A king. A centaur. A magic forest. A legend. All of these and more are delicately and creatively woven into the story entitled Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis. Book four of his famed series, The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis returns Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy to the fantastical land of Narnia; a land over which these four children ruled as Kings and Queens only one year previous, according to England time. In Narnia time, however, it has been one thousand years or better. Narnia has since changed drastically. There are no longer talking trees and animals. Humans – Telmarines – have taken over, and silenced the magic of the land.
Prince Caspian is in line for the throne of King Miraz – his uncle. When Caspian learns of the wonders of the “Old Narnia,” though, he wants to return the land to its former glory. King Miraz, however, is intent on keeping Narnia in its current state. Caspian cannot return Narnia to what it once was without the help of the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. When Caspian requests the help of Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy from our world, he also unknowingly requests the help of the greatest Lion – the greatest Helper – of all: Aslan.
It has been a year since the children have been in Narnia. In Prince Caspian, the children find themselves at the train station to be shipped to two different schools – Peter and Edmund to the all-boys school, and Susan and Lucy to the all-girls school. When Caspian uses the legendary horn of Susan to call for help, the four are whisked away to their favorite land of all- Narnia. It takes them awhile to figure out that Narnia is where they have landed, though. They find the ruins of Cair Paravel – the castle from which they had ruled – and that is when they begin to help their friends in Narnia. They find the gifts they had been given, and set off to find some others. When Susan rescues a dwarf using her bow and arrow to kill his captors, the dwarf sits the children down to tell them the story of Caspian and Miraz – who are about to go to war against each other. Caspian hopes to return Narnia to its old magical self, and Miraz hopes to keep Narnia the way it is.
The children follow the dwarf to where Caspian is awaiting their arrival. Along the way, they run into Aslan – the great Lion they remember from their previous trip to Narnia. When Caspian and Miraz meet for the war, Caspian decides it is best to have Peter fight in his place – Peter obliges. In the middle of the match, the armies from each side spontaneously battle it out for control of Narnia. Caspian’s side (with Aslan and the children), of course, wins in the end. Those who do not want to see Narnia return to what it was are banished, by Aslan, from the kingdom. Those who are willing to return to the magic of old remain in Narnia. The children then return to England – to the same bench, at the same time, awaiting the same two trains as they were in the opening of the novel.
While I am not a huge fan of the fantasy genre in general, I did not mind reading C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. There is very clear biblical allegory – particularly with Aslan as the Christ figure. While my preference would be to completely eliminate the magician’s role in the story (and make him something else – dwarf, centaur, what have you), I am pleased that there is no casting of spells in the book, as often happens in fantasy.
I could use this in any number of ways in the classroom, but I would probably use it primarily as general reading for my students because it spans ages, genders, and cultures. It is a good way to get a majority of students interested in reading. - KD