The crew discovers first-hand that all is not right in the Lone Islands, and Caspian finds an unexpected ally.
The Lone Islands have merely been a name in that long list of titles attributed to the rulers of Narnia up until this point (even the White Witch claimed to be “Empress of the Lone Islands”), and while Narnia had a good-sized navy in the days when Peter & co. were in charge, the Telmarines had none to speak of, so there has been no contact between Narnia and the Lone Islands for generations. Unfortunately, Caspian only thinks of this when he, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Reepicheep are walking up to an unsavory band of men, with the Dawn Treader out of sight.
“Don’t tell them who we are,” said Caspian.
“And pray, your Majesty, why not?” said Reepicheep who had consented to ride on Lucy’s shoulder.
“It just occurred to me,” replied Caspian, “that no one here can have heard from Narnia for a long time. It’s just possible they may not still acknowledge our over-lordship. In which case it might not be quite safe to be known as the King.”
“We have our swords, Sire,” said Reepicheep.
“Yes, Reep, I know we have,” said Caspian. “But if it is a question of re-conquering the three islands, I’d prefer to come back with a rather larger army.”
I want Reepicheep to consent to ride on MY shoulder!
In all seriousness, though, this is yet another parallel from John. There was a constant friction between those who wanted Jesus to be an actual political leader and, well, Christ himself, who already was the King, just not the kind of king that the Jews wanted. They wanted someone who would overthrow the Romans and lead Israel to a new golden age, and at one point in John they literally try to make him king by force. But Jesus refused to be known as the “King of the Jews”, because he wasn’t tied to any one political faction (which naturally upset a lot of people).
Similarly, here’s a king who’s returning to a land that hasn’t heard from the King for generations, and although they still claim to follow him in their words and ceremonies, when faced with the genuine article, they’ll deny him.
Back to the story! The men turn out to be slavers, who promptly capture the five of them (and treat Reepicheep so patronizingly that he only stops insulting them when he has so many things he wants to say that he doesn’t even know where to start). Eustace continues to complain the same as always. And then a wealthy man encounters them as they’re heading out to the slavers’ ship, immediately singling out Caspian and asking to buy him.
“You needn’t be afraid of me, boy,” he said. “I’ll treat you well. I bought you for your face. You reminded me of someone.”
“May I ask of whom, my Lord?” said Caspian.
“You remind me of my master, King Caspian of Narnia.”
Then Caspian decided to risk everything on one stroke.
“My Lord,” he said, “I am your master. I am Caspian, King of Narnia.”
“You make very free,” said the other. “How shall I know this is true?”
“Firstly by my face,” said Caspian. “Secondly because I know within six guesses who you are.”
He turns out to be Lord Bern, and of course he realizes that Caspian is the King. He chose to settle down in the Lone Islands long ago, but despises the thriving slave trade (and His Sufficiency Governor Gumpas, who encourages it).
Between Caspian’s “I am” statements and the plain fact that he presents himself as King Caspian, the son of King Caspian, it’s another clear reference to the Christ of John’s Gospel. Jesus frequently uses “I am” statements in John to present different aspects of his character through metaphor – and subtly (or not so subtly, in some cases) imply his association with the LORD of Israel, who only ever gave “I AM” as his name. Also, he’s both God and the Son of God. Lewis, you are brilliant.
Bern sees an opportunity for Caspian to put an end to the slave trade and reclaim the Islands in one fell swoop. Once aboard the Dawn Treader, he tells them to “run up a few signals
“Signals? To whom?” said Drinian.
“Why, to all the ships we haven’t got but which it might be well that Gumpas thinks we have.”
This chapter is all Caspian’s, from his initial suggestion to walk across Felimath (as poorly thought-out as it was) to his reveal to Lord Bern. He’s no longer the boy we met in Prince Caspian, uncertain of who or what he’s supposed to be. He’s far more confident now (as evidenced by his easier attitude toward Edmund, when in the last book he was awestruck by their presence), which has served him well in the Lone Islands.
Next time: Caspian and Bern make their move…