My Narnia posts pretty much presume that either you have already read the entire chronicles, or you don’t care about spoilers. It is impossible to discuss the whole series without spoiling the various parts of it. Fair warning – you will learn a lot about the plots by reading on.
Prince Caspian is subtitled: The Return to Narnia, and tells the tale of that one time that the four Pevensie children went back to Narnia and ended up in the middle of a revolution.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ends with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy tumbling back through the wardrobe as adults and return to their childhoods, exactly where they left off. Has anyone (else) had that dream where they are back in high school, but can’t figure out why? I have a recurring one – I am still a lawyer, but I’m back at my high school because I need some credit or another in order to graduate (and I haven’t been to class inWEEKS, also, I might possibly have a towel on my head from having just emerged from the shower, but I digress) and I am wandering around trying to explain that I don’t understand why I am here, because I have a graduate degree and a job. The credits I need are always in math, and I haven’t taken a math class in decades and scarcely remember how to multiply without using a calculator. But, again, I digress.
Anyway, C.S. Lewis ignores the part of the story that has the children wandering around like they are me, wondering why they have to go back to the seventh grade when they are, duh, kings and queens of Narnia. Also, possibly, they have experienced romantic, um, love, and have yet been returned to a state of bizarre (emotional) virginity (this is especially difficult to imagine for Lucy, which is presumably why Lewis ignored it. Because, eww). And, yes, there is a sense that the memory of Narnia fades the longer they are in “our” world. But, in any event, we meet up with them again when they are waiting for the train that will return them to boarding school.
Then they are yarded back to Narnia more than a thousand years in the future, to help the rightful king of Narnia, Caspian, retake his throne from the usurper, his Uncle Miraz, who has murdered his father and intends to murder Caspian X. Shades of The Lion King (I mean, Hamlet) batman. Because the children have forgotten many of their skills, they need some time in the bracing magical air of Narnia to regain their abilities with sword and bow.
Prince Caspian is not – for me, at least – as good as the first book. The Telmarines have trampled much of the magic out of Narnia and the talking beasts and dwarves and other Narnian folk have gone underground or simply disappeared. It is firmly set in the world of men, and the takeover of the men have done pretty much only harm to Narnia. Ironic, then, that a group of men – Peter, Edmund and Caspian – are charged with saving it and restoring true Narnians to a position of prominence. Susan plays much less of a role in this book, and even Lucy is left out of a lot of the action. She remains the voice of innocence that is most readily able to communicate with Aslan, but aside from her role as oracle, she seems to have little active role to play in the emancipation of Narnia.
At the end of the book, it is made clear to Peter and Susan that they are not going to be returning to Narnia because they are too old. This never really made sense to me, and, actually, it sort of pissed me off when I read it the first time. It’s like Narnia is sort of like believing in Santa Claus – something you can’t have once you reach maturity. But, then, we have what happens later and, well, shit. Do you want them to grow up or not, Lewis, you old hypocrite, because maturity is pretty much required of adult human beings, and if you aren’t going to let them come back to Narnia then presumably they are going to have to do things like have jobs, and get married. Mundane, grown up stuff, which, apparently, causes you to go straight to hell if you are girlish about it.
A few words about the movie: it can only be stomached if one is not a fan of the work as a whole because the story was basically butchered. The actor who plays Trumpkin is quite good, and the four young actors playing the Pevensie children do a workmanlike job. Ben Barnes is extremely handsome as the young Prince Caspian, although his acting skills leave much to be desired. However, there are major changes to the story that make no sense at all. There is a futile and militarily incomprehensible assault on the Telmarine castle that involves Peter being responsible for a slaughter that did not happen in the book and is terribly painful to watch both because of the tactical humiliation and because of the fact that the noble centaurs are slaughtered like, well, animals. And when Caspian and Susan started making cow eyes at one another, I was pretty much done. I am no purist, but it was all too much for me.