Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter fifteen. Aslan makes a door in the air.

Synopsis: Aslan meets Caspian and decrees that he will be King of Narnia. A wounded Reepicheep is healed. The Telmarine soldiers are imprisoned. The Narnians feast. The Telmarines are given a choice: remain and share the land with the other creatures, or leave for a land which Aslan will provide. The Telmarines learn where they are from. Some choose to return. The Pevensies return to their world.

‘Dumb’ animals in Narnia all know who Aslan is and hurry to him. Those with speech (and the associated ‘human’, intellectual traits) are more divided. Maybe Lewis is showing that with intelligence and reason come choice. I love the image of the little cat and the big dog which he uses to illustrate the scene.

The scene where the injured mice carry a mortally wounded Reepicheep to Aslan always filled me with tears when I was a younger reader. I still find it provokes quite an emotional response now. I don’t know how much of that is due to memories and associations, and how much to the camaraderie and bravery of these little characters in battle: they didn’t have to fight but they did anyway. I love Reepicheep’s conversation with Aslan – surely only Reepicheep would ever start a sentence to Aslan with, ‘Permit me to remind you…’ Who else would dare?

Here we discover that the mice were granted speech after helping Aslan in LWW.

The Telmarine fear of water seems strange as we are told in this chapter that they are descended from seafarers. Did this only develop after their move to Telmar? Or later, as they entered Narnia?

Once again, we hear about delicious Narnian food. The phrase which has always stayed with me is, ‘pyramids and cataracts of fruit’. I carried it around in my head for so long I ended up forgetting where it was from.  Even the wine sounded appealing to young me, who knew that I hated alcohol. (I have since developed quite a taste for it.) Even the trees’ meal (various soils) is made to sound tempting.

‘All night Aslan and the moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.’ Is this simply personification, or is this moon – as the stars of the Narnian world are – sentient?

Doorways loom large in the part of my imagination which is filled with all things Narnian. Unusual or decorative doorways, and those which seem to be in incongruous places, always make me think of the links between the worlds in the Chronicles. (They turn up quite often in the photographs posted on this site via my instagram account, where I add views or images I find day-to-day which remind me of Narnia.) Here the door is just a simple shape, a wooden echo of stone doorways such as those at Stonehenge. It feels like ‘old magic’.

What happened to Miraz’ castle after Caspian became king? Did Trumpkin return to Cair Paravel for the treasure? What was done about the ruins?

The image of the Narnian animals wearing expensive jewellery sounds incongruous to me, although I don’t know why.

We are told nothing about Telmar itself. Why did the Telmarines leave it? Is there anyone there now? How far away is it? Is it habitable?

I spent some time with an atlas when younger, guessing at where the magical cave between worlds might be. We are told that such links between worlds are growing rarer. Why?

Bravery is rewarded, as ever, when the first volunteer Telmarine is given ‘strong magic’ by Aslan.

Susan and Peter have had a conversation about not returning to Narnia. What was said? Peter says they discussed ‘other things’ with Aslan. What were these things?

The last time the children came to Narnia they stayed for over a decade. This time they visited for days – most of which were spent fighting or travelling. Did they ever feel short-changed by this visit? Was it what they expected? Did they feel surprised at the difference between the two visits? They seem to feel alright about it, as Peter says – of travelling to a different world, and through time, then fighting to the death amongst other things – “We have had a time!”

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter fourteen. How all were very busy.

Peter meets Miraz in single combat. The Telmarines attack the Old Narnians and Miraz is killed. The trees join the battle and drive the Telmarines back. Aslan, with Bacchus, Silenus and others, moves through Narnia, meeting various people on the way.

I’d love to know what Peter and Miraz said to each other just before the fight.

Single combat between military leaderd appears in Greek literature – for example in the Iliad – in medieval literature such as the Chanson De Roland, and in Welsh and Irish mythology. The choices Lewis makes in his plots and storytelling are the culmination of all his reading, his study and his wide-ranging interest in tales, myths and legends, with familiar motifs presented in a Narnian context.

Instead of simply describing the fight, Lewis tells us what is happening via the other characters’ commentary. It is reminiscent of sports commentary, for example on a modern  boxing match. We are given the account of the fight, but with added explanations of the two soldiers’ motives and actions.

Peter asks Edmund to give his love to those he fears he might never see again. Nobody (in this book at any rate – it is mentioned later in the Chronicles) questions what would happen if someone were to die while in Narnia.

The fight is described as ‘most horrible and most magnificent’. We are shown something once again by Lewis which can be two things, often contrasting, at once. Aslan is scary but wonderful. Faces are stern and glad. Characters are afraid and excited. Places are lonely but lovely. Music is sweet but sad. Sehnsucht and ‘bittersweetness’ is never far away in the Narnian world. (I am also reminded of the ‘beautiful and terrible’ Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings.)

