The titular prince is introduced, and his childhood bears a striking resemblance to Lewis’s (and not just because of the nurse and tutor, either). Also, I finally figured out what this book’s atmosphere is “about” – something that Lewis calls “Joy”.
“I wish – I wish – I wish I could have lived in the Old Days,” said Caspian.
That’s the feeling which permeates this book – that yearning for an age of magic that’s long gone (if it was ever really there to begin with). Lewis experienced it as a boy (long before he truly owned his faith) in regards to Norse mythology, and Caspian experiences that yearning for Narnian mythology, as it were. Because the Telmarines are humans who stole Narnia away from the “Old Narnians”, they’ve simultaneously rewritten the history books (claiming that those very creatures and people we met in LWW are mere myths) and encouraged a little superstition whenever it helped their cause.
“Please, Doctor,” asked Caspian one day, “who lived in Narnia before we all came here out of Telmar?”
“No men – or very few – lived in Narnia before the Telmarines took it,” said Doctor Cornelius.
“Then who did my great-great-grandcesters conquer?” […] “I mean, wasn’t there a battle? Why is he called Caspian the Conqueror if there was nobody to fight with him?”
“I said there were very few men in Narnia,” said the Doctor
This is probably the only book in the series that could be described as a “coming-of-age story” – and not just in regards to Caspian (although the others will have to wait, since the next few chapters are all about the Prince). It’s fascinating to see Lewis portray Caspian growing up not in terms of aging so much as understanding and reclaiming the history of Narnia, which is initially lost in the mist of legends and fairy tales. Of course, that’s part of the point that Lewis is making – that legends, myths, fairy tales, and so-called superstitions are all relevant, and more true than we give them credit for. Also, history’s written by the victors, anyway, so “history” has more of an element of myth & legend than we might like to admit.
“Your Highness speaks as you have been taught,” said the Doctor. “But it is all lies. There are no ghosts there. That is a story invented by the Telmarines. Your Kings are in deadly fear of the sea because they can never quite forget that in all stories Aslan comes from over the sea. They don’t want to go near it and they don’t want anyone else to go near it. So they have let great woods grow up to cut their people off from the coast. But because they have quarreled with the trees they are afraid of the woods. And because they are afraid of the woods they imagine that they are full of ghosts. And the Kings and great men, hating both the sea and the wood, partly believe these stories, and partly encourage them. They feel safer if no one in Narnia dares to go down to the coast and look out to sea – toward Aslan’s land and the morning and the eastern end of the world.”
Also, on a side note, Doctor Cornelius is yet another one of those characters where I want to quote half his lines for sheer brilliance. It doesn’t exactly hurt that the way he’s frequently referred to as “the Doctor” and is not-quite-human makes it really easy to draw comparisons to a certain fixture of British television.
Until next time…