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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3 thoughts on “Reading Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  1. I love Voyage, I love the atmosphere of discovery and being at the end of the world, the pool that turns things to gold, I thought was particularly effective. I think perhaps the old BBC versions of the Lion, Witch…Caspian, Dawn Treader and the Silver Chair perhaps influenced my love somewhat though and if you are interested in seeing any of those, they are all on YouTube in ten minute parts but well worth a gentle Sunday evenings viewing.

  2. Pingback: Reading Narnia: The Silver Chair | goodbookscents

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