Narnia: Prince Caspian adaptations

Just a short one again, I'm afraid, as I am snowed under with work at the moment.

In my conference paper, I talked a fair bit about Prince Caspian, which features the most significant references to Greek myth in the Narnia series. I won't repeat that here, since I'm hoping to publish it at some point, but I was reminded of something that I've always wondered about in the BBC adaptation.

In the book, having been introduced to the Old Narnians, Caspian joins them for a party. The Old Narnians are all the magical and mythical creatures of Narnia - talking beasts, dwarfs, centaurs and so on. (The New Narnians are human Telmarines, many of whom do not believe in the existence of the Old Narnians).

The party consists of fauns, dryads, centaurs and talking animals, all dancing round a big bonfire on the Dancing Lawn. I had always imagined it to be a bit like the 'Pastoral Symphony' section of Disney's original Fantasia, all friendly fauns, Pan-pipes and greenery. In both the major adaptations of Prince Caspian, however, it looks quite different.

Ridiculously over-cute cherub - Cupid - things, from the Pastoral Symphony section of Fantasia. I'll do a post on that some day too.

Prince Caspian is probably the hardest of the Narnia Chronicles to adapt - or maybe second hardest, after The Last Battle. Both adaptations do reasonably well, and both have their flaws (yes, I do have opinions on what these are, no, I don't have time to describe them all now!).

The BBC adaptation of the Dancing Lawn scene has a very different feel to it from what I (at 6 years old!) had expected from the book. Most prominent among the attendees, other than talking animals, are human-looking characters wearing grass skirts. I assume these are supposed to be related to dryads in some way - though dryads are female and these are male. Their dark hair and grass skirts look very different to the usual pseudo-medieval European Narnian costuming, and, rather than Pan-pipes, they play a pounding, rhythmic drum beat.

The recent film adaptation (dir. Andrew Adamson, 2008) goes a different route again. Here, we have gone back to a Greek theme, but with a different feel. There isn't a party at the Dancing Lawn, but a meeting, and, in addition to the usual suspects, the attendees include minotaurs (which exist in the plural in Narnia), who were previously among the bad guys in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The whole thing is made to feel much darker, as is the movie as a whole.

A minotaur fights with the good guys in the recent film adaptation

There are advantages to both approaches. The BBC version emphasises the wildness of the Narnians against the medieval Telmarines and, depending on taste, the party maybe feels a little more exciting with that drum beat. The film version, on the other hand, keeps the essentially Greek feel of the original, but loses all sense of joy or exhileration, in favour of concentrating more fully on military matters. I can't quite decide which I prefer - thoughts, anyone?

By the way, the image at the top of the page is the front cover of the edition of Prince Caspian I had as a child, which is still around, falling to pieces in a box somewhere under my bed in my parents' house.


  1. Awww, that's the edition I had, too... it brings back many warm nostalgic feelings. :)

    I have always loved Prince Caspian, perhaps best of all the books, and I was sad to see both the Dancing Lawn party and Aslan's romp with the Bacchants missing, essentially, from the film adaptation. I liked the movie, actually -- but I missed the joyousness, as you said. And the surrealness, especially the Bacchants bit, with the triumphal procession through Beruna(?) etc. I think in general that the movie adaptation is a bit too dark, but I'm not surprised by it, since that makes the "adventure" parts more prominent. (I also really disliked the abortive attempt on Minas' castle, since it was just sad and pointless and placed both Peter and Caspian in the wrong).

  2. the recent film is so much better made than the BBC (from what I remember), but I did miss the scene on the dancing lawn! and the other festivities at the end.

    I too had a big bone to pick with that added attack on Miraz's castle! And the timing of everything was off, the kids were supposed to come when Caspian was with the hag and were-wolf...

  3. The attack on Miraz' castle was interesting... it was awfully sad, but I must admit, I did quite enjoy it. It does make Peter and Caspian look pretty bad - and, by extension Lucy - if she'd just gone to Aslan in the first place, it might not have happened.

    My favourite thing about the new movies is that the girls get so much more to do - I loved seeing Susan actually get to participate in both battles! I do still love the BBC ones though - their adaptation of Dawn Treader is especially beautiful, and I'm expecting big things of the movie!

    The Bacchants bit is tricky... I liked it as a child, then found it a teensy bit freaky as an adult, once I knew the story! (Also is keeps the girls out of the battle again, grr). It does have that feeling of celebration, though, which is nice - the movie did get a bit too dark for Narnia I think.

  4. I loved Dawn Treader above all the others, though I can't remember why. I think Caspian was my favourite character, but Prince Caspian leapt about all over the place, whereas Voyage was just.. a voyage.
    Okay, it copped out at the end, (come on, a lamb cooking breakfast..?) but I liked the flat world ideology. And the water at the end of the world tasted fresh - like the Homeric idea of the river Oceanus encircling the world, so Lewis wins my classical side over.

  5. The recent film version was made by the same team that made Shrek, so the "good" minotaur really comes out of that same thing they did in Shrek of subverting good and bad characters (i.e. a good ogre, a bad prince and so on).



Post a Comment