Narnia revisted

I’ve been asked the same question three times in the last two months. Seems like it might be time to blog about it. The question is: are there any biblical parallels in Prince Caspian? The answer, as far as I can tell, is yes.

Lewis uses three of his seven books to cover the nodal points of Christian sacred history. The Magician’s Nephew treats Creation, LWW treats Revelation, and The Last Battle treats Redemption. That means that everything is taken care of: the story of providence has been told in full. But what has not been told is how people experience life in the meantime: what it is to wait, in the less meaningful periods, for something to happen.

This is the story told in two of the four other novels. The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy are about holding faith in a hostile world. Trials of fidelity are critical to both books. The great theological scene in Silver Chair is where the witch is keeping the kids prisoner underground and tries to convince them, after having drugged them into a trance, that the sun doesn’t exist. The test is to keep believing in what you know is true even if you have no experience of it at the moment and all the worldly authorities are telling you it’s nonsense.

The other two novels, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, seem to me to be loose rewritings of the story of Moses. Like Moses, Caspian is raised by foster-parents who rule a militaristic regime that enslaves or oppresses the people of God; he is being groomed for the position of cruel king. Like Moses, he is forced by an incident to escape home into the wilderness. While there, like Moses, he discovers the secret of his birth and the fact that he is destined to lead the oppressed people to victory, instituting a new regime sanctioned by God. Which, like Moses, he does.

There are two major elements missing in Lewis’s story. The first is an exodus. Lewis might have worked this in by setting the story in a country that was not Narnia, but in this case he would have had to have left the evil regime intact, as Moses left Egypt, and this did not fit the circumstances of his post-revelatory (i.e. post-LWW) time-frame. The second is the giving of the Torah, which he much more obviously could not incorporate for the same reason. But he does pick up these themes, in a fanciful way, in Dawn Treader. Here our Moses-figure voyages outward, wanders the seas as Moses wandered the desert, and meets both enemies and righteous gentiles (i.e. good non-Narnians). Caspian is seeking God’s country as Moses sought the Promised Land, and though he does not come there, he does come upon a culminating revelatory event, comparable to Sinai, in which — am I crazy? but this is what I remember — he is met by a lamb who feeds him fish.

Note added later: I just finished reading DT to Eila. Very enjoyable for us both. I see now that Caspian is not there at the end when the lamb feeds our heroes fish. But the matter of the Mosaic parallels is clinched for me by his very absence. The voyagers come to the edge of God’s Country and Caspian, their leader, is forbidden to enter it. That’s decisive, as Moses’s non-entry into the Promised Land is important for theologians, and must loom large in a rhetorical imitation. I am still working on a Sinai type event, and will come back to the question after I’ve reread Prince Caspian.


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