Friday, September 5, 2008

Book #8: Prince Caspian

I actually finished Prince Caspian about three months ago, just in time for the baleful movie adaptation. I attempted to write a withering comparative analysis of the book and the film to demonstrate the poverty of the film version, snatching what time I could on breaks at Starbucks and so forth, but other responsibilities claimed my time, and I never finished. Now that the film is all but forgotten, it seems rather silly to proceed with such an invective. So I will leave a quick post on the book itself.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to give the book form of Prince Caspian its full due in this post. I hope it will suffice to make one small but crucial point. This book is about war. According to Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, its theme and mood are governed by the characteristics of Mars, the god of war, in accordance with medieval cosmology (another example of the subtle and erudite genius of Lewis). The Telmarines oppress the Narnians, and the Narnians rise up to cast off their oppression through force. However, such a reading (which is the version presented in the film) ignores Lewis' powerful subtext and the most important point in this book: it is not through force, power, and war that we are truly liberated, but through joy. A close reading of the story reveals that the Narnians are fighting for survival, not out of some sort of nationalistic or revolutionary fervor. However, as the battle rages, Aslan and the girls accompany Greek mythological figures Bacchus and Silenus, who represent joy, as they engage in a campaign of true liberation against the superstition, fear, and hatred which grip both the Telmarines and the Narnians, ultimately uniting both groups under a truce of love.

It is joy, not war, that truly liberates. Lewis, a wounded veteran of the trenches of World War I and witness to the ensuing spiritual atrophy across Europe, knew this lesson well.

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