Peter shows mercy and chivalry even in mortal combat, and, as Edmund states, it is how Aslan would expect the High King to act.

Glozelle’s murder of Miraz proves counter-productive, delaying his attack and sparing Peter. Peter then (as we are matter-of-factly told) cuts off Sopespian’s legs and head.

Just as in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, we are shown that once the trees join a battle, the enemy is terrified and then defeated. In this, and in the destruction of the bridge, nature has its revenge upon the Telmarines.

The ivy grows magically and destroys the bridge. (A similar piece of magic can be found in Pratchett’s ‘Wyrd Sisters’ when Magrat Garlick casts a powerful spell upon a wooden door.) Nature defeats that which is man-made. The bridge is destroyed and the Bridge of Beruna is replaced by the Ford of Beruna. (According to Hinten’s ‘The Keys to the Chronicles’, ‘berun’ is an old-fashioned word which means to flow around, which would make perfect sense here.)

Apprarently, the next section of the chapter parallels Bible scenes telling about Jesus’ actions following his temptation. Aslan rights wrongs. He helps those who need it and punishes those who deserve it. Of all the different scenes of the Narnia stories, this was my least favourite. Narnia was my fantasy retreat, the country where, once I got there, everything would be brilliant. I didn’t want my wonderful, animal-peopled medieval country to have things like schools in it, or order-marks, or inspectors. I was pleased to see the animals freed from miserable lives, but confused as to why more people fled Aslan than followed him. (My lack of awareness of the religious element of the books explains this point.) The merciful Aslan, who had forgiven Edmund for terrible treachery, merrily turns humans into pigs and trees for much lesser crimes. This whole passage just felt wrong to me, and I find that it still does as an adult. Generally, not knowing Bible stories particularly well never hindered my enjoyment or understanding of the story being told. For me, this section may be the exception to that rule.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter thirteen. The High King in command.

Peter sends a challenge to Miraz, delivered by Edmund. Glozelle and Sopespian plot against Miraz, and he accepts the challenge.

This chapter lets us see King Peter in his role as High King and leader. He also shows that he will risk his life for Narnia.

Lewis seems to enjoy conjuring up the highly formal language Peter uses in his challenge to Miraz. This is also shown in LWW as being the manner in which the Pevensies speak to each other during the golden age. He insists that ‘abominable’ is spelled with an ‘h’ – this antiquated spelling of the word was not used after the Sixteenth Century. Maybe Lewis preferred it.

The month is given as Greenroof. Presumably this is named after the features of the season it is part of – maybe ‘green roof’ refers to the spring leaves on the trees. I’d love to know the names of the other Narnian months. I imagine them all to be nature-based.

I can’t find any particular origin for the name Sopespian; maybe it was chosen for its sound. Glozelle may refer to gloze, an obsolete term which means to flatter or ingratiate. When we first meet them they are picking their teeth – not the noblest introduction for a new character.

We hear that Edmund is a ‘kingly’ ‘fell warrior’ whose schoolfriends wouldn’t recognise him. Once again, Narnian air has done its work.

Glozelle’s mentions his horse, ‘my dappled Pomely’. Pomely is simply an antiquated word for dappled.

The plot to overthrow Miraz is an echo of the plot in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI Part One. This, along with literary examples of single combat being used in place of full battle, is explained in Hintern’s ‘The Keys to the Chronicles’, which also goes into detailed analysis of the language used in this chapter, notably Peter’s challenge. (This, too, inlcudes a Shakespearian reference.) Lewis must have known that his young readers would not notice all these references and details, but must have found them satisfying or amusing to include. They certainly allow an adult reader to find something new every time they read – or read around – the Chronicles. I wonder if they also add to the feeling of depth and richness which the books have for me, despite their brevity.

Miraz accuses Glozelle and Sopespian of being as ‘lily-livered as hares’. Are hares known for being easily scared?

The use of the term ‘martial policy’ again reminds me of Ward’s Planet Narnia theory, whereby the language of this book is influenced by the traditions and myths associated with the planet Mars.

A dastard is a dishonourable man – just like Dick Dastardly of Wacky Races fame.

Miraz mentions treason to the two Lords, but surely if he really suspected them of it, he wouldn’t allow their counsel to influence him one way or the other.

I had assumed that ‘Marshal of the Lists’ was the traditional medieval title for a genuine role. I can’t, however, find any evidence for this. The term ‘marshal’ is used as a military rank (as in Field Marshal) and as a civil role. It was used to describe certain court dignitaries in medieval times. In the world of medieval jousting and tournaments, the ‘lists’ were the  barriers which signified the battle area. To ‘enter the lists’ therefore, was to enter the tournament. It is still used today to describe issuing or accepting a challenge.

