Reading Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So we are nearing the end of the week now, but I hope everyone had a great and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. I spent some quality down time out in Long Island scoping out some good reading nooks for the rest of the summer and going to the beach.

ImageI’m still playing major catch up here at Goodbookscents, but today I am going to talk about Voyage of the Dawn Treader, book 5 in the Chronicles of Narnia.

At this point in the series Peter and Susan have had their last trip to Narnia, and are away when Lucy and Edmund spend the summer with their snobbish cousin,  Eustice Scrubb, who doesn’t really believe in fun. So Edmund and Lucy are inside one day looking at a strange portrait in Lucy’s bedroom of a ship when they are sucked into the painting (Eustice manages to get himself dragged in as well).

They soon find themselves in Narnia on a quest with Prince Caspian on a mission that takes them to the edge of the world to find the seven missing lords that Caspian’s uncle banished during his reign as king.

I have to say Dawn Treader is not my favorite Narnia book. On their journey the crew stops at a variety of islands all with a different adventure, but I’ve never really been as much a fan of books with various island adventures as opposed to a more cohesive plot. I had the same feeling about The Odyssey in high school too – who knows maybe that ruined books like this for me.

That being said, while I did not like Dawn Treader as much as the other books in the series, it does have some of my favorite scenes. Narnia has different effects on different people, which is something that I love about the land and this series. For Eustice, he is a royal kill joy from the get-go, and that doesn’t change for a while when he is in Narnia. He butts heads with Reepicheep the mouse (who I still love), gets seasick (which I can’t fully blame him for) and complains constantly and never helps the rest of the crew (which I can blame him for).

The ship stops at one island, and to avoid doing work Eustace wanders off and runs headlong into a dragon’s lair. But the dragon that he sees is dying. I thought Eustace had an interesting response to this that seemed pretty realistic to me. Lewis describes Eustice watching the dead dragon by saying,

The relief was so great that Eustace almost laughed out loud. He began to feel as if he had fought and killed the dragon instead of merely seeing it die.

While it is understandable that he is relieved that such a fearsome creature is no longer a threat to him (although it was never really threatening in the state that it was in), there is also something really selfish about Eustice’s response. He also was never really in awe of the dragon, as one could be since they are such magnificent creatures, but as Lewis explains, Eustice hasn’t read the right books.

Anyway, Eustice enters the dragon’s cave to get out of the rain and finds the dragon’s pile of gold. He takes one of its gold bracelets, which he slips on to his upper arm. But when he wakes up the next morning, he has found that he has turned into a dragon, and the bracelet is cutting painfully into his arm. (That was all a lot of introduction but this is the part that I really got int0).

Lewis explains that Eustice was better as a dragon, and he even became helpful to the rest of the group by getting them food and all. And being liked was something new for Eustice. (I always like good character development, even if it involves being turned into a dragon). But he is still desperate to shed his dragon form, and the heal his arm which still has the bracelet on it.

And who else can help but Aslan? Eustice hears Aslan’s voice calling to him and he is led to a pool where Aslan tells him to undress. But no matter how much Eustice scratches at himself, he can not get his scales off, and ultimately Aslan has to do it for him. I particularly liked the way Lewis described this. he says,

The very first tear he made was so deep that I though it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I though I’d done it  myself the other three times…

Every Narnia book has a couple of key points that show how Aslan works in the children’s lives, and in turn how Jesus works in ours, and this is definitely one of those points. While Eustice does describe this experience as painful, there was also so much gentleness and love in it that it changed his character for the rest of the series. And I just love the imagery of him turning back into a boy by peeling back the layers of dragon.

The other scene that I really enjoyed (probably because it had to do with character development, and I am a sucker for good character development) was when the group found themselves on another island filled with invisible beings, and Lucy is sent by them into a manor house to find a spell book to turn them visible again. She spends her time flipping through the spell book, engrossed by all that it has to offer. She finds spells for beauty and popularity, and the book, tending to what she wants, shows her future as popular and beautiful, even more beautiful than Susan. But then things start to go bad, and Lucy sees what the other girls in her class think of her, and they weren’t always good.

