Truth and Consequence in Prince Caspian

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThe time has come to close this year’s Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge–and I, as usual, have not managed to quite accomplish what I set out to do.

My plan, per my introduction post, was to explore how the different characters in Prince Caspian responded to the truth. I also intended to read Roar: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia–and I checked out one of the old (think, stuffed lion) videos of Prince Caspian out of the library.

I ended up doing only the former–and not as completely as I had intended.

First, I looked at how the four Pevensies came to the conclusion that they were back in Narnia.

Next, I looked at Caspian’s childlike faith and discussed the role of fairy tales in revealing truth.

Third, I discussed how the Telemarine’s suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, inventing ghosts to fear rather than fearing and worshiping Aslan.

Finally, I talked about Trumpkin’s skepticism and his personal road to belief.

I had intended to go one step further and discuss Lucy.

Lucy’s role in Prince Caspian is reminiscent of her role in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While all four children enter Narnia together this time, Lucy still ends up being something of a guide–with more knowledge than the rest.

Her more knowledge, of course, is a direct result of being the first of the children (and Trumpkin) to see Aslan when He returns from over the sea.

Just like in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the rest of the children don’t believe Lucy’s story. They don’t think she’s lying, like they did then; but they still believe her to be mistaken about having seen Aslan. How can Aslan be there if they can’t see Him?

Because the others don’t believe Lucy, they are unwilling to take the route she suggests. So Lucy finds herself miserably traveling an opposing route–a route that turns out to be ruinous.

When Lucy at last finds herself face to face with Aslan, He comments that much time has been lost that day.

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so–”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “you don’t mean it was? How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that…oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

~From Prince Caspian

Lucy knew the truth. She had seen Aslan, had seen him directing where they should go. But when the others refused to listen to her testimony, she turned aside and followed them along a foolish path.

She knew the truth but did not walk in the truth.

In this case, Aslan offers mercy and gives Lucy another chance to follow him. This time, the rest of the group reluctantly give in to follow and all turns out well.

Lucy didn’t know that, couldn’t have known that. She needed to be willing to walk where Aslan led whether or not anyone else came with her.

Of all the things that we can do with the truth, this is the one that I most closely identify with. I know the truth. I believe the truth intellectually. But when it comes to walking in the truth, acting on what I affirm, I often take the path of least resistance.

Oh, that God would work in my heart that I might will and do His good pleasure.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
~3 John 4 ESV

This has been my wrap-up post for this year’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Follow the link to read what other people have been doing and thinking during this year’s challenge. (If your interested in my past participation in the challenge, you can check out my Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge tag.

Trumpkin: The Modern Skeptic

“Do you believe all those old stories?” asked Trumpkin.

“I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself.”

“As firmly as that, I dare say,” said Trumpkin. “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?”

~From C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian

Trumpkin is the best sort of modern man, except that he’s not a man at all but a dwarf. He’s loyal, practical, and not willing to put up with any nonsense.

Unfortunately, he considers Aslan and the kings and queens of old and Cair Paravel and the sacred How among the “nonsense”.

When the Dark Dwarf suggests introducing Caspian to an ogre and a hag, Trufflehunter argues that they would not have Aslan as a friend if they were to add such to their ranks. Trumpkin cries out bravely “Oh, Aslan! What matters much more is that you wouldn’t have me.”

Trumpkin doesn’t believe that blowing Susan’s horn will do any good–in fact, he is rather disgusted that it may lose them two fighters–but he is loyal to his king and will go in search of the help he is sure will not be coming. “I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s time for orders.”

Once he finds himself (rather circuitously) dropped in the laps of the Promised Four, he is willing to let them be the children from the stories–but is less willing to believe that they’d be any help. It takes being beaten twice, once by Edmund at a sword fight and a second time by Susan at archery, for him to believe that they are indeed the Expected Help.

Even still, Trumpkin holds out. Yes, he is forced to admit that magic must exist (inasmuch as it has brought the Pevensies to Narnia), but that is all he will admit.

Like the modern scientist forced by the reality of this universe’s beginning to acknowledge the need for a greater cause, Trumpkin grudgingly admits to magic. But his god, like Stephen Hawking’s, is a deistic, impersonal first cause; not the Aslan of Narnian legend or the God of Scripture.

Lucy’s testimony, likewise, is unable to convince the hardened skeptic. “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 a friendly and talking bear…He’d be a pretty elderly lion by now if he’s one you knew when you were here before! And if it could be the same one, what’s to prevent him having gone wild and witless like so many others?”

At last, Trumpkin comes to believe, but only because he has been in the lion’s mouth.

“The Dwarf, hunched up in a little, miserable ball, hung from Aslan’s mouth. The Lion gave him one shake and all his armour rattled like a tinker’s pack and then–hey-presto–the Dwarf flew up in the air. He was as safe as if he had been in bed, though he did not feel so.”