Who could fail to find the Bulgy Bear endearing, as he denies sucking his paws while doing just that? And of course, in the ‘fair play’ world of the Pevensies, his traditional right to be a marshal must be upheld.

Peter shows his leadership skills once again by managing to avoid having a mouse as marshal, while explaining this choice to an affronted Reepicheep in a way which leaves everybody, including the mice, happy.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter twelve. Sorcery and sudden vengeance.

Synopsis: Trumpkin, Peter and Edmund enter Aslan’s how. They listen at a door and hear an argument. They enter the room as Trufflehunter, Caspian and Cornelius are fighting Nikabrik, a hag and a wer-wolf. The three enemies are killed.

We are shown that Trufflehunter is representative of all badgers in his deference to and belief in the old Kings.

It seems strange that in a land where written language and literature exists (as evidenced by the books in Tumnus’ cave in LWW) that the stone carvings in Aslan’s how are pictures, with no words. I always imagined them to be reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs or similar. Maybe written language was lost to Old Narnians along with their traditions after the end of the Golden Age.

Trumpkin suggests listening at the door – I think it would have felt out of character for Peter or Edmund to do so.

When the Hag and Wer-wolf introduced themselves young me was always a little afraid, especially when listening to the audio-book version. I was also, however, quite impressed that a Wer-wolf could sleep on ice for a hundred nights and not freeze.

Are creatures like the Hag automatically born evil? Is it possible to find a ‘good’ one? Narnian animals tend to be good but there are treacherous ones too, and dwarfs are shown choosing the ‘good’ side, the ‘evil’ side, and neither side elsewhere in the stories. If these creatures are only ever evil, why do they exist, and what will happen to them when they meet Aslan? Where did they come from? They weren’t shown in the creation scene of Narnia in MN. Did the White Witch bring them from elsewhere? Do they exist in the other countries of the Narnian world?

‘Don’t take fright in a name as if you were children,’ reminds me of the characters in Rowling’s Harry Potter series reacting to Voldemort’s name.

It feels as though Nikabrik is used here to voice atheist/non-Christian arguments (such as not hearing much about Jesus after the resurrection)  which Lewis would of course wish to disagree with. Once again, young me was blissfully unaware of this, but it seems quite obvious now.

We learn that there are no longer beavers in Narnia, but are never told why. Of course, in Lewis’ Britain beavers had also become extinct, although they have recently been reintroduced to the wild.

Jadis is here referred to as ‘the White Lady’. This name is commonly used to describe a number of female ghosts, and as such has been used as the name for various British pubs. Here we see the sinister side of the magic which Cornelius uses -others use spells (‘Draw the circle. Prepare the blue fire.) for evil reasons.

In an echo of Peter’s First Battle (LWW chapter 12 – see previous post) we are shown the confusion, fear and physicality of real fighting. It is not glamorous or noble.

Caspian has been bitten by the Wer-Wolf. In many fantasy stories – the majority, I imagine – this would mean that he would become one himself. This doesn’t happen to Caspian, however. (Another link between royalty and lycanthropy can be found in Doctor Who, notably the episode ‘Tooth and Claw’.)

We are told that kissing is not ‘girlish’ when a king is doing it. This is how Lewis explains tears, hugs etc. in his characters at points throughout the Chronicles. We are told that emotions and their expression are fine, as long as they conform to the ideals of courtly, chivalric behaviour.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter eleven. The Lion roars.

Synopsis: Lucy insists that the others follow her, although only she can see where Aslan is leading them. They do so, and Aslan leads them safely to their destination. He sends the boys and Trumpkin on an errand. Lucy and Susan remain with him. He summons the woods and a Bacchanalian celebration takes place.

Edmund’s willingness to follow and support Lucy is so endearing. Of course, he is Edmund the Just, ‘great in counsel and judgement’, but he doesn’t just use logic to decide to follow her. He remembers times when he’s disbelieved Lucy (or worse) and is making up for them. This gesture made it one of my favourite scenes in the story when younger.

We are told that Lucy is Peter’s favourite sister. I found this strange as a child, as I couldn’t imagine ranking my siblings like that. Once again Susan, who doesn’t come out of this chapter well at all, gets the rough end of the narrative.

Again we are told that the children’s experience is ‘dreamlike’ and that the events take place under moonlight.

Aslan’s presence is described as  inducing a mixture of fear and happiness, which echoes the response the children had on first meeting him. (See post on LWW Chapter 12) He isn’t, after all, ‘tame’.

Susan’s fear is shown as having made her more distant from Aslan than the others.

I’ve never been able to work out why Aslan put Trumpkin in his jaws, then threw him up and caught him. What was the purpose of this? It wasn’t to frighten him – he was already scared. It wasn’t to punish him – after all, what had he done wrong other than be rightly sceptical of a mystical lion nobody had seen for thousands of years? If anyone knows what this scene is about, I’d love to find out.

