The opening words in the film trailer for Prince Caspian declare: “The time has come to journey back to Narnia.” And truly the time has arrived for a number of reasons.
Certainly for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, the time has come to take the next step on their spiritual journey, to enroll for a second term in Aslan’s special school for the soul. For the young Prince Caspian, who has been leading a losing battle against the forces of his evil uncle, the time has come to finally receive the help he so desperately needs. And for us, as well, the time has come to journey back to Narnia—where we will once again be encouraged and inspired and once again will come to see our world and our role in it in new and different ways.
The children are warned, “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.” Narnia will be more savage this time, but it will also be more joyous. In fact, because our heroes are older and have a greater capacity for understanding, you could say it will be more everything. The trailer words remind us “One year later for them.” But the first adventure in Narnia has given the four Pevensies a maturity greater than one year normally would. Chronologically, due to a delay in production, the actors who portray the four Pevensies actually have aged two years since the first film. But this will be an asset rather than a liability as it will help communicate this greater maturity. Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy, seems especially grown up.
When Lucy meets Aslan in Lewis’s original, she tells the great lion, “You’re bigger.” Aslan explains that he has not changed since their last meeting, but rather it is Lucy who is different. He tells her, “Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” And the same is true for us. As we journey with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, we share in their growing awareness. In the trailer, Aslan cautions, “Everything you know is about to change.” We, also, find that as we continue to mature, our views change as the world becomes more complicated, more difficult, but also more wonderful. Like Lucy, every year we grow, we will find that our understanding of God and his goodness will grow as well.
On the children’s first visit to Narnia, it was always clear what was the right thing to do—the only question was whether they would do it or not. Even as Edmund was making his way to the Witch’s castle to betray the others, Lewis’s narrator pointed out that “deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.”
In Prince Caspian we enter a world where things are not so obvious. For the first twenty pages, the children are not even sure where they are. In the trailer, Lucy says to the others, “I wonder who lived here.” After they finally realize they have returned to Narnia, the four must spend much of the remainder of the story figuring out what actions they should take.
Lewis makes the choices in Narnia more complex this second time to mirror what happens in real life. As we journey further in our faith, often our greatest struggles involve determining out what God would have us do. If in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe we found a world of clear choices, in Prince Caspian, the four children discern between choices that are less clear, between good and better and between bad and worse. In Mere Christianity, Lewis describes this growth that believers are to undergo, writing, “Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only as harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.”
Finally, we are told, “The fate of all lies in the destiny of one.” And this may be the most important lesson that we learn along with our heroes—that there are ties between us, invisible ties of hope and love that bind us all together.
If we come to learn all these lessons and in the end—like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—come to see that our story is not ours alone, then our journey back to Narnia will have accomplished what Lewis intended it to.
Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and Professor of English at Asbury College, where, among other duties, he teaches a class on Lewis. He is the author of Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Baker 2005) and Inside Prince Caspian: A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia (Baker 2008). He is currently working on Inside the Voyage to the Dawn Treader to be released in fall 2010 in advance of the third film.