Sunday, 31 March 2013

Prince Caspian

But other country

Dark with discord
dims beyond him [Sol],

With noise of nakers,
neighing of horses,

Hammering of harness.
A haughty god

Mars mercenary,
makes there his camp

And flies his flag;
flaunts laughingly

The graceless beauty,
grey-eyed and keen,

– Blond insolence –
of his blithe visage

Which is hard and happy.
He hews the act,

The indifferent deed
with dint of his mallet

And his chisel of choice;
achievement comes not

Unhelped by him;
– hired gladiator

Of evil and good.
All’s one to Mars,

The wrong righted,
rescued meekness,

Or trouble in trenches,
with trees splintered

And birds banished,
banks fill’d with gold

And the liar made lord.
Like handiwork

He offers to all –
earns his wages

And whistles the while.
White-feathered dread

Mars has mastered.
His metal’s iron

That was hammered through hands
into holy cross,

Cruel carpentry.
He is cold and strong,

Necessity’s son.

Mars Mercenary Makes There his Camp

When he had finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis began to write a story of the beginnings of Narnia. The main character was a boy called Digory, whose adventures began the day he met a girl named Polly. However, Lewis quickly abandoned that story; The Magician’s Nephew would be the sixth Narnia book published. In its stead, he sat down and produced the book we know as Prince Caspian.
As before, Michael Ward’s planetary theory is my guide. I realize, however, that others may not find it as convincing as I do. Perhaps the scheme isn’t as neat as I’ve implied? Saturn got a big secondary role (as the villain) in the supposedly Jovial book, and Luna and Venus each had their moments. And here’s a major difficulty: Prince Caspian, identified by Ward with the sphere of Mars, mentions the name of Jove five times, more than twice the number in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – always, of course, in the exclamation “By Jove!”
Well, let’s look closer. Context is very revealing. Here is how the four children (who still don’t have a surname) arrive in Narnia.
Next moment the luggage, the seat, the platform, and the station had completely vanished. The four children, holding hands and panting, found themselves standing in a woody place – such a woody place that branches were sticking into them and there was hardly room to move. They all rubbed their eyes and took a deep breath.
“Oh, Peter!” exclaimed Lucy. “Do you think we can possibly have got back to Narnia?”
“It might be anywhere,” said Peter, “I can’t see a yard in all these trees. Let’s try to get into the open – if there is any open.”
With some difficulty, and with some stings from nettles and pricks from thorns, they struggled out of the thicket. Then they had another surprise. Everything became much brighter, and after a few steps they found themselves at the edge of a wood, looking down on a sandy beach. A few yards away a very calm sea was falling on the sand with such tiny ripples that it made hardly any sound. There was no land in sight and no clouds in the sky. The sun was about where it ought to be at ten o’clock in the morning, and the sea was a dazzling blue. They stood sniffing in the sea-smell.
“By Jove!” said Peter. “This is good enough.”
Five minutes later everyone was barefooted and wading in the cool clear water.
A thicket, and then a beach. Shortly, they will come upon the ruins of Cair Paravel, and camp in its Great Hall. Now, look at the closing scenes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the sea-gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?
That evening after tea the four children all managed to get down to the beach again and get their shoes and stockings off and feel the sand between their toes. But next day was more solemn. For then, in the Great Hall of Cair Paravel – that wonderful hall with the ivory roof and the west wall hung with peacock’s feathers and the eastern door which looks towards the sea, in the presence of all their friends and to the sound of trumpets, Aslan solemnly crowned them and led them to the four thrones amid deafening shouts of, “Long Live King Peter! Long Live Queen Susan! Long Live King Edmund! Long Live Queen Lucy!”

So these two Kings and two Queens with the principal members of their court, rode a-hunting with horns and hounds in the Western Woods to follow the White Stag. And they had not hunted long before they had a sight of him. And he led them a great pace over rough and smooth and through thick and thin, till the horses of all the courtiers were tired out and these four were still following. And they saw the stag enter into a thicket where their horses could not follow... So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamppost, and before they had gone twenty more they noticed that they were making their way not through branches but through coats.
That one’s arguable, but perhaps a bit of a stretch. Now have a look at the other four “By Jove”s in Prince Caspian:
“This must have been an orchard – long, long ago, before the place went wild and the wood grew up.”
“Then this was once an inhabited island,” said Peter.
“And what’s that?” said Lucy, pointing ahead.
“By Jove, it’s a wall,” said Peter. “An old stone wall.”
The wall, in fact, of Cair Paravel. The remaining three need no commentary at all.
“...Don’t you remember [said Peter] – it was the very day before the ambassadors came from the King of Calormen – don’t you remember planting the orchard outside the north gate of Cair Paravel?... It was those very decent little chaps the moles who did the actual digging. Can you have forgotten that funny old Lilygloves, the chief mole, leaning on his spade and saying, ‘Believe me, your Majesty, you’ll be glad of these fruit trees one day.’ And by Jove he was right.”
“I do! I do!” said Lucy, and clapped her hands.

“You know what we were puzzling about last night [said Edmund], that it was only a year ago since we left Narnia but everything looks as if no one had lived in Cair Paravel for hundreds of years? Well, don’t you see? You know that, however long we seemed to have lived in Narnia, when we got back through the wardrobe it seemed to have taken no time at all? ...once you’re out of Narnia, you have no idea how Narnian time is going. Why shouldn’t hundreds of years have gone past in Narnia while only one year has passed for us in England?”
“By Jove, Ed,” said Peter. “I believe you’ve got it. In that sense it really was hundreds of years ago that we lived in Cair Paravel. And now we’re coming back to Narnia just as if we were Crusaders or Anglo-Saxons or Ancient Britons or someone coming back to modern England?”

The river gorge had just made a bend and the whole view spread out beneath them. They could see open country stretching before them to the horizon and, between it and them, the broad silver ribbon of the Great River. They could see the specially broad and shallow place which had once been the Fords of Beruna but was now spanned by a long, many-arched bridge. There was a little town at the far end of it.
“By Jove,” said Edmund. “We fought the Battle of Beruna just where that town is!”
The mentions of Jove reference The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with increasing explicitness, as if Lewis were planting a deliberate clue to his astrological secret.
Prince Caspian foregrounds astrology much more than the earlier book; perhaps more than any other Narnia book. Caspian is taught “astronomy” under Doctor Cornelius, but it clearly means astrology in the mediaeval vein.
A few days later his Tutor said, “Tonight I am going to give you a lesson in Astronomy. At dead of night two noble planets, Tarva and Alambil, will pass within one degree of each other. Such a conjunction has not occurred for two hundred years, and your Highness will not live to see it again. It will be best if you go to bed a little earlier than usual. When the time of the conjunction draws near I will come and wake you.”...
There was no difficulty in picking out the two stars they had come to see. They hung rather low in the southern sky, almost as bright as two little moons and very close together.
“Are they going to have a collision?” he asked in an awestruck voice.
“Nay, dear Prince,” said the Doctor (and he too spoke in a whisper). “The great lords of the upper sky know the steps of their dance too well for that. Look well upon them. Their meeting is fortunate and means some great good for the sad realm of Narnia. Tarva, the Lord of Victory, salutes Alambil, the Lady of Peace. They are just coming to their nearest.”
Picking up on another astrological theme in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, remember the very Lunar scene where Aslan walks away from the camp to meet the Witch and be sacrificed? I mentioned then that the Moon’s sphere was the lower boundary of the heavens, and identified that as the moment when Aslan truly descends and becomes the incarnate Christ. Now, check out these scenes in Prince Caspian.
Instead of getting drowsier she was getting more awake – with an odd, night-time, dreamish kind of wakefulness. The Creek was growing brighter. She knew now that then moon was on it, though she couldn’t see the moon...
...Somewhere close by she heard the twitter of a nightingale beginning to sing, then stopping, then beginning again. It was a little lighter ahead. She went towards the light and came to a place where there were fewer trees, and whole patches or pools of moonlight, but the moonlight and the shadows so mixed that you could hardly be sure where anything was or what it was. At the same moment the nightingale, satisfied at last with his tuning up, burst into full song.
Lucy’s eyes began to grow accustomed to the light, and she saw the trees that were nearest her more distinctly...
Though there was not a breath of wind they all stirred about her. The rustling noise of the leaves was almost like words. The nightingale stopped singing as if to listen to it.

Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name... She was looking straight up at the Narnian moon, which is larger than ours, and at the starry sky, for the place where they had bivouacked was comparatively open.
“Lucy,” came the call again... The moon was so bright that the whole forest landscape around her was almost as clear as day, though it looked wilder. Behind her was the fir wood; away to her right the jagged cliff-tops on the far side of the gorge; straight ahead, open grass to where a glade of trees began about a bow-shot away...
But she was only half interested in [the now animate trees]. She wanted to get beyond them to something else; it was from beyond them that the dear voice had called.
She soon got through them... for they were really a ring of trees round a central open place. She stepped out from among their shifting confusion of lovely lights and shadows.
A circle of grass, smooth as a lawn, met her eyes, with dark trees dancing all round it. And then – oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him...