Trumpkin is no longer skeptical. He has come flesh-to-flesh with the reality of Aslan. Aslan the Dangerous, who could have killed him with a single crunch of His jaws. Aslan the Merciful, who put him on his feet and offered him friendship.

Trumpkin no longer has a choice. He can no longer deny. He can only agree with Aslan.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

This post is another part of my investigation of how different characters in Prince Caspian relate to the truth. I am reading Prince Caspian as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Follow the link to see who else is participating in the challenge–and to read some of their posts.

Suppressing truth, inventing ghosts

“…We believe it was far from here, down at the mouth of the Great River, on the very shore of the sea.”

“Ugh!” said Caspian with a shudder. “Do you mean in the Black Woods? Where all the– the–you know, the ghosts live?”

“Your Highness speaks as you have been taught,” said the Doctor. “But it is all lies. There are no ghosts there. That is a story invented by the Telmarines. Your Kings are in deadly fear of the sea because they can never quite forget that in all the stories Aslan comes from over the sea. They don’t want to go near it and they don’t want anyone else to go near it…And the Kings and great men, hating both the sea and the wood, partly believe these stories, and partly encourage them. They feel safer if no one in Narnia dares to go down to the coast and look out to sea–towards Aslan’s land and the morning and the eastern end of the world.”

~From C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian heard the truth about Old Narnia and believed it with simple childlike faith, dreaming of the days when all was right, when animals spoke, and Aslan ruled.

Others learned or knew the truth and were terrified.

The Kings of Telmar had plenty of reason to fear the talking animals of Narnia, the dryads and the naiads. They had plenty of reason to fear Aslan.

They were cruel and heartless kings, kings who ruled with injustice and demanded what was not theirs. Old Narnia would have no reason to be kind to them should Old Narnia awake.

Frightened of the implications Aslan’s return might have for their future and power, these kings blocked off every route to Aslan. Using nature and superstition and tradition, they turned the people’s eyes away from the Eastern sea.

They suppressed the truth, claiming that stories of Old Narnia were mere fairy tales, spun by old wives without sense.

They traded their fear of Aslan for a new fear–fear of the ghosts they’d invented, the ghosts they claimed inhabited the woods beside the sea.

The funny thing is that even those who knew perfectly well that the woods surrounding the Sea weren’t haunted, even those who invented the stories of the woods being haunted, found themselves enslaved in the lie of their own making.

They started to half believe it, this tale that they’ve created. They transferred their terror of Aslan into terror of the woods.

By trading fear of something truly powerful with fear of something that didn’t really exist, they thought that they could somehow become secure in their wickedness. So long as they avoided the woods, they could do whatever they wanted, right?

But the kings underestimated their own power.

Aslan exists, whether anyone believes in him or not.

Their actions are deplorable and will be judged, whether they acknowledge the judge or not.

For now, Aslan has given them over to their lies, to the tales they have created to justify their lives, to obscure the truth.

But the lies will not remain forever, the truth will triumph at last–and their foolish dark hearts will be destroyed in the lies they have embraced.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

~Romans 1:18-25

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

This post is another part of my investigation of how different characters in Prince Caspian relate to the truth. I am reading Prince Caspian as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Follow the link to see who else is participating in the challenge–and to read some of their posts.

Fairy Tales: Truth Veiled

The young Caspian is the epitome of child-like faith.

Enthralled with the stories his nurse has told him, longing for days long since past, his faith finds voice when his uncle asks him what he might wish for that would be better than being King of Narnia.

“I wish–I wish–I wish I could have lived in the Old Days.”

The power-hungry Miraz, always alert to threats to his authority, is suddenly watchful, now slyly seeking information from his unsuspecting nephew.

Caspian, too young and too naive to recognize his uncle’s tone, blathers on about the wonders of the Narnia of yesteryear.

Finally, the usurper’s edict comes down. Those were mere fairy tales and Caspian was not to talk–nor even think about such things again.

Fairy tales.

Curious things these.

Lewis recognized their power, their ability to go beyond morals to convey truth.

While scheming parents (or modern ones, as we see in Caspian‘s sequel) quell the fairy tales in favor of cold, hard fact; Lewis gives fairy tales prime time.

To Lewis, fairy tales aren’t wishful thinking–they’re whispers of lost reality. They’re echoes in the heart that hearken to a word once spoken but now lost.

The young Lewis felt a thrill as he read Norse fairy tales. He felt the power of those stories, even when he did not understand it.

The adult Lewis came to believe that those stories were true. Not factually accurate, but true portrayals of reality. True tales of spiritual realms, of hearts’ longings, of epic bravery.

Is it surprising that the tales Miraz derides as “nonsense”, a “pack of lies”, and “silly stories” turn out to be true in fact?

Of course not.

For Lewis, fairy tales were the truth, veiled.

The childish wonder at a fairy tale is only one step away from fully mature faith.

Even if Caspian no longer believed those fairy tales to be true, he dreamt that they were. He longed for a reality beyond himself.