I thought this part was particularly interesting, because it showed Lucy in a new light. Lucy was always the youngest one, and she’d never really cared about looks or beauty before. She was also always the one that was the most in tune with Narnia and Aslan. But here she is growing up and insecurities are beginning to surface. She also went to the magic book to help others, but ends up being tempted to help herself, which is an interesting dynamic. But a lion’s voice calls to her and tears her away from the spells. Ultimately she is still the same Lucy, but at the same time she is growing up, and I thought Lewis showed that really well here.

So those were the scenes that really stuck with me after reading Dawn Treader. Even though I did like other Narnia books more as a whole compared to this one, Dawn Treader is important in the line up of the series, and it does a lot of setting up for the final two books in the series. It was interesting to see new Narnian lands and old characters in a new light.  Ultimately I would recommend this book. Have any of you read it? What are your thoughts?

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Reading Narnia: Prince Caspian

Hello everyone! I have been kind of crazy busy since last posting, but I am excited to be back. On Friday I went up to Wheaton for my 2 year reunion. It was great to see everyone (and remember how uncomfortable dorm mattresses are) and it was a lot of fun. I left early on Saturday morning to go back to the city for one of my best friend’s bridal showers, which was also tons of fun. I also started a new babysitting job for two adorable little girls on Monday, and I have been editing a bit, so even though I’ve been a bit swamped, and I’m 90% sure I left my wallet on the train up to Wheaton and I spent my train ride back cancelling my debit card and finding the closest Western Union to Penn Station that was open on a Saturday, I would say I’ve had a good past couple of days.

Today I’m also excited to talk about Prince Caspian here. I am still playing catch up with book reviews because as it turns out it doesn’t take too long to read kid’s book (although it is a lot of fun 🙂 ) and I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently (as you will see after the Narnia series is over). So I think I was reading this right after Easter.

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So Prince Caspian. I ended up borrowing a copy of the book from the library, and it was the special edition with color photographs which was pretty fun. It’s been a while since I read a book with pictures in it. I also was a little more familiar with the story of Prince Caspian from seeing the movie, as opposed to other Narnia books.

A bit about Prince Caspian: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to Narnia when they are heading back to school (that would be nice) only to find it a very different place from when they were last there. Years have passed, and Narnia has been taken over by the Telmarines, who have sent all the talking animals into hiding. But the Telmarines have a prince (Caspian) who is more interested in Narnia and its creatures than his own land. He and the Pevensies team up to bring back Narnia.

I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment so I am doing this review by memory, but I did like the way Caspian was introduced to Narnia – through stories from his old Nurse and his tutor. He always had a fascination and love for the land that his nation did not share, which ultimately shapes the rest of the series.

I also liked the internal debate that went on in many of the characters during the Telmarine’s reign. It was clear that they were in a tight spot and needed to find a way out, but was it worth waiting for Aslan, who some of them had never seen, or would turning to the White Witch, the antagonist in Lion, Witch, Wardrobe work? Nikabrik the dwarf was all for The White Witch (the dwarves were treated well under her rule), and it created a good amount of tension in the book. This debate was also played up more fully in the movie with The White Witch almost making a comeback through a sheet of ice only to have Edmund destroy her (go Edmund!)

Prince Caspian is one of the few books that I have read after seeing the movie as opposed to before, so I was kind of hoping that that scene was in the books as well, but I thought the debate was shown well without it too. It also showed how much time had passed since the Pevensies had last been to Narnia and the gravity of the Narnian’s current situation  if the bleak winter in the second book could be potentially seen as better than their current predicament.

The other main thread of Prince Caspian (other than the impending battle between the Narnians and the Telmarines) is, of course, Aslan. Lucy, who has always been the closest to Aslan, claims to see him while travelling through Narnia, but the others cannot. This also brings in some conflict to the story as to why they can’t see him, and why Lucy can. Lewis does a good job of portraying “a child-like faith” in Lucy without making it sound preachy, which could easily happen in an allegory like this. The older children really begin to doubt Lucy, (although they do point out that she’s been right before) and doubt themselves about why they can’t see the Lion when Lucy can.