In a few minutes they were at the bottom and the roaring of water filled their ears. Treading delicately, like a cat, Aslan stepped from stone to stone across the stream. In the middle he stopped, bent down to drink, and as he raised his shaggy head, dripping from the water, he turned to face them again...
“I saw something,” said Peter. “But it’s so tricky in this moonlight...”
...The whole journey was odd and dream-like – the roaring stream, the wet grey grass, the glimmering cliffs which they were approaching, and always the glorious, silently pacing Beast ahead...
...Fortunately the Moon shone right above the gorge so that neither side was in shadow.
...The long gentle slope (heather and grass and a few very big rocks that shone white in the moonlight) stretched up to where it vanished in a glimmer of trees about half a mile away... 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.
Lunar imagery (night, sleepiness or dream, pale light, shadows, water, including the sound and feel of water) accompanies Aslan’s descents to earth, in a pattern which will return in the next two books as well – I’ve changed my mind slightly; I’m going to look at The Horse and His Boy before I do The Silver Chair, the latter being Lunar all through.
Another minor astrological motif recurs, I’m surprised to find, which I didn’t bother quoting last time because I thought it was a one-off. From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The sky in the east was whitish by now and the stars were getting fainter – all except one very big one low down on the eastern horizon. [Susan and Lucy] felt colder than they had been all night...
They walked to the eastern edge of the hill and looked down. The one big star had almost disappeared. The country all looked dark grey, but beyond, at the very end of the world, the sea showed pale. The sky began to turn red. They walked to and fro more times than they could count between the dead Aslan and the eastern ridge, trying to keep warm; and oh, how tired their legs felt. Then at last, as they stood for a moment looking out towards they sea and Cair Paravel (which they could now just make out) the red turned to gold along the line where the sea and the sky met and very slowly up came the edge of the sun.
And here’s the Prince Caspian parallel:
“Now,” said Aslan. “The Moon is setting. Look behind you: there is the dawn beginning. We have no time to lose...”
...The light was changing. Low down in the east, Aravir, the morning star of Narnia, gleamed like a little moon. Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane, and roared.
Venus is the goddess of fertility and new life, likely because she is also the star of the dawn. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe she heralds the resurrection of Aslan. Here in Prince Caspian she shines on the awakening of the Trees, as we shall shortly see. She will turn up in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader too.
It goes without saying, I hope, that astrology really works in Narnia as it does not in Our World. It is not quite as deterministic as the Renaissance astrologers believed; it appears to operate only at the geopolitical level, leaving individuals free to do as they choose. Still, if you’re a Narnian, you live in a world ruled by the stars.
This conflict between the magician and the astrologer seems very surprising to those who want to impose our modern grouping on the men of the past; for by our grouping magic and astrology go together as “superstitions”... Magic and astrology, though of course often mixed in practice, are in tendency opposed. The magician asserts human omnipotence; the astrologer, human impotence... The thorough-going astrologer is a determinist. He holds the creed (in William James’s words) of the “tough-minded”.
English Literature in the Sixteenth Century pp. 5–6
More than any of the others, even The Last Battle, Prince Caspian is a story of war. And it is astrology that persuades Caspian to go to war. Here Lewis inaugurates the association between Centaurs and divination which will run through the whole series and become a trope of the fantasy genre.
...there came in sight the noblest creatures that Caspian had yet seen, the great Centaur Glenstorm and his three sons. His flanks were glossy chestnut and the beard that covered his broad chest was golden-red. He was a prophet and a star-gazer and knew what they had come about.
“Long live the King,” [Glenstorm] cried. “I and my sons are ready for war. When is the battle to be joined?”
Up till now neither Caspian nor the others had really been thinking of a war. They had some vague idea, perhaps, of an occasional raid on some Human farmstead or of attacking a party of hunters, if it ventured too far into these southern wilds. But, in the main, they had thought only of living to themselves in woods and caves and building up an attempt at Old Narnia in hiding. As soon as Glenstorm had spoken everyone felt much more serious.
“Do you mean a real war to drive Miraz out of Narnia?” asked Caspian.
“What else?” said the Centaur. “Why else does your Majesty go clad in mail and girt with sword?”
“Is it possible, Glenstorm?” said the Badger.
“The time is ripe,” said Glenstorm. “I watch the skies, Badger, for it is mine to watch, as it is yours to remember. Tarva and Alambil have met in the halls of high heaven, and on earth a son of Adam has once more arisen to rule and name the creatures. The hour has struck. Our council at the Dancing Lawn must be a council of war.” He spoke in such a voice that neither Caspian nor the others hesitated for a moment: it now seemed to them quite possible that they might win a war and quite certain that they must wage one.
You remember I puzzled over Narnian centaurs in the introductory post; I linked them to the passage in The Great Divorce where the lizard form of the Ghost’s sexual obsessions, having been mortified by the Angel, is resurrected in the form of a magnificent (“glossy”) stallion. Centaurs in Narnia, I surmised, symbolize regenerate (or unfallen) man in full control of his passions and appetites. Well, the stars are in the heavens, above the Moon, outside of the world of sin and death, so naturally the sinless are conversant with them.
How do the stars influence events on the earth? The word influence contains the answer; it means “in-flowing”, and it was coined for exactly this question. Sublunary things are made of earth, air, fire, and water, but stars and souls are made of aether (or “quintessence”, the fifth element), and every element flows towards itself. So a little of the soul or character of each planet flows down, crossing the sphere of the Moon, and into the souls of those below. Though all the planets are perfect, except for the earthward face of Luna, their influence may turn to evil once it gets mixed in with the sinful sublunary world. That is certainly the case with Saturn, the bringer of death and disaster; and to a lesser extent with Mars, the warring planet.

He is Cold and Strong

Prince Caspian is a very different book from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – jarringly so, if you read them back to back. Jove has not disappeared, for kingship is once again part of the machinery of the story, but he has retreated to the background. Lewis was not Tolkien, and didn’t bother too much about in-world consistency. The Narnia Chronicles, or the “Narniad” as Michael Ward calls it, is seven stories, not one story in seven parts. First of all, the big reveal early on would have been more convincing if we had ever seen the inside of Cair Paravel before, and didn’t need all the “As You Know, Bob” conversations to recognise it now.
While they were talking they had crossed the courtyard and gone through the other doorway into what had once been the hall. This was now very like the courtyard, for the roof had long since disappeared and it was merely another space of grass and daisies, except that it was shorter and narrower and the walls were higher. Across the far end there was a kind of terrace about three feet higher than the rest.
“I wonder, was it really the hall?” said Susan. “What is that terrace kind of thing?”
“Why, you silly,” said Peter (who had become strangely excited), “don’t you see? That was the dais where the High Table was, where the King and the great lords sat. Anyone would think you had forgotten that we ourselves were once Kings and Queens and sat on a dais just like that, in our great hall.”
“In our castle of Cair Paravel,” continued Susan in a dreamy and rather sing-song voice, “at the mouth of the great river of Narnia. How could I forget?”
“How it all comes back!” said Lucy. “We could pretend we were in Cair Paravel now. This hall must have been very like the great hall we feasted in.”

“There’s one thing,” said Lucy. “If this is Cair Paravel there ought to be a door at this end of the dais. In fact we ought to be sitting with our backs against it at this moment. You know – the door that led down to the treasure chamber.”
“I suppose there isn’t a door,” said Peter, getting up.
The wall behind them was a mass of ivy.
“We can soon find out,” said Edmund, taking up one of the sticks that they had laid ready for putting on the fire. He began beating the ivied wall. Tap-tap went the stick against the stone; and again, tap-tap; and then, all at once, boom-boom, with a quite different sound, a hollow, wooden sound.
“Great Scott!” said Edmund.
When I was a kid we had a fantasy trilogy in my school library called The Halfmen of O, by Maurice Gee. I presume the fact that it doesn’t appear in even the most comprehensive fantasy encyclopaedias means that it was never published outside New Zealand, which is where Maurice Gee and I both live. Gee is in many respects an inferior author to Lewis: his visual imagery is not too bad, but he stumbles on thinking up evocative names and on conveying the passage of time. I mention him because in the second book, The Priests of Ferris, his protagonists return to the world of O and discover that a hundred years have passed there in the one year for them since they left, which I presume Gee got direct from Lewis because that’s more or less what happens in Prince Caspian. Only – Gee puts in a moment of mourning for their friends who must have died in the interim. As it turns out, the one they miss most is in fact in hibernation and they later revive him, but my point is that the nearest Lewis gets to it, in this book, is this:
Shortly after the last apple had been eaten, Susan went out to the well to get another drink. When she came back she was carrying something in her hand.
“Look,” she said in a rather choking kind of voice. “I found it by the well.” She handed it to Peter and sat down. The others thought she looked and sounded as if she might be going to cry. Edmund and Lucy eagerly bent forward to see what was in Peter’s hand – a little, bright thing that gleamed in the firelight.
“Well, I’m – I’m jiggered,” said Peter, and his voice also sounded queer. Then he handed it to the others.
All now saw what it was – a little chess-knight, ordinary in size but extraordinarily heavy because it was made of pure gold; and the eyes in the horse’s head were two tiny rubies – or rather one was, for the other had been knocked out.
“Why!” said Lucy, “it’s exactly like one of the golden chessmen we used to play with when we were Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel.”
“Cheer up, Su,” said Peter to his other sister.
“I can’t help it,” said Susan. “It brought back – oh, such lovely times. And I remembered playing chess with fauns and good giants, and the mer-people singing in the sea, and my beautiful horse – and – and—”
Tumnus, Lucy’s best and oldest friend in Narnia, is named only once, and that only to explain how Lucy knows who Bacchus and Silenus are. Mrs and Mr Beaver are not mentioned at all; Nikabrik believes beavers were stamped out in Narnia by the White Witch, which, if you think about it, would erase the characters we know. Lewis actively evades the topic of death in many other ways besides this in Prince Caspian, as we’ll see. But in this case we’d have to say he was the one who brought it up in the first place. Why set the new story so far forward in the Narnian chronology? Prince Caspian uses the word “ancient” nearly twice as often as any other Narnia book. With the setting element of Aslan’s How, Lewis deliberately draws attention to the depth of time involved.
The tunnels inside were a perfect maze till you got to know them, and they were lined and roofed with smooth stones, and on the stones, peering in the twilight, Caspian saw strange characters and snaky patterns, and pictures in which the form of a Lion was repeated again and again. It all seemed to belong to an even older Narnia than the Narnia of which his nurse had told him.

“I say, Peter,” whispered Edmund. “Look at those carvings on the walls. Don’t they look old? And yet we’re older than that. When we were last here, they hadn’t been made.”
“Yes,” said Peter. “That makes one think.”
The planetary link here is weak, I admit. I have found no classical or mediaeval association of Mars with ancientry, and only one modern work that makes the connection. But as that modern work is Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis, perhaps it’s not so long a shot. In the following dialogue “Oyarsa” is the god Mars, and “Malacandra” is the world Mars; Weston is the wicked Earthling scientist who landed there. Weston talks funny because he has not learned the local language very well. (I’ve an idea Out of the Silent Planet may have been the original Avatar – the very first science fiction story with good aliens and bad humans.)
“But are your wise men so ignorant as not to know that Malacandra is older than your own world and nearer its death? Most of it is dead already. My people live only in the handramits [canals]; the heat and the water have been more and will be less. Soon now, very soon, I will end my world and give my people back to Maleldil [God].”
“Me know all that plenty. This only first try. Soon they go on another world.”
“But do you not know that all worlds will die?”
“Men go jump off each before it deads – on and on, see?”
“And when all are dead?”
Weston was silent. After a while Oyarsa spoke again.
“Do you not ask why my people, whose world is old, have not rather come to yours and taken it long ago?”
“Ho! Ho!” said Weston. “You not know how.”
“You are wrong,” said Oyarsa. “Many thousands of thousand years before this, when nothing yet lived on your world, the cold death was coming on my harandra [highlands, everything except the canals]. Then I was in deep trouble, not chiefly for the death of my hnau [rational beings] – Maleldil does not make them long-livers – but for the things which the lord of your world [Satan, the Oyarsa of Earth], who was not yet bound, put into their minds. He would have made them as your people are now – wise enough to see the death of their kind approaching but not wise enough to endure it. Bent [evil] counsels would soon have arisen among them. They were well able to have made sky-ships. By me Maleldil stopped them. Some I cured, some I unbodied [disintegrated]—”
“And see what come!” interrupted Weston. “You now very few – shut up in handramits – soon all die.”
“Yes,” said Oyarsa, “but one thing we left behind on the harandra: fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people do not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace.”
Out of the Silent Planet pp. 138–139
Speaking from my own ignorance, I would have thought Saturn (Father Time, the god of old age) was a more likely choice, if you were looking for a planet that evoked ancient history. What’s Martial about it, to Lewis? Is it that battles loom large as historical events, and that the structures that best survive from ancient times are often fortresses? Is it that Mars is in many ways the complementary opposite of Venus, the goddess of youth and new life? That would explain it in Out of the Silent Planet, whose sequel, Perelandra, was also titled Voyage to Venus. My own best guess is that Mars’ toughness, his endurance, gives him the power to persevere without breaking under Saturn’s barrage of years. Still, we have so far not made much of a case for identifying Prince Caspian as a specially Martial book. Don’t worry, it’ll get stronger.