We hear of another Narnian star – Aravir. This is presumably the same star described in LWW Chapter 15. (See previous post on that chapter.)

We are given Bacchus/Dionysus’ different names. ‘Bromios’ was often used to describe him. It means ‘boisterous’. ‘Bassareus’ was his Thracian equivalent, named after the fox-skins he wore. ‘The ram’ most probably refers the the myth where Zeus (Dionysus’ father) turned him into a ram to hide him from an angry Hera.

As a young reader, I was never quite sure what to make of this Bacchanalian scene. I didn’t really understand it. To be honest, I’m not much clearer as an adult. Maybe it exists just to show the exuberance or joy that Aslan can create around himself. Maybe it is to demonstrate that laughter and physicality and fun are gifts from God. (This idea is explored in Downing’s ‘Into the Wardrobe’. Downing also mentions the cry of ‘euan euan eu oi oi oi and states that euan is a name of Bacchus’ while the rest is a celebratory cry.) Maybe it has another significance. I’m really not sure. What surprised me was the vitriol fired at this chapter by certain websites, which take it as proof of Lewis’ ‘paganism’ and promotion of ‘Satanism’. The idea of C. S. Lewis, one of the most famous Christians of the last century, being a sneaky satanist trying to corrupt young minds through secret messages of sun worship and more, gave me a really good laugh.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter ten. The return of the Lion.

Synopsis:  Trumpkin and the children continue their journey to meet Caspian, travelling through the gorge of the Rush. They are attacked and have to return the way they came. Lucy wakes up in the night and meets Aslan. He asks her to follow him and to tell the others to do the same.

There are so many memorable lines in this chapter. If you’ve read a Narnian quote on twitter, instagram, tumblr and similar, there’s a good chance it’s from this chapter. Here are the most frequently used:

  • ‘Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best was calling her name.’
  • ”Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘you’re bigger.’     ‘That is because you are older, little one,’ answered he. ‘Not because you are?’     ‘I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
  • ”To know what would have happened, child?’ said Aslan. ‘No. Nobody is ever told that.”
  • ‘Things never happen the same way twice.’

Until my re-read, I’d forgotten how difficult and (for the children) miserable the journey to meet Caspian was.

In both Tolkien and Lewis, overgrown, wild, untended woods are described as sad, unfriendly or even frightening places.

Another beautiful description of Narnian nature is given here: ‘rumbling waterfalls, silver cascades, deep, amber-coloured pools, mossy rocks, and deep moss on the banks in which you could sink over your ankles, every kind of fern, jewel-like dragon flies…’ Once again Lewis’ love of nature is evident.

An eagle is mentioned – and shown in an accompanying illustration. Whenever eagles are mentioned in both the Narnia Chronicles or (in more prominent roles) in Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth, they are shown as good, noble creatures. Eagles have been known as the ‘King of Birds’. They are popular in heraldry, and John the Evangelist is symbolised by an Eagle.

Once again we are reminded that being in Narnia makes you tougher and more capable. The children are now only ‘one third’ school children, and their old royal knowledge and skills are returning to them.

Peter and Edmund are able to reminisce about their old victory, centuries after they won it. It must be encouraging to be able to do that.

Whenever I watch something representing 20th Century combat, such as Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, the first thing that strikes me is the terror that the whizz of bullets and other noises of battle must have caused. Of course, Lewis had experienced this in the trenches. Here, just such a noise begins the Telmarine attack on the children.

As in any novel, the protagonists face various problems and trials. Throughout Prince Caspian, the message we seem to get over and over is that things will be difficult. Decisions will need to be made. Action is required. But the key to getting through problems is resilience and faith. (Not a surprising message from Lewis.) Doubt and worry lead to mistakes and frustration, as shown here when the children are forced to double back on themselves, losing ground they have worked hard to make up.

Again, we see how valued not saying ‘I told you so’ is; Lucy is a ‘hero’ for not doing so.

Lewis is able to make any food sound appetising – even ‘smeary’ bear meat and apples – if cooked by a typically practical Narnian dwarf.

When I was younger I never questioned why Lucy saw and interacted with Aslan more than the other Pevensies. (If I’m honest, it’s probably because I imagined myself in her role as I read, so I wasn’t going to complain.) Now, it does seem a little unfair. I am sure it is because she is the most faithful, the most open-hearted, the most ready to see Aslan (again this ties in with Lewis’ faith) but I wonder if the others ever felt jealous or resentful. If God was nearby and chose to speak to my siblings but not me I imagine I’d be quite paranoid about it.