All in all I enjoyed Prince Caspian, although I would still say that The Horse and His Boy and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were my favorites. Also if I have a chance I may review The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week as well (two review in one week – w0w), but for now I am looking forward to a nice relaxing Memorial Day Weekend, even if it is supposed to rain.

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Reading Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

I was hoping to post earlier this week, but I’ve been pretty busy which has been nice, so here I am now, and I’m excited to talk about The Horse and His Boy. As it turns out, the Narnia books don’t take very long to read, and I finished this one a couple of weeks ago. I started reading The Horse and His Boy when I was little, but I was disappointed to find out that Polly and Digory or the Pevensie children weren’t main characters, and I just couldn’t get into it so I stopped reading about five pages in. So it’s kind of funny now that it is one of my favorite Narnia books.

ImageThe Horse and His Boy takes place entirely in Narnia, as opposed to many of the other books in the series, during the rule of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. It shows more of Narnia, and its surrounding lands, specifically Calormen  Archenland. Shasta is a boy living with his father in Calormen, but he is not happy in his situation and decides to run away with Bree, a talking horse from Narnia.

On his journey he runs into Aravis and her horse, Hwin, who are also running away. The two of them team up on their way to Narnia and run into more trouble and adventure than they ever planned in, especially when they discover a plot to take over the Narnian crown from the Pevensies.

In my opinion, The Horse and His Boy has some of the strongest characters in the Narnia series. Aravis is awesome, and I particularly liked her conversations with Lasaraleen, a snotty Calormen princess and old friend of Aravis, since the two are such polar opposites. Lasaraleen has a tough time seeing past herself while Aravis is primarily focused on her own safety and escape.

Shasta also has a great relationship with Bree the Horse, who has some great, funny lines.

It was also interesting to see Narnia from an outsider’s view, particularly a negative one such as the Calormen’s. The prince of Calormen is the one actively against Narnia, while his father, The Tisroc, is more against it, but is not strong willed to stop his son. This is where most of the conflict comes from the story, but it also sets up an interesting dynamic within the royal family.

Even though Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund are not main characters in The Horse and His Boy, they do make an appearance as kings and queens of Narnia (which I would have found out if I had stuck with the book longer when I was little). I particularly liked this, not only because we got to see them in a different light, but we got to see how Edmund’s relationship with the Witch in the last book affected his rule as king, particularly when he shows mercy on a traitor . It was nice to see Edmund as something other than a stuck up, insecure little boy, so I particularly liked that. It was quick, but it really showed development within his character. 

And of course there is Aslan. He doesn’t have as active a role in this book as opposed to other per say, particularly compared to Lion, Witch & Wardrobe or Prince Caspian, but even though he doesn’t have as much screen time, some of my favorite, and his most powerful lines of his are in this book. (Some of these are spoilers but) two that really stuck with me were,

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.

and

Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.

There were others, but those are the two that resonated with me the most.

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Reading Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobeI would say that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is probably the most well known book in the Narnia series, and although it is only the second in the line up, it is also one of the most pivotal. In it we are introduced to the Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund, who reappear in future books, and we see more of Narnia post-creation.

I feel like the plot of this book is fairly well known. Lucy finds Narnia through the wardrobe she walks into a world enchanted into an eternal winter (with no Christmas) at the hands of The White Witch. With the help of the magical creatures of Narnia and Aslan of course, the children set out to bring back spring, but of course not everything goes to plan.

I found Lucy and Edmund to be the most interesting  of the children – Peter and Susan kind of take on the role of parents as the two oldest, and while Peter does have a good story arc of accepting his role of High King of Narnia, I just found Edmund and Lucy to be the most interesting.

Edmund is an interesting character because he is pegged as the “evil one” when he follows Lucy into Narnia. When he gets there he meets The White Witch, who offers him whatever he wants in the way of food and he snacks on the Turkish Delight that she gives him. (I’ve actually had Turkish Delight when I was in Turkey freshman year of college and it is pretty good. I will always connect it with this story.)

I have often thought that in a way it is easier to write bad characters than good characters – they don’t always have to play by the rules and they often have interesting motivations and back stories (not that good characters don’t but there’s just something about a villain’s back story that I am really interested in). I think C.S. Lewis does a good job with this in Edmund and the role that he plays in the book.