Cruel Carpentry

Another thing you get a lot of in Out of the Silent Planet is forests. And another thing you get a lot of in Prince Caspian is, yes, forests. At least half the book consists of journeying through forests. And this time we are on slightly better ground with the Martial connection. One of the odder parts of this book, understandably if regrettably removed from the Andrew Adamson movie, is the chapter and a half or so that begins with this:
The crowd and the dance round Aslan (for it had become a dance once more) grew so thick and rapid that Lucy was confused. She never saw where certain other people came from who were soon capering about among the trees. One was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy’s, if it had not looked so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, “There’s a chap who might do anything – absolutely anything.” He seemed to have a great many names – Bromios, Bassareus, and the Ram were three of them. There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he. There was even, unexpectedly, someone on a donkey. And everybody was laughing: and everybody was shouting out, “Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi.”
“Is it a Romp, Aslan?” cried the youth. And apparently it was. But nearly everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what they were playing. It may have been Tig, but Lucy never discovered who was It. It was rather like Blind Man’s Buff, only everyone behaved as if they were blindfolded. It was not unlike Hunt the Slipper, but the slipper was never found. What made it more complicated was that the man on the donkey, who was old and enormously fat, began calling out at once, “Refreshments! Time for refreshments,” and falling off his donkey and being bundled on to it again by the others, while the donkey was under the impression that the whole thing was a circus and tried to give a display of walking on its hind legs. And all the time there were more and more vine leaves everywhere. And soon not only leaves but vines. They were climbing up everything. They were running up the legs of the tree people and circling round their necks. Lucy put up her hands to push back her hair and found she was pushing back vine branches. The donkey was a mass of them. His tail was completely entangled and something dark was nodding between his ears. Lucy looked again and saw it was a bunch of grapes. After that it was mostly grapes overhead and underfoot and all around.
“Refreshments! Refreshments,” roared the old man. Everyone began eating, and whatever hothouses your people may have, you have never tasted such grapes. Really good grapes, firm and tight on the outside, but bursting into cool sweetness when you put them into your mouth, were one of the things the girls had never had quite enough of before. Here, there were more than anyone could possibly want, and rib table-manners at all. One saw sticky and stained fingers everywhere, and, though mouths were full, the laughter never ceased nor the yodelling cries of Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi-oi, till all of a sudden everyone felt at the same moment that the game (whatever it was), and the feast, ought to be over, and everyone flopped down breathless on the ground and turned their faces to Aslan to hear what he would say next.
The youth is Bacchus, and the old man is Silenus. Bacchus, the son of Zeus / Jove, has no special Martial connection. Silenus, however, is very similar in both name and character to another minor Roman god, Silvanus, from silva, “forest”. Prince Caspian, alone of the Narniad, uses the word “Silvans” as a synonym for Dryads. Silvanus was a cheerful old man just like Silenus, and was said to be in love with an orchard goddess, the deified wood nymph Pomona, who herself gets a very brief mention in this book:
“...don’t you remember planting the orchard outside the north gate of Cair Paravel? [said Peter.] The greatest of all the wood-people, Pomona herself, came to put good spells on it.”
(Take a good long look at that. You just saw the first, last, and only time a nymph gets given a name in Narnia.)
Silvanus, then, is definitely implied by association. Now it is very common, in polytheistic mythology, to see one god identified with another, especially minor gods with major gods. That’s how the Romans understood the gods of most of the surrounding peoples; it’s why we can confidently identify Jove with Zeus and Thor, Mercury with Hermes and Odin, Mars with Ares and Tyr and so on. But it also happens within the Roman pantheon, and some writers explicitly identify Silvanus with one of the major gods. And you’ll have guessed which one. Cato, I think it was, refers to him as “Mars Silvanus”.
Now, what with the growing vines and the sweet fruit and the laughter and the barely restrained sexuality – Bacchus’s Maenads shortly afterwards help a schoolgirl “take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes that she was wearing” – not to mention that this all begins directly after the appearance of the Morning Star, you’d be justified in suspecting that this part of the story has as much to do with Venus as with Mars. And we have to remember again that, by Lewis’s own account, he hadn’t yet decided to do seven books; he may not have been calculating on giving Venus a book to herself at this point. What we do know is that Lewis had recently begun, and abandoned, a story which would have set Venus and Mars at odds.
For the most part, Lewis burned his manuscripts once the book was published. Only one notebook escaped the flames with Narniana inside. It is chiefly ancestral to The Magician’s Nephew, but there are also several elements that were taken up into Prince Caspian, and this as well as other clues tell us that it was begun when The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the only Narnia book in existence. Lewis stopped writing, in mid-sentence, at the top of a page, and then – intriguingly – wrote out nearly all of what was to become Eustace’s diary in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, complete with the confrontation with Reepicheep (already so named) over the water-cask. You will find the whole thing in Past Watchful Dragons, Walter Hooper’s exploration of the Narniad. (I do not recommend Hooper, whose love for Lewis is as evident and as embarrassing as Smithers’ love for Monty Burns, as a balanced commentator.)
In the Lefay Fragment, as Hooper calls it, Digory is an orphan living in the care of his aunt, a forerunner both of Aunt Alberta Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and of the Headmistress of Experiment House in The Silver Chair. He doesn’t mind, because he can talk to animals and trees. At this point, it seems, Lewis did not make the distinction in kind between Talking Beasts and ordinary animals that looms so large in the Narniad as published. You’ll find the parallel passage in Prince Caspian with no trouble; but this is all happening in England, not Narnia.
“Why, its old Pattertwig!”, said Digory gazing down through the leaves to where the newcomer was balancing himself on a dangerous-looking branch of the Silver Birch. Pattertwig was a red Squirrel...
“Hullo, Digory”, said Pattertwig. “Where have you been for ever so long?”
“I’ve been ill”, said Digory.
“You humans are always being ill”, said the squirrel, “You’re as bad as the cattle. Would you like a nut?”
“Are you sure you can spare it, Pattertwig?” said Digory, “Now that the winter’s coming on and all?”
“P-r-r-r”, chattered the squirrel contemptuously, “What do you take me for? A nice sort of squirrel I should be if I hadn’t got a pile big enough to share a nut to a friend without missing it”
“But you were saying last time we met how hard times were getting”, protested Digory. Pattertwig, however, made no answer for he had already jumped from the Oak to the Birch and from the Birch to the Fir and was off to fetch the nut. Digory at once looked the other way: it is considered very [bad] manners among squirrels to watch anyone going to his hoard. To ask where it is would be simply outrageous.
“Aren’t you going to talk to me”, said the Birch in its silvery, showery, rustling voice.
“Of course I am”, said Digory. “In fact I was coming down to have a dance with you in a moment.”
“No good to-day”, said the Birch. “I can’t dance when there’s no wind”
“And when there is”, said the Fir in its thick, husky voice, “you dance a great deal too much and slap everyone in the face”
Before the Birch could reply Pattertwig came bounding back holding the nut and running on only two feet. Although he could easily have reached Digory by a shorter way he ran right up the Birch and out along a branch at the top which looked much too small to bear his weight: from that he jumped onto the highest and smallest branch he could find on the Oak. He did all this partly because he was in good spirits, but partly because squirrels like showing off.
“There you are!” he said holding up a fine walnut and sitting up on Digory’s bare knee
“Thank you very much”, said Digory. “It is kind of you.”
“Like me to crack it for you?” asked Pattertwig. “You humans aren’t much good at that”
“Please”, said Digory.
Walter Hooper, Past Watchful Dragons pp. 50–52
The conversation wanders to the menace of Grey Squirrels and what, if anything, humans are good for, before the Birch points out another human, “no older than our own Digory, and there it is doing something horrid with bits of dead trees” in the next-door garden. Please take care to form a very clear mental image of the next part.
Digory set himself astride the next branch, which overhung the next door garden, and worked his way along till he was above the wall. What he saw surprised him very much, for the house next door had been empty ever since he came to live with Aunt G... There were curtains in the windows, the back door was open, and just beneath Digory’s dangling feet a girl of about his own age was busily engaged in doing something with planks and sticks and string and nails and a hammer.
You may think that if, like Digory, you could talk to the trees and the animals, you would be far more interested in them than in the boy or girl next door. But then Digory had been talking to trees and animals all his life. He liked it very much, but there was for him nothing new or exciting about it. Indeed he did not realise how much he liked it or how unhappy he would be if the gift were ever taken away from him; just as you and I do not realise till we have toothache how very nice it is not to have toothache. At the moment Digory felt very interested in the girl next door and forgot all about Oak and Birch and Fir and Pattertwig. He looked down between the dry autumn leaves and said “Hullo!”; and that is what started the whole story you are going to hear.
“Hullo!”, said the girl, looking up.
“What’s your name?”, said Digory.
“Polly”, said the girl. “What’s yours?”
“Digory”, said Digory.
“What a funny name!”, said Polly.
“It’s no funnier than Polly”, said Digory.
“Yes it is”, said she.
“’Tisn’t”, said he.
“’Tis”, said she, and went on with her work. But presently she looked up again and said “Who were you talking to just now?”
“You, of course”, said Digory
“I mean before that, silly”, said Polly.
This question put Digory in a terrible fix. “If I say I was talking to the trees”, he thought, “she’ll think I’m mad. And if I say I was only pretending she’ll think I’m a kid.” Then he said out loud,
“I was talking to a squirrel.”
At this Polly became interested and stopped her work with the bits of wood. “I say”, she said. “Have you got a squirrel – I mean, a tame one?”
“It’s almost tame”, said Digory.
“P-r-r-r!” chattered Pattertwig in his angriest voice. “Tame, indeed! What do you mean by calling me tame? Eh? And why did you want to go mentioning me to that human at all? P-r-r-r!” That was what Digory heard him saying; but Polly only heard the sound of a chattering squirrel. Next moment she cried, “Oh look! Look! There he goes. A red one too. What a beauty!”, for Pattertwig was already making off, bounding from the Oak to the birch and out of sight behind the laurels.
Walter Hooper, Past Watchful Dragons pp. 53–54
Digory gets excited about Polly, with the oak branch protruding between his legs. It turns out she is making a raft to explore the stream that flows through her garden and goes down a tunnel – “Perhaps it leads down into the bowels of the earth.” Unfortunately she needs another straight piece of wood to complete the raft, and the best option she can see is to saw a branch off the Oak. Digory recoils, but the alternative is to back down in front of a girl, so—
“I tell you I’m no more afraid than you are”, shouted Digory, now very angry.
“Then I dare you to do it”, said Polly.
“Give me your beastly saw, then”, said Digory furiously, snatching it out of her hand. A moment later he was up on the top of the wall. He leaned towards the Oak and said in a low voice, “I say, Oak, do you mind very much? It’s such a little branch.” But Oak said nothing, and as Digory laid hold of the branch he meant to cut, another branch somehow slapped him in the face so hard that it drew blood on his forehead and brought the tears into his eyes in good earnest. He began sawing.
Squeak – squeak went the saw (which was a wretched, blunt thing) and suddenly from overhead there came a great clap of thunder.
“Come down”, shouted Polly. “There’s going to be a storm.”
Digory glanced down and saw that her face had turned quite white. He couldn’t help feeling pleased at this and called down to her, without turning round, and sawing on all the time.
“Who’s afraid of a bit of thunder.”
“I hate it”, said Polly. “And it’s dangerous to be under trees – and you’re using steel – and look! There’s a flash of lightning. Do come down. Please. It’s not safe.” Her voice rose almost to a scream.
It wasn’t particularly safe and if Digory had been alone he would have thrown away the saw and taken to his heels. But he was on his metal now and took no notice of Polly’s entreaties until at last he had got through the branch.
“There you are”, he said in a superior voice as he threw it down to her. “And now perhaps we had better go. Here comes the rain”
Walter Hooper, Past Watchful Dragons pp. 58–59
Digory’s desire to penetrate the wet tunnel at the bottom of Polly’s garden leads him to perform rhythmic assaults on his stiff branch until, with a thunderclap and a downpour, it comes off. Yes, this was going to go in a children’s book. Lewis was quite familiar with Freudian symbolism; this isn’t an accident. I’ll reserve most of my comments on the Lefay Fragment for when I read through The Magician’s Nephew, with which it more properly belongs. For now I’ll just tell you that Digory loses his power of talking to trees and animals for his pains. The thunderstorm recalls Jove, but the steel, lampshaded by the pun on “metal”, signals Digory’s affinity with Mars. The circle-and-arrow “male” symbol (♂, if you can see that in your browser) refers to Mars in astrology and to iron in alchemy.
Prince Caspian is a shade less blatantly phallic, though I can’t help noticing the pivotal place the Great Tower takes in Caspian’s tutelage. The trees’ awakening is foreshadowed by the Telmarines’ fear of them—
”Ugh!” said Caspian with a shudder. ”Do you mean in the Black Woods? Where all the – the – you know, the ghosts live?”
“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 quarrelled 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 towards Aslan’s land and the morning and the eastern end of the world.”
—although, somehow, the ghost legend seems to have spread amongst the Old Narnians as well (Trumpkin is the first to mention it). The Trees awake for a purpose, and that purpose, as with everything else in Prince Caspian, is war. It’s no wonder Tolkien disliked Narnia, when these very Entish scenes got published three years before The Two Towers, whose manuscripts Lewis had heard read aloud.
What Lucy and Susan saw was a dark something coming to them from almost every direction across the hills. It looked first like a black mist creeping on the ground, then like the stormy waves of a black sea rising higher and higher as it came on, and then, at last, like what it was – woods on the move. All the trees of the world appeared to be rushing towards Aslan. But as they drew nearer they looked less like trees; and when the whole crowd, bowing and curtsying and waving thin long arms to Aslan, were all around Lucy, she saw that it was a crowd of human shapes. Pale birch-girls were tossing their heads, willow-women pushed back their hair from their brooding faces to gaze on Aslan, the queenly beeches stood still and adored him, shaggy oak-men, lean and melancholy elms, shock-headed hollies (dark themselves, but their wives all bright with berries) and gay rowans, all bowed and rose again, shouting, “Aslan, Aslan!” in their various husky or creaking or wave-like voices.

