A World of Trumpkins

 

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?

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  1. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Good post. Trumpkin, in a sense, represents those who may not be believers themselves, but are pulled along the right path by being part of a greater group that is largely made up of believers. In our culture, certain things were generally acknowledged as right and moral, certain principles were worth holding, even by non-believers, because the greater culture of which they are a part, held to these principles as well.

    But as our culture shifts to being largely non-believers, the foundation that even non-believers benefited from begins to crumble away.

     

    • #1
  2. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    But as our culture shifts to being largely non-believers, the foundation that even non-believers benefited from begins to crumble away.

    This is my worry. I don’t fear for the Trumpkins of the world; I tend to believe that God’s grace is available for all who recognize their brokenness and sincerely desire to improve themselves even if they don’t consciously recognize Christ as the source of said grace. One thing I think the Mormons get right is their rejection of the idea that bodily death is our last chance. I believe that, like St. Thomas, the majority of unbelievers will acknowledge their error when they meet Christ face to face.

    That said, it is still necessary for the unbeliever to have his heart open to God’s grace (again, even if his mind cannot accept the truth,) and the more society pushes the idea that we have nothing to be sorry for, the more hearts will begin to close. As my priest said a few weeks ago, a man is not condemned by sin but by denying that he has sinned.

    • #2
  3. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Umbra Fractus (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    But as our culture shifts to being largely non-believers, the foundation that even non-believers benefited from begins to crumble away.

    This is my worry. I don’t fear for the Trumpkins of the world; I tend to believe that God’s grace is available for all who recognize their brokenness and sincerely desire to improve themselves even if they don’t consciously recognize Christ as the source of said grace. One thing I think the Mormons get right is their rejection of the idea that bodily death is our last chance. I believe that, like St. Thomas, the majority of unbelievers will acknowledge their error when they meet Christ face to face.

    That said, it is still necessary for the unbeliever to have his heart open to God’s grace (again, even if his mind cannot accept the truth,) and the more society pushes the idea that we have nothing to be sorry for, the more hearts will begin to close. As my priest said a few weeks ago, a man is not condemned by sin but by denying that he has sinned.

    Ha ha! Another one! I have recently become acquainted with the theology of inclusion (formed from Romans 1). C.S. Lewis was an inclusivist, it appears St. Thomas was as well. I am, too… just didn’t know it. I thought I was a heretic.

    • #3
  4. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Stina (View Comment):

    Ha ha! Another one! I have recently become acquainted with the theology of inclusion (formed from Romans 1). C.S. Lewis was an inclusivist, it appears St. Thomas was as well. I am, too… just didn’t know it. I thought I was a heretic.

    I don’t know about St. Thomas. I was just using him as an example of how those who cannot believe without seeing are not necessarily condemned. For me it’s 1 John 4:7, (“… Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God,”) and good old Matthew 25:31-46 (specifically what’s not in there, namely any mention of religion) that make the difference. I only just learned that there was a name for this orientation.

    • #4
  5. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Umbra Fractus (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Ha ha! Another one! I have recently become acquainted with the theology of inclusion (formed from Romans 1). C.S. Lewis was an inclusivist, it appears St. Thomas was as well. I am, too… just didn’t know it. I thought I was a heretic.

    I don’t know about St. Thomas. I was just using him as an example of how those who cannot believe without seeing are not necessarily condemned. For me it’s 1 John 4:7, (“… Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God,”) and good old Matthew 25:31-46 (specifically what’s not in there, namely any mention of religion) that make the difference. I only just learned that there was a name for this orientation.

    Heh. I thought you were referring to Aquinas, not the disciple.

    But yes, I only just learned about it as well. I’ve been listening to The Last Battle on tape and it came up and I started looking into it.

    • #5
  6. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Nick H: 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.

    Ambush!

    Kii-Yaa!

    • #6
  7. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.”  I’ll read your post later.

    • #7
  8. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    They really should be read in publication order. (LWW first.)

    • #9
  10. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    They really should be read in publication order. (LWW first.)

    I’ve read them both ways. I guess 2nd pass through its more fun to read MN first. But the references in it lose their excitement if you haven’t read LWW. Are there references from 2-4 that necessitate it as 6? (Horse and Boy is #5, right?)

    • #10
  11. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Stina (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    They really should be read in publication order. (LWW first.)

    I’ve read them both ways. I guess 2nd pass through its more fun to read MN first. But the references in it lose their excitement if you haven’t read LWW. Are there references from 2-4 that necessitate it as 6? (Horse and Boy is #5, right?)

    Not that I can think of offhand, but I haven’t read it lately. At the current rate I won’t get to those books for a few months at least. Not sure if I’ll read the last one to them either.

    • #11
  12. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The Magician’s Nephew is definitely written as if one has previously read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as it answers several questions set up in LWW. “Where did that lamp-post come from?” “Why is the wardrobe magical,” etc. To go into LWW having already known these things spoils the mystery right away. No fun in that.

     

    • #12
  13. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    The Magician’s Nephew is definitely written as if one has previously read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as it answers several questions set up in LWW. “Where did that lamp-post come from?” “Why is the wardrobe magical,” etc. To go into LWW having already known these things spoils the mystery right away. No fun in that.

    Yeah. The re-ordering the books to be roughly chronological always annoyed me. I read them in the published date order and never had a problem with them. Harumph.

    Prince Caspian was a strange book when I was a boy. I understood the metaphors far less than I did in the LWW, and it had less adventure than my personal favorite, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The movie never did Caspian justice. Not understanding what Lewis had to say, they just made it another battle. As an adult I found it fascinating that Aslan overcomes the Telmarines not by battle but by essentially throwing a party. The faithless society they built was restrictive and joyless. Aslan brings life, freedom, and joy.

    Anyways, an enjoyable book when I read it again.

    • #13
  14. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Caspian is my least favorite of the book series. It’s pretty weird — and as you say, Aslan wins by partying. (Complete with booze!) Though the bit with invisible Aslan that only Lucy can see is probably the biggest takeaway for me.

    I do think the movie version improved on the book in a lot of ways, though it’s such a departure.

    I didn’t care for the film version of Dawn Treader (like you, my favorite of the books) but it did feel like it was partially setting up for a film version of The Silver Chair (I recall a reference to the build-up of underground armies) that has yet to materialize.

     

    • #14
  15. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was by far my favorite as well. My least favorite when I originally read them was probably The Last Battle. I’m not sure if that’s still true, but I’ll wait until I’ve finished reading them all to the twins to say.

    As far as the movies go, I’ve only seen LWW. Are the others worth watching? I don’t see how Dawn Treader could live up to how good it is in my memories, so my expectations aren’t too high.

    • #15
  16. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Caspian is my least favorite of the book series. It’s pretty weird — and as you say, Aslan wins by partying. (Complete with booze!) Though the bit with invisible Aslan that only Lucy can see is probably the biggest takeaway for me.

    I do think the movie version improved on the book in a lot of ways, though it’s such a departure.

    I didn’t care for the film version of Dawn Treader (like you, my favorite of the books) but it did feel like it was partially setting up for a film version of The Silver Chair (I recall a reference to the build-up of underground armies) that has yet to materialize.

    Caspian has quite a bit of plot exposition to it, explaining the Telmarines, Caspian’s personal history, and what’s happened to Narnia since the Penseive children’s departure. I find that’s its biggest flaw. I’d say a good third is lost to all that, and we don’t get to the plot until we slog through all that.

    • #16
  17. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Nick H (View Comment):
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was by far my favorite as well. My least favorite when I originally read them was probably The Last Battle. I’m not sure if that’s still true, but I’ll wait until I’ve finished reading them all to the twins to say.

    As far as the movies go, I’ve only seen LWW. Are the others worth watching? I don’t see how Dawn Treader could live up to how good it is in my memories, so my expectations aren’t too high.

    I expect whether you like the movies would depend a lot on how faithfully you think they should match the books. The film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was an excellent adaptation. Like I said above, I liked the adaptation of Prince Caspian in spite of the departures from the book, because I don’t think a straight adaptation of the novel would make for a good film. I don’t remember enough of the film version of Dawn Treader to feel like I can comment fairly on it. (That itself may be an indicator.)

    • #17
  18. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    The Magician’s Nephew is definitely written as if one has previously read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as it answers several questions set up in LWW. “Where did that lamp-post come from?” “Why is the wardrobe magical,” etc. To go into LWW having already known these things spoils the mystery right away. No fun in that.

    Yeah. The re-ordering the books to be roughly chronological always annoyed me. I read them in the published date order and never had a problem with them. Harumph.

