Sunday, June 08, 2008

Prince Caspian

LeaderU compiled some resources on CS Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia (with Prince Caspian hitting the big screen)

From Dr Bruce Edwards: "The dramatic climax of this story is not, however, the suspicious victory over King Miraz in battle, but the discovery of the now King Caspian’s true lineage, that he, too, is a Son of Adam, else he could not be qualified to reign in Narnia. In one poignant moment that epitomizes the humility required of true leaders, Aslan asks the triumphant Caspian if he were now ready to become king; “I—I don’t think so, Sir. . . I am only a Kid.” To his surprise, Aslan replies, “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not.” Caspian needed to know the limitations of his own powers, and when he needed to rely on others—and especially Aslan—to win the day.

Nikabrik: The Dwarf Who Would Be Lost

As is the case with LWW, there is yet a betrayer in Narnia, for found in Prince Caspian is a parallel story to King Caspian’s glorious victory is the tragic story of Nikabrik, the stubbornly faithless dwarf. Of all the sad stories of bewitched and bewildered creatures in Narnia who become captive of evil, none is more mournful than the tale of Nikabrik.

This wayward dwarf, incapable of overcoming his profound distrust of the “old stories,” epitomizes a less cunning but equally desvasting aspect of evil’s lure akin to that of the White Witch. Nikabrik—like the band of self-seeking dwarves who fall by the wayside in The Last Battle—is world weary and full of skepticism. When asked if he believes in Aslan, he shrugs that he will believe in “anyone or anything” who will throw off the yoke of oppression under King Miraz; he is not discriminating: “Anyone or anything, Aslan or the White Witch, do you understand?”

Though rebuked by the more pious and respectful badger, Trufflehunter, Nikabrik still harbors his doubts and nurtures his cynicism. As events progress, the impatient and unschooled Nikabrik, rejecting out of hand the promise of help from ancient prophecies or the mobilization of Caspian’s friends, instead puts his trust in his companions, a hag and a werewolf, and plans to call upon the dark magic of the long dead White Witch:

“All said and done,” he muttered, “none of us knows truth about the ancient days of Narnia. . . . Aslan and the Kings go together. Either Aslan is dead, or he is not on our side. Or else something stronger than himself keeps him back. And if he did come—how do we know he’d be our friend? . . . . Any anyway, he was in Narnia only once that I ever heard of, and he didn’t stay long. You may drop Aslan out of the reckoning. I was thinking of someone else.

This is the voice of despair and alienation masquerading as the voice of reason. So distant is he from Narnia’s traditions, its history, its promise—and its relationship to its Creator and King, Aslan—Nikabrik can seriously contemplate “a power so much greater than Aslan’s,” which he defines as holding “Narnia spellbound for years and years, if the stories are true.” Falsehood has become truth, black has become white, destruction has become destiny.

This is Lewis’s cautionary tale to any civilization drunk on the wine of its own self-importance and ability to survive or thrive without historical perspective and relationship to God. This is “chronological snobbery” gone wild, a disposition not only to disbelieve the old stories, but to substitute an opposite meaning for the original.

In the end, Nikabrik confesses, “Yes,” said Nikabrik, “I mean the Witch…We want power: and we want a power that will be on our side. As for power, do not the stories say that the Witch defeated Aslan, and bound him, and killed on that very stone which is over there, just beyond the light?” When the Trufflehunter and others eloquently counter his virulent, militant unbelief, Nikabrik bellows:

“Yes they say . . . but you’ll notice that we hear precious little about anything he did afterwards. He just fades out of the story. How do you explain that, if he really came to life? Isn’t it much more likely that he didn’t, and that the stories say nothing more about him because there was nothing more to say? . . . . They say [the White Witch] ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical. . . .Who ever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back.”

A witch who never dies, whose “practical” power to sustain winter a hundred years is more impressive than the return of the rightful king, the rallying of treasonous ne’er-do-wells to necromancy to revive her —these are the perverse foundation of the new society Nikabrik envisions for himself and fellow dwarves and outcasts. This is how bleak and self-destructive their own imaginations have become. But it cannot prevail so as long as there are those who love and trust the truth."

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