Saturday, September 19, 2020

Ever after

Bruce Edwards on the Narnia book nobody cites as their favorite, Prince Caspian:
...I adjure all readers to read them in the order in which Lewis wrote and published them! For dramatic, thematic, as well as suspense purposes, it is crucial that LWW  [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe] be the first to be read, followed by the Caspian Triad, then The Horse and His Boy (a kind of found tale, deliberately anachronistic), then Narnia’s origin story, The Magician’s Nephew, and, finally, the truly consummating The Last Battle. This is the most compelling and satisfying way to begin and complete a journey to Narnia. ....

If Prince Caspian is no LWW, there is no shame in that. For how could any story measure up to what is, in fact, a retelling of the greatest story ever told, the story with the greatest significance for every creature great or small, the scintillating and enchanting tale that delivers the “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” ....

Having said that, I will tell you that there remains a most important lesson to be emphasized from the very start of this underrated and undervalued Narnian tale, namely, that in imagining and creating Prince Caspian, Lewis has taught us the profound but overlooked truth that life does have sequels. Life is, in fact, filled with sequels, that emphasize our heretofores, once-agains, and ever-afters.

There is an “ever after,” even after the seemingly “most important things” have already happened. How could anything that occurs after the death, resurrection, and triumph of Aslan to set things aright be anything but trivial. Aha! The recent slogan, “been there, done that,” the older slogan, “the show must go on,” and the oldest one of all, no doubt uttered by Adam and Eve more than once in the Garden, “life goes on,” is certainly just as true in Narnia. The question is not “how has life gone,” but how can life go on? ....

“Old truths don’t lose their value or validity because they are old.” This is an important maxim governing the whole of the Chronicles—but especially relevant here. One must not judge the validity and truth of a statement by “when” it first originated. This is a fictional treatment of the challenge of “chronological snobbery,” which Lewis faced and defeated, described in Surprised by Joy as a key to his own liberation.

Dr. Cornelius, Caspian, Trumpkin, Reepicheep, all must fight through their skepticism in order to accept as true the “old” belief that Aslan exists and Narnia’s future is dependent on this “ancient” knowledge. Life for us all is “in medias res,” in the middle of things; we don’t get to choose the moment in which we will enter the world, nor what conversations, ideas, victories, and defeats have preceded us, or will succeed us. .... (more)

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