In this, the second of the seven-volume “Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis—although it is the fourth book in the chronological series—Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan are summoned once again to their beloved Narnia as young Prince Caspian seeks to regain his rightful place upon the throne. As the story unfolds, we learn the Caspian’s true identity has been kept a closely guarded secret by an evil uncle, but Caspian’s teacher, Dr. Cornelius, breaks his vow of silence by revealing Caspian’s true heritage and the wonderful secrets of Narnia’s golden past. A civil war erupts when Prince Caspian challenges the evildoers who stole his crown.
Prince Caspian is a classic good-vs.-evil story set at a time when the true Narnians who believe in and follow Aslan—representative of those who follow Christ—are driven underground, both physically and symbolically. The small band of believers is forced to hide out in Aslan’s How, “a huge mound which Narnians raised in very ancient times over a magical place, where there stood, and perhaps still stands, a very magical Stone.” That Stone turns out to be the Stone Table on which Aslan was sacrificed to redeem the traitorous Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the most obvious reference to Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross. Here is a picture of believers through the centuries who were reviled and persecuted for their faith, often having to hide out from the forces of evil that sought to destroy them. The description of Aslan’s How is reminiscent of the catacombs of Rome, in which believers in the ancient world lived and died during the Roman persecutions. Clearly, one of the themes of Prince Caspian is the continuing need for Christians to count the cost of following Christ, even to death, if necessary.
Another theme is the stark difference between believers and unbelievers, as symbolized by the Old Narnians—those who remained true to Aslan—and the Telmarines and some of the dwarves, especially Nikabrik. The Old Narnians are characterized as those who “believe in fairy tales.” King Miraz, who has usurped young Caspian’s throne, berates him: “That’s all nonsense, for babies…Only fit for babies, do you hear? You’re getting too old for that sort of stuff.” Even Trumpkin, the dwarf who is eventually convinced of the reality of Aslan, says early on, “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?” Trumpkin changes his mind, or rather has it changed for him, when he meets the great Aslan face to face. After that momentous meeting, Trumpkin becomes a true son of Narnia and will continue to be so through the next book, The Silver Chair. Lewis is drawing a parallel to the Christian life in that our faith will always be ridiculed and sneered at by those who will see it as foolishness. Paul reminds us that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Perhaps the most obvious theme is represented by Lucy’s journey through the story. Her struggle portrays the struggle of all Christians who must follow the path of faith and obedience, even in the face of opposition. Lucy has to go against her friends and family in order to follow Aslan (Jesus), who appears to her one night and beckons her to follow Him on the path to Aslan’s How, a path the others cannot, or will not, see. When they refuse to follow her, her heart is broken, but she abandons Aslan in order to stay with the group. When Aslan comes to her a second time, He is compassionate and loving towards her, but He makes it clear to her through her own conscience that she should have followed Him, no matter what the cost. She realizes her mistake and gains from Him the strength she needs: “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.’”
Lucy now had the courage to follow Aslan, even if she will be the only one who does. “‘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.’” This is a poignant lesson for Christians of all ages, but especially for children. Lucy’s heroism as she determines to follow Aslan through all the dire circumstances in the first three books teaches children three invaluable lessons: counting the cost of following Christ (Luke 14:26-33); the dangers and trials inherent in the Christian life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10); and the faithfulness of our Savior, who will lead us home and from Whom nothing can separate us (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; Romans 8:38-39).
Another theme in Prince Caspian is the universality of questioning God’s timing and purposes. Several times the main characters wonder why Aslan doesn’t come and intervene in their struggles, why they can’t see Him, and why He has been absent from Narnia for so long. But their faith, and ours, is built up by just such circumstances until we learn, as the psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does and whatever timing He chooses, is also perfect. In the end, it is the High King Peter who proclaims, “We don’t know when He will act. In His time, no doubt, not ours. In the meantime He would like us to do what we can on our own.” As Christians, what we “do” is to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).