“I wish Aslan had turned up before it came to this,” said Trumpkin.
“So do I,” said Trufflehunter. “But look behind you.”
“Crows and crockery!” muttered the Dwarf as soon as he had done so. “What are they? Huge people – beautiful people – like gods and goddesses and giants. Hundreds and thousands of them, closing in behind us. What are they?”
“It’s the Dryads and Hamadryads and Silvans,” said Trufflehunter. “Aslan has waked them.”

But soon neither their cries nor the sound of weapons could be heard any more, for both were drowned in the ocean-like roar of the Awakened Trees as they plunged through the ranks of Peter’s army, and then on, in pursuit of the Telmarines. Have you ever stood at the edge of a great wood on a high ridge when a wild south-wester broke over it in full fury on an autumn evening? Imagine that sound. And then imagine that the wood, instead of being fixed to one place, was rushing at you; and was no longer trees but huge people; yet still like trees because their long arms waved like branches and their heads tossed and leaves fell round them in showers. It was like that for the Telmarines. It was a little alarming even for the Narnians. In a few minutes all Miraz’s followers were running down to the Great River in the hope of crossing the bridge to the town of Beruna and there defending themselves behind ramparts and closed gates.
They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered.
And that is how the Bacchus and Silenus scenes, Venereal though they are in many respects, fit into this Martial book. The wood-gods create growth and life and food and merriment, but all for the purpose of waging war upon the civilized, built-up, artificial Telmarine community. Nature itself is at war with Artifice.

Necessity’s Son

Forests are wilderness areas, places where survival takes effort, and that effort is one note played loud and clear right through Prince Caspian. This is the most jolting inconsistency with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There, it was winter, but sumptuous Jovial meals were laid on for the children by Tumnus, the Beavers, and Father Christmas, and no-one asked where it all came from. Mars is not so hospitable. Until the Bacchanalian finale, every bite the children eat, and every moment of rest, is won out of hardship.
So they got out the two packets and divided them into four portions, and nobody had quite enough, but it was a great deal better than nothing. Then they talked about their plans for the next meal. Lucy wanted to go back to the sea and catch shrimps, until someone pointed out that they had no nets. Edmund said they must gather gulls’ eggs from the rocks, but when they came to think of it they couldn’t remember having seen any gulls’ eggs and wouldn’t be able to cook them if they found any. Peter thought to himself that unless they had some stroke of luck they would soon be glad to eat eggs raw, but he didn’t see any point in saying this out loud. Susan said it was a pity they had eaten the sandwiches so soon. One or two tempers very nearly got lost at this stage.

“We shall need a camp-fire if we’ve got to spend the night here,” said Peter. “I’ve got matches. Let’s go and see if we can collect some dry wood.”
Everyone saw the sense of this, and for the next half-hour they were busy. The orchard through which they had first come into the ruins turned out not to be a good place for firewood. They tried the other side of the castle, passing out of the hall by a little side door into a maze of stony humps and hollows which must once have been passages and smaller rooms but was now all nettles and wild roses. Beyond this they found a wide gap in the castle wall and stepped through it into a wood of darker and bigger trees where they found dead branches and rotten wood and sticks and dry leaves and fir-cones in plenty. They went to and fro with bundles until they had a good pile on the dais... Then the girls went out to pick some more apples and the boys built the fire, on the dais and fairly close to the corner between two walls, which they thought would be the snuggest and warmest place. They had great difficulty in lighting it and used a lot of matches, but they succeeded in the end. Finally, all four sat down with their backs to the wall and their faces to the fire. They tried roasting some of the apples on the ends of sticks. But roast apples are not much good without sugar, and they are too hot to eat with your fingers till they are too cold to be worth eating. So they had to content themselves with raw apples, which, as Edmund said, made one realize that school suppers weren’t so bad after all – “I shouldn’t mind a good thick slice of bread and margarine this minute,” he added.

The worst of sleeping out of doors is that you wake up so dreadfully early. And when you wake you have to get up because the ground is so hard that you are uncomfortable. And it makes matters worse if there is nothing but apples for breakfast and you have had nothing but apples for supper the night before. When Lucy had said – truly enough – that it was a glorious morning, there did not seem to be anything else nice to be said. Edmund said what everyone was feeling, “We’ve simply got to get off this island.”

...the next question was how to carry the fish. They had nothing to string them on and no basket. They had to use Edmund’s hat in the end because no one else had a hat. He would have made much more fuss about this if he had not by now been so ravenously hungry.

To sleep under the stars, to drink nothing but well water and to live chiefly on nuts and wild fruit, was a strange experience for Caspian after his bed with silken sheets in a tapestried chamber at the castle, with meals laid out on gold and silver dishes in the anteroom, and attendants ready at his call. But he had never enjoyed himself more. Never had sleep been more refreshing nor food tasted more savoury, and he began already to harden and his face wore a kinglier look.

“...And talking of breakfast [said Trumpkin], I didn’t want to discourage your Majesties when you said you hoped King Caspian would give you a good one; but meat’s precious scarce in camp. And there’s good eating on a bear. It would be a shame to leave the carcass without taking a bit, and it won’t delay us more than half an hour. I dare say you two youngsters – Kings, I should say – know how to skin a bear?”
“Let’s go and sit down a fair way off,” said Susan to Lucy. “I know what a horrid messy business that will be.” Lucy shuddered and nodded.

They breakfasted at last in another of the dark cellars of Aslan’s How. It was not such a breakfast as they would have chosen, for Caspian and Cornelius were thinking of venison pasties, and Peter and Edmund of buttered eggs and hot coffee, but what everyone got was a little bit of cold bear-meat (out of the boys’ pockets), a lump of hard cheese, an onion, and a mug of water. But, from the way they fell to, anyone would have supposed it was delicious.
All nicely done; a note well-struck, an atmosphere successfully evoked. But it makes a retrospective hash of the food-just-turns-up ease of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. To those of us who set internal consistency in highest place in judging a fantasy world, this is rather off-putting. As theologians know, you can always wangle some kind of agreement out of any pair of texts if you know they are both somehow true, and so we find ourselves inventing extravagant extra-textual mechanisms for getting marmalade rolls and potatoes to the Beavers’ house. My own theory ties in with Mrs Beaver’s sewing-machine: the Beavers don’t wear clothes even in the winter cold, so perhaps she was a professional tailor selling her products in Archenland or Calormen to buy food, which would explain why she frets about the sewing-machine even when they are fleeing for their lives... But, with The Lord of the Rings still in manuscript, the whole deep-immersion “Secondary World” fantasy-reading culture that is the core of geekdom today had yet to arise, and Lewis did not think of his stories that way. If an inconsistency that (back then) only a pedant would notice was the price to pay for putting Jovial plenty in one story and Martial rigour in the next, so be it.

