Where all is made right as Prince Caspian comes to a conclusion – but it still can’t seem to step out of the shadow of its predecessor.
There are some genuinely touching moments in this chapter, but also some more contrived portions. This book just feels rushed (whether it really was or not), especially towards the end. I don’t think Lewis was completely sure what he wanted to do with the series at this point (I do know that he was unsure about how many books he wanted to make the series at first, which may have played a role in the lack of confidence here). But I already discussed the obvious retreads in the last chapter, so I’ll start off by focusing on the good parts:
“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”
“I-I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”
“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not.”
Don’t worry Caspian, boy kings are an old and noble tradition in Narnia!
And then Lucy uses her cordial to heal the half-dead Reepicheep, and I can’t help but feel like she would have been way more useful with the boys (because she did NOTHING with Aslan). Anyhow, Reep fails to regrow The Tail That Was Chopped Off for whatever reason, and Aslan asks him why he needs a tail.
“Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?” said Aslan.
“May it please your High Majesty,” said the second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, “We are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor which is denied to the High Mouse.”
“Ah!” roared Aslan. “You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the Stone Table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again.”
This is just too precious for words. The celebration afterwards is one of those things that make me really wish I could live in Narnia.
Thus Aslan feasted the Narnians till long after the sunset had died away, and the stars had come out […]. The best thing of all about this feast was that there was no breaking up or going away, but as the talk grew quieter and slower, one after another would begin to nod and finally drop off to sleep with feet toward the fire and good friends on either side, till at last there was silence all round the circle, and the chattering of water over stone at the Ford of Beruna could be heard once more. But all night Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
One last quote before I wrap up the chapter:
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
The ending is a little bittersweet, as the children changing back into their school clothes and going back to England (with the knowledge that Peter and Susan will never be able to get back to Narnia, because they’re too old to be traipsing back and forth between worlds so much). And Reepicheep continues to be adorable and precocious and all that jazz.
Overall, though, I’m kind of disappointed. There were certainly some good elements in there, but they failed to come together into anything special (at least, compared to the rest of the series). Lucy’s character was wasted, and Susan’s could have been mined way more than it was (as it is, she basically acts like a brat and gets less than a chapter’s explanation as to why before her issues are breathed away by Aslan). Peter and Edmund get their chance to shine (especially Peter), but it really is Caspian’s story, after all. At least it introduces us to a nice new ensemble of side-characters.
I think that was the problem, though: Lewis had too many characters on his hands, and the girls suffered most from it once they were all together at the end. Even if it is supposed to be the “Mars” book, if you’ve got some females in your main cast, you can’t just send them off with Aslan and have them do nothing. Believe it or not, it is possible for a girl to exhibit some (positive) masculine traits, and I honestly would have liked to see more of that in this book (like with Lucy toward the middle of the book). Guess I’ll just have to wait until The Horse and His Boy for that…
It’s not a bad story, but it is easily the most flawed of the seven books. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had one or two glaring issues, but Prince Caspian has fewer high points and more frequent flaws. It just plain gets outshone by pretty much all the other books.
And that’s actually part of the reason why I like the 2008 adaptation as much as I do. I won’t say I love it or that it’s a great movie or anything, but it is a surprisingly competent adaptation of a book that wouldn’t seem to lend itself to film. It has a special place in my heart, despite its numerous flaws (like various lines from the book where a single word change completely alters the meaning of the line). Overall, it manages to stay true to the spirit of the book despite making significant changes to the story – or perhaps because of them. So go check it out!
And now we’re FINALLY going to start Dawn Treader! Until then…