Study Guide

Prince Caspian Themes

  • Courage

    Some other fantasy lands might have room for cowardly lions, but not Narnia. Prince Caspian defines its characters by the courage they possess. Whether they stand up or sit down, these heroes will fight, fight, fight. Even the heroes who don't wield a blade display courage—remember Lucy's courage to believe she saw Aslan when none of the others did? The villains are also defined by their courage, or rather, lack thereof. Miraz is a warrior, but he confuses courage with the willingness to fight. And the lords Glozelle and Sopespian stab a guy in the back, so 'nuff said, right? Point is: every character has some type of relationship with the ideal of courage, making it a super-ultra-mega important theme.

    Questions About Courage

    1. Who is the most courageous character in the story? Why do you think this, and how does their courage affect your reading of this theme?
    2. Who are the cowardly characters? How are these characters characterized, and how does this characterization advance the theme of courage?
    3. Aslan: courageous lion or cowardly lion? Neither? Both? What do you think about this enigmatic character?
    4. How do you think the themes of "Courage" and "Principles" connect? Do they go hand-in-hand? Are they completely separate? Something in-between?

    Chew on This

    Courage is not about what the characters do in Prince Caspian. It's about why they do it.

    No one is taught courage in Prince Caspian. You either are or you aren't.

  • Principles

    Back in the days of knights, dragons, damsels, and stone towers, chivalry and courage went hand-in-hand. Chivalry was the code the knight lived his life by, and it included such virtues as honor, gallantry, courtesy, generosity, valor, and even love. The knight who lived by chivalric conduct was considered a true knight. Today, chivalry isn't too much in fashion—possibly because knighting isn't as chic as it used to be. But in Prince Caspian, chivalry makes a modern-day comeback with heroes like Peter and Caspian suggesting that the best of the chivalric code can be of use today. Sure, we might not call it chivalry—principles seems more up-to-date. Slice how you'd like, it's in the book all the same.

    Questions About Principles

    1. Do you think the principles of chivalry in Prince Caspian still have a place in our modern world? Why or why not?
    2. Which characters need to learn (or relearn) principles? How does what they learn affect your reading of this theme?
    3. What principles does Aslan require the Pevensie children to have? Do these principles connect to any other themes, and how? If not, then why not?
    4. What are Lord Glozelle and Sopespian's principles? How does the novel criticize these principles and where do you see this?

    Chew on This

    The principles of Prince Caspian come directly out of classical romance stories (by which we mean true romance and not lovey-dovey romance).

    Although he's the protagonist, Prince Caspian's principles are molded more by the people around him than by any of his own decisions.

  • Coming of Age

    Prince Caspian's take on the coming of age theme is totally odd. At first glance, the novel seems to promote a Geoffrey the Giraffe philosophy—i.e. "I don't wanna grow up; I'm a Toys"R"Us kid." Characters like Peter, Trumpkin, and Susan—especially Susan—are criticized for their more grown-up traits, and at the end, Peter and Susan are flat out told they can't return to Narnia because they're too old.

    On the other hand, Prince Caspian also requires its characters to be exceptionally adult in many situations. They have to fight in wars, butcher a bear for survival, and Peter even uses politics to his advantage in the fight against Miraz. And let's not forget the killing. In a "having your cake and eating it too" maneuver, the novel suggests we need to stay children and grow up at the same time.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. So what do you think? Does the novel want its characters to remain with a sense of childish innocence or grow up to be adults? Something in-between? Or are we way off base and its something else entirely?
    2. Which character embodies childhood the most for you? Which character is the most grown up? By comparing these two, what can we say about this theme in the novel?
    3. Do you think Caspian comes of age by the end of the novel? Why or why not?
    4. Peter and Susan get by banned from Narnia by Aslan the admin. Why do you think this tidbit was added to the end of the book, and how does it affect your reading of this theme?

    Chew on This

    C.S. Lewis once said, "When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up" (source). It's what we think he had in mind when conceiving of Prince Caspian's coming of age theme.

    Some characters who are already full grown, such as Trumpkin, come of age during the course of the story.

  • Good vs. Evil

    The good vs. evil split is pretty straightforward in Prince Caspian. In the blue corner, wearing lion gold, consisting of our main characters, are the good guys. In the red corner, wearing Telmarine green, consisting of some devious fellows indeed, are the bad guys. And then they fight.

    Yep, there's not much subtlety in the way the novel handles issues of good and evil. The good guys are good, the bad guys are villainous, and the middle ground is narrow. It's pretty simple by modern standards, but that also might be the point. Prince Caspian borrows many themes from classical works—we're looking at you, chivalry—and it doesn't get more classic than a simple tale of good versus evil.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Why do you think the story uses such a simple good vs. evil story? Alternatively, do you think we're wrong, and it's not that simple? Either way, explain why.
    2. Are there any characters that can't be described as siding with either good or evil? If yes, who? And why do you think they were characterized like that? If no, then why do you think there isn't such a character?
    3. Does Aslan's particular brand of goodness still work for modern readers? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Prince Caspian, and the Narnia series as a whole, uses simplistic notions of good and evil because it's a children's story. As a result, they totally underestimate what children can and can't accept in their stories.