Blond Insolence

Secondary World reading also means that each character potentially has their own point of view, from which the story would make just as much sense as it does from the one the narrator has actually chosen. After all, that’s what the real world is like. Lewis himself argues that literature is for expanding the mind, in a fine passage:
The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. And even when we build disinterested fantasies, they are saturated with, and limited by, our own psychology. To acquiesce in this particularity on the sensuous level – in other words, not to discount perspective – would be lunacy. We should then believe that the railway line really grew narrower as it receded into the distance. But we want to escape the illusions of perspective on higher levels too. We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. We are not content to be Leibnitzian monads. We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is “I have got out”. Or from another point of view, “I have got in”; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside.
Good reading, therefore, though it is not essentially an affectional or moral or intellectual activity, has something in common with all three. In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each is to maintain and aggrandize himself. The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously this process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; “he that loseth his life shall save it”...
The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly I would learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.
Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.
An Experiment in Criticism pp. 137–141
But he seems to mean mainly getting into other authors’ heads. We fantasy geeks want more than that; we want to get into characters’ heads. And when you try to do that in Narnia, you get some awkward results. Oh, I can take it in my stride when Lewis treats children as adults, that’s just one of the premises of the series. And I can mostly keep up when Lewis handwaves away the difficulty of adjusting to a life straddling two worlds. Those are to some extent part of the conventions of the genre, like people randomly bursting into song in musicals or new crises erupting week after week in TV series and comic books. I like it better when authors (like J. K. Rowling) engage with the conventions and weave them into the story, but if they don’t I can roll with it. But that doesn’t cover all the problems, by a long shot. For instance, why would the Talking Beasts want a human king?
“Don’t you go talking about things you don’t understand, Nikabrik,” said Trufflehunter. “You Dwarfs are as forgetful and changeable as the Humans themselves. I’m a beast, I am, and a Badger what’s more. We don’t change. We hold on. I say great good will come of it. This is the true King of Narnia we’ve got here: a true King, coming back to true Narnia. And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King.”
“Whistles and whirligigs! Trufflehunter,” said Trumpkin. “You don’t mean you want to give the country to Humans?”
“I said nothing about that,” answered the Badger. “It’s not Men’s country (who should know that better than me?) but it’s a country for a man to be King of. We badgers have long enough memories to know that. Why, bless us all, wasn’t the High King Peter a Man?”
“Do you believe all those old stories?” asked Trumpkin.
“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... And as long as you will be true to Old Narnia you shall be my King, whatever they say. Long life to your Majesty.”
What does “It’s not Men’s country, but it’s a country for a man to be King of” even mean? Look, Ana Mardoll talks about these things better than me.
Trufflehunter I do not understand. Oh, I understand him as a literary trope, like I understand Cornelius. He’s here to reassure Caspian that all those bad things people say about him aren’t real, aren’t true, aren’t his fault. He’s there to tell Caspian – and thereby the audience – that he’s the real king, the true king, the one who should mount a civil war and let Narnians fight and die for him to take the throne and have all the nice things. I get why he exists. But as a real person, I don’t understand him because I don’t understand welcoming a the privileged son [sic] of my oppressor in with open arms and immediately reassuring him – without knowing anything about him – that he is my rightful liege and sovereign, by virtue of his privileged background.
Troublesomely, Lewis in this book insists that the Talking Beasts adhere to stereotype:
The Bulgy Bears were very anxious to have the feast first and leave the council till afterwards: perhaps till tomorrow. Reepicheep and his Mice said that councils and feasts could both wait, and proposed storming Miraz in his own castle that very night. Pattertwig and the other Squirrels said they could talk and eat at the same time, so why not have the council and feast all at once? The Moles proposed throwing up entrenchments round the Lawn before they did anything else. The Fauns thought it would be better to begin with a solemn dance. The Old Raven, while agreeing with the Bears that it would take too long to have a full council before supper, begged to be allowed to give a brief address to the whole company. But Caspian and the Centaurs and the Dwarfs overruled all these suggestions and insisted on holding a real council of war at once.
When all the other creatures had been persuaded to sit down quietly in a great circle, and when (with more difficulty) they had got Pattertwig to stop running to and fro and saying “Silence! Silence, everyone, for the King’s speech”, Caspian, feeling a little nervous, got up. “Narnians!” he began, but he never got any further, for at that very moment Camillo the Hare said, “Hush! There’s a Man somewhere near.”
Mardoll points out that, in a world where Talking Beasts are real, this would be prejudice running rampant.
And, well, I think the treatment of Animals in this book is just going to be one of those Your Mileage May Vary things.
I, personally, do not like it. I don’t like it because it seems to indicate that form dictates behavior and personality in a way that I’m not at all comfortable with because of the various implications contained therein for Otherkin and Transgendered peoples. I don’t like it because I have a good deal of experience with animals in my personal life and I see a tremendous variety in personality within the same species, and even within the same genetic family. I don’t like it because the variety displayed among the Pevensie children and the Caspian family, combined with the non-variety displayed within an animal species, normalizes “Human Being” as complex-and-varied and pigeonholes Animals as stereotypes, and that reminds me uncomfortably of the normalization of White, Straight, and Male in our society.
And I don’t like it because the stereotypical Animal behavior seems to me to be almost always displayed as something worthy of mockery, even when I disagree. (So I feel like I’m being needled by the text to laugh while I do my thing where I cross my arms and give my Nofunnington stare.)
If I have a niggle with Mardoll, it’s that, since writing that, she has kept picking up on further instances of Talking Beast stereotyping as if it were a new issue every time. This would be appropriate if it were a mistake on Lewis’s part that he just couldn’t seem to avoid, or if she were amassing evidence for a big reveal of Lewis’s ideas about talking animals in fiction. But it wasn’t a mistake, and he didn’t exactly hide his ideas. He lampshaded them, in Prince Caspian, using the bear as his example species. Here is a bad bear, a bear that has lost its true nature:
They had plodded on for about half an hour (three of them very stiff from yesterday’s rowing) when Trumpkin suddenly whispered, “Stop.” They all stopped. “There’s something following us,” he said in a low voice. “Or rather, something keeping up with us: over there on the left.” They all stood still, listening and staring till their ears and eyes ached. “You and I’d better each have an arrow on the string,” said Susan to Trumpkin. The Dwarf nodded, and when both bows were ready for action the party went on again.
They went a few dozen yards through fairly open woodland, keeping a sharp look-out. Then they came to a place where the undergrowth thickened and they had to pass nearer to it. Just as they were passing the place, there came a sudden something that snarled and flashed, rising out from the breaking twigs like a thunderbolt. Lucy was knocked down and winded, hearing the twang of a bowstring as she fell. When she was able to take notice of things again, she saw a great grim-looking grey bear lying dead with Trumpkin’s arrow in its side...
“That’s the trouble of it,” said Trumpkin, “when most of the beasts have gone enemy and gone dumb, but there are still some of the other kind left. You never know, and you daren’t wait to see.”
“Poor old Bruin,” said Susan. “You don’t think he was?”
“Not he,” said the Dwarf. “I saw the face and I heard the snarl. He only wanted Little Girl for his breakfast...”
And here (Lewis tells us in so many words via Peter) is a good bear:
Two Telmarines were to stand at two of the corners, and one in the middle of one side, as marshals of the lists. Three marshals for the other two corners and the other side were to be furnished by the High King. Peter was just explaining to Caspian that he could not be one, because his right to the throne was what they were fighting about, when suddenly a thick, sleepy voice said, “Your Majesty, please.” Peter turned and there stood the eldest of the Bulgy Bears.
“If you please, your Majesty,” he said, “I’m a bear, I am.”
“To be sure, so you are, and a good bear too, I don’t doubt,” said Peter.
“Yes,” said the Bear. “But it was always a right of the bears to supply one marshal of the lists.”
“Don’t let him,” whispered Trumpkin to Peter. “He’s a good creature, but he’ll shame us all. He’ll go to sleep and he will suck his paws. In front of the enemy too.”...
“ shall be one of the marshals [said Peter]. But you must remember not to suck your paws.”
“Of course not,” said the Bear in a very shocked voice.
“Why, you’re doing it this minute!” bellowed Trumpkin.
The Bear whipped his paw out of his mouth and pretended he hadn’t heard.
Here’s a little piece of weirdness I can’t convey in a short quote: Peter is talking to this Bear with the taste of bear-meat still in his mouth from breakfast. I’ll tell you, if I were a Talking Beast in a land like Narnia, I might be scared by stories of Talking Beasts becoming dumb beasts, but the real horror tales, the campfire stories that would end up getting made into gory blockbuster movies, would be of Humans (or other carnivores) mistaking Talking Beasts for dumb ones and eating them without knowing it. But I am not supposed to think of being a Talking Beast in a land like Narnia. I am only supposed to think of having Talking Beasts for companions.
What he wrote as fiction here, Lewis had made explicit ten years before in one of his apologetic works:
The error we must avoid is that of considering [animals] in themselves. Man is to be understood only in his relation to God. The beasts are to be understood only in their relation to man and, through man, to God. Let us guard here against one of those untransmuted lumps of atheistical thought which often survive in the minds of modern believers. Atheists naturally regard the co-existence of man and the animals as a mere contingent result of interacting biological facts; and the taming of an animal by a man as a purely arbitrary interference of one species with another. The “real” or “natural” animal to them is the wild one, and the tame animal is an artificial or unnatural thing. But a Christian must not think so. Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of an authority by Divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only “natural” animal – the only one we see occupying the place it was meant to occupy, and it is on the tame animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts.
The Problem of Pain p. 110
And part of this subordination is that, when humans and beasts interact, it is the human side of the interaction that determines what it means for both sides.
...I naturally suppose that very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a “self” or ego. But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again [in Heaven], their immortality would also be related to man – not, this time, to individual masters, but to humanity. That is to say, if in any instance the quasi-spiritual and emotional value which human tradition attributes to a beast (such as the “innocence” of the lamb or the heraldic royalty of the lion) has a real ground in the beast’s nature, and is not merely arbitrary or accidental, then it is in that capacity, or principally in that, that the beast may be expected to attend on risen man and make part of his “train”. Or if the traditional character is quite erroneous, then the beast’s heavenly life would be in virtue of the real, but unknown, effect it has actually had on man during his whole history; for if Christian cosmology is in any sense (I do not say, in a literal sense) true, then all that exists on our planet is related to man, and even the creatures that were extinct before man existed are then only seen in their true light when they are seen as the unconscious harbingers of man.
The Problem of Pain p. 113
I couldn’t disagree more. I hadn’t re-read those passages in fifteen years, from my Christian days until I was researching for this blog post, and now I do I find myself boggling with the sheer wrongness of it. I can’t hope to convey how much my own imaginative appreciation of nature hangs on the insight that it is not a backdrop for humanity, that it is not a library of handy symbols, that it does exist in its own right, or rather every individual living thing exists in its own right and has its own interests to pursue. Contemplating Lewis’s view, I actually find myself suffering claustrophobia, as if I had discovered that everything beyond my chair was a wall-poster lining a bell-jar – a wall-poster littered with tinselly, glittery, twee stick-on images of cutesy animals. If that’s “Christian cosmology”, count me out.
Sorry. I didn’t mean to get quite so personal. It’s worth noting that Lewis seems to have eventually run into the same imaginative problem, for later in the series (The Horse and His Boy and The Silver Chair) we will find Talking Beasts and other creatures actively challenging human-centric views. And perhaps I need to lighten up. Lewis would no doubt classify Mardoll, and maybe me, among the critics he called “the Vigilants”—
To them criticism is a form of social and ethical hygiene. They see all clear thinking, all sense of reality, and all fineness of living, threatened on every side by propaganda, by advertisement, by film and television. The hosts of Midian “prowl and prowl around”...
One could praise Ovid for keeping his pornography so free from the mawkish and the suffocating, while disapproving pornography as such. One could admit that Housman’s “Whatever brute and blackguard made the world” hit off a recurrent point of view to a nicety, while seeing that... this point of view must be regarded as silly. One could, in a measure, enjoy – since it does “get the feeling” – the scene from Sons and Lovers where the young pair copulating in the wood feel themselves to be “grains” in a great “heave” (of “Life”)... But the Vigilants, finding in every turn of expression the symptom of attitudes which it is a matter of life and death to accept or resist, do not allow themselves this liberty.
An Experiment in Criticism pp. 124–126
I don’t subscribe to the view that people are “socialized” by the art and literature around them. Stories may expand our mental vocabulary and exercise our imaginations, but we form social values by noting what those around us approve and disapprove in real life, not what is presented to us in stories. The other day some of my young relatives were having a book read to them where the main character finds bad things happening to his (very large) nose whenever he pokes it into other people’s business, as a result of a town-wide secret campaign against him. “The plan was working very well indeed,” said the text. “No it isn’t,” said my younger nephew, aged seven. “They’re just hurting him.” If a seven-year-old can be as critical as that, then I don’t fear that the Narnia books will encourage stereotyping and prejudice, merely because they practise them. But I do think that the stereotyping and prejudice detract from the literary quality of the books. They form a barrier between Lewis’s intention and my reading. They demand the bad kind of suspension of disbelief – the kind that says “Please don’t imagine...” (why Trufflehunter thinks Caspian should be King, how the Bulgy Bear will feel when he finds out what meat he’s been smelling on Peter’s breath) rather than “Please do imagine...”
So I guess you can figure out how I feel about Lewis’s distinction between good Red Dwarfs and bad Black Dwarfs. Each appears elsewhere in the Narniad, but they are only brought together for mutual contrast here. Unfortunately I don’t currently have access to a copy of The Pilgrim’s Regress, or I’d quote the passage where a character visits the (Viking-inspired) home of Mr Savage, who is plotting destruction for the entire human race. Savage has armies of red and black dwarfs, respectively called the “Marxomanni” and the “Fascisti”, and the gloss Lewis gives is “The revolutionary sub-men, whether of the Right or of the Left, are all alike vassals of cruelty.” Lewis retains the image, but discards the meaning. Nikabrik retains some Fascist-like qualities, particularly in his concerns about purity of blood, but there’s nothing especially Communistic about Trumpkin. Trumpkin displays Martial virtue – cheery hardiness, courage, hardheadedness, obedience – while Nikabrik, with his hateful heart and his expedient mind and his willingness to murder and his admiration of the White Witch, is perhaps the most Saturnine character in this book.

