If you ever doubt that C. S. Lewis was gifted with a prophetic voice, you need look no further for correction than Prince Caspian.
So writes Gina Dalfonzo on the First Things website, discussing the Black Dwarf Nikabrik. Nikabrik was one of the allies Prince Caspian found after his escape from his uncle, the usurper King Miraz, but as an ally, he was highly problematic.
We first meet him inside the home of Trufflehunter, wanting to kill Caspian the Tenth against the wishes of the badger and Trumpkin. Nikabrik is angry at all Telmarines, bitterly remembering the injustices suffered by the old Narnians in their hands. In his defense, Nikabrik was born in hiding, grew in hiding and lived in hiding throughout his life, which must have been very difficult for any independent, freedom-loving dwarf.
When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy (the heroes of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for those who might not be familiar with the series) reach Caspian, Nikabrik is speaking; they stop outside the door to listen.
“Either Aslan is dead, or he is not on our side. Or else something stronger than himself keeps him back. And if he did come—how do we know he’d be our friend? He was not always a good friend to Dwarfs by all that’s told. Not even to all beasts. Ask the Wolves. And anyway, he was in Narnia only once that I ever heard of, and he didn’t stay long. You may drop Aslan out of the reckoning. I was thinking of someone else.”
There was no answer, and for a few minutes it was so still that Edmund could hear the wheezy and snuffling breath of the Badger.
“Who do you mean?” said Caspian at last.
“I mean a power so much greater than Aslan’s that it held Narnia spellbound for years and years, if the stories are true.”
“The White Witch!” cried three voices all at once, and from the noise Peter guessed that three people had leaped to their feet.
“Yes,” said Nikabrik very slowly and distinctly, “I mean the Witch. Sit down again. Don’t all take fright at a name as if you were children. We want power: and we want a power that will be on our side. . . .
“They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical.”
“But, heaven and earth!” said the King, “haven’t we always been told that she was the worst enemy of all? Wasn’t she a tyrant ten times worse than Miraz?”
“Perhaps,” said Nikabrik in a cold voice. “Perhaps she was for you humans, if there were any of you in those days. Perhaps she was for some of the beasts. She stamped out the Beavers, I dare say; at least there are none of them in Narnia now. But she got on all right with us Dwarfs. I’m a Dwarf and I stand by my own people. We’re not afraid of the Witch.”
Nikabrik is so consumed by fear and hatred and the need to defeat the enemies of his people that he can see nothing else. The White Witch was a cruel overlord who humiliated and crushed anyone who dared oppose her—but all Nikabrik can see is that she wasn’t too bad to the Dwarfs. Dalfonzo observes,
His own people and their safety are all that matter to him now. Instead of being an important priority, this has become his only priority—and any attempt to remind him that other considerations exist brings only his contempt and anger.
This is how good people with strong, ingrained values—people who have invested time and money in the sanctity of life, religious liberty, and similarly noble causes—can come to support a man who changes his convictions more often than his shirts. This is how people concerned about the dignity of the office of President end up flocking to a reality-show star who spends his days on Twitter calling people “dumb” and “loser.” This is how some who have professed faith in Jesus Christ are lured by a man who openly puts all his faith in power and money, the very things Christ warned us against prizing too highly. As one wag on Twitter pointed out, “If elected, Donald Trump will be the first US president to own a strip club,” and yet he has the support of Christians who fervently believe that this country needs to clean up its morals.
As Joseph Loconte has observed, the Narnia stories offer us “a view of the world that is both tragic and hopeful. The tragedy lies in the corruption caused by the desire for power, often disguised by appeals to religion and morals.” How dangerously easy it is for the desire for power to take on that disguise—and how easily we Christians fall for it.
Tired of waiting for Aslan—who may be nearer than we think—we turn elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if our candidate hates, bullies, and exploits other people, the reasoning goes, just as long as he’s good to us and gives us what we want. Hatred is a perfectly acceptable weapon, as long as it’s “on our side.”
Read the whole thing. Please. And remember what happened to Nikabrik.
Photo © 2013 Gage Skidmore. License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.