Again, there is a dreamlike, Phantastes-inspired  (see Chapter nine commentary) scene. Lucy’s experience sounds dreamy, almost transcendent. She feels no pain, tiredness or fear. She is so excited that she trembles and her heart pounds. She is in a heightened state of awareness, and can think only of getting to the source of the sound. This passage is the Chronicles at its most intense. And yet, as a child reading it, it didn’t seem strange to me. Why, of course I would rush through a wood of dancing trees, if Aslan was there to greet me. I must admit, I really loved Aslan. I wished I could have a mentor like that (I hadn’t realised his ‘divine’ aspect at that time) who I could be totally sure would lead me right, and never make mistakes and never not know the answer. Young me longed to get rid of doubt and uncertainty, which made Aslan very appealing. Although there are more famous passages in the Narniad, this chapter feels like its heart, to me anyway. There is faith, wonder, nature and wisdom, all elements which are woven through all seven stories. Of all the chapters I have re-read so far as an adult, this is the one which feels most changed for me. I experienced it very differently from my readings as a child. It felt more serious, more important, more meaningful.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian chapter nine. What Lucy saw.

Synopsis: Trumpkin and the Pevensies row up Glasswater Creek. They camp overnight, then try to make their way to Caspian, but aren’t sure of the way. Lucy thinks she sees Aslan, but the others don’t, and vote not to go in the direction he is in.

Throughout the books, Lewis capitalises species, such as Dwarfs, Humans and Mice. I am sure he must have done this for a reason but so far can’t discover what it was. I’d love to find out if anyone else knows.

Lucy’s thoughts and actions as the others sleep don’t contribute to the plot as such, but again the ‘feel’ or tone of the book is enhanced. One of the most important books in Lewis’ life was George MacDonald’s ‘Phantastes’, which is a book very much focused on mood and imagery rather than traditional plotting. He describes discovering it in his autobiography, ‘Surprised By Joy’: ‘That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes… I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged.’  Lewis was enchanted by the dreamlike, spiritual feel of the story of a man who enters a different world. This sequence in Prince Caspian, involving Lucy trying to talking to the sleeping trees, is reminiscent of the slow, dreamy,  surreal world of Phantastes.

Again we glimpse the wider Narnian world, this time through its constellations: the Ship, the Hammer and the Leopard. I wish there was a complete map of the Narnian skies.

Once more, Susan is the ‘wet blanket’, and Lewis highlights this by having Peter snap at her with ‘pardonable sharpness’. She really doesn’t seem to be enjoying her visit to Narnia, as she is finding it stressful, which is made even sadder when you know where her story is going after this book.

When Edmund complains that girls ‘never carry a map in their heads,’ Lucy has the perfect response, ‘That’s because our heads have something inside them’. Being terrible at orienteering, this quote always cheered me up.

When discussing the wild, non-talking bear which attacks them, Lucy says, ‘Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day, in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which was which’. This is a reflection of Lewis’ own concern for humanity, which he felt was in danger of turning away from God and nature, and focusing on things he saw as less important. Maybe a human without a soul is what Lucy is describing, at least as far as Lewis is concerned. Susan’s dismissal of this ‘impractical’ thought may be a foreshadowing of what would become of her later in the series.

One of the lessons I took from the interactions of characters in Narnia as a child was that it was the sign of a really good friend (or sibling) when they avoided saying ‘I told you so,’ as Trumpkin does here. It definitely meant you were a ‘brick’.

Lucy is cross that Susan speaks to her ‘like a grown-up’, but doesn’t help her own case by then stamping her foot angrily, as a child might.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter eight. How they left the island.

Synopsis: The story returns to the Pevensies. Trumpkin is unconvinced that the children can be of help. They show him their fencing, archery and healing skills. They all return to the boat.

I’d love to hear Susan’s horn, ‘loud as thunder but far longer, cool and sweet as music over water, but strong enough to shake the woods.’ Lewis often uses adjectives in this way, using words commonly associated with one sense to describe another, for example a ‘cool’ sound. It puts me in mind of synesthesia, where a stimulus to one sense triggers a response via another. This is often associated with creativity.

When I read George Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, I noticed that a character kept being referred to as a ‘seneschal’. I was unsure what it meant, so I looked it up. (It’s a governor or steward, particularly of a medieval house.) I’d never noticed that Lewis used it here!

Lewis liked the idea of showing a magical summoning from the point of view of the summoned. Here the children discuss the fact that they, like a ‘jinn’ – such as Aladdin’s genie of the lamp – were magically called, and couldn’t refuse.

Edmund’s father has apparently complained of ‘living at the mercy of the telephone’. This was written in the 1950s. I can only imagine what he would make of modern life, where everyone seems to be glued to a smartphone for large portions of the day.

Here we see Peter moving back into his role as High King, and the others recognise this. High Kings are kings rather than emperors, who hold a position of seniority over other kings. They have also been known as Great Kings or King of Kings. There have been examples of this in ancient Britain, Scotland and Ireland, as well as Ancient Greece, Korea and others.

I wonder if Lewis’ tips for broad-sword fighting are true?

