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Are we living in a world of Trumpkins? (Before anyone panics about banned words, I’m referring here to Trumpkin the Red Dwarf in Prince Caspian, the second book in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This post has nothing to do with the President or his more exuberant fans.) In our world of believers and non-believers, who does Trumpkin represent, and what does this mean for the future? These are the questions I’ve found myself asking, and now will pass on to you.
There’s probably not any need to put a spoiler alert on a book published 60 years ago, but … yes, this will go into detail about both this story and the others in the series.
At night I’ve started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my kids, one chapter at a time before bed. They’re not quite old enough yet to really get the stories, but they still enjoy it. I haven’t read some of these books since I was a child myself, so I’m enjoying revisiting the series. The first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a retelling of Christ’s death and Resurrection with Aslan (the Lion) as Christ, something that was even obvious to me when I first read the books at age seven. But at that age, the next few books in the series didn’t seem to have an obvious parallel to any biblical story. (The last two books are the Creation story and the Apocalypse.) Reading them now I can see more of what Lewis was trying to say about Faith than I could as a child.
In Prince Caspian, the second act of the story involves the four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) traveling through Narnia with Trumpkin, trying to get to King Caspian. Lucy sees Aslan, who shows her the way to go, but the other children don’t believe her at first and take a different path. This leads to a near disaster, and the travelers end up back where they started. Aslan again appears to Lucy, and this time she gets the others to follow her even though they can’t see Aslan themselves at first. Reading this it occurred to me that each person represents a different way that people in our world follow Christ.
Lucy represents those with a strong faith. She has seen and spoken to Aslan, and has no doubts that he is real and has a plan for them to follow. It’s worth noting that even with her faith, she follows her brother when he leads them down the wrong path at first. It’s only after Aslan speaks with her that she realizes she has to follow His path whether the others follow or not. We don’t have Jesus appearing to us in the flesh these days, but there are plenty of people with deep faith who have heard Him telling them where the right path is.
Edmund’s path is for those who have fallen the farthest and found redemption. In the first book, he was the one who betrayed his brother and sisters, and it was for him that Aslan gave himself to be sacrificed. He knows he has been wrong in the past, and therefore is the most willing to follow Lucy where she says Aslan is leading them even though he can’t see Aslan himself. I suspect that many believers can see themselves in Edmund. We know how we have failed and can relate to following the right path even with our doubts.
Peter is the oldest, and the leader of the group. He wants to do the right thing, but when asked to make a choice he takes what seems to him to be the easier and smarter path instead of trusting Lucy and Aslan. Peter represents the church leaders. Even the best of them can be tempted to put their own counsel ahead of what their faith calls them to do, and where they lead their flock will follow.
Susan, the older sister, wants to believe but is afraid. She listens to her fears and refuses to let herself think that Lucy is right and that Aslan is showing them the way to go. She responds with petulance and anger when she has to follow along their path. Our world has lots of Susans. People who know the truth and deep inside desire to trust their belief, but are afraid of where that might lead. That fear leads them to question or even attack those with a stronger faith.
Trumpkin is not a believer, but still has a strong sense of right and wrong. Earlier in the story when it is suggested that King Caspian enlist the aid of darker forces, many of Caspian’s allies reject the suggestion saying that doing so would cost them the support of Aslan. Trumpkin scoffs at this, saying that the support of a mythical lion doesn’t matter, but still rejects the evil allies saying that what really matters is that he wouldn’t support Caspian if that sort was allowed. When traveling with the children, Trumpkin is dismissive of the possibility that Aslan is showing them the way. He declares that he’ll follow the High King (Peter) where ever that may lead, simply because Peter is the High King.
We have an abundance of young people who desire to be good and avoid evil but are rejecting religion and trusting in secular power. Surveys have shown that church membership among millennials is considerably lower than previous generations. They may follow along with people who have faith, but only because they think it’s the right path to take. They reject the need for faith themselves. There have always been people like this, but now we have more Trumpkins than ever before.
Of course, it all turned out all right for Trumpkin and the children in this story. They end up following Lucy, meet Aslan at the end of the journey, and Trumpkin lets go of his disbelief (or has it shaken out of him). It is a children’s story after all. (The final book in the series, The Last Battle, tells of a different ending for the dwarfs without faith and for Susan, but that’s a different post.) Will it turn out as well for the Trumpkins in our world? What will need to happen to shake them out of their disbelief?