by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian Introduction
In A Nutshell
What's better than finding a magical kingdom? Becoming its king or queen, duh. And what's better than becoming king or queen of a magical kingdom? Again, duh: being totally beloved by a host of talking animals and mythical creatures. Okay, so what's better than finding a magical kingdom, becoming its king or queen, and being totally beloved by a host of talking animals and mythical creatures?
Returning to that land to do it all again, of course.
And that's exactly what you get with the second novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian. Knowing he wanted to return to Narnia himself, C.S. Lewis began writing the sequels before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was even published in 1950. He finished the first sequel in 1949, meaning the eager paws of many a Narnia fan could snatch up a copy of Prince Caspian as early as 1951. If only George R.R. Martin fans were so lucky.
This time, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie return to Narnia only to discover that hundreds of years have passed since their time as the high kings and queens. After rescuing a dwarf named Trumpkin (because why not?), they learn that Narnia is at war with the Telmarines, a race of humans that conquered Narnia. And leading the rebellion is none other than this Prince Caspian guy. So the Pevensies join forces with the would-be king to defeat his uncle, Miraz, and return the old ways to Narnia again.
For you major Wardrobe fans, Prince Caspian continues to build the history and culture of Narnia first introduced in the original. But for those of you looking for something different, the sequel sends the series in new directions. Wardrobe's central themes of forgiveness and transformation are downplayed here to make room for war and chivalry. (Yeah, kind of different.) Lewis also expands Narnia's unique mythology by mixing and matching original mythological figures with those from Greek, Roman, and Norse traditions. This fancy blend may have caused his BFF, J.R.R. Tolkien, to let loud a giant d'oh of dislike, but plenty of other readers thought it was a dandy idea (source).
Although Prince Caspian won no major awards (come on, award people!), Lewis's gifted storytelling voice made it a popular read—back then and today. Like other Narnian novels, Christians have used it as an allegory for teaching their religious philosophy, and it's been adopted by environmentalists and psychologists to explore other worldviews, too.
Of course, having a couple of movies based on the novel hasn't hurt its growing fandom. The BBC took a go at a made-for-TV feature back in 1989, and then Walden Media and Walt Disney Studios teamed up in 2008 to give us the big screen version. The 2008 film starred Ben Barnes in the title role and put Aslan in league with Gollum and Yoda in terms of eye-poppingly sweet CG creatures.
So what's better than reading a book filled with magic, adventure, and battles between the forces of good and evil? Reading a sequel that's just as good—maybe even better?—than the original.
Why Should I Care?
Please take note: The key word in this question is I. Not why we here at Shmoop care. That's not important, and to be honest, the answer is kind of embarrassing in its simplicity. Hint: it involves Reepicheep twirling his whiskers like a moustache; we just love that mental image (6.23). So this question centers on why you—or I since you are you—care.
Prince Caspian may be a children's story, but it's not the type with a one or two sentence moral at the end telling you exactly what the take-away message is. This novel can be cared for in many distinct ways. Children might care for it one way and parents another. Literature majors may praise some aspects while fantasy fans will love it for other aspects. That's right: there's more than one reason to care. (Gasp!)
In our extensive Narnian search, we came across a whole boatload of different types of caring. Here are some examples we hand picked:
- In Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis. Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara say that Prince Caspian (and all of the Narnia series) promotes an environmental message centered on the idea of hospitality for nature. Go green, Shmoopers.
- David Holbrook's The Skeleton in the Wardrobe lays Narnia on a couch and then goes all psychoanalytic on it. He argues Prince Caspian's Narnia is the "timeless world of the unconscious mind" where Aslan becomes a mother figure and war embodies that "zany kind of delight" we associate with a child's game. Confused? You can thank Freud for that one.
- Michael Ward notes that Prince Caspian has a martial or warring spirit that promotes "patterned orderliness," "[c]hivalry impos[ing] restraints," and the evils of "passively allowing aggressors to have their way" (source). Translation: war is bad.
- And, of course, plenty of people read the novel as a Christian allegory.
Even Philip Pullman, who called the Narnia series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read" (ouch!), cared about the books (source). Sure, he didn't like them, but he cared about them because they provided a counter to his own beliefs: a Lex Luthor to his own philosophical Superman; a Joker to his Batman; a—well, you get the point.
So throughout this learning guides, we'll suggest some reasons why you should care, and if you take another gander at those bullet points, you'll see we've already gotten under way. But it's up to you to ultimately decide why you should care. Good luck.