Whenever people from our world come to Narnia, the ‘air of Narnia’ toughens them up, making them more resourceful, more resilient, more brave. I always hoped that if I got to Narnia, this would happen to me. (I was always better at indoor stuff really, but liked the sound of swords and armour and that sort of thing, and hoped I would be able to benefit from the Narnian air!)

Once again, Susan is given a rare opportunity to shine, using her archery skills to do so.

I love the fact that tossing a coin to decide something is alien to Trumpkin, as it isn’t done in this world. Lewis’ world-building may not be carefully structured like some others, but little touches like this made Narnia feel real for me.

It is testament to Trumpkin’s character that he reacts so well to the children proving their worth.

It seems that dwarfs in Narnia, like dwarfs in Middle Earth, can march long distance without a break.

As Lucy and Susan reminisce, they give us glimpses into Narnia’s golden age. It sounds wonderful. Imagine having a feast under the stars on a hand-carved boat shaped like a swan, while musicians hidden in the rigging play beautiful music! Narnia is literally and figuratively enchanting.

Narnia re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter seven. Old Narnia in danger.

Synopsis: A council is held on the Dancing Lawn. Doctor Cornelius finds Caspian. After discussion, the Old Narnians agree to march to Aslan’s How. Miraz’s forces find them and fighting begins. The Narnians agree to try Queen Susan’s horn. Trumpkin and Pattertwig are sent to see if help comes.

Satyrs are mentioned as separate from fauns here. They are described as being ‘red as foxes’. Satyrs were originally creatures in Greek mythology, with horse and human features, who were followers of Dionysus, led by Silenus. (Both Dionysus and Silenus appear later in the book.) Fauns were Roman mythological creatures, with goat and human features, who were associated with woods, forests and the god Pan. Eventually, the two became less distinct, and Satyrs become more like fauns in the popular imagination.

Doctor Cornelius says he found the council of Dancing Lawn using magic, yet has previously been unable to find Old Narnians. Perhaps his magic allowed him to track Caspian himself. I remember being confused as a child as to why Nikabrik was so hostile towards Cornelius simply because he was half human. As an adult of course I am more familiar with this sort of ugly prejudice against people because of who their parents are. (It also reminds me of the ‘mudblood’ slurs in Harry Potter books, which are similar to Nikabrik’s ‘renegade…half-and-halfer’)

Aslan’s how always gave me a ‘spooky’ feeling when reading the story as a child. (As did Tolkien’s barrow-wights, which also involved man-made earthworks.) There was also something sad about the idea of ancient wall art depicting Aslan, which seemed strange to Caspian but to readers is of course known to be more recent than the rule of the Pevensies. All these ideas contribute to a sadness which runs through the book, of times passed, knowledge and culture which have been lost, a disconnection with ancestry and tradition. Having fallen so deeply in love with Narnia in LWW, I was sad to find it so changed. Lewis felt this way, of course, about the world in which he lived, a point of view wholeheartedly shared by Tolkien. They both mourned a dead or dying version of England/Britain, which they felt was falling under the wheels of ‘progress’.

The fighting itself is not dealt with in great detail. Lewis concentrates instead on the effect of it on Caspian’s forces, who are miserable and tired. Maybe a little of his experience of trench life fed into the description of the little arguments and tensions among the army.

Trumpkin is of course utterly sceptical  – about Aslan, about the Stone Table and about Susan’s horn. He considers them all to be ‘eggs in moonshine’. However, unlike the surly Nikabrik, Trumpkin will follow his king’s orders whether or not he agrees with them. Again, we see Lewis’ preference for people working within a certain social structure. (Or, to be less generous, ‘knowing their place’.) This aspect of the Narniad is worth looking at in more depth, which I hope to do once my re-read is complete.

Narnia Re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter six. The people that lived in hiding.

Synopsis: Caspian meets other Old Narnians, including Pattertwig and Reepicheep. He dances with the fauns.

Once again, I have passages from Narnia books to thank for educating me in geography and landscapes; in the first paragraph alone Lewis mentions saddles, slopes and wolds.

I have always loved the talking animals of Narnia; the ‘wet, snuffly kisses’ of the Bulgy Bears, the exuberant chattiness of Pattertwig, and of course the wonderful Reepicheep. Again the names are wonderful – if there’s a better name for a hedgehog than Hogglestock I haven’t heard it. I’d always assumed that Clodsley Shovel was a name Lewis invented as it sounded appropriate for a mole, but have recently discovered that it is also a humorous play on a real name. Sir Cloudsley Shovell was Admiral of the British Fleet, a famous British naval officer and member of parliament in the Eighteenth Century.

