"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prince Caspian

Trying to keep in mind that this is book blog, I will limit myself to just a few desultory comments on Prince Caspian the movie to begin with, while otherwise attempting to keep Lewis’s incomparable original at the center of attention.

  • Susan is pretty cool with her Legolesqe archery showdown in the woods but Lucy is cooler facing the entire Telmarine army on the bridge with her little dagger.
  • I can hardly wait till Reepicheep takes the stage in Dawn Treader.
  • Was the Bulgy Bear sucking his thumb during the dual or not?

I felt that the movie tried too had to be serious; to “talk like a grown up.” There is nothing wrong, in general, with trying to make a plot more plausible by, say, developing themes of Hamlet like revenge on an evil uncle, or a tense exploration of pride and its consequences in Peter, but these elements are simply not in Lewis’s original. And it was a conscious choice, not the deficiency of a shallow author writing for children because he could not delineate character or make a solid plot. In Lewis’s essay entitled: “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” he describes the creation of the Chronicles of Narnia and why they were written as Fairy Tales (not “children’s stories” by the way):

“As these images sorted themselves out (i.e. became a story) they seemed to demand no love interest and no close psychology. But the Form which excludes these things is the Fairy Tale. And the moment I thought of that I fell in love with the form itself: its brevity, its severe restraints on description, its flexible traditionalism, its inflexible hostility to all analysis, digression, reflections and “gas.” I was now enamoured of it. Its very limitations of vocabulary became an attraction; as the hardness of the stone pleases the sculptor, or the difficulty of the sonnet delights the sonneteer” (On Stories 46-47).

Fairy Tales then, by their nature, avoid much of the dullness and description of the novel form and can focus on, in Lewis’s words, “the stuff I had to say” (On Stories 47).

One of these focal points in Prince Caspian is the importance of obedience. I was gratified to see this theme carried over into the movie, although it takes Peter much longer to learn his lesson (Potentially reinforcing the point by showing the consequences of trying to take charge, or, on the other hand, sullying a noble character from the book).

For me, the central image in the book is of Lucy wandering through the half-waking woods to find Aslan. This is one of my favorite passages in all literature and the movie (or any movie, I fear) could not do justice to the beauty of Lewis’s portrayal. When Lucy finally does reach Aslan, the image is vivid to the imagination and powerful by showing Aslan’s fatherly, playful, commanding love.

“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 would not have been alone, I know, not if I was with you”(Caspian 137).

On an Allegorical level this scene is about more than just obedience. Two that immediately struck me (well, they didn’t actually try to assault me) were the nature of God (in Aslan) and evangelism (“Go wake the others and tell them to follow”). Undoubtedly there are more just as there are more throughout the book.

I have to record one exchange in the movie that I don’t recall in the book. It too can be taken as an allegory by those (we’re all in need of it from time to time) who are overly caught up in plans, programs, and pride. When the voice of faith interrupts our grand plans and we frustrated say: “haven’t you been listening, Lucy?” She answers back: “No, you haven’t been listening! Have you forgotten who it was that really defeated the White Witch?” The answer is, of course, Aslan. It is as if Lucy had repeated: “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, sayeth the Lord.”

Lewis, C.S. On Stories: and Other Essay On Literature. Harcourt, Inc. 1982.

Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian. Collier books, New York, twenty first printing, 1978.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Yeah, Reepicheep rules.

It was good to hear Lewis's perspective on the structure of the story. I find it interesting that he consciously recognized that the stories needed "no love interest and no close psychology." I think the resulting atmosphere - bold, stern, vivid, direct - is quite similar to that of Lord of the Rings.

And Zech. 4:6 fits the story like a key in a lock. Well quoted.