Monday, November 24, 2014

A Study of Prince Rilian

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It has been confirmed that there will be a live action adaption of C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair, likely to be released sometime in 2018.  This is very exciting news for me, as The Silver Chair has always been one of my favorite books of the Chronicles of Narnia, others being The Voyage of the Dawntreader and The Horse and His Boy.
A while back, I did a dreamcast for the movie, and in the comments of that post, a fellow blogger and I had a rather interesting discussion about one of the most important characters, Prince Rilian.  Though the book would be impossible without him, this key character actually gets very little time devoted to him.  We know little of his personality or history, only the scant details given to us for the purpose of the story.  
I'm the sort of person who loves to get in depth with characters, especially my favorite ones.  As a kid, I had a pretty big crush on the guy, but when I got older, I started thinking, what do we really know about him?  
Well, the book might not say much about him, but in my opinion, it implies a lot.  In this post, I will list several personality traits I think he has, and why I think so.   So, without further delay, let us begin.

(WARNING:  There be SPOILERS ahead!)

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In his youth, Rilian loses his mother to a serpent, which apparently must have looked very distinct, because the young prince vows that he will hunt it down and avenge his mother.  Every day he sets out in search of it, with heated determination.
Later, on one of these searches, he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman, with whom he falls in love.  He does not know that she is a shape-shifting witch, who was the snake that killed his mother.  But in his ignorance he falls deeply in love (or, perhaps, in lust, since he didn't know her at all) with her.   
At the end of the book, when he is rescued by the three protagonists from his long imprisonment by the aforementioned witch, he immediately takes to them, and treats them as though they've been friends for years.   Every emotion he feels is quite obvious, and he feels it with his whole being.

#2:  He is IMPULSIVE

This one ties pretty closely with the last one.  Rilian swore vengeance on a snake, and proceeded to hunt it ruthlessly every day afterward.  Maybe this was influenced by his immense grief, and hunting down a snake was just a good way of venting that sadness, but that was still a pretty odd decision to make.  He falls 'in love' with a woman he barely knows in the space of a few weeks, seeing her only briefly once every day, if even that often.  Perhaps I should be generous and say that even then she was using her magic to influence him, but I still believe him to be impulsive.
When he takes his friend Lord Drinian to see that lady, she is alarmed to see that he has brought a friend.  She flees, and immediately Rilian turns angrily on Drinian and blames him for frightening her away.  
Later, while he and his new friends are escaping Underland, they have the chance to look into a chasm that leads to the strange and wonderful land called Bism.  At one moment, he was set on going home, and as soon as he looks into Bism, he wants to go there to explore.  He wisely chooses to continue on toward Narnia, but in that moment, we see that impulsive desire to venture into the unknown.

#3:  He is CHIVALROUS 

Rilian appears to have had the greatest respect and love for his mother, and their relationship seems to have influenced his dealings with all women.  He treats Jill, one of his rescuers, with the utmost kindness and reverence, even though she is a child.  Even while he is under the spell, he is endeared to her and addresses her gallantly.  Granted, his foppish words while he is under the spell do more to irritate her than flatter her, but his intent was good.  
After the witch transforms into a giant serpent, and Rilian, Eustace, and Puddleglum kill it, Rilian confesses that he is relieved that she chose her serpent form in the end.  He says he "would have been loath to kill a woman".  This is the woman who held him captive for ten years, entranced him so that he was nothing but a mindless slave, and intended to use him to take over his own kingdom.  Still he would have been loath to kill her in her womanly form.  
Rilian's dealings with other men are quite chivalrous as well.  He plays the part of the noble knight very well, after his release from the spell.  He makes sure to see to Puddleglum's injured foot immediately after the battle, improvising make-shift medical supplies for lack of anything better. 

#4:  He is BRAVE

After killing the witch, Rilian and his companions must escape from Underland, which is falling to destruction and ruin.  Chasms are opening up in the ground, water is flooding the underground cavern quickly, and the roof is collapsing in some places.  On top of that, the Earthmen, who as far as he knows are still servants of the Emerald Witch, seem to be gathering themselves into an army to stop them.  
Yet, the book states that as he helps the other saddle up and set out into the chaos, he is whistling.  That's right, whistling.  C.S. Lewis says in the book that after his horrible ordeal for the last ten years, this new trouble seemed very light, even fun in comparison.  When he gazed into the heart of Bism, he was not afriad of its challenges, but rather longed for them.