Dark with Discord

Let me pick up on that a bit. Nikabrik uses a dagger instead of a sword. Nikabrik is ready to murder Caspian when he sees him, and then there’s this.
“And anyway,” Nikabrik continued, “what came of the Kings and their reign? They faded too. But it’s very different with the Witch. They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical.”
“But, heaven and earth!” said the King, “haven’t we always been told that she was the worst enemy of all? Wasn’t she a tyrant ten times worse than Miraz?”
“Perhaps,” said Nikabrik in a cold voice. “Perhaps she was for you humans, if there were any of you in those days. Perhaps she was for some of the beasts. She stamped out the Beavers, I dare say; at least there are none of them in Narnia now. But she got on all right with us Dwarfs. I’m a Dwarf and I stand by my own people. We’re not afraid of the Witch.”
“But you’ve joined with us,” said Trufflehunter.
“Yes, and a lot of good it has done my people, so far,” snapped Nikabrik. “Who is sent on all the dangerous raids? The Dwarfs. Who goes short when the rations fail? The Dwarfs. Who—?”
“Lies! All lies!” said the Badger.
“And so,” said Nikabrik, whose voice now rose to a scream, “if you can’t help my people, I’ll go to someone who can.”
“Is this open treason, Dwarf?” asked the King.
“Put that sword back in its sheath, Caspian,” said Nikabrik. “Murder at council, eh? Is that your game? Don’t be fool enough to try it. Do you think I’m afraid of you? There’s three on my side, and three on yours.”
Nikabrik is the nearest thing Narnia has to a Satanist, on purely “practical” grounds – usually a bad word in the Narniad, denoting something between “cynical” and “unimaginative”, and generally attached to Saturnine people. When Caspian draws his sword, Nikabrik thinks “murder” rather than “single combat”, which shows you the tenor of his mind. The fact that you are not supposed to agree shows you the tenor of Lewis’s.
Saturn, to Lewis, means death, fear, grief, despair, cold, and numbness. Saturn dominates the modern world and modern conversations about war, and this is one of the things he hopes to correct. Saturnine poets such as Siegfried Sassoon have taught people that war is not only horrible, but evil. This Lewis denies; he once had the chutzpah (or the gall, take your pick) to address a Pacifist society on the topic of “Why I am Not a Pacifist”. There is romance in war, he insists. The name “Caspian” may perhaps be intended to suggest “Crispin Crispian”, to remind us of the St Crispin’s day battle in Shakespeare’s Henry V and the rousing speech that I’m sure Lewis knew by heart – “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. In one essay, titled The Necessity of Chivalry, which I regret I have not been able to track down and cite properly, Lewis argues that civilizations which cease to value war are soon overrun. We need an ethic which combines readiness to commit violence (“courage”) with concern for the dignity of others (“courtesy”). Lewis’s heroes do not forswear weapons like Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Under some circumstances, it is right to kill. Prince Caspian sets out to display just which circumstances.
Mars, the god of war, serves evil purposes as readily as good. Miraz, whose name is pretty close to “Mars”, is not lacking in aggression, courage, or discipline. He’s the villain because he uses Martial power for sinful ends, which here means killing the “rightful” king. Another of Mardoll’s major criticisms of this book is Lewis’s attitude to colonization: what, exactly, is “rightful” about Caspian’s claim to the throne? Why does he get to be King of Narnia just because his ancestors conquered the place? Well, I think Lewis would say: he gets to be King of Narnia because his ancestors conquered the place. The idea that conquest is not a legitimate way for territory to change hands is one that has arisen between Lewis’s time and ours. When he died, the United Kingdom was still a colonial authority in many parts of the world. As I write, it is 57 years since any European country invaded another, and 68 years since the last war between Great Powers; in my lifetime, in my parents’ lifetime, war has been something that happens to poor (brown) people. But in 1951 Lewis had no reason to foresee any of this. As he himself was born to an Anglo-Irish Protestant family in Ulster, and loved Celtic romance, we can perhaps read his colonial guilt in passages like this:
“So you’ve guessed it in the end,” said Doctor Cornelius. “Or guessed it nearly right. I’m not a pure Dwarf. I have human blood in me too. Many Dwarfs escaped in the great battles and lived on, shaving their beards and wearing highheeled shoes and pretending to be men. They have mixed with your Telmarines. I am one of those, only a half-Dwarf, and if any of my kindred, the true Dwarfs, are still alive anywhere in the world, doubtless they would despise me and call me a traitor. But never in all these years have we forgotten our own people and all the other happy creatures of Narnia, and the long-lost days of freedom.”
“I’m – I’m sorry, Doctor,” said Caspian. “It wasn’t my fault, you know.”
“I am not saying these things in blame of you, dear Prince,” answered the Doctor. ”You may well ask why I say them at all. But I have two reasons. Firstly, because my old heart has carried these secret memories so long that it aches with them and would burst if I did not whisper them to you. But secondly, for this: that when you become King you may help us, for I know that you also, Telmarine though you are, love the Old Things.”
“I do, I do,” said Caspian. “But how can I help?”
“You can be kind to the poor remnants of the Dwarf people, like myself. You can gather learned magicians and try to find a way of awaking the trees once more. You can search through all the nooks and wild places of the land to see if any Fauns or Talking Beasts or Dwarfs are perhaps still alive in hiding.”
“Do you think there are any?” asked Caspian eagerly.
“I don’t know – I don’t know,” said the Doctor with a deep sigh. “Sometimes I am afraid there can’t be. I have been looking for traces of them all my life. Sometimes I have thought I heard a Dwarf-drum in the mountains. Sometimes at night, in the woods, I thought I had caught a glimpse of Fauns and Satyrs dancing a long way off; but when I came to the place, there was never anything there. I have often despaired; but something always happens to start me hoping again. I don’t know. But at least you can try to be a King like the High King Peter of old, and not like your uncle.”
Lewis resolved that guilt in his own life by taking the option Aslan offers the Telmarines at the end of the story, and relocating to the island his ancestors had come from. Mardoll says everything that needs to be said about the practicality of that idea, so I won’t enlarge upon it. To return to the point: here is the biggest battle Caspian faces before the children arrive in Narnia.
At last there came a night when everything had gone as badly as possible, and the rain which had been falling heavily all day had ceased at nightfall only to give place to raw cold. That morning Caspian had arranged what was his biggest battle yet, and all had hung their hopes on it. He, with most of the Dwarfs, was to have fallen on the King’s right wing at daybreak, and then, when they were heavily engaged, Giant Wimbleweather, with the Centaurs and some of the fiercest beasts, was to have broken out from another place and endeavoured to cut the King’s right off from the rest of the army. But it had all failed. No one had warned Caspian (because no one in these later days of Narnia remembered) that Giants are not at all clever. Poor Wimbleweather, though as brave as a lion, was a true Giant in that respect. He had broken out at the wrong time and from the wrong place, and both his party and Caspian’s had suffered badly and done the enemy little harm. The best of the Bears had been hurt, a Centaur terribly wounded, and there were few in Caspian’s party who had not lost blood. It was a gloomy company that huddled under the dripping trees to eat their scanty supper.
Read very carefully what it says, and what it does not say. A Bear is “hurt”, a Centaur “wounded”, and many have “lost blood”. In this worst of all battles, when everything has gone as badly as possible, no-one on Caspian’s team seems to have been killed. That would draw the reader’s attention to the fact that good people die in war. To distract us from such a notion, Lewis hastily puts in some comic relief.
The gloomiest of all was Giant Wimbleweather. He knew it was all his fault. He sat in silence shedding big tears which collected on the end of his nose and then fell off with a huge splash on the whole bivouac of the Mice, who had just been beginning to get warm and drowsy. They all jumped up, shaking the water out of their ears and wringing their little blankets, and asked the Giant in shrill but forcible voices whether he thought they weren’t wet enough without this sort of thing. And then other people woke up and told the Mice they had been enrolled as scouts and not as a concert party, and asked why they couldn’t keep quiet. And Wimbleweather tiptoed away to find some place where he could be miserable in peace and stepped on somebody’s tail and somebody (they said afterwards it was a fox) bit him. And so everyone was out of temper.
But adult readers are not fooled. We know wars kill people. If we’re not being told about the deaths, either it’s a pretty frivolous war or our author is being duplicitous. At one point, and only one, Lewis allows a mention that some of the Narnians have “fallen”. But notice who mentions it.
“You know well enough,” said a voice (”That’s the King,” whispered Trumpkin), “why the Horn was not blown at sunrise this morning. Have you forgotten that Miraz fell upon us almost before Trumpkin had gone, and we were fighting for our lives for the space of three hours and more? I blew it when first I had a breathing space.”
“I’m not likely to forget it,” came the angry voice, “when my Dwarfs bore the brunt of the attack and one in five of them fell.” (“That’s Nikabrik,” whispered Trumpkin.)
“For shame, Dwarf,” came a thick voice (“Trufflehunter’s,” said Trumpkin). “We all did as much as the Dwarfs and none more than the King.”
War belongs to Mars, but death and mourning to Saturn. Lewis loved Gustav Holst’s The Planets orchestral suite, but objected to his making Mars “brutal and ferocious”. He hoped to restore the romantic, chivalric aspect of Mars. I fear his sad pretence that wars don’t kill goodies only undermines his own efforts.

