“Bother,” said Edmund, “I’ve left my new torch in Narnia.”

May 27, 2009

Book Report: Prince Caspian
book prince caspian.jpg
I picked up my copy of Prince Caspian over the weekend. This is no small feat as the copy I have is the silly movie edition hardcover with all the books bound into one – it was a present. I needed to answer a question raised in conversation. What is the order in which the Pevensie sibs buy into Lucy’s claim that Aslan has been spotted and wants them to go the other way? I saw the film again a couple weeks ago and wanted to compare. Susan and the DLF are no brainers – he holds out because he doesn’t believe and she does because she’s a lazy whiner grump (who’d be an older sister?). But which of the boys comes around first?
My guess was Peter. Lewis isn’t all that nuanced in his characterizations so the two boys usually keep to their stated roles: High King Peter, the magnificent, and King Edmund, the just … not quite as magnificent as Peter. The film version tried, very admirably, to introduce individual motivations for each character so they had played up Peter’s angry teen potential which causes a lot of useful conflict in the plot both in his relationship to Caspian and generally in all his plans for how to deal with the situation. Plus the movie team knows that they have to sell us on the idea of Edmund (with Lucy and Caspian) heading up a third installment so they want to make sure we like him. So in the film we get Edmund very sensibly reminding us that Lucy is usually right about everything in Narnia so how about they all follow her advice. As it turns out it works that way in the book too. He votes with Lucy to go uphill and Peter breaks the tie (not so magnificent at that moment) based on the logic that “sorry Lucy, but we had to go one way or the other.” Nice one, Peter.
Anyway, having answered my question I kept reading. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia well into young adult hood but at a certain point the religious imagery started to bang me over the head a bit too hard. All of a sudden the narrative voice seemed preachy and condescending and almost overnight I couldnt’ stand to hear that voice. The plots were still fun but the story was ruined. Which was why the two films have struck me as so totally delightful – all of the adventure and fun with the same beloved characters and none of CS Lewis looking over his glasses and saying “Now, children, as I’m sure you know …” I rather wrote the books off. But there’s been another change in my perceptions. As I started going through it I was hardly troubled by the storytelling and totally delighted by some of the language. Here are a few examples that struck me as so delightful I wrote them down. For the time being I’m going to choose to believe that Lewis knew what an obnoxious tone he was striking and was doing it on purpose. Its a send up. Can I get any takers for this idea? Meanwhile its a delightful source of British English, a form of which I never tire.
“Take two order marks for talking nonsense.”
He’s been a brick.
“I am very much at his service – with my sword – whenever he has leisure.”
They were certainly at it hammer and tongs now.
“Now I am a dotard as well as a dastard?”
Full battle was joined.
“Bother,” said Edmund, “Ive left my new torch in Narnia.”


2 Responses to ““Bother,” said Edmund, “I’ve left my new torch in Narnia.””

  1. Denise Thornton Says:

    You’ve almost convinced my to give Narnia another try, because of the characterizations and story telling aspects, but I don’t think he was tongue in cheek. I think Lewis must have been intolerably pompous in person, and he can’t help himself in print.

  2. I found lost between the letters very informative. The article is professionally written and I feel like the author knows the subject very well, lost. keep it that way.

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