The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis’ fifth Narnia book, is a delightful tale, perhaps more aimed at children than some of the others. Lucy and Edmund, along with their irritating cousin Eustace, are sucked back into Narnia. King Caspian is on a mission to retrieve the seven lost Narnian lords, and various adventures and incidents ensue. Although the book is from the fifties, Eustace’s upbringing sounds incredibly contemporary among middle class liberals:

‘He didn’t call his Father and Mother ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’, but Harold and Alberta. They were very up to date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers, and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on the beds and the windows were always open.’

In the tale, Caspian arrives at the Lone Islands, nominally under Narnian suzerainty, but lately rather independent. Gumpas, the governor, has allowed the development of slave markets. Caspian decrees their abolition, to which Gumpas responds:

“But that would be turning the clock back”, gasped the governor. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

“I have seen them both in an egg”, said Caspian. “We call it ‘going bad’ in Narnia. This trade must stop.”

Once again, the best parts of the book are connected to the great Lion. Selfish little Eustace turns into a dragon, having admired and fallen asleep on dragons’ gold. This experience changes him for the better, and he longs once more to be a little boy, so people can love him. Aslan appears to him, leading him off to a pool, where he is told to undress. Realising he can shed his scaly skin like a reptile, he sheds skin after skin, but he can never quite free himself from his nature. At last, Eustace describes what the Lion says:

“You will have to let me undress you”. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat on my back and let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve even felt…well he peeled the beastly stuff right off- just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt- and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been”.

On the children’s way home, they come across a lamb next to a fire, on which fish were being roasted.

“Please, Lamb”, said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?

“Not for you” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world”.

There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane. “Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

 “I shall be telling you all the time”, said Aslan, “but I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder”.

When informed by the Lion that they shall never return to Narnia, Lucy cried “And how shall we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one”, said Aslan.

“Are- are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am”, said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there”. 

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay