I’ve got a lot of ground to cover in this post, and no way to separate it by characters. So strap in; this could get a bit rough.
Lewis is great at speaking to children as equals. His greatest asset (even in his adult literature) has always been making complex ideas simple and easy to understand. As such, it’s not a huge leap to writing for children, because he knows that children aren’t stupid; they just don’t know much about the world yet. When adults talk down to them and generally disregard their input, they notice it (even if they don’t necessarily understand it). Lewis emphasizes this in Caspian’s conversations with his uncle, especially when compared to his conversations with Doctor Cornelius. Then there are also lines like this:
As a little boy he had often wondered why he disliked his aunt, Queen Prunaprismia; he now saw that it was because she disliked him.
He gets kids, is what I’m saying (although I must admit, a name like Prunaprismia doesn’t exactly inspire confidence).
Also, this chapter has the first appearance of “throwaway line that links to the plot of the next book” (seriously, every book after this was published is linked to the last in some fashion). I won’t say which line it is, but I will say that basically the entire plot of Dawn Treader is extrapolated from that one line. Anyhow, back to the story at hand:
“Now that [Miraz] has a son of his own he will want his own son to be the next King. You are in the way. He’ll clear you out of the way.”
“Is he really as bad as all that?” said Caspian. “Would he really murder me?”
“He murdered your Father,” said Doctor Cornelius.
Caspian felt very queer and said nothing.
It’s rather ironic that Caspian is called a “Prince” in the title, yet the whole point is that he’s rightfully the King (he’s even introduced as King Caspian when the children first hear his name). Anyhow, there’s a sense of adventure when Caspian flees the castle, heading out to find his fortune “with his sword on his left hip and Queen Susan’s magic horn on his right.”
And then we reach Trufflehunter (who is sweet and generally an old dear), Trumpkin (who is cynical, but hardly mean), and Nikabrik (who’s hateful and suspicious toward humans in general).
“I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself.”
“As firmly as that, I daresay,” said Trumpkin. “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?”
“I do,” said Caspian. “And if I hadn’t believed in him before, I would now. Back there among the Humans the people who laughed at Aslan would have laughed at stories about Talking Beasts and Dwarfs. Sometimes I did wonder if there really was such a person as Aslan: but then sometimes I wondered if there were really people like you. Yet there you are.”
I’ll just let that passage speak for itself.
Trumpkin represents yet another facet of Lewis’s old standby: Cynicism. Lewis is really good at writing cynics with unique characteristics, both in terms of reasons for their cynicism and the forms their cynicism takes. Trumpkin simply refuses to trust anything he can’t see or understand; he’s not a fool, and he’s afraid that if he puts himself out on a limb for Aslan or whatever, he’ll simply be left hanging. Nikabrik forms a nice contrast, as he’s so eager to find reasons to hate Caspian and his people that he’s willing to buy the old legends if only for the sake of an argument that supports his bigotry. Nikabrik’s behavior honestly reminded me of how some Christians will quote scripture to support the hatred and injustice they perpetuate; the way he refers to the Telmarines as “a different sort of Men” from High King Peter (even though there’s really no difference at all) hit particularly close to home. It all goes back to the idea of history not being quite as true as it’s made out to be – even when there’s a consensus about “what really happened”, it’s so easy to idolize (or demonize) legendary people in history and not actually see them as the flawed individuals they were.
Until next time…