Even without Aidan's dwarf impersonations, the release of Narnia films are kind of a big deal around here.
So, like many of you, I decided to reread C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian to get ready for the upcoming movie (May 16). That was the work of a couple days spent subbing, i.e., showing movies to bored students in our local high school.
I love the joyously martial feel of Prince Caspian--so much so that I decided to do something I've never contemplated before: take a look at a "commentary" or "guide book" to Lewis' fiction. In this case, I picked up Devin Brown's Inside Prince Caspian--wondering if Brown could amplify and clarify what I found so appealing, in a hazy general sense, about Lewis' story.
For me, the prospect of reading Inside Prince Caspian was a little risky. I enjoy Narnia books so much that I'm reluctant to do anything that could detract from the unexamined way I like to read them. Fortunately, Devin Brown shares a similar concern.
Brown's work maintains the cohesiveness of the original book while explaining its main themes. I never felt like Brown was atomizing Lewis' story. Instead, his literary prowess and scholarship emphasized Caspian's critical junctures, plot points, and theological undertones. Brown does an excellent job answering questions as well, some more obvious than others. For example, have you considered:
What are the hidden meanings of strange-sounding names like Queen Prunaprismia and Lord Glozelle?
Why does Lewis open and close Prince Caspian with references to Edmund's electric torch?
Why does Peter insist on spelling "abhomination" with an "h" in his official challenge to Miraz?
How does Prince Caspian reflect the coming of age of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy?
How come Aslan never appears on the battle field in this book?
Overall, Devin Brown enhanced my enjoyment of Prince Caspian by highlighting C.S. Lewis' intentional crafting of the story. His commentary is crisp and accessible, but detailed, and his chapters correspond to the chapters in Lewis' original, which is helpful. I'd recommend Inside Prince Caspian to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of what Lewis aimed for (and accomplished) with his book. For best effects, read it before you take in the movie.
** I award Inside Prince Caspian two stars--well worth your time--and I'm interested to see if Devin Brown will write commentaries on the other Narnia books. He previously wrote Inside Narnia, which was a guide to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.