David Sarkies's Reviews > Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
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's review
Feb 06, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Recommended to David by: My Dad
Recommended for: Anybody
Read 2 times. Last read October 12, 2008 to October 14, 2008.

A retelling of the Scottish Play
6 February 2012

I'm not entirely sure if this book is allegorical same sense as the first of the Narnia stories but I don't envisage Lewis so quickly moving from an allegorical retelling of Christian doctrine to a pure adventure story for the next book; particularly since fantasy had not developed at the time to the stage that it is at now (though adventure stories had). While Lewis would have been exposed to Lord of the Rings (he was a very good friend of Tolkien) by this time, the concept of the fantasy quest had not really come into fashion. However, this is still a part of the very successful Narnia Chronicles and many of the other books are not only allegorical, but also have relations to earlier mythological traditions (with Voyage of the Dawntredder being a version of the Odyssey, and with the Silver Chair involving a descent into the underworld).
1300 years have passed since the Pervenese children were last in Narnia and this time they are transported there while waiting for a train in the London Underground. They arrive at the ruins of a castle and discover pretty quickly that it is Caer Paravel. The last time they were here it was a fully functioning castle, though fortunately their secret stash has remained undiscovered. They do quickly discover, after rescuing a dwarf that is to be executed by some humans, that Narnia has changed significantly since they were last around.
Narnia is populated by a mix of mythological creatures and talking animals. One might roll their eyes at the concept of talking animals and C.S. Lewis was not the first person to develop this idea. However, the magical land of Narnia is something that goes back to his childhood, where he and his brother created a magical land where the animals talk. Mind you, Lewis' childhood also involved learning Ancient Greek and reading the Illiad in its original language (why could I not have learnt to do that as a kid?). It is not surprising then that in crafting children's literature that Lewis would borrow ideas that fascinated him as a child.
One of the interesting things here (and I am not sure if it is in the book) is when Lucy is attacked by a bear. When she was last in Narnia all of the animals talked, however many of them have now devolved into the savage form. As the DLF (Dear Little Friend) says, 'Narnia is a much more savage place than it used to be' and further, 'if one is treated like a beast then one begins to behave like a beast'. This is something that comes out in some of Lewis' other writings, such as the 'Abolition of Man', where he describes the human race as devolving into 'hairless apes'. In that book Lewis is attacking the education system, however we much remember that this is a children's book and one wonders why Lewis is trying to teach children such abstract concepts.
During the time that the Pervenese have been away Narnia has been invaded and conquered by the Telmarines, a race of humans (who, as it turns out, are also from Earth). There is a lot of intrigue in the Telmarine camp (once again interesting for a children's story) were the king had been murdered by his brother, who now seeks to kill the crown prince so as to secure his right to the throne. However Prince Caspian escapes to Narnia where he, in desperation, blew Susan's horn and summoned the Pervense children. To me the intrigue sounded a little Shakespearian, even looking at MacBeth from the eyes of McDuff, but the strange thing is that Lewis never seemed to pay all that much attention to Shakespeare (and Tolkein positively hated his works).
I would almost be tempted to consider this story to also be a critique of colonialism, but once again, this is C.S. Lewis. In his writings he never seemed to be all that critical of government policies, and I have never actually seen any other of his works which would criticise colonialism. It just did not seem to bother him all that much. Lewis was a social critic, but more in the sense of having a strong education system and he also had concerns with regards to morality. He is one who sees that a strong moral code will hold a society together. I guess there is some discussion of savagery, and the destruction of the magical world, in this book, but I am not sure whether colonialism would come into it.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 12, 2008 – Started Reading
October 14, 2008 – Finished Reading
February 6, 2012 – Shelved
February 6, 2012 – Shelved as: fantasy

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