First off Edmund himself isn’t bad in the way that many villains are. He just comes across the villain first and falls in with her. Before Narnia he’s kind of the lost child in the line up – he always picks on Lucy and gives her a hard time and scolded by his older siblings. He isn’t as close with the rest of them as they are with each other. So when The White Witch gives him special attention, he can’t help but feel loved.

The interesting part of Edmund’s character is when he returns to The White Witch and her castle on his second trip to Narnia with his siblings. He goes back to the Witch after seeing how she took Mr. Tumnus (I love Mr. Tumnus, and James McAvoy), and hearing about the terror she inflicted on Narnia from Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (love them too!) But he still goes back after he heard about Aslan from the Beavers because the Witch promised him that he could be king over Narnia, and that he would have power over his siblings, particularly Peter.

On this reading I thought Edmund was a very well flushed out character. He was very realistic in his desires and flaws and C.S. Lewis does a good job of making him relatable. He isn’t at The White Witch’s castle for very long before he realizes that this is not what he had in mind. She turns very cruel to him, and there are no more promises of power or Turkish Delight. So while a large part of his character is striving for power and recognition above his siblings, the rest of his character is trying to get back to them after seeing the cruelty of The White Witch.

Lucy is another favorite of mine. Maybe it’s because she and Mr. Tumnus are such good pals and I want to join them for tea. Or maybe its because she is the youngest and the first one to find Narnia. The others write it all off as her being an imaginative little girl but are proven wrong when they end up in the snowy woods themselves. She is also the one that has the closest relationship to Aslan throughout the books, which I think is a really interesting detail that Lewis chose to hone in on.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine, who had also read the Narnia books recently, and it is interesting to look at the reactions of various characters throughout the series as they meet Aslan. I will be talking about this more in future posts as well but some are frightened, some are hesitant, some are doubtful, and others are relieved. When the Pevensies first hear about Aslan, Lewis writes,

At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Lucy is always the one that is happiest and the most free around Aslan, and Lewis is really showing the whole concept of “child-like faith” through her. I also feel like she is the Pevensie that is focused on the most throughout the series, and she is the one that is closest to Aslan.

And now on to Aslan himself. I said that this is a pivotal book in the series because it really sets up Aslan character for the rest of the series. In the first one it is clear that he is special because he is the one that sings Narnia into existence, but in Lion, Witch, Wardrobe we see him in a relationship with those around him. And most importantly (spoiler alert) he dies. Not only does he die, but he dies for Edmund and then he comes back again. Kind of like Jesus…

I first read Lion, Witch, Wardrobe (that is going to be my name for it since it is a long title to type out) in third grade Reading, and I was so sad by the fact that Aslan died that I had forgotten he came back to life again. I also never really put it together with the Jesus metaphor because I did not read it in that context. We watched the Aslan’s death scene in class from the old movie, and I remember it being really scary. It definitely affected me, and that was without the religious connotations, which I think really is a nod to the writing and the scene itself. It is powerful. I rewatched the new version of the movie a few months ago, and I was also blown away by it then as well. I knew the plot by then of course, but it was the first time I had revisited the story since really becoming a Christian in high school, and I just had a lot of feelings about that scene in general.

First of all, Edmund left to go to the Witch’s castle after hearing about Aslan (as it said earlier, he was filled with fear). He heard about who Aslan was and he turned away. He never even met him like the others did, but he was the one that Aslan died for so that he could have a second chance and be reunited with the rest of his siblings. Also he left so that he could gain power and become king, but there was a prophesy that said he and the rest of the Pevensies were going to be kings and queens of Narnia, which turned out to be much better than what the Witch had planned for him. He is the one that goes through the most character development throughout the book, and is pivotal to the story itself.

I have a lot of feelings about the Narnia series and this book in general, and I could go on and on, but I am going to stop here and save the rest for the other posts. (I am about to finish up the 6th book.) But recommend this book to everyone no matter what their religion or age is. It’s hugely layered and is just a good read in general. It doesn’t take very long to get through, and most importantly it takes you to Narnia.

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