Essay: Prince to King

In an essay from Through the Wardrobe, Elizabeth E. Wein discusses Caspian X’s transformation from a Prince to a King.

Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.” That’s what Aslan tells the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, as they take the four thrones at Cair Paravel in their first Narnian adventure, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. If you count pages, no king in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books actually gets more airtime than Caspian X. He plays a starring role in two books, Prince Caspianand The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but in fact he’s also king of Narnia throughout The Silver Chair.

From the day Caspian is forced to run away because his uncle Miraz wants to kill him, Caspian is called “king” by his tutor, the half-Dwarf Doctor Cornelius. The rest of the book describes how Caspian manages to win his kingdom back from Miraz. So why is the book called Prince Caspian instead of King Caspian?

I think it’s because Prince Caspian isn’t about Caspian’s successful rule as an adult. It’s about his journey to adulthood and to king-ship—in Prince Caspian, the two are the same. Lost and alone in the beautiful, bewildering thicket of the trackless Narnian forest, Caspian has to find his own way. He has to learn to think for himself, to believe in himself, and to be responsible for himself. Only then, when he has mastered these three things—awareness, faith, and responsibility—can he take the throne as a true king of Narnia.

On awareness:

In Prince Caspian, Caspian is faced with two main challenges: he must restore Narnia, bringing its creatures and its magic out of hiding, and he must become Narnia’s king. Both tasks mean doing away with deceptions that hide the truth—in Narnia’s case, the truth that magic, mythical creatures, and Talking Animals exist; and in Caspian’s case, the truth that he is Narnia’s rightful king. In both cases, Caspian’s uncle King Miraz is the source of the deception. Miraz has silenced all mention of Narnia’s true nature, and he has also denied Caspian’s right to the throne by styling himself king in Caspian’s place. To defeat Miraz, Caspian must strip away these deceptions, so that true awareness can reign freely. But first Caspian must himself become aware.

On Faith:

Caspian, who is raised as a prince regardless of his uncle’s ambitions, pays as much attention to his old nurse’s bedtime stories of Narnia as to his royal education. His belief in these tales wins him the Old Narnians’ loyalty and Aslan’s blessing. Even before Caspian has full control of his subjects, even when he has to fight to win his kingdom, he believes in Narnia. From the start, he wants to believe his nurse. He believes Doctor Cornelius on the night he advises Caspian to run away. He believes in the good of the blowing of the Horn of Need. When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy finally appear, Caspian never doubts who they are. He may waver when it comes to making decisions, but he never wavers in his faith in Narnia. Aslan never has to put Caspian’s belief to the test, as he does to just about everyone else in Prince Caspian—especially poor Lucy, who ends up with the nasty job of having to follow the Lion’s lead when no one else can see him. But when Caspian first meets Aslan, the great Lion simply gives him a face-to-face greeting and makes him king.

On Responsibility:

When a fight breaks out at council and the Dwarf Nikabrik is killed, Caspian shows he is able to accept even a more personal responsibility. The fight happens in the dark. Caspian may or may not have slain Nikabrik himself, and says, “I don’t know which of us killed him. I’m glad of that.” Caspian doesn’t like to face the fact that he might have done it, but he does face up to it—he knows he did kill someone in the fight. Caspian also accepts responsibility for the circumstances that led to the fight and Nikabrik’s death. He blames himself for Nikabrik’s death regardless of who may have delivered the killing blow; after the fight in Aslan’s How, he says, “If we had won quickly he might have become a good Dwarf in the days of peace.”

To sum it up:

In the Narnian view, if you are noble-minded, you don’t need to be of noble birth or raised in a noble household. You don’t have to have royal blood. You don’t even have to be educated. You just have to have the strength to make your own decisions, to stand up for what you believe is right, to be fair and brave, and to be willing to accept responsibility and to admit to your mistakes. Regardless of their birth, the Pevensies are considered Narnia’s greatest kings and queens ever, and their reign is called Narnia’s “golden age.” Their right to the four thrones in Cair Paravel is based on their having earned it through their own kingly and queenly actions. They are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, and they carry their nobility through that unbreakable bloodline.

Any one of us could do the same.

These are only a few excerpts, but you can read the rest here: