to have a title this long. It’s really not that important or ground breaking a film. What happened to CN2: Prince Caspian? Or is that too early 00’s for everyone now? Regardless of the really long title, the film itself isn’t so bad.

 

A real sense of danger and intrigue hovers over the world of Narnia that was lacking in the first film. Even the Narnians themselves come with a little bit of bite (Peter Dinklage is wonderful and Eddie Izzard providing voice work is spot on, as is good old Warwick Davis). Arrows whiz by character’s heads, someone could get hurt!, peril looms over every situation and follows our heroes through every moment and not only because of the hordes of breast plated bad guys at their heels, but because of the flaws in our heroes. Which is great because when things go wrong, it matters.

 

This is the only other book of C.S. Lewis’s allegorical masterpiece in which all four Kings and Queens of Narnia take the magical journey together, and there are hints of that genius shown within the four frames of the camera’s single lense, but it’s been so long since I’ve read the book (or since my father read the books to my sister and I) that I can’t recall which parts remain and which have been changed for our viewing audiences’ pleasures. To have the audacity to review the movie based on the merits of the movie alone…how dare I?!

 

The story is stronger and the characters more willing to chose a mistake over making the right choices in the second installment. The distinction made between the willingness to believe by a child untouched by ego and the need to prove oneself as an adult and not let the wisdom of their elders dictate their actions is the strongest. And it becomes a good lesson for those reaching for adulthood before they are ready. This theme is reflected in the relationship between Peter (the oldest) and Lucy (the youngest).

 

Lucy claims to have seen Aslan, in fact that’s all she sees. Her way of dealing with the problems that arise could be culled directly from Aslan’s mouth. But Peter has been an adult. He brought peace to Narnia. If Aslan isn’t there, if Aslan won’t show himself to Peter, then why should he continue to believe that the great Lion that helped them before will help them again. Why should he even follow Aslan’s ways? It’s Susie that reminds Peter he wasn’t the one that defeated the White Witch.

 

Much of Lewis’s brilliance is seen throughout these passages. And when things go wrong there’s a far greater emotional pull because of it. Once the movie clearly develops this theme it settles in and we’re treated to several rousing action sequences. One in which Peter bravely faces the evil King Miraz in a man to man sword fight. This is intense. The camera draws close to the action and doesn’t back down until the fight is over. Adamson handles these battles with a panache and immediacy that he sorely lacked in the far more cartoony first film.

 

But when the battles slow and the magic of the realm begins to take hold. It becomes less about the characters and their decision to call upon Aslan’s help and more about Aslan saving the day so that the film can end. The character conflict that makes the first 3/4 of the film intriguing is suddenly syruped over with the “magic” of Narnia. These images and moments contain no mystery or power. They are nothing more than images and moments culled from better fantasy films over the years. And become again and sadly cartoony. These images should speak volumes about the lore and mythology of Narnia. Somehow the digital effects make them seem small and commonplace.

 

And finally in the end a fatal mistake is made that not only takes us completely out of the magic of the Narnia realm we were just inhabiting, but also out of the World War period that the movies have been smart enough not to do away with. The director makes the really awful decision to lay an anachronistic pop song over the final moments of the film – before the credits even roll. A really bad pop song at that. Any magic any belief or feeling that we could have had coming out of the film was suddenly stripped away. It was honestly the equivalent of being punched in the stomach. Who needs the White Witch to destroy Narnia when you have creative decisions like this to do it for her?

 

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This entry was posted on December 26, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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