Prince Corin as C.S. Lewis’ Harbinger of Joy
My favorite character in all the Narnia stories has only a small space devoted to him within the Chronicles’ pages. He is not a great hero, nor does he play any particularly significant role. He is more comic relief and caricature than anything else. Yet, he captures the essence of the feeling that Lewis found himself seeking throughout his life.
Prince Corin jumps into the narrative of The Horse and His Boy with a “loud crash” as he sneaks into the house in Tashbaan where two of Narnia’s royals and their companions are staying. He immediately comes face-to-face with Shasta whom the Narnians have mistaken for him.
“Are you Prince Corin?” Shasta asks.
Corin’s reply is: “Yes, of course.” (As if to say, “Who else would I be?”)
When Corin asks, “Who are you?” Shasta’s reply is the complete opposite and terribly heart-breaking: “I’m nobody, nobody in particular…”
Corin’s confident self-possession is striking. He is a vigorous figure, almost larger-than-life. A character too big for the small space the story devotes to him. Unlike Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin, Corin is secure in himself and his relationships with the people around him and the world he inhabits. He is free, happy, and joyful. He is passionate and brave and courageous.
His flaw might be that he is too free and ridiculously happy. Reckless even. But that recklessness is the result of deep-seated security about his place in the world. He loves and knows that he is loved. He feels no pressure to be like others or pretend to be something he is not. He is honest, even about his flaws.
I envy his freedom. I strive to emulate it. And even when the expression is fake, the desire is nonetheless real.
Afraid of being discovered as a royal imposter, Shasta urges Corin to take his place so that neither will get in trouble. Then he remembers that Corin’s black eye, missing tooth, and general dirty appearance make this boyhood subterfuge impossible. Resigned to being caught, Shasta allows that Corin will just have “to tell them the truth”–but only once he himself has slipped away.
Corin’s scornful response is powerful: “What else did you think I’d be telling them?” Corin asks, with “a rather angry look.”