Lewis’ dwarfs are often more ambiguous in their allegiances and morality than other Narnian characters. The talking animals are immediately supportive of Caspian, but the dwarfs are more hesitant and suspicious. Some are willing to ally themselves with evil creatures. Later, Nikabrik becomes an outright enemy. In other books, dwarfs are shown working alongside evil characters or refusing to help the ‘good’ characters. Perhaps, for Lewis, their practical nature lends itself to a sceptical point of view, in contrast with the faith/belief shown by others.

In Narnia, as in many other fantasy stories for both adults and children, certain magical creatures appear to be predominantly – or entirely – male. We never meet a female dwarf or centaur. Where is Mrs Glenstorm?

As discussed in earlier posts about LWW, Narnian centaurs are very serious creatures, and it is Glenstorm who makes everyone realise that they are going to go to war – civil war.

Reepicheep is the embodiment of chivalry and courtly good manners. He is the knight who rushes to defend a lady’s honour, and goes gladly into battle to meet worthy foes. A human character like this might seem like a caricature, or come across as overly serious or self-important. However, a high-minded, chivalrous mouse is a delight, and it is no surprise that Reepicheep is an enduringly popular character. The use of ‘martial’ to describe Reepicheep fits well with Michael Ward’s assertion in ‘Planet Narnia’ that the book Prince Caspian is associated throughout with Mars, the God of war.

The dream-like moonlit dance with the fauns is one of those scenes or ideas which doesn’t necessarily drive the plot forward, but adds another layer to the appeal and richness of the Narnian world. The fauns’ names remind us of Tumnus: Mentius, Obentinus, Dumnus, Voluns, Voltinus, Girbius, Nimienus, Nausus and Oscuns. These names sound Latin in origin, but my very basic knowledge of Latin means I haven’t yet found any possible meanings or origins for them, although I’d love to hear about any. Again, the idea of dreams appears; this time Caspian knows the dance was real because of ‘little cloven hoof-marks’ on the grass.

Narnia Re-read Chapter five. Caspian’s adventure in the mountains.

Synopsis: Caspian’s Aunt gives birth to a son. Under Cornelius’ instructions, Caspian runs away. He is knocked unconscious and falls from his horse. He wakes up in Trufflehunter’s home, with Nikabrik and Trumpkin also present.

Once again, we see Caspian experiencing sehnsucht, that longing for something long vanished (or even that never was). This is his standard response to ‘Old Narnia’.

Caspian is receiving an education appropriate for a medieval or renaissance king. (Lewis disliked these terms as he felt them to be overly simplistic, but I use them here for ease.) He learns to ride, sword-fight, swim, dive, shoot, play the recorder and theorbo (a large lute popular in the 17th and 18th century) and to hunt and dress a stag. These are lessons modern children would recognise as the sort of thing a knight or king might learn. I must admit, I always felt sad that hunting seemed so popular in Narnia, even through Trufflehunter discusses it quite happily in this chapter. It just seemed odd in a country filled with talking beasts. Caspian also learns lessons which may be less well known today: Cosmography (mapping the universe, including both earth and the heavens) Rhetoric (the use of language and effective speech) Heraldry (the study of coats of arms and their associated ranks and titles) Versification (the study and writing of poetry) History, Law, Physic (the study of the natural sciences) Alchemy and Astronomy. I love that Lewis lets his knowledge of the classical and medieval worlds, and their languages, shine through in places like this. He didn’t need to list these subjects, in a children’s book, but such touches hang together to make the Narnian world deeper and richer.

Lewis describes a sensation most of us can recognise – when you realise that you don’t like someone because you have sensed that they dislike you. I think we’ve all experienced that at one time or another.

At first I thought ‘pother’ was an error, but it is a real word! I like the fact that unusual or antiquated words are used throughout the chronicles. Victuals sound much more interesting than ‘snacks’ or ‘food’, after all.

Doctor Cornelius mentions using a spell to put the servants to sleep. This type of magic is unusual in Narnia. The magic we see in all the books is, for the most part, either ‘good’, ‘natural’ magic such as that which makes the trees sentient or which Aslan uses to summon people, or ‘evil’ magic such as that used by Jadis or the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Actual spells of the sort we often associate with wizards and witches is only seen being used by Doctor Cornelius and Uncle Andrew, as far as I recall.

We are told of the good lords Miraz has removed or killed. I can’t find an origin or inspiration for some of their names: the Passarids, Uvilas, Arlian and Erimon. Belisar may have been named after Belisarius, a Roman general sometimes known as one of the ‘last of the Romans’ and who appears in operas, paintings, literature and even video games. His and Uvilas’ death, via a hunting ‘accident’. (This was also the fate of England’s King William II, known as William Rufus. More recently, George R. R. Martin used this plot device in his excellent Song of Ice and Fire series.)

I loved the horse’s name ‘Destrier’ when I was younger and only learned as an adult that a destrier is a type of horse, not a name in itself. Destriers, also known as ‘the great horses’ were the most well known war horse of medieval times, used in battle, and in jousts and tournaments.