A Haughty God

Well, perhaps not entirely. Lewis’s exemplary Martial character in this book is a resounding success.
His name was Reepicheep and he was a gay and martial mouse. He wore a tiny little rapier at his side and twirled his long whiskers as if they were a moustache. “There are twelve of us, Sire,” he said with a dashing and graceful bow, “and I place all the resources of my people unreservedly at your Majesty’s disposal.” Caspian tried hard (and successfully) not to laugh, but he couldn’t help thinking that Reepicheep and all his people could very easily be put in a washing basket and carried home on one’s back.
Lewis will go on drawing our attention to Reepicheep’s small size. Mardoll considers this part of the stereotyping of animals; this time, I disagree. Mice are small, and outside of Narnia they’re seldom associated with courage. Their size, and Lewis’s laughter at it, makes their bravery all the greater.
“Come back, Reepicheep, you little ass!” shouted Peter. “You’ll only be killed. This is no place for mice.” But the ridiculous little creatures were dancing in and out among the feet of both armies, jabbing with their swords. Many a Telmarine warrior that day felt his foot suddenly pierced as if by a dozen skewers, hopped on one leg cursing the pain, and fell as often as not. If he fell, the mice finished him off; if he did not, someone else did.
Reepicheep’s highest value (in this book, anyway) is his honour. Honour, like most things Martial, can be good or bad. Honour of sorts stings Miraz into the single combat with Peter:
“I see what it is,” said Miraz, after staring at [Glozelle and Sopespian] as if his eyes would start out of his head, “you are as lily-livered as hares yourselves and have the effrontery to imagine my heart after the likeness of yours! Grounds for a refusal, indeed! Excuses for not fighting! Are you soldiers? Are you Telmarines? Are you men? And if I dog refuse it (as all good reasons of captaincy and martial policy urge me to do) you will think, and teach others to think, I was afraid. Is it not so?”
“No man of your Majesty’s age,” said Glozelle, “would be called coward by any wise soldier for refusing the combat with a great warrior in the flower of his youth.”
“So I’m to be a dotard with one foot in the grave, as well as a dastard,” roared Miraz. “I’ll tell you what it is, my Lords. With your womanish counsels (ever shying from the true point, which is one of policy) you have done the very opposite of your intent. I had meant to refuse it. But I’ll accept it. Do you hear, accept it! I’ll not be shamed because some witchcraft or treason has frozen both your bloods.”
As a warrior, Miraz cannot afford to have a reputation for being weak or cowardly. If he does, he is vulnerable to his enemies. Reepicheep cares even more for what is said about him.
“Sire!” came a shrill voice from near the ground.
“Ah – Reepicheep!” said Peter after looking up and down and round as people usually did when addressed by the Mouse.
“Sire,” said Reepicheep. “My life is ever at your command, but my honour is my own. Sire, I have among my people the only trumpeter in your Majesty’s army. I had thought, perhaps, we might have been sent with the challenge. Sire, my people are grieved. Perhaps if it were your pleasure that I should be a marshal of the lists, it would content them.”
A noise not unlike thunder broke out from somewhere overhead at this point, as Giant Wimbleweather burst into one of those not very intelligent laughs to which the nicer sorts of Giant are so liable. He checked himself at once and looked as grave as a turnip by the time Reepicheep discovered where the noise came from.
“I am afraid it would not do,” said Peter very gravely. “Some humans are afraid of mice—”
“I had observed it, Sire,” said Reepicheep.
“And it would not be quite fair to Miraz,” Peter continued, “to have in sight anything that might abate the edge of his courage.”
“Your Majesty is the mirror of honour,” said the Mouse with one of his admirable bows. “And on this matter we have but a single mind... I thought I heard someone laughing just now. If anyone present wishes to make me the subject of his wit, I am very much at his service – with my sword – whenever he has leisure.”
Unlike Miraz (or indeed Glozelle, who kills Miraz after the duel for calling him a coward), Reepicheep’s idea of honour encompasses fairness as well as vengeance. To Lewis, that is what makes the difference between a murder and a justifiable killing. Which is not to say it’s quite up to Aslan’s standards in and of itself:
“Now, Lucy,” said Aslan.
Lucy had her diamond bottle out in a moment. Though only a drop was needed on each of Reepicheep’s wounds, the wounds were so many that there was a long and anxious silence before she had finished and the Master Mouse sprang from the litter. His hand went at once to his sword hilt, with the other he twirled his whiskers. He bowed.
“Hail, Aslan!” came his shrill voice. “I have the honour—” But then he suddenly stopped.
The fact was that he still had no tail – whether that Lucy had forgotten it or that her cordial, though it could heal wounds, could not make things grow again. Reepicheep became aware of his loss as he made his bow; perhaps it altered something in his balance. He looked over his right shoulder. Failing to see his tail, he strained his neck further till he had to turn his shoulders and his whole body followed. But by that time his hind-quarters had turned too and were out of sight. Then he strained his neck looking over his shoulder again, with the same result. Only after he had turned completely round three times did he realize the dreadful truth.
“I am confounded,” said Reepicheep to Aslan. “I am completely out of countenance. I must crave your indulgence for appearing in this unseemly fashion.”
“It becomes you very well, Small One,” said Aslan.
“All the same,” replied Reepicheep, “if anything could be done... Perhaps her Majesty?” and here he bowed to Lucy.
“But what do you want with a tail?” asked Aslan.
“Sir,” said the Mouse, “I can eat and sleep and die for my King without one. But a tail is the honour and glory of a Mouse.”
“I have sometimes wondered, friend,” said Aslan, “whether you do not think too much about your honour.”
“Highest of all High Kings,” said Reepicheep, “permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth by inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense. That is why I have been at some pains to make it known that no one who does not wish to feel this sword as near his heart as I can reach shall talk in my presence about Traps or Toasted Cheese or Candles; no, Sir – not the tallest fool in Narnia!” Here he glared very fiercely up at Wimbleweather, but the Giant, who was always a stage behind everyone else, had not yet discovered what was being talked about down at his feet, and so missed the point.
“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 honour 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.”
You’ll have gathered this book isn’t my favourite in the Narniad, and in most respects I prefer the Disney movie. But I do wish they had left in Reepicheep’s honour speech; it conveys both who he is, and why honour matters dearly to him, so perfectly. I can’t recall any other instance where Aslan concedes an argument.
Reepicheep’s speech could probably apply to all the Narnians in this story, and especially to Peter. Why is it so important to have impressive-looking “marshals” overseeing the duel? Because otherwise the Telmarines will think the Narnians weak. Why is it all right for Peter to kill Sopespian (who is attacking him), but not Miraz (who has tripped on a tussock)? Because if the Telmarines couldn’t trust the Narnians to keep their word, their best course of action would be to massacre them. The warrior must intimidate those who would take advantage of him, yet not give others cause to consider a pre-emptive strike.
That’s Lewis’s theory, anyway. In reality, the intimidation side of the equation means lashing out over minor insults, so that (as Steven Pinker has taught us in The Better Angels of Our Nature) honour is a major cause, not a preventer, of violence. But then Pinker has data from 60-odd years of people increasingly deciding not to go to war with each other, which weren’t available to Lewis in 1951.

Earns his Wages

Soldiers must obey their commanding officers. We’ve already seen that Lewis believed in a divine hierarchy; the military chain of command must have seemed attractive to him. In the Jovial book, the children passed through rich fur coats (like royal robes) to get to Narnia. In the Martial book, they come in answer to a summons.
“Great Scott!” said Peter. “So it was the horn – your own horn, Su – that dragged us all off that seat on the platform yesterday morning! I can hardly believe it; yet it all fits in.”
“I don’t know why you shouldn’t believe it,” said Lucy, “if you believe in magic at all. Aren’t there lots of stories about magic forcing people out of one place – out of one world – into another? I mean, when a magician in The Arabian Nights calls up a Jinn, it has to come. We had to come, just like that.”
“Yes,” said Peter, “I suppose what makes it feel so queer is that in the stories it’s always someone in our world who does the calling. One doesn’t really think about where the Jinn’s coming from.”
“And now we know what it feels like for the Jinn,” said Edmund with a chuckle. “Golly! It’s a bit uncomfortable to know that we can be whistled for like that. It’s worse than what Father says about living at the mercy of the telephone.”
Trumpkin’s Martial virtue is demonstrated early on when he obeys a command he doesn’t believe in:
“Who would you think of sending, Doctor Cornelius?” asked Caspian.
“Squirrels are best for getting through enemy country without being caught,” said Trufflehunter.
“All our squirrels (and we haven’t many),” said Nikabrik, “are rather flighty. The only one I’d trust on a job like that would be Pattertwig.”
“Let it be Pattertwig, then,” said King Caspian. “And who for our other messenger? I know you’d go, Trufflehunter, but you haven’t the speed. Nor you, Doctor Cornelius.”
“I won’t go,” said Nikabrik. “With all these Humans and beasts about, there must be a Dwarf here to see that the Dwarfs are fairly treated.”
“Thimbles and thunderstorms!” cried Trumpkin in a rage. “Is that how you speak to the King? Send me, Sire, I’ll go.”
“But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,” said Caspian.
“No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s the time for orders.”
Obedience to God is another of the keystone themes of Prince Caspian, along with war and forest survival. Here is another of those places where the story shows the weakness of the theology. Lucy starts seeing Aslan, but the others do not.
“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.
“Where? What?” said everyone.
“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.
“Do you really mean—?” began Peter.
“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.
“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.”
“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.
“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you want to go. And he wanted us to go where he was – up there.”
“How do you know that was what he wanted?” asked Edmund.
“He – I – I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”
The others all looked at each other in puzzled silence.
“Her Majesty may well have seen a lion,” put in Trumpkin. “There are lions in these woods, I’ve been told. But it needn’t have been a friendly and talking lion any more than the bear was a friendly and talking bear.”
“Oh, don’t be so stupid,” said Lucy. “Do you think I don’t know Aslan when I see him?”
“He’d be a pretty elderly lion by now,” said Trumpkin, “if he’s one you knew when you were here before! And if it could be the same one, what’s to prevent him having gone wild and witless like so many others?”
Lucy turned crimson and I think she would have flown at Trumpkin, if Peter had not laid his hand on her arm. “The D.L.F. [Trumpkin] doesn’t understand. How could he? You must just take it, Trumpkin, that we do really know about Aslan; a little bit about him, I mean. And you mustn’t talk about him like that again. It isn’t lucky for one thing; and it’s all nonsense for another. The only question is whether Aslan was really there.”
“But I know he was,” said Lucy, her eyes filling with tears.
“Yes, Lu, but we don’t, you see,” said Peter.
“There’s nothing for it but a vote,” said Edmund.
“All right,” replied Peter. “You’re the eldest, D.L.F. What do you vote for? Up or down?”
“Down,” said the Dwarf. “I know nothing about Aslan. But I do know that if we turn left and follow the gorge up, it might lead us all day before we found a place where we could cross it. Whereas if we turn right and go down, we’re bound to reach the Great River in about a couple of hours. And if there are any real lions about, we want to go away from them, not towards them.”
“What do you say, Susan?”
“Don’t be angry, Lu,” said Susan, “but I do think we should go down. I’m dead tired. Do let’s get out of this wretched wood into the open as quick as we can. And none of us except you saw anything.”
“Edmund?” said Peter.
“Well, there’s just this,” said Edmund, speaking quickly and turning a little red. “When we first discovered Narnia a year ago – or a thousand years ago, whichever it is – it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot, I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time? I vote for going up.”
“Oh, Ed!” said Lucy and seized his hand.
“And now it’s your turn, Peter,” said Susan, “and I do hope—”
“Oh, shut up, shut up and let a chap think,” interrupted Peter. “I’d much rather not have to vote.”
“You’re the High King,” said Trumpkin sternly.
“Down,” said Peter after a long pause. “I know Lucy may be right after all, but I can’t help it. We must do one or the other.”
So they set off to their right along the edge, downstream. And Lucy came last of the party, crying bitterly.
Lewis, you’ll recall, didn’t like democracy much; he thought it a sad necessity in a fallen world (like clothes). People don’t vote very often in Narnia, and look what happens when they do – they end up disobeying Aslan. But Aslan won’t show his face to them. That’s OK for Edmund, who (here, at least) seems to think that believing people is a matter of “fairness” rather than of what’s true or not true. Frankly, I can’t blame the others for needing a little more than that.
For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke.
“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”
“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—”
From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.
“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”
The Lion looked straight into her eyes.
“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that... oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”
Aslan said nothing.
“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”
“Oh dear,” said Lucy.
“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”
“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.
“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.
“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.
“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. ”Later on, it depends.”
“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy. “And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you’d let me stay. And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time. And now everything is going to be horrid.”
“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan. “But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”
Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. Quite suddenly she sat up.
“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said. “I’m ready now.”
“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan. “And now all Narnia will be renewed. But come. We have no time to lose.”
Aslan’s instructions go just as well as might be expected.
It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won’t believe and making them do something they certainly won’t like. “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.
She went to Peter first and shook him. “Peter,” she whispered in his ear, “wake up. Quick. Aslan is here. He says we’ve got to follow him at once.”
“Certainly, Lu. Whatever you like,” said Peter unexpectedly. This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn’t much use.
Then she tried Susan. Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grown-up voice, “You’ve been dreaming, Lucy. Go to sleep again.”
She tackled Edmund next. It was very difficult to wake him, but when at last she had done it he was really awake and sat up.
“Eh?” he said in a grumpy voice. “What are you talking about?”
She said it all over again. This was one of the worst parts of her job, for each time she said it, it sounded less convincing.
“Aslan!” said Edmund, jumping up. “Hurray! Where?”
Lucy turned back to where she could see the Lion waiting, his patient eyes fixed upon her. “There,” she said, pointing.
“Where?” asked Edmund again.
“There. There. Don’t you see? Just this side of the trees.”
Edmund stared hard for a while and then said, “No. There’s nothing there. You’ve got dazzled and muddled with the moonlight. One does, you know. I thought I saw something for a moment myself. It’s only an optical what-do-you-call-it.”
“I can see him all the time,” said Lucy. “He’s looking straight at us.”
“Then why can’t I see him?”
“He said you mightn’t be able to.”
“I don’t know. That’s what he said.”
“Oh, bother it all,” said Edmund. “I do wish you wouldn’t keep on seeing things. But I suppose we’ll have to wake the others.”
Oh, I think I know what Lewis was trying to do, because he tried it again and pulled it off much better in Till We Have Faces, which he rightly regarded as his best work. He was making a comment on what a calling from God can do to your life, how hard it can be for those around you to accept. It works better in Till We Have Faces because there the god is remote and ineffable, and we see everything through the eyes of the Susan character. In Prince Caspian, there is simply no good reason for Aslan to appear to Lucy but not to the others. And once we’ve seen that, we can’t evade the question: why does God show himself to one prophet instead of to his entire audience at once?
And speaking of Susan...

