Saturday, June 28, 2008

Prince Caspian: Taking the Right Path

Connie Looney Cassels

A few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing a collection of C.S. Lewis' letters in the special publications library at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Watching the first 2 movies of the Narnia Chronicles brought to mind how impressed I was with Lewis’ insights.

Recently, my husband and I caught a matinee of Prince Caspian, the second movie of the Chronicles of Narnia. We both remarked on the beautiful cinematography and heart-rending soundtrack, but throughout the movie my husband kept elbowing me and saying, "I just don't see the symbolism in this one, do you?"

"What?" I exclaimed, a little too loudly. “You've got to be kidding! The movie is so full of symbolism I can't begin to catch all of it in one viewing.”After the movie, we agreed that it was necessary to "dig a little deeper" to see the symbolism. But, boy, was it ever there. I pointed to the scene where "the young kings and queens - Peter, Susan, Edmund, & Lucy" are looking for a way to cross the great chasm over the river to save the "Narnia" that they remember from their visit centuries before. Lucy, the youngest and noted for her pure heart, claims that she sees Aslan across the river telling them to come His way. When scolded and scoffed at by her older siblings who had not seen Aslan, Lucy remarked, "Well, maybe you weren't looking for him!"

The siblings refuse to follow her toward Aslan, urging her to go the way Peter leads them instead. The four soon find themselves with the Narnians who have hidden themselves in the forest because an evil king has taken control of the kingdom have declared them extinct. The prevailing culture often casts a blind eye to the existence of the ancient path.

This is why Lewis insisted that we need old books to correct this blindness. The evil king banished or executed those who taught the old ways.

After they are defeated in battle, with many losses attributed to Peter's lofty plan, Lucy leaves the group to go seek "salvation" for her siblings and the Narnians by finding Aslan. Lucy believes with her "childlike faith" that she can find Aslan and He can make everything right. Remember, too, Lucy's special “gift” in Narnia is the cordial that raises creatures from the dead or heals them when they are near death. One drop of special potion from the heart-shaped vial is usually sufficient. Here we find an allusion to the Blood of Jesus.

When Lucy finds Aslan, she falls upon him with joy and love, hugging and kissing him. However, she suddenly becomes sad when Aslan asks, "Why didn't you follow me when I showed myself to you?" Lucy replies, "I was scared and didn't want to come alone." After explaining to Aslan about the battle, Lucy asks Aslan, "What if I had come when you showed us the way? Would we have avoided this awful battle?" Aslan speaks, "Young one, we can never know what might have been." This is a recurring theme in Lewis’ Chronicles, emphasizing the limitations of our human existence and ability to know. Lewis maintained that “reality is very odd” and that “ultimate truth must have the characteristic of strangeness.”At several points in the movie, one or more of the characters refers to "waiting on Aslan", as if to say "we know He is coming to help us" or "He will show us what to do." Consider how Peter, Susan, and Edmund didn't see Aslan because they weren't looking for him. With Jesus, the same is true. We don't see His hand, His works, His grace, His plan, etc. because we're not looking for Him. Jesus tells us in Scripture, "You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart."

Peter's plans to fight for Narnia without Aslan’s help resulted in failure. His siblings and others kept telling him "we should wait on Aslan." But, he moved forward according to his own plan. The lesson for viewers is to consult Aslan (Jesus Christ) about His will rather than following our own.

When Aslan does come to help at the end of the movie, Peter is vindicated but ashamed. C. S. Lewis named Narnia “high king” after the Apostle Peter who had he denied Jesus three times at the time of his arrest, but was forgiven and restored to Christ after the resurrection. Jesus said, "Peter, you are the rock and upon this rock I will build my Church."

Can't see the symbolism? You've got to be kidding!

1 comment:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Connie, a few thoughts on this.

If the High Kings and Queens are Apostles, then what is King Caspian? If I remember correctly he is Telmarine. I suppose that makes him something analogous to a Gentile. His uncle Miraz, though a Telmarine, fears the sea. Lewis is playing with words here, since "Telmarine" is related to the words "teleos" which means destiny and "mar" which is sea. Caspian's destiny is tied to the sea which his uncle forbids his subjects to cross.