    Miraz is certainly our antagonist, but other characters are much eviler. Think Nikabrik. In the same way, Caspian is our protagonist, but characters like Peter represent the "good guy" better.

  • Warfare

    War! What is it good for? Absolutely depends on whom you ask. Scholar Michael Ward reads Prince Caspian as a story centered on war and martial law. It's all about the need to fight rather than "allowing aggressors to have their way." To balance this, he argues that Lewis included chivalry to "[impose] restraints on the practice of war so as to avoid unnecessary (that is cruel) violence" (source). Then again, David Holbrook reads a novel where "the trouble is that excited delight in violence is combined with a tone of endorsing it as all jolly good fun, and then endorsed by [a] solemn didactic message, urging that this is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven" (source). Ultimately, we'll say this: war is undeniably an important theme in Prince Caspian, but whether or not that's a positive thing will depend on the reader.

    Questions About Warfare

    1. What do you think about Prince Caspian's tone by way of the war theme? Too hot, too cold, or a Goldilocks-approved just right?
    2. Which character do you think is the most war-centered character, and how do they affect your reading of the theme? You can pick from either side of the conflict, so long as you explain your choose with evidence from the book.
    3. Check out our "Principles" theme. How do you see the principles promoted by the novel interacting with the theme of war?
    4. How do you see the ending connecting to the novel's understanding of war?

    Chew on This

    Caspian's war with the Telmarines is an example of a holy war. Its main goal is to change the religious standard of Narnia.

    Alternatively, we could look at Caspian's camp as a group of environmental terrorists done Narnia-style.

  • Memory and the Past

    Nostalgia is a lot like viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. In which case, Lewis's writing glasses must have been rose-tinted because Prince Caspian doesn't just envy the past through nostalgia—it straight-up worships it. Everything about Old Narnia is seen as a type of golden age for Caspian and his people, and their entire war is an attempt to make Narnia more like the Narnia of the past. They even receive help from the Pevensie children (ye kings and queens of yore). The characters who don't desire this past or who desire a different type of past are written as ignorant at best, or more commonly, as villains.

    Questions About Memory and the Past

    1. Why do you think Prince Caspian finds its answer for the best future in the past?
    2. What character promotes the best parts of the past? What character embodies the worst parts of the present? Comparing these characters, what can you say about this theme in the novel?
    3. Let's consider our own world here. Do you think Prince Caspian's notion of an idyllic past works outside the novel? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Even if he doesn't realize it, Miraz honors the past by his acknowledgment of Peter's legal power to challenge him to a duel.

    The use of elements of our own world's past, such as the gods and creatures of Greek myth, helps connect the importance of the past in Narnia to the importance of the past in our world.

  • The Home

    There's no place like home. True if you live in Kansas; true if you live in a place where the trees come to life and badgers talk. Like the golden era from "Memory and the Past," Prince Caspian is all about reclaiming the idyllic home. The Telmarines have turned Narnia into a place incompatible for the Old Narnians, and the civil war is all about undoing that process so the Old Narnians can call their home, well, home. It's the ultimate extreme home makeover—only they have to tear down and rebuild an entire kingdom.

    Questions About The Home

    1. Do any characters lack a home? If so, who? And how does it speak toward this theme? If not, why not?
    2. When Aslan invades the Telmarine territories, he attacks their buildings and schools. How does he attack the buildings, and why do you think this is important in relation to this theme?
    3. How does the fate of the Telmarines plays into the theme of the home? Do you agree with the novel's thoughts about home based on this ending? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    After Caspian flees from Miraz's castle, his story becomes one of rediscovering and preserving his new home.

    The Pevensie children can't stay in Narnia like in The Lion because it's not their home anymore.

  • Religion

    Probably no surprise to see religion rearing its head in Prince Caspian, is it? C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity is one of the more famous instances in an already famous author's biography, and his Christian apologetics like Mere Christianity are pretty famous themselves (not Narnia famous but still). So it makes sense that Prince Caspian contains many parallels to the Christian religion. Aslan represents Jesus Christ, Peter and Caspian represent knights in the European Christian tradition, and Lucy's struggle with faith is a quintessential Christian struggle. For some, including J.R.R. Tolkien, this amount of allegory will be a little too much. For others, it'll be just right.

    Questions About Religion

    1. Many readers see the Narnia books as an allegory for Christianity. Do you think the novel succeeds with this reading? Why or why not?
    2. In Prince Caspian, which character do you think embodies the theme of religion more than any other? What about this character makes you pick them? Oh, and no picking Aslan. Too easy.
    3. How does Nikabrik's view of religion in Narnia go astray from the others? What do you think this says about religion in the novel?
    4. How do the themes of religion and war interact in Prince Caspian? What does this suggest to you about the relationship of these themes?

    Chew on This

    The Telmarines aren't given a religion of their own, making it difficult to read the war as a conflict of religious interests.

    Peter and Susan's exclusion from Narnia definitely has religious undertones—especially given Susan's controversial fate at the end of The Last Battle.