Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 3

Status Report:

  • Book: A severely used copy of the 2001 The Chronicles of Narnia omnibus by HarperCollins. I wonder if it will turn up any interesting notes, like my copy of A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
  • Books Read: 3/7
  • Pages Read: 329/767
  • Progress:

Today, I finished Prince Caspian and I’m already into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader–which Lewis kicks off by mocking tee-totalling non-smoking vegetarians. Two out of three, Lewis! (You’re lucky I’m a carnivore.) And we were getting on so well!

Prince Caspian surprised me by being so… well, so slim. In my edition, which is a regular paperback with no illustrations (save chapter illustrations, akin to Harry Potter), it’s almost exactly one hundred pages. I suppose with the 2008 film adaptation fairly recent in my mind, I expected something more epic. The structure of Prince Caspian is quite odd; after establishing the Pevensies in Narnia, chapters four through seven loop back around to give us Caspian’s backstory. It threw me for a loop.

I think part of this stems from the fact that The Chronicles of Narnia (or, at the very least, the ones I’ve read so far–I’ve little reason to believe they change) are firmly written for children. Now, as you might know already, there is a large difference between a work appropriate for all ages (for example, Pixar’s Ratatouille) and a work written for children (for example, Pixar’s Cars). I think those are fairly universal examples. The difference between those two films is the lack of logical worldbuilding, which results in my disbelief remaining firmly unsuspended. (In short, where have all the humans gone and why are their cars talking I cannot delight in this.) You can see this in several elements that make little to no sense in the preindustrial, magical world of Narnia–Mrs. Beaver’s sewing machine from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the school Aslan and company breaks up at the end of Prince Caspian, and so on and so forth. It’s quite clear that Lewis envisions his audience as a child; in fact, whenever he breaks the fourth wall to address the audience, he often makes that quite clear. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t help but compare Lewis’s work to Tolkien’s work, the authors being great friends–I suppose that’s why it jumps out at me so much.

Usually, it’s delightful. But because it’s written firmly for children, Lewis glosses over a very fascinating concept–how do the Pevensie children, who have grown to adulthood and into themselves in Narnia, reintegrate back into regular England as children and then back into a Narnia where they are, essentially, King Arthur return to modern-day Britain? It’s not that Lewis ignores it, but he plays it too lightly for my tastes. There’s a moment of great sadness when the children, exploring a ruined castle, discover that it’s Cair Paravel–their castle. Susan, after discovering one of their old chess pieces, is moved almost to tears and becomes overwhelmed with emotion. But this sort of fairly dark psychological drama isn’t suitable for Lewis’s limited audience, and he instead reverts to referencing Lucy’s delightful memories of being a Queen in Narnia. I almost wish he’d just hand-waved it away instead of skirting around it like he does.

Susan develops more of a character here; she’s proud of her skills (especially her archery; it’s pointed out that Susan is good at that and swimming) and seems a bit more nostalgic about her days as Queen of Narnia than her siblings, considering the day they left Narnia “the last day of all” (pg. 327). Edmund, while “cured” of his bad influences from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe can still be a bit sharp, and he’s apparently something of a reader now. Peter still makes me smile with his optimism and firmly modern sensibility, and Lucy remains herself, more or less–although her faith is tested by Aslan. I have to say, I quite like Caspian–a dreamy kid who’ll stand up for what he believes in, but is still awed by the mythical High King Peter and, of course, Aslan.

All in all, Prince Caspian is a very slight installment in The Chronicles of Narnia. Off to finish The Voyage of the Dawn Treader!

If you’re participating in Narnia Week, don’t forget to add your posts to the Mr. Linky! And don’t forget about the #narniaweek hash tag on Twitter. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 3

  1. My copy of Prince Caspian has lovely illustrations by Pauline Baynes (only black and white, but so detailed and crisp).

    I’d never really considered before how difficult the children might have found adjusting to child-life again after being adults in Narnia – and if you think about it, why should they have gone back to being children on returning to our world? – and I agree Lewis skirts the issue entirely.

    • The illustrations in my edition are by her, too–but I haven’t a clue who did the ones for my other edition.

      I know! It can be downright body horror. I know fandom has a grand old time exploring it–usually from Susan’s perspective–so I’ll definitely be looking for fic concerning it.

  2. Prince Caspian is the weakest of the books, in my opinion — apart from The Last Battle of course — and I almost never reread it. Apart from being the book that introduces Reepicheep, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. Dawn Treader, though, is one of my favorites, in spite of the nasty attitude toward nonsmokers and vegetarians (and feminists, as it turns out).

  3. I didn’t like this one as much either. Not much happened. I did think it was weird that they added the long backstory to Caspian in the middle of the story of the Pevensie children. I kept trying to figure out how it fit in. It finally did make sense once the story was told, but it took a while to get there.

  4. I always wished Lewis had dealt with the physiological and psychological implications of reverting to childhood after having led a full, powerful adult life. I was glad to see the filmmakers touch on it in the movie adaptation, if only briefly.

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