It was this longing that made Caspian into the man he became. It was this longing, rooted in his childhood faith, that made him the King he became.

Longing for the fairy tales, once he discovered that they were true, made him into a man worthy of tales.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

This post is one part of my investigation of how different characters in Prince Caspian relate to the truth. I am reading Prince Caspian as part of Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Follow the link to see who else is participating in the challenge–and to read some of their posts.

Prince Caspian: Returning to Narnia

It always stuns me a bit, how dense the Pevensie four can be.

Magically whisked out of their own world and placed along a coast of quite another, they haven’t a clue where they are.

Actually, that’s not quite right.

Lucy questions hopefully, “Do you think we can possibly have got back to Narnia?”

Yet she and the others seem entirely satisfied to drop the idea when Peter responds: “It might be anywhere.”


Why don’t they get that they’ve returned? Why can’t they understand that, of course, they’re back in Narnia?

I want to shake them, so accustomed I am to the multitudes of routes by which one might enter Narnia.

But I have to remind myself to step into their shoes, to see through their eyes.

While I have already read three books of Narnia, they have only lived two. And their two are really just one story, mostly just one visit through a single portal.

They have only entered Narnia through a wardrobe, have only known a certain way for magic to operate.

They recognize the magic but not the destination. This is not the way they are used to getting to Narnia.

Like a passenger approaching a familiar place from the opposite direction, they were confused by what they saw.

Lucy’s response is hope, hope without any apparent basis, hope easily squashed by Peter’s simple words. “It could be anywhere.” When “anywhere” turns out to be somewhat reminiscent of Narnia, with a great hall and a dais, she suggests that they “pretend we were in Cair Paravel now.”

Susan responds with a wistful nostalgia, missing Narnia but acting as though she has no hope in returning. She dreamily singsongs about “our castle of Cair Paravel at the mouth of the great river of Narnia.” She chokes up when she sees the golden chessman, speaking of the lovely times she remembers.

Edmund plays the pragmatist, seemingly unconcerned with where they are so long as they survive. He suggests that they search for fresh water, that they eat their sandwiches before they go bad, that they should somehow figure out how to survive within the woods.

And Peter–Peter is forever logical. “It could be anywhere,” he declares when they have just arrived. He does not know enough to say and so he won’t.

When they find a castle and begin to speculate, Peter is the one who correctly identifies the place they’re standing as a hall with a dais on one end.

And when Susan finds the golden chessman, it is Peter who connects the dots and concludes that they are in Narnia, articulating his logic in four points.

Now Edmund is the skeptic, questioning Peter’s conclusions, bringing up holes in his theory.

Lucy devises an hypothesis to test whether Peter’s conclusion is true.

Susan would rather not explore, would rather not know, would rather leave it all alone.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeHere, as the four return to Narnia for the first time since they ruled as kings and queens, I am fascinated by how they approached the truth I can so plainly see. I am transfixed by their range of attitudes, emotions, and thoughts as they question where they are.

All throughout Prince Caspian, I see a theme. How will each character respond to truth? Will they seek it or run from it? Once they have found it, will they embrace it or fight against it? Will they dismiss it as a story, twist it in fear, or welcome it as a friend?

I’m eager to further explore this theme as we header further up and further in!

This post is (as most of you can guess) part of my participation in Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge. Follow the link to see who else is participating in the challenge–and to read some of their posts.

Escaping through the Wardrobe

My little sister practically forced me into reading the Harry Potter books starting last weekend–and it’s been fun. But I was delighted when June rolled into July, marking a hiatus from venturing into unknown worlds and inviting me to return to my first-fantasy-love: Narnia.

That’s right, it’s time for Reading to Know’s annual “Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge”–and I’m here with bells on.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

I’m reading Prince Caspian this year, continuing my slow march through the books, attempting to dig deeply and savor whatever symbolism and meaning my mind can find.

To be honest, I’m a bit scared this year, worried that I won’t find anything meaningful, that my brain won’t be working, and that my analysis will be shallow.

Even as I listened to an audiobook version of Caspian on my way to work on Monday, my mind was racing for the perfect symbol, the perfect theme to settle upon for my blog posts this month.

But time traveled on and my mind slowly grew accustomed to Narnian air and ready for whatever meaning is to be found in this volume.

“I don’t think Edmund would have had a chance if he had fought Trumpkin twenty-four hours earlier. But the air of Narnia had been working upon him ever since they arrived on the island, and all his old battles came back to him, and his arms and fingers remembered their old skill. He was King Edmund once more.”
~from C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian

Just as it took the Pevensies time to acclimate themselves back to Narnia–even just to recognize that they were in Narnia, it has taken me awhile to shed my grown-up analysis and to return with the eyes of a child. But I’m back. I’ve escaped. Whether called by Susan’s horn or in through a picture or hidden in a wardrobe, I have made my way in and I’m not leaving until I’ve experienced it fully.

Are you coming?

Check out some of my previous years’ explorations in Narnia: