Images of Faith and Discipleship in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (5)
Prince Caspian: The Old Stories
Prince Caspian (hereafter PC), the second of the Narnia stories, begins with the four Pevensie children returning to Narnia by magic. They find themselves in the courtyard of a long-disused castle now in ruins and disrepair. It takes the four awhile to get their bearings but gradually it dawns on them that the ruins in which they landed are those of their former castle and royal residence, Cair Paravel itself!
What has happened in the century or so since they were last in Narnia to witness and participate in Aslan’s great triumph over the evil White Witch and return the land to its rightful lordship? They gradually learn that Narnia has fallen prey to a usurper, Miraz, regent to the young Prince Caspian, who by murder and chicanery has removed those loyal to the prince and taken the reins of rule into his own hands.
Part of Miraz strategy to consolidate his illegitimate rule is to suppress the “old stories” about
-the great Lion Aslan and his victory over the witch,
-the two Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve who ruled the land so long and so well after Aslan restored the land’s rule to them,
-the talking creatures who inhabited the great woods and forests of Narnia, and
-any other vestiges or reminders of this “past.”
The children find it hard work to convince those they meet that they are indeed real, that these fabled figures of the now suppressed and discredited “old stories” have now returned. Of course, Miraz and those committed to his illegitimate rule do not believe and seek to destroy these usurpers of the peace. We will explore more of all this in the rest of this series of posts on PC.
For this post I want us to focus on the crucial importance of the “old stories.” Lewis was well aware of the secularizing trends that were “suppressing” the truth of the “old stories” of the Gospel of Jesus in the western world of his time. He likened it in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory” to the “evil enchantment of worldliness” that for a couple of centuries had held the west in its deleterious grip. For such an evil enchantment, a superior incantation is needed to break its hold. Fairy tales, according to Lewis, possess such incantational potency. And in PC it is the “old stories” that have this potency to shatter the illusory web Miraz has woven to keep Narnia in his thrall.
Fortunately, the true Narnians keep the “old stories” alive as a subversive underground tradition. The stories of Israel and Jesus are often likened to “dangerous memories” that have the power to subvert our world and turn us into subversives in it. This is how these “old stories” work in Narnia, some of which we will observe as we move through this series.
Response to the “old stories” is the chief issue in PC. These “old stories” (the Narnian “gospel” of redemption by Alsan to live as his people in his world as found in LWW) alone have the capacity to enable the characters to imagine their world as Aslan’s creatures and see the order and joy its creator has designed for it and tolive into and live out that order and joy.