    . . ..

    Putting them in chronological order messes up the whole story-telling line that Lewis designed in. I can’t figure out what benefit the publisher thought the reader would get from the re-ordering.

    • #18
  19. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Yes! to reading them out loud as bedtime stories. We did that, and yes for a while our younger child was not really getting the story arc. It remains a memory of one of the great moments of his development the night we were reading the chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in which the snow starts to melt, and he (age 5) exclaimed his own realization that meant the witch was losing her power. From then on, he was always eager to hear what happened in the next chapter. He also began to be able to link events and things between chapters. From then on, he wanted only “chapter books.”

    For me, reading those books out loud has done more for my writing than any class or seminar ever did. Hearing how good writing sounds when spoken got me to clean up my writing, to shorten sentences, to be clearer with adjectives, adverbs, and other modifiers, and to use better verbs.

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I didn’t care for the film version of Dawn Treader (like you, my favorite of the books) but it did feel like it was partially setting up for a film version of The Silver Chair (I recall a reference to the build-up of underground armies) that has yet to materialize.

    As far as film adaptation goes, I’m for more impressed by BBC’s version from the 90’s. Bad costuming, but well done.

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    I don’t remember enough of the film version of Dawn Treader to feel like I can comment fairly on it. (That itself may be an indicator.)

    I think the movie Dawn Treader criticism comes with baggage. We have been inundated with serial adventures through tv and video games, so DT has lost some originality and feels tropey. I still loved it, because it still brought out some of the moral dilemmas the characters faced on their journey. It very much is a journey of life and it’s to their credit they didn’t cut out Aslan’s guidance to Lucy and Edmund about knowing him in Narnia so they might know him in their world.

    To the OP, I have always identified as a Lucy but Edmund is my favorite. I love that he is the Just because he knows what real Mercy is.

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    For me, reading those books out loud has done more for my writing than any class or seminar ever did. Hearing how good writing sounds when spoken got me to clean up my writing, to shorten sentences, to be clearer with adjectives, adverbs, and other modifiers, and to use better verbs.

    Last year I read “The Lord of the Rings” out loud to my kids. That was an amazing experience, and really gave me a new appreciation of Tolkien’s writing talent.

    • #21
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    I’ve finished it, and it’s pretty clearly book one.  In it, Aslan creates Narnia.

    • #22
  23. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I am just now listening to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and am approaching the end of the “Magician’s Nephew.” I’ll read your post later.

    What order are you listening in – is The Magician’s Nephew book one or six? If it’s six you can read now. There’s no spoilers for anything there.

    I’ve finished it, and it’s pretty clearly book one. In it, Aslan creates Narnia.

    Yes, . . . however Lewis wrote it sixth.

    • #23
  24. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Yes, . . . however Lewis wrote it sixth.

    Ah.  I didn’t know that.  Thanks.

    • #24
  25. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Yes, . . . however Lewis wrote it sixth.

    Ah. I didn’t know that. Thanks.

    Yeah, thanks, HarperCollins for misleading everyone!

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    If we’re ever going to have movie censorship, the first thing we should ban is movies based on good books.

    • #26
  27. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    If we’re ever going to have movie censorship, the first thing we should ban is movies based on good books.

    A complete ban would be overkill. There should be exceptions for when the original author is involved, or when the director is a loyal fan and committed to staying faithful to the source material. That can be hard to do for anything longer than a novella; you end up with movies that run way longer than the usual 2 hours. But when it’s done well, it can be wonderful.

    Another point to consider – do you really want only movies that are based on bad books? (Obviously some people do – look at the box office numbers for the 50 Shades movies.)

    • #27
  28. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Although I’d prefer if Hollywood adapt classic novels instead of serving up warmed-over remakes, self-serving movies about brave lefties, gross-out comedies or a string of horrible sequels to them.

    • #28
  29. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Although I’d prefer if Hollywood adapt classic novels instead of serving up warmed-over remakes, self-serving movies about brave lefties, gross-out comedies or a string of horrible sequels to them.

    Not enough political correctness in classic novels.

    • #29
  30. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    Although I’d prefer if Hollywood adapt classic novels instead of serving up warmed-over remakes, self-serving movies about brave lefties, gross-out comedies or a string of horrible sequels to them.

    Not enough political correctness in classic novels.

    Yeeeessss . . .

    • #30

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