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Inside Prince Caspian
A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia
By Devin Brown
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Devin Brown
All rights reserved.
"To Mary Clare Havard."
Technically speaking, these are the first words from Lewis in Prince Caspian. So who was Mary Clare Havard, and why would Lewis dedicate a book to her?
Lewis dedicated The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lucy Barfield. He then added a now-famous paragraph about how she would be too old to read fairy tales when the book was finally published but would possibly start reading them again when she was older. Both Lucy's and Mary Clare's fathers were members of the Inklings, Lewis's writing and discussion group. Humphrey Havard, Mary Clare's father, was also Lewis's physician. The two had met when Dr. Havard was making a house call to treat Lewis for influenza.
Although Mary Clare was about the same age as Lucy, Lewis felt no need to put in a disclaimer about her being too old for fairy tales. The year before, Lewis had asked Mary Clare to read and respond to the typescript of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and he already knew that she liked this type of story. Many years later, Mary Clare married and had four children of her own. In a letter included in Walter Hooper's C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide, she notes that her children were all "brought up on the Narnia books" (759). They must have experienced a unique sensation on seeing that Prince Caspian had been dedicated to their mother when she was young.
Mary Clare's children could also have found their grandfather memorialized in one of Lewis's books. When Ransom returns home in the second chapter of Perelandra, the doctor requested to be present is named Humphrey.
The Story behind the Title
According to biographers Green and Hooper, Lewis never kept the early drafts of his stories. Once a book appeared in print, he discarded even the final manuscript. Lewis's practice is unfortunate for two reasons.
First, there is something magical about a page of words that have come directly from an author's pen or typewriter. Seeing a manuscript of a well-loved book—better yet, actually holding it and touching it—can take the reader back in time and provide a real connection with the author. This is not to say that certain printed books do not also have the ability to evoke intense feelings, but holding a page of a manuscript that was also held by a favorite author is the next best thing to meeting him or her. Perhaps it is a way of meeting.
While many of the letters Lewis typed or penned still exist, all of the original typed or handwritten pages from his books are gone, except for a couple of plot ideas and early fragments preserved by chance in one of Lewis's notebooks.
Second, without any of the early versions of Lewis's stories, we are not able to see the changes he made between his first draft and the final one—and these changes would not be mere curiosities. Some of them certainly would shed light on Lewis's intentions, on what he was trying to do or say through certain passages, and on what themes and other aspects he was trying to bring out more clearly.
We do know that a number of changes occurred regarding the title of the work that eventually came to be known as Prince Caspian. If readers glance at the title page on their way to chapter one, they will notice that Lewis gave a double title to this second Chronicle, the only time he did so in the Narnia series. The full name of the book, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, was not Lewis's first title. He originally called the story Drawn into Narnia, a name that Green and Hooper note was "changed on the advice of the publisher who thought it would be difficult to say" (309). Lewis's second suggestion, A Horn in Narnia, was also rejected by the publisher, who argued that Prince Caspian would be more memorable. Lewis insisted on keeping the subtitle The Return to Narnia to reflect his original emphasis.
Before we move off the title page, which in most editions is the only place where the subtitle is displayed, several points are worth making. First, the two-part title reflects the fact that this time Lewis will begin by telling two different stories, two separate strands that will eventually be woven together: the story of young Prince Caspian's struggle to free Narnia from a tyrant and gain his rightful throne, and the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy's return for another adventure.
Second, readers may notice Lewis's use of the definite article in The Return to Narnia. By calling this second story the return, Lewis seems to be saying this would be the only return to Narnia, which, as seen later, is not the case. When Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he did not think there would be a second book; similarly, when he wrote Prince Caspian, he did not think there would be a third Narnia story—at least not in certain terms. This fact is made clear in his Letters to Children, in which Lewis states, "When I wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote Prince Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage of the Dawn Treader I felt quite sure it would be the last" (68). Readers may wonder if Lewis's recollection here is an oversimplification, because near the end of Prince Caspian, Peter will state that although he and Susan are not going to come back to Narnia, he is "pretty sure" that Aslan intends for Edmund and Lucy to get back "some day" (221).
