C.S. Lewis’s world of Narnia is amongst my favorite ‘Neverlands’. There is very little about these stories and characters that I do not love. I own the giant anniversary edition with all of the novels in it, as well as the original, color illustrations. My husband bought me the BBC series as a Christmas gift when we were dating. I also own the new movies done by Walden Media, which I adore. These are stories and a world that I intend on sharing with my daughter. I want her to imagine Aslan walking beside her, cuddling her, encouraging her. I want to gift her with that “tangible” image of God that comforted me marvelous much as a child.
However, I have noticed something very interesting in the Walden Media movies’ treatment of nationality. Now, it may not be a big deal to…well, anyone but me, but I found it intriguing. In “Prince Caspian”, Ben Barnes stars at the title character in his first mainstream leading role. As Caspian X, son of the Telmarian Caspian IX, Barnes is depicted as swarthy, with an olive complexion and longish, dark, almost-black hair. The Telmarines, who invaded Narnia after the disappearance of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, came from across the sea and were sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve themselves, happening upon Narnia by accident years ago. They have now been ruling over Narnia for centuries, and Caspian is the latest heir in a string of Telmarine conqueror kings. The Walden Media movies depict the Telmarines as swarthy, dark of hair and eye, with an accent that can be described as Spanish or Latin.
Now, fast-forward three Narnian years: Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia, accidentally bringing their odious cousin Eustance with them. Landing in the sea, they are picked up by the Dawn Treader, captained and crewed by none other than Narnians and led by their dear friend Caspian, King of Narnia. Now, as soon as Caspian (once again played by Barnes) begins to speak, we notice something different about him. Gone are the swarthy skin and deep-dark hair, as well as the Spanish/Telmarine accent. He has been transformed into a “proper” Narnian with a pointedly British accent, skin that is slightly paler than when we last saw him, and hair that has been lightened to a warm brown (presumably by the sun), as has his facial hair.
Like I said, this may not seem important to anyone aside from me, but I find it intriguing that Walden Media chose to represent Caspian’s separation from his Telmarine heritage and his integration into the traditional Narnian culture through his appearance and accent. He seems older (as he is, truthfully) and more mature than the boy who squabbled with Peter and trembled before Aslan, but is still filled with awe at all he is continually learning about Narnia and the lands beyond it. One has to wonder, though: why not just leave him as he was in the previous film? Why choose this particular method of visually representing growth in addition to the mental and emotional evidence? Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy it. Few actors are more adorable to me than Ben Barnes, especially when he’s playing my favorite prince. But the idea still intrigues me, and I count it a very clever writing and filming device.
If you’ve seen the films, what is your opinion?