Study Guide

Prince Caspian Warfare

By C.S. Lewis


Up till now neither Caspian nor the others had really been thinking of a war. They had some vague idea, perhaps, of an occasional raid on some Human farmstead or of attacking a party of hunters, if it ventured too far into these southern wilds. (6.17)

War is clearly an important theme in the novel, so it's interesting to see it show up so late. But once the idea grabs hold of Caspian and company's minds, it goes viral and just spreads. Same goes for the novel, since the war will be the bulk of the story to follow.

Caspian nor the others hesitated for a moment: it now seemed to them quite possible that they might win a war and quite certain that they must wage one. (6.21)

Must is the interesting word for us. Why must they wage a war? No diplomacy? What about that duel idea Peter came up with? We're not quite sure the must is earned here. Want maybe.

Thus there was fighting on most days and sometimes by night as well; but Caspian's party had on the whole the worst of it. (7.38)

If you check out our "Tone" section, you'll see that some people have an issue with the novel's tone concerning the theme of war. Case in point: death, violence, sorrow, and mutilation summed up as "the worst of it."

And Wimbleweather tiptoed away to find some place where he could be miserable in peace and stepped on somebody's tail and somebody (they said afterward it was a fox) bit him. And so everyone was out of temper. (7.40)

One more example of tone as food for thought. Slapstick comedy in a war story? Not exactly Saving Private Ryan, is it?

"Yes, and a lot of good it has done my people, so far," snapped Nikabrik. "Who is sent on all the dangerous raids? The Dwarfs. Who goes short when the rations fail? The Dwarfs. Who—?"

"Lies! All lies!" said the Badger. (12.52-53)

Nikabrik's distortion of reality comes from his distorted take on history. True. But the hardships of war have a distorting effect themselves. In Narnia, war changes people and not necessarily for the better.

"I am sorry for Nikabrik," said Caspian, "though he hated me from the first moment he saw me. He had gone sour inside from long suffering and hating. If we had won quickly he might have become a good Dwarf in the days of peace. I don't know which of us killed him. I'm glad of that." (12.81)

To be fair, Caspian does take some time to contemplate the mental toll the war has on his fellow comrades and friends. But to be fair to our being fair, Nikabrik was painted as a barrel of bad apples from day one.

Wherefore we most heartily provoke, challenge, and defy your Lordship to the said combat and monomachy, and have sent these letters by the hand of our well beloved and royal brother Edmund, sometimes King under us in Narnia, Duke of Lantern Waste and Count of the Western March, […]. (13.14)

Politics and war go hand in hand, and Peter's letter to Miraz is a perfect example of this. It's also a good example of why legal treaties are not generally used in bedtime stories.

"Excuses for not fighting! Are you soldiers? Are you Telmarines? Are you men? And if I do refuse it (as all good reasons of captaincy and martial policy urge me to do) you will think, and teach others to think, I was afraid. Is it not so?" (13.56)

Miraz is thinking like a prideful king, not as a captain in a war. If all the "good reasons of captaincy and martial policy urge" you to do something, then do it! Come on, Miraz, get your head in the game.

They were certainly at it hammer and tongs now: such a flurry of blows that it seemed impossible for either not to be killed. As the excitement grew, the shouting almost died away. The spectators were holding their breath. It was most horrible and most magnificent. (14.34)

Here's another great example of the novel's wishy-washy approach to war. The line "horrible and magnificent" kind of sums it up, and it'll be up to you as a reader to decide whether it's one, the other, or both.

They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered. (14.42)

All wars must end at some point (we hope), and Narnia's civil war ends at this one. Bet they wished they hadn't skimped on those swimming lessons.