Third, Lewis's subtitle can hold a second meaning besides simply the return of the four Pevensie children. When the story opens, the land that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy go back to is not the Narnia the children left behind at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The kingdom must be set right; it must itself return to being Narnia—Narnia as it was intended to be. This second meaning of return is highlighted by Douglas Gresham, Lewis's stepson, in his introduction to a radio theater version of the story. Gresham explains the intentions of his stepfather (whom he refers to as Jack):
A theme of return became a key part of the story. Jack didn't look at a return in [merely] the obvious physical sense but went deeper to consider a restoration, a restoration of those things that are true—true life, true leadership, and mostly true faith. Prince Caspian tackles that idea, and broader themes of the battle between good and evil, spiritual obedience and discernment, and ultimately joy—a festive joy when what was wrong has been put right again.
In his well-known work Companion to Narnia, Paul Ford notes a parallel between the restoration found in Prince Caspian and the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire" from The Return of the King, in which Tolkien's hobbits must also return the land, in their case the Shire, to its proper state (18). In one of his letters, Lewis himself made the point that Prince Caspian is about "the restoration of the true religion after a corruption" (The Collected Letters 1245). In chapter ten of Prince Caspian, Aslan will tell Lucy, "Now all Narnia will be renewed" (143).
It is clear that The Return to Narnia is a subtitle rich with meaning.
Prince Caspian is equally rich in its illustrations by Pauline Baynes, which for many readers are as cherished as the story itself. The full story of how the young illustrator came to work with Lewis on the seven-volume project and what Lewis thought of the drawings she provided is told in my book Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Lewis begins Prince Caspian with a phrase identical to the one at the start of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy" (3). Certainly an author as inventive as Lewis could have found a more original opening if he had wanted to. Almost as if to illustrate this fact, Lewis will begin The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third volume in the series, with a sentence that is famously original: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it" (3).
So why choose such a commonly used opening as "Once there were four children ..."? Here in his first five words, Lewis is setting out to evoke the timeless feeling of a fairy-tale opening, to write his own "once upon a time" story with a similar universal, almost mythic, formula. In addition, by using a similar opening for his second book, Lewis may be welcoming back readers who had come to love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Next, in a single paragraph, Lewis sums up the events from the first story, explaining how the four children had previously entered Narnia and lived there for years as kings and queens, before returning from an adventure that seemed to take no time at all. Lewis concludes with the statement "no one noticed that they had ever been away" (3). The use of "no one" here seems to refer to Mrs. Macready and perhaps the visitors who are mentioned as still talking out in the hallway at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Throughout the Chronicles, Lewis will focus on the growth and maturity for which the adventures in Narnia serve as a catalyst. So while no one noticed that the children had been gone, readers must assume that anyone close to the four young people would have noticed a change in them, particularly in Edmund. In chapter ten of Prince Caspian, Aslan himself will comment on how Lucy has grown since their first adventure.
A Year Later
Readers are told that all this had happened "a year ago" (3), a phrase that must mean "about a year ago" because in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund tells the White Witch, "I'm at school—at least I was—it's the holidays now" (33). As Prince Caspian opens, the holidays are all but over. It is the very last day of the summer break, making it around fourteen months since the first adventure, and the children are waiting on a platform for the trains that will take them to boarding school, in Lucy's case for the first time.
Lewis will choose to have The Voyage of the Dawn Treader take place during summer vacation as well. Why choose the same starting time for all three stories? Missing school was not a problem, for in every case the children return to England only a moment after leaving. Perhaps Lewis wanted to give a cyclic feeling to these first three stories, with each book taking place around a year later. Perhaps since the children attend single-gender boarding schools, the holidays provide a convenient time when they are all together. In The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill will leave together for Narnia during the term, which will be atypical. However, they attend an unusual school, Experiment House, which Lewis points out is coeducational.
Jonathan Rogers has made the following observation about the opening setting of Prince Caspian: "Four children sit in a sleepy little train station waiting for the trains that will take them back to school. What could be more mundane and unremarkable?" (25). Lewis's point here is that adventures can and often do begin in the most unlikely places. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the adventure will begin while Edmund and Lucy are just sitting on a bed.