Caspian experiences a whole range of emotions here.  He’s on the run from a man who he now knows has murdered a number of people, including his father, but he’s carrying a magic item and is looking for adventure. He’s excited, scared, worried, brave. Characters in Narnia often feel conflicted. Their ‘adventures’ are rarely just one thing.

One of my favourite illustrations from the series is that of Caspian riding through the forest, which was also used on some covers.

Trufflehunter’s cave once again conforms to the ‘cosy good-guy’ home discussed in earlier posts about LWW. The bed of heather sound most inviting. I always enjoyed the dynamic between the three Old Narnians, although I did wish as a child that Nikabrik could be nicer! Nikabrik’s name seems reminiscent of the ‘neekerbreeker’ insects found in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Maybe the sound stuck with Lewis after an Inklings reading? Trufflehunter seems like an apt name for an animal that digs in the ground. Trufflehunter’s traditional outlook, unwavering faith and belief in a ‘natural order’ of governance, all make him seem like someone Lewis would be very at home around.

Narnia Re-read. Prince Caspian Chapter four. The Dwarf tells of Prince Caspian.

Synopsis: We are told about Prince Caspian, nephew of King Miraz of Narnia. Caspian learns in secret about ‘Old Narnia’ from his tutor, Doctor Cornelius, after his nurse is sent away.

I’ve always loved a story within a story. (Apparently I’m not alone – Harry Potter fans really enjoy the Tale of the Three Brothers.) For the book’s first three chapters, we have been following the Pevensies. For the next four we will be following the story of the eponymous hero, Caspian. (Both stories converge in Chapter Eight.) Apparently Lewis was interested in the idea of seeing a story where the events are told from the point of view of the ‘genie’ instead of ‘Aladdin’. So the children, who are magically summoned, are given the chance to show us what their side of the story is, before we meet the summoner.

It has been noted that the Miraz/Caspian relationship shares similarities with that of Claudius/Hamlet. Lewis lectured on Hamlet, discussing Shakespeare’s language and also the misery and doubt felt by the character of Hamlet.

Lewis always had fun with names. ‘Prunes and prisms’ is a phrase used by the snobby, unpleasant Mrs General in Dickens’ Little Dorritt. This gives a suggestion of Queen Prunaprismia’s character, although we never meet her.

Once again Lewis shows how clearly he remembers how it feels to be young: ‘Miraz had been talking in that tiresome way that some grown-ups have, which makes it quite clear that they are not really interested in what you are saying.’ Later he also notes that, ‘Getting up in the middle of the night is always interesting.’

At the end of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensies speak in a very formal, antiquated courtly style. (Fair consorts…I have such desire to find the signification of this thing…) However, Miraz and Caspian don’t speak at all like this. Their speech is relatively modern and much more informal.

Miraz gives away his foolishness in his insistence that there are ‘no such things as lions’.

Caspian tries to talk with the animals in the castle – to no avail. Who hasn’t tried to communicate with a pet when young?

The name ‘Cornelius’ has some apt associations. It is a latin name which may have derived from ‘horn’ (cornus). It is of course Cornelius who acquires Susan’s horn. Doctor Cornelius Agrippa (1486 – 1535) was a German who wrote about theology and magic. He was at times persecuted or treated like an outcast because of his work. He suggested that magic was part of a world where the natural, celestial and divine worlds interacted, and argued against the persecution of witches. This last point may be the reason that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone mentions him having a ‘chocolate frog card’, collectible cards which show the image and details of famous wizards and witches through history.

We never see Telmar in any of the stories, and it is not shown (as far as I am aware) on any official maps of the Narnian world. All we know is that it lies beyond the Western Mountains.

The author of the Grammar book mentioned is called ‘Pulverulentus Siccus’, which in modern English would mean something along the lines of ‘dry as dust’. This seems most appropriate for a Grammar textbook.

Lewis loved the medieval ideas of the seven heavens and was interested in the ideas humans have had about stars and planets throughout history. (Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia discusses this in exhaustive detail.) Here, we are given the names of two Narnian planets/stars (they are referred to as both in this chapter), Tarva and Alambil, but I haven’t found any ‘meaning’ behind these names so far.

I always found the passage where Cornelius reveals that he isn’t fully human to be most atmospheric. (Apart from the mention of dwarfs wearing high-heeled shoes – this always put the wrong sort of picture in my head!)

When Cornelius speaks about Caspian loving the ‘Old Things’ it is surely a reflection of what Lewis felt. He truly loved the old things of our world. Again sehnsucht is the overriding mood as the Doctor describes his long years of searching for Old Narnia.

When we hear that the Telmarine rulers fear and hate the woods and the sea (from where Aslan is expected to come) we know that they are not the right people to rule Narnia.