’m by no means the first to suggest a similarity between C. S. Lewis’s character Nikabrik the dwarf in Prince Caspian
and the supporters of Donald Trump. As far as I know, Gina Dalfonso was the first to do so, writing in an excellent article
in First Things
last January, “Fear and despair can drive decent people to look for someone, anyone, who projects an appearance of strength.” If you haven’t read that article
, I urge you to do so. It is more relevant now than ever.
Nikabrik had struggled long and, as it seemed, futilely against the oppressors of his country and had allowed himself to become embittered, cynical, and consumed with hatred. Contemptuous of the ancient faith and ancient values, he was ready to discard them in favor of anything that would help him destroy his enemies.
I just came across further evidence that Lewis had an extraordinarily keen insight into human nature and that Dalfonso was spot-on in applying that insight to the Trump cult. I was reading an interview with Steve Bannon today when a statement of his jumped out at me:
“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”
Bannon’s words reminded me of this passage in Lewis’s Prince Caspian, within the same scene referenced in Dalfonso’s article. The passage begins with Nikabrik speaking:
“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. As for power, do not the stories say that the Witch defeated Aslan, and bound him, and killed him on that very stone which is over there, just beyond the light?”
“But they also say that he came to life again,” said the Badger sharply.
“Yes, they say,” answered Nikabrik, “but you’ll notice that we hear precious little about anything he did afterwards. He just fades out of the story. How do you explain that, if he really came to life? Isn’t it much more likely that he didn’t, and that the stories say nothing more about him because there was nothing more to say?”
“He established the Kings and Queens,” said Caspian.
“A King who has just won a great battle can usually establish himself without the help of a performing lion,” said Nikabrik. There was a fierce growl, probably from Trufflehunter.
“And anyway,” Nikabrik continued, “what came of the Kings and their reign? They faded too. But it’s very different with the Witch. They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical.”
For Bannon, as for Nikabrik, anything or anyone–darkness, evil, even Satan–can be embraced as long as it gives power over one’s enemies. Away with all the idealistic talk of the Constitution, the Founders, God, the Bible, or “principles.” Away with honesty, decency, or faithfulness to one’s pledged word. Bannon and his faction of Trump supporters, like the fictional but all too realistic Nikabrik, want something practical, something powerful, and for that they are apparently willing to invoke powers as evil as those against which they propose to fight.