The Telmarine Who Saved Narnia
Written by Hannah P.
The Chronicles of Narnia stories have often been cited as being “childhood favorites” by generations of readers. If you were to pick up a copy of any of the seven Narnia books, you could see why. But C.S. Lewis’s children’s books have become much more than just bedtime stories. Passed down from parent to child, these books have influenced many people with their shining examples of courage, chivalry and faith.
I was introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, much like the other readers I have described. But I wasn’t introduced to the stories through the books; instead I was introduced to Narnia through a radio drama adaption from Focus on the Family. I remember sitting beside the fireplace with my parents just before bedtime, listening to the epic saga play out. I was terrified of the White Witch, enthralled with the magical beauty of the land of Narnia, and intimidated by the majestic figure of Aslan. To this day, my views and opinions of the books and movies are all colored with the ideas and images that grew in my young mind as I listened to the stories.
I especially remember how different Prince Caspian seemed from the rest of the series when I first listened to it. The feeling was the same when I watched the movie for the first time. The other stories (excepting The Last Battle, which is the most similar to Prince Caspian of the series, in my opinion) have a certain feel to them. There is a sense of wonder and awe from the characters as they venture into new territory, explore new places, and meet new creatures. However, Prince Caspian isn’t about discovering a new world, it’s about rediscovering an old one. In this story the magical world of Narnia has all but disappeared, replaced with an oppressive Telmarine occupation. The creatures and wildlife of Narnia have vanished, and are now legendary. The Telmarines live in a gray, austere world, devoid of the color and magic that filled Narnia a thousand years before. The remarkable events that led to the four Pevensie children becoming kings and queens of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have become folklore, tales that are hidden from the young Prince Caspian at the orders of his uncle King Miraz. But that doesn’t stop Caspian’s tutor from telling them to Caspian in secret.
Caspian’s knowledge of the ancient tales serves him well when he suddenly finds himself running for his life through Narnian forests. His uncle Miraz had only looked after Caspian as long as he didn’t have an heir of his own, but the birth of a son makes Caspian a dangerous liability in Miraz’s eyes. Caspian succeeds in escaping from his uncle’s clutches and into the forests of Narnia, where he learns the truth of the legends that his tutor had told him. He discovers and befriends talking animals, centaurs, minotaurs and dwarves, promising them that he will help them reclaim their land if they help him reclaim his throne. Thus, an unlikely alliance between the Telmarine prince and the Narnians is forged. Using Aslan’s How (a monument built over Aslan’s Table, the place where Aslan was killed by the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ) as a headquarters, Caspian and the Narnians prepare to take back their rightful inheritances.
In the book, Prince Caspian and the Narnians knowingly call the kings and queens of old by blowing Queen Susan’s magical horn. In the movie, Prince Caspian blows the horn as a desperate call for help. Either way, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are called back into Narnia from their own world. Their return provides the help and experience needed for Caspian and the Narnians to win their battle against the Telmarines.
C.S. Lewis described the story of Prince Caspian as "the restoration of the true religion after a corruption." Since the entire Narnia series is an allegory with Aslan, the Christ-figure, at its heart, the spiritual imagery is evident. Prince Caspian is particularly allegorical, with Caspian reminding the audience of the Biblical King David. The struggle of the Narnians to reclaim their homeland reminds me of the Israelites’ effort to take back the Promised Land, and the restoration of faith in Aslan clearly embodies C.S. Lewis’s statement. This story also uses courage and chivalry as main themes, providing Caspian as a worthy coming-of-age hero to admire.
Indeed, Caspian is the center of the story; the entire plot hinges on his attempts to help the Narnians and regain his throne. By making him older than readers of the book assume him to be (although the book states that Caspian’s age is close to that of Peter’s), the film provides the audience with a character that is suited to leading an army and ruling Narnia as it’s king. The film’s interpretation of Caspian is believable, giving his character room to develop and mature. When he learns of the true extent of Miraz’s evil and how Miraz killed Caspian’s father to gain the throne, Caspian struggles with thoughts of revenge, endangering a crucial mission with his desire for retribution. However, Caspian ultimately chooses chivalry over vengeance, deciding instead to pursue justice by “giving the Narnians back their kingdom.”
To further enhance the story and provide character development, the film adds elements that are not present in the book. The main addition is a rivalry between Caspian and Peter. When you think about the points of view of both characters, their backgrounds and experience, this rivalry makes perfect sense. Caspian is a relatively new leader, having to mature from a king-in-training to military commander in a short period of time. Viewed as a traitor by his Telmarine countrymen and with distrust by the Narnians, Caspian has to work hard to earn the acceptance of his new subjects. In contrast, Peter is a young man with years of experience gained from ruling Narnia a thousand years before. Along with that experience comes an expectation of obedience and authority as the High King. In view of Peter’s role, accepting Caspian as the rightful king of Narnia is a hard task. Their conflicts and inability to compromise with one another cost them dearly during a decisive battle. Thankfully, both Peter and Caspian learn to work together and use their knowledge and skills to their best advantage.
Because I was introduced to Narnia through radio drama, I’m very forgiving of the changes that filmmakers made when adapting the books into movies. However, others who hold to the original books with unalterable fervor have been very displeased with the way the filmmakers chose to bring the books to the screen. Many of my friends and family members have been discontent with the movies, especially Prince Caspian. I can understand their point of view, and I can even concur with them on some points. One of my favorites scenes from the book (the scene where Aslan confronts Peter, Susan and Edmund with their unwillingness to follow him through faith and not through sight) was omitted in the movie, and while aspects of it are scattered throughout the film, I believe the original scene is far more powerful and affecting.
However, when I look at the movie as a whole, I think the changes make sense. Filmmakers chose to draw a distinction between the ancient Narnia with the conquered Narnia, making the entire movie a contrast of sorts. The Pevensie’s ideas of how Narnia should be based upon their experiences a thousand years before is contrasted with Prince Caspian and his vision of joining the new Telmarine empire with the old Narnian world. The ancient Narnian world is filled with color, light and beauty, while the Telmarine empire is a dark and gray place. These comparisons help to illustrate the story, the merging of old with new, and the reclaiming of things that were lost. The battles and duels that are fought are fought not to restore Narnia to its former glory but to build a new Narnia, a land that can adapt to the changes and turn them into something meaningful and full of beauty. That essentially is what Prince Caspian is all about.
(Formerly published in The Costume Chronicles - www.costumechronicles.com - )