Peter Pevensie’s Struggles in “Prince Caspian,” and How They Relate to Our Lives.
(Previously published on my old blog, the GEEK BELIEVER, and on my Tumblr page, Once Removed. This version has been edited.)
I watch a ton of of movies. Like, seriously, a ton. I watch them, I rewatch them. I study them. I read too much into them. I know way too much about them. But sometimes, I see something more in them. I see a message in them.
The movie I’d like to talk about today is Prince Caspian. Of course, being a C.S. Lewis story, it isn’t hard to find Biblical subtext, as the series was built on Biblical allegory. But that only means that I don’t have to search hard for something to talk about. And, of course, this isn’t a current movie by any regard; the Narnia movies have pretty much been forgotten at this point, and Prince Caspian itself was never considered the high point of the franchise. And, to be honest, Caspian was never my favorite of the series. But, to be fair, I have always watched this franchise as I watch all of my favorite fantasies, from Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings, with my magic filter on; I watch them as fantasies. I watch them for fantastical stories of magic and adventure. And compared to the adventures of Harry and Frodo, Narnia was just never quite as good (even though The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe being one of my favorite books as a child). But despite all that, I got the hankering to watch them again, and when I watched Caspian I noticed something that I hadn’t before. And noticing something that we haven’t before is about to become a theme here.
If I had to say why Caspian is the weakest part of the series, I would have to say it is the absence of God/Aslan in that story. In comparison, Wardrobe and Dawn Treader have a lot more of God/Aslan, especially the former, telling a version of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind. But God, and Aslan, are noticeably absent in Prince Caspian, for the majority of the film. And it was this, subconsciously, that made me dislike the middle movie a little, why it became my least favorite of the series. But rewatching it this time (and I actually watched it twice this time) I began picking up on the subtle undertones of the narrative; it was intentionally written for Aslan to be absent. It is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful allegories in the series, because of this.
Let’s look at Lucy and Peter. Lucy, in the series, is the steadfast believer. She never questions Aslan, she never doubts him or anything she experiences in Narnia. Peter, just like his brother and other sister, always questions, always doubts. When our heroes arrive in Narnia, they are met with a very different Narnia than the one they left behind. Over a hundred years have passed. Their old castle is in ruins, a new power rules the land, and the Narnians are all but gone. As they try to find their way through this unrecognizable world, they try to follow a remembered path, but find that the bridge they seek has long since collapsed, making their way impassable. It is then that Lucy, looking to the other side of the river, exclaims that she saw Aslan. But when everyone looks, they see nothing. Peter Dinklage even remarks “Do you see him now?” in his condescending, Peter Dinklage-y tone.
But the moment that really struck me was Peter’s response. Peter, High King of Narnia, has a bit of an ego on him this entire movie. He even introduced himself to Dinklage’s Trumpkin as “Peter the Magnificent”, much to the amusement of his siblings. But at this moment, Peter asks Lucy why he didn’t see Aslan. “Why wouldn’t I have seen him?” Why wouldn’t Aslan, the creater of Narnia, present himself to me, the High King of Narnia?
“Maybe you weren’t looking.” That’s Lucy’s response. And that line works well enough in the context of the scene; Peter wasn’t looking in the same direction as Lucy when she saw Aslan. But this one line sets up the tone for the rest of the film. Peter didn’t see Aslan, because he isn’t looking for Aslan. He isn’t seeking him. He’s not back in Narnia to find Aslan. If Aslan wants to see Peter, Aslan should find him.
Lucy, the unwavering believer in these films, knows Aslan is always near, and is fervently looking for him, waiting for him, seeking him. Peter, on the other hand, is trekking through Narnia as if he owns the place (which, technically, he does, as Aslan said in the previous movie, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia,” meaning whenever these children pop up they are automatically the highest authority, under Aslan). Peter is too blinded by his own desires, noble as they might be, to notice if Aslan is nearby.
It is in this scene that Peter makes the decision to go his own way instead of Aslan’s. Faced with a chasm that they seemingly cannot cross, when Lucy see’s Aslan on the other side, she tells them that Aslan wants them to follow him. But Peter didn’t see Aslan, Peter doesn’t believe Lucy (this entire franchise would move a lot faster if people believed Lucy when she said something, even Edmund comments in this scene that he once didn’t believe Lucy and ended up looking pretty foolish), and Peter decides to lead them in another direction. And, sure enough, several minutes later, they realize that there was a hidden path to lead them safely across the gorge. If only Peter had followed Aslan, despite not seeing him.
This theme carries throughout the movie. In a later moment, Lucy has to remind Peter who actually defeated the White Witch. Him, or Aslan? Later, as they rush into battle, Peter shouts a rallying cry, “For Narnia!” Even this line screams of Peter’s growing disconnection from Aslan, for in the previous movie, the same call he made was, “For Narnia! And for Aslan!” Even when I first saw Prince Caspian in theaters, I remember that the lack of Aslan’s name at this moment stood out to me, even if all the other Biblical subtext didn’t. It bothered me. And that’s Peter’s problem throughout the entire movie: He’s trying to do everything by himself, and he’s not looking to Aslan, or for Aslan, for guidance.