White-Feathered Dread

Last time, we saw subtle hints that Susan was the weakest, most fearful, and least faithful of the four. Now, in the second half of Prince Caspian, this foreshadowing comes to fruition.
“I suppose your Majesties know the way all right?” said the Dwarf.
“I don’t,” said Susan. “I’ve never seen these woods in my life before. In fact I thought all along that we ought to have gone by the river.”
“Then I think you might have said so at the time,” answered Peter, with pardonable sharpness.
“Oh, don’t take any notice of her,” said Edmund. “She always is a wet blanket...”

“I’m sorry,” said Peter. “It’s my fault for coming this way. We’re lost. I’ve never seen this place in my life before.” The Dwarf gave a low whistle between his teeth.
“Oh, do let’s go back and go the other way,” said Susan. “I knew all along we’d get lost in these woods.”
“Susan!” said Lucy, reproachfully, “don’t nag at Peter like that. It’s so rotten, and he’s doing all he can.”
“And don’t you snap at Su like that, either,” said Edmund. “I think she’s quite right.”
“Tubs and tortoiseshells!” exclaimed Trumpkin. “If we’ve got lost coming, what chance have we of finding our way back? And if we’re to go back to the Island and begin all over again – even supposing we could – we might as well give the whole thing up. Miraz will have finished with Caspian before we get there at that rate.”
“You think we ought to go on?” said Lucy.

“I can’t see anything,” said Peter after he had stared his eyes sore. “Can you, Susan?”
“No, of course I can’t,” snapped Susan. “Because there isn’t anything to see. She’s been dreaming. Do lie down and go to sleep, Lucy.”
“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice, “that you will all come with me. Because – because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan. “Of course you can’t go off on your own. Don’t let her, Peter. She’s being downright naughty.”

“He’s beating his paw on the ground for us to hurry,” said Lucy. “We must go now. At least I must.”
“You’ve no right to try to force the rest of us like that. It’s four to one and you’re the youngest,” said Susan.
“Oh, come on,” growled Edmund. “We’ve got to go. There’ll be no peace till we do.” He fully intended to back Lucy up, but he was annoyed at losing his night’s sleep and was making up for it by doing everything as sulkily as possible.
“On the march, then,” said Peter, wearily fitting his arm into his shield-strap and putting his helmet on. At any other time he would have said something nice to Lucy, who was his favourite sister, for he knew how wretched she must be feeling, and he knew that, whatever had happened, it was not her fault. But he couldn’t help being a little annoyed with her all the same.
Susan was the worst. “Supposing I started behaving like Lucy,” she said. “I might threaten to stay here whether the rest of you went on or not. I jolly well think I shall.”

Then, after an awful pause, [Aslan’s] deep voice said, “Susan.” Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. “You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”
“A little, Aslan,” said Susan.
Ana Mardoll has a lot to say about Susan, and much of it hits home.
So what do we have here? We have Susan snapping that she certainly doesn’t know the way and that she thought they shouldn't have gone by the river at all. We have Peter snarking back at her, but the narrator assures us that his snarking is quite "pardonable" (THANK YOU, NARRATOR), and how could it not be pardonable, seeing that Susan is a girl who really should know her place by now. I mean, she was already the quietest Pevensie, but can't she dial it down a little bit further and just not talk at all?
But it’s Susan who tries to “nag” Peter into voting her way, Susan who has to be told to “shut up” and know her place while the High King works out his thoughts. It’s Susan who will see Aslan last of all the children. It’s Susan who will, in Chapter 11, make the most fuss when Luck throws down an ultimatum. And it’s Susan who will “admit” that she knew she was wrong all along (just like Edmund “knew” the White Witch was really evil all along) and that she was just making trouble to... make trouble, I guess. She doesn’t really get fleshed out as a character beyond that, and we don’t get any motivation to hang our hats on.
Susan is crying.
Susan has been torn here to Narnia over her stated objections. She spent the night in the ruins of her old castle, crying herself to sleep as she clutched an ancient chess piece – the one link she has left to the past. She has been marching and rowing and working non-stop for three days straight. Since she was the only one with a ranged attack, she was called upon to use serious force in order to save the life of Trumpkin. Her sister was almost killed by a bear, and in the process she was forced to consider breaching her principles against killing sentient creatures. She was nearly skewered with an arrow, had not her brother tackled her to the ground. She hasn’t had a comfortable night’s sleep since she arrived here, nor a pleasant meal to eat. She has committed wholly to the fight for Narnian independence, even knowing that they are very likely to die in the process. She has been shunned by Aslan.
And now she is crying.
I’m crying for her. And the narrative won’t even acknowledge this stuff. I didn’t make any of the above up – that stuff is in the narrative. But we don’t get to see how it affects Susan. Even to the point where her tears are relayed by what the “others” think. But, hey, they could be wrong. Whatever. Not important. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Ana Mardoll, Narnia: Wild Gods
We’ve already seen Susan’s sobs over the chess-knight; you remember that was the closest the children got to mourning their friends from their previous time in Narnia. Susan’s “stated objections” refer to her repeated wish, on the station platform, that the magical summons would stop. These things are not random. They are part of a pattern. I quite agree that what happens to Susan would be a shabby way to treat someone, and that it adds up to an artistic fault in the story – I see a mean-spirited narrator, not an erring character learning and growing. But I disagree with Mardoll when she explains it like this:
Everything about Susan’s character so far has been that of a young woman who exudes love and kindness to friends and family alike; who expends an excess of effort to avoid, mediate, and end disputes...
Naturally, this is all going to have to change now that we need an Evil Pevensie To Learn A Moral Lesson. What? Don’t look at me like that. It can’t be Edmund... it’d cheapen the earlier Passion of Aslan. And it can’t be Lucy; the series is dedicated to her for crying out loud. That leaves Peter and Susan as available candidates for Worst Pevensie, and I think we already know which way the wind is going to blow in that contest.
Susan’s love and kindness, her avoidance and mediation of disputes, appear in the following passages from the book.
“...I never quite believed in the ghosts [said Trumpkin]. But those two cowards you’ve just shot believed all right. They were more frightened of taking me to my death than I was of going!”
“Oh,” said Susan. “So that’s why they both ran away.”
“Eh? What’s that?” said the Dwarf.
“They got away,” said Edmund. “To the mainland.”
“I wasn’t shooting to kill, you know,” said Susan. She would not have liked anyone to think she could miss at such a short range.
“Hm,” said the Dwarf. “That’s not so good. That may mean trouble later on. Unless they hold their tongues for their own sake.”

I don’t think Edmund would have had a chance if he had fought Trumpkin twenty-four hours earlier. But the air of Narnia had been working upon him ever since they arrived on the island, and all his old battles came back to him, and his arms and fingers remembered their old skill. He was King Edmund once more. Round and round the two combatants circled, stroke after stroke they gave, and Susan (who never could learn to like this sort of thing) shouted out, “Oh, do be careful.”

Twang went the string. It was an excellent shot. The tiny apple shook as the arrow passed, and a leaf came fluttering down. Then Susan went to the top of the steps and strung her bow. She was not enjoying her match half so much as Edmund had enjoyed his; not because she had any doubt about hitting the apple but because Susan was so tender-hearted that she almost hated to beat someone who had been beaten already. The Dwarf watched her keenly as she drew the shaft to her ear. A moment later, with a little soft thump which they could all hear in that quiet place, the apple fell to the grass with Susan’s arrow in it.
“Oh, well done, Su, ” shouted the other children.
“It wasn’t really any better than yours,” said Susan to the Dwarf. “I think there was a tiny breath of wind as you shot.”
“No, there wasn’t,” said Trumpkin.

“The D.L.F. beat you in that shooting match [killing the bear], Su,” said Peter, with a slightly forced smile. Even he had been shaken by this adventure.
“I – I left it too late,” said Susan, in an embarrassed voice. “I was so afraid it might be, you know – one of our kind of bears, a talking bear.” She hated killing things.
I fear matters are much worse than Mardoll thinks. Since I figured this out, my mental conversations with Lewis have got quite heated. In each case Susan turns out wrong here – the soldiers escape, the duel ends without injury, Trumpkin doesn’t want her charity, and the bear nearly kills Lucy. It is not a case of a virtuous character suddenly developing a flaw when Lewis has a point to prove. Lewis considers Susan’s tender heart to be a character flaw. For this book is ruled by Mars, and to hate killing or winning is to lack Martial courage. Lewis’s ethic of courage was summed up in Robert Southey’s line “Stern to inflict and stubborn to endure,” which he quoted on several occasions. Susan is being held up as someone who is neither, someone who “listens to fears”.
And frankly, that makes me want to throw the book across the room. Lewis’s cruelty to his characters will not convince me that war is virtuous. Lewis’s evasion of the fact of death will not convince me that war favours those on the side of the angels. Lewis’s romanticism about war for me doesn’t sanctify war, it tarnishes romanticism. I could go on in this vein for some time, but I think you get it.
So, as I say, Prince Caspian has never been a favourite, and I’m glad to be finished writing about it at last. Next before us is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A chocolate fish to whoever guesses which planet rules that one.

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