#5:  He is LOVING

As I mentioned earlier, Rilian is quick to care for his new friends.  Though he only knows them for a short time, his enormous gratitude toward them for rescuing him leads him to treat them like old friends.  At one point on their journey to the surface, an unfortunate event leads them to believe that Jill has been captured and likely killed.  Puddleglum and Eustace are greatly saddened, having been traveling with her for some time.  Eustace even went to school with her.  But Rilian, who has known her for only a few hours- a day at most- grieves her as much as they do.  He is greatly ashamed that he was unable to save her, even though neither he nor the other two could have done anything about it.


#6:  He is DESPERATE

This is the trait that we see the most in the book.  After being taken captive and enchanted by a sadistic witch, forced to become her mindless and devoted slave for ten years, Rilian is understandably miserable.  He is desperate to get back to his kingdom and his father, and sickened and horrified by the nightmare he's had to endure for so long.  He is powerless against the witch, and though he has tried to escape many times, she has always managed to bring him back under her control.  She is terrible!  She is incredibly sadistic.  Her goal is to take over Narnia using their own beloved prince as her weapon.  She would crush their spirits by flaunting her control over him, and torture him with the humiliation and pain of having betrayed his own people.  She gives him one hour of sanity every night, seemingly just to rub it in, knowing that he will never escape.
In the book, during Rilian's plea to Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum, he refers to himself as "a wretch who has suffered almost more than any mortal heart can bear".  If that's not desperation, I don't know what is.  He states that one night, he even broke though the ropes that keep him tied to the silver chair during his hour of sanity.   That's a pretty incredible feat of strength- and it was induced entirely by the adrenaline of desperation.
Even when he is under the spell, it shows through.  Though during the day he thinks that he is in love with the witch, and that his only care is to sing her praises, some corner of his mind knows that he is afraid and miserable.  He specifically asks the Travelers to sit with him during his hour, stating that he "dreads being alone".  Subconsciously, he knows that he wants them with him because they are his only hope.
This trait is perhaps the most defining of them all, and is one of the only ones that is able to cut through the terrible spell that binds him.

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Well, this has been fun!  I hope that in the new movie, they give him a little time, and let us see a little deeper into his character than we do in the book.  I wouldn't even mind them changing some small details about the plot to do it!  Maybe bringing him in as the Silent Knight earlier in the movie, or giving us some flashback sequences.  

What do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment?  Have I got him completely wrong?  Have I missed any details?  Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  

-Rayne Speryll


  1. I think you did a great job on your assessment. :) I'd definitely agree with all these traits.

  2. Fantastic assessment. I am really, really looking forward to him too!

    I guess saying he's passionate covers desperate too. Because he is really, really desperate when he knows who he is in the silver chair. I mean, he even broke the bonds once. The queen is really one of the more sadistic mastersminds of the series. Destroying a country with their own prince! Can you imagine, if she had been successful, the guilt and pain Rillian would have had to deal with every night after?

    I think it might be kind of cool if the Black Knight is trying to stop them the whole time, and they have no idea he's the one they are supposed to rescue....But that would mean he wouldn't be free of the enchantment an hour every night. Maybe just some nights....

    2018! Ah, that sounds painfully long away.

    1. Ugh... 2018... that is depressingly far away. :( I hope it's worth the wait!

      Wow, I can only imagine how guilty and tortured he would have felt had the Witch succeeded in her plan. That would have been awful! I should add something to this post about his haunted desperation. I took it for granted while I was writing this because I was focusing mainly on the things we don't hear much about during the book. We have his heartbreaking monologue at the climax to convince us of that, but I'd say it's such a big part of his character that it deserves to be listed here. :)

      I agree with your idea of the Black Knight appearing as sort of an antagonist during the film. It would be an interesting thing to see. Maybe to avoid taking away his hour of freedom, the Knight would only appear after their arrival at Harfang. He appeared with the Witch not far from there when she spoke to the children and Puddleglum, so it must not be too far from the city in Underland. Maybe the Witch would send him to make sure that the travelers were staying there. I don't know. I'm sure there would be some way to work it in. ;)

    2. If you are inspired to touch on his desperation, I'd love it! Your analyzation is fascinating and it brought forth points of his character I hadn't really considered in depth! You should do these sorts of posts on lesser known characters more! :)

    3. That's a good idea. I love character analysis! Any ideas or requests on who I should do next?

    4. By the way, they're saying 2016 now, for the release! That's a lot sooner than their original estimate. ^_^

  3. I love your edit! And perhaps a little recognized character from Tolkien's work would be good for another analysis?