One further note may be made about Lewis's decision to have the children travel to Narnia from a train platform. Included in the advice the Professor gave the children at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the promise that their return to Narnia would be unforeseen: "It'll happen when you're not looking for it" (188). One of the biggest lessons Peter must learn in Prince Caspian is not to be limited by his preconceptions. In chapter eight, when Trumpkin explains that it was Susan's horn that dragged them off the train platform, Peter will declare he "can hardly believe it" (101) because he had expected that they would be the ones doing the calling. It could also be added that Peter was expecting that they would be traveling to boarding school, not to Narnia, from the train platform.
As Doris Myers has noted, this second Chronicle "deals with a later stage of childhood" (134), a time where the world becomes more complex, and this will become a key point in understanding Lewis's second Narnia tale. The children are chronologically one year older; however, their first adventure has matured them more than the one year alone would have done. From the information in Lewis's "Outline of Narnian History," included in Walter Hooper's reference work C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide (422), the four children in Prince Caspian are now fourteen, thirteen, eleven, and nine.
The children's greater maturity is seen right away as they feel a strange tugging from an invisible force. Instead of panicking, Edmund calls for them to "all catch hands" so they will stay together (5). Readers may be too swept up in the story at this point to notice that Lewis has Edmund take the lead and issue orders here, rather than Peter as might be expected since he is not just the oldest but also the high king. For as hierarchical as some critics find Narnia to be, leadership will actually be far more shared than absolute. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund also appeared to act on his own initiative when he decided to go after the Witch's wand, and later when he declared his intention to pursue the White Stag, he again did so without seeking permission from Peter.
Although all four children feel the tugging, Edmund is the first to recognize it as magic. At the start of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis will give Edmund a similar role and will add an intriguing comment. When Eustace rushes toward an enchanted picture, readers are told that "Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him, warning him ... not to be a fool" (10, emphasis added). Perhaps in both books Lewis wants readers to recall that of all the children, it is Edmund who, through his encounters with the White Witch and his healing by Lucy's cordial, has had the most direct contact with magic and so might know the feeling associated with it better than his siblings. As he states here in Prince Caspian, "This is magic—I can tell by the feeling" (5).
Never at Home
As he began the story of the Pevensies' second journey to Narnia, Lewis faced the same problem he had encountered a decade earlier in writing the second volume of his space trilogy: how to avoid making the sequel too repetitious. In Perelandra Ransom leaves Earth as he did the first time, but Lewis sends him to Venus instead of Mars, journeying in a white casket-like object rather than a spaceship. In Prince Caspian, the same four children again are taken out of England, but now they are transported simply by a sudden jerk on a train platform rather than going through a wardrobe. Instead of traveling to the forest near the lamp-post as they did the first time, they now appear in the woods outside of Cair Paravel, their old castle, which now is in ruins.
One similarity that will run throughout all the Chronicles might go unnoticed and so is worth pointing out: when the children travel from England to Narnia, they almost never leave from their home. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four children had been sent away to the Professor's and so depart from there. Here in Prince Caspian, they vanish from a train station. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy and Edmund will be staying with relatives when they are pulled into Narnia. In The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill will enter Narnia while at school. Digory and Polly will leave from Digory's uncle's house in The Magician's Nephew. Finally, in The Last Battle, all those who travel from England to Narnia will be riding on trains or again waiting on a platform. Even Shasta, who makes a journey from Calormen to Narnia in The Horse and His Boy, does not leave from his own home, which we later learn is in Archenland, but from the home of his surrogate father.
Why would Lewis have his protagonists—with the minor exception of Eustace, whose home seems anything but homey in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—never leave from home? As Alan Jacobs has noted, all of Lewis's children are "somehow disjointed, partly or wholly uprooted" (10). By never depicting the children at home, Lewis is able to evoke a longing for home, for a true home. In an essay titled "The Weight of Glory," Lewis claims that we all have a desire for "our own far off country" (29). In The Last Battle, he has Jewel the Unicorn express this longing: "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here" (196).
Excerpted from Inside Prince Caspian by Devin Brown. Copyright © 2013 Devin Brown. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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