This resonates in our lives. If we try to do everything ourselves, without God, we fail more often than we succeed. If we live our lives not seeking God, not looking for Him, we will never hear Him speak, and we will never see His path for us. So many people wonder why God isn’t affecting their lives, why they can’t see proof of God’s existence, of His power, His miracles. And that’s because they are waiting for God to show Himself to them. They aren’t seeking Him out. Maybe they aren’t looking.
Just like Aslan, God wants us to follow Him. He wants us to seek Him out, to see Him, to hear Him.
But in order to see God’s presence, in order to hear Him speak to us, we need to actively seek Him. We need to be looking for Him. If we aren’t looking, how can we see Him when he appears? If we aren’t listening, how can we hear Him when he speaks?
As one of my friends recently put it, if you don’t pick up the phone, how will you hear who’s talking? If we don’t pursue God, how will we find Him?
If you aren’t seeing God in your life, is it because He’s not there? Because He’s abandoned you? Or because you aren’t looking for Him, seeking His will?
And just because we don’t see Him, or we don’t hear Him, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow Him. Even if all we hear is silence, we should strive to follow God, no matter what, without question. It is only when we question, when we take a step back, when we choose not to follow Him, but go our own path, that we stumble and fall.
Think of God like a job. If you need a new job, do you sit on your couch and wait for someone to call you and say you’re hired? Or do you go out and apply for jobs and have interviews? Think of God like dinner. Do you sit at the table and wait for food to just appear? Or do you get up and prepare the food? The point is, there is work to it. God won’t just show up in our lives. We need to work to seek Him, to find Him, to listen to Him, to obey Him. We can’t be passive Christians. Being a follower of Christ is an active sport. We need to look for Him.
Peter finally sees the need to seek out Aslan instead of waiting for Aslan to come to him. After trying to do everything on his own, resulting in disaster. There’s a scene midway through the movie where several characters trick Caspian into summoning the White Witch to fight King Miraz. Caspian almost succumbs, but not before Peter knocks him out of the way. Peter, seeing the White Witch reaching for him from a wall of ice (acting as a portal for her spirit to reenter Narnia), almost loses himself and considers freeing her, seeing no hope in the battle they are about to be forced into, and seeing her as possibly his last hope. But she is thwarted, and the ice is shattered, and behind it, looking down on Peter, is a stone carving of Aslan himself.
It is only in this moment that Peter realizes the need for Aslan, and begins seeking Aslan, sending his sisters to find him while they attempt to hold off the opposing army. It is at this moment that the tables turn in favor of Peter. It is only here that he begins to succeed.
Only when we seek God will we have victory.
Peter is also a warning. It isn’t enough that we seek God and follow Him. Peter is a prime example of how Christians can lead people astray, if they aren’t following God. When Peter says “I think it’s up to us, now,” all of the siblings, including a reluctant Lucy, go along with him, instead of holding steadfast in their trust of Aslan. We have to be careful, as Christians, to make sure we are setting a good example for others, believers and non-believers alike. We cannot lead those who look to us astray, even if our intentions are good.
I love this franchise. I’ve only read a few of the books, and I’ve watched all of the movies. Oddly enough, before I watched Prince Caspian the other day, it was my least favorite in the series. After rewatching all three movies, I can honestly say it is my favorite one, because it spoke to me, it spoke to what I am going through right now.
I am currently in the middle of some sort of resurgence of my faith. I’ve been reading a Bible study focusing on hearing God’s voice, on seeking him out. That I had the urge to watch Prince Caspian out of the blue, despite knowing it was my least favorite, and it having a message that fell directly in line with what I’m learning in the Bible, is no coincidence. It is God, speaking to me. I am starting to look for him, and He is starting to appear to me. In the movies I watch, in the books I read, in the conversations I have. When we seek God, everything falls in line. It is truly amazing.
Trust me, I am still struggling. And life is a struggle, a constant fight against the temptations of sin and the Devil, not unlike the temptations of the White Witch. And it is only through a closeness, a dialogue with Christ that we can fight it and win. Otherwise the struggle will consume us, and we will lose more than we gain.
“Why wouldn’t I have seen him?”
“Maybe you weren’t looking.”
Look for God, and you will find Him. It’s that simple. Don’t expect God to come to you when He wants you. You have to want Him, you have to look for Him. Being a believer is not a spectator sport. Seek Him, in all that you do.
The writers of the three Narnia movies, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, also wrote the Captain America trilogy(The First Avenger, Winter Soldier, and Civil War), Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
One of my other favorite moments in this franchise is in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when they reach the shores of Aslan’s Country. Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund that this is the last time they will be in Narnia. Lucy asks if they will ever see him again in our world, to which Aslan replies, “Yes. But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”