Monday, November 12, 2007

Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia – Part 2

After a hiatus due to school work and life in general, now I continue my series on the Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

In Part One of the series, I outlined the story of book one, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I attempted to highlight some of the spiritual themes of the first book in the Narnia series. This week I’ll look at book two – Prince Caspian. It seems especially timely that I should be discussing this series as the buzz is growing about another children’s series entitled His Dark Materials. The movie version of the first book in that series, The Golden Compass has gotten a lot of discussion of late.

Of the other, atheistic, series I have little to say now. However, Kevin Bussey has a brief discussion of the topic here. I will say, however, that I find it interesting that Nicole Kidman, herself a catholic, would be involved with this movie, but then what do I know about movies and moviemakers? Having said my piece, let us move on to Prince Caspian.

In this, the second Narnia book, the Pevensie children return to the magical land of Narnia to find that hundreds of years have passed, while only a few months have gone by in our world. Their beloved land has been taken over by the Telmarines, who have sought to remove every vestige of magic from the land. They fear the talking animals and magical creatures, and so they have driven them into hiding.

Among these Telmarines is a young man named Caspian whose uncle, Miraz, the king has raised him. The boy, Caspian, grows up under the tutelage of a Doctor Cornelius, who, unbeknownst to the king, is part dwarf. He reveals to Caspian the truth about Narnia, and that it is a magical land, and was once inhabited by the magical creatures. Caspian has a fascination with the “old Narnia” and longs to learn more of the old days. As he learns more, he also finds that Miraz is a usurper. His father, King Caspian IX, was the ruler before his death, and since that time Miraz had proclaimed himself king. This becomes crucial to Caspian when he learns that his aunt, the Queen has given birth to a son – and so he must flee into exile in order to save his own life.

As Caspian enters the mountains, he encounters the remnants of the “old Narnians” – the talking beasts and magical creatures. They recognize him as the true king and form a resistance.

Meanwhile the Pevensie children return to Narnia and encounter one of the old Narnians, who tells them of Caspian. They set out on their way to meet up with Caspian and his army, with many trials along the way. It is this part of the story which deals with the matter of faith. As they journey to meet Caspian, they lose their way. Lucy, however sees Aslan, while the other children cannot. She reveals that He wants them to follow Him. As the others believe her, putting their faith in Aslan, they are able to see Him too. Thus, in the story we recognize a critical spiritual truth that, believing is seeing.

Meanwhile, Caspian and his advisors must decide if they will trust in Aslan to send them aid in their cause, or whether they will turn to dark magic. Thankfully, they make the right decision, just as the Pevensies arrive. Perhaps the biggest of the issues that faces the characters in this book is the struggle of faith. The Telmarines generally have made a decision not to believe in Aslan or in “Old Narnia,” as a result they live their lives in a decidedly un-magical fashion. However, so many of the “old Narnians” themselves have lost faith in Aslan. He has not been seen in Narnia for many years, and so some have decided not to believe in Him.

The action comes to a climax in a single-combat match where Miraz faces off against Peter. The scene is somewhat reminiscent of a David and Goliath type conflict, pitting a man, Miraz, against a boy, Peter. In the end, Peter defeats Miraz, but it is the Userper’s own treacherous lieutenants who kill him. A battle ensues and the Narnians, let by Caspian, Peter, and Edmund are soon joined by a second Narnian army, reawakened and led by Aslan himself. The Telmarines are defeated and Caspian is recognized as the rightful ruler of Narnia.

As a result of the battle, Narnia is reclaimed by the magical creatures who had inhabited it. Curiously, Lewis introduces a number of pagan mythological figures, namely Baccus and Dionysus. (In this we can be certain that he is no Baptist). However, each of the gods introduced recognizes Aslan as superior. I believe that this is one of several cases where Lewis chooses to use fantastic or mythological elements to advance or enhance his story, but where they serve no real theological purpose.

At the outset I tried to make it clear that these books are not theology books, nor are they to be taken for gospel. They are stories, but they do have a number of elements, as I am trying to show, which are Christian in nature and give the books themselves a Christian bent.

As the story draws to a close, Aslan questions Caspian, much as God comes to Solomon in 1 Kings 3. Aslan asks Caspian if he feels worthy to be king, to which Caspian replies that he is only a boy. Aslan blesses him, acknowledging that his humility is a great virtue and giving him the promise (as God gave to David) that his children would always sit on the throne of Narnia.

Finally, Aslan shows mercy. He shows mercy to the mouse, Reepicheep, by restoring his tail (a mouse’s glory), which had been cut off in the battle. In addition Aslan reveals that the Telmarines were originally from our world. They had entered into Narnia from a magic cave on an island which their ancestors (pirates) had discovered. Aslan provides an opportunity for those who wish to return to that island. And he sends the children back to England.


hcfischer1 said...

Here are some of my thoughts pertaining to this topic:
When did you go to LU? I graduated in 2002.

Matt Knight said...

Thanks for dropping by Heather. I was at LU from 2001-05. Thanks for giving your thoughts.