The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 5: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the fifth book in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. In it, we find Lucy and Edmund stuck at their aunt and uncle’s house for the summer while Susan is with their parents in America and Peter is studying with the old professor (who you may remember from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Lucy and Edmund do not care much for their Aunt Alberta and Uncle Harold, and even less for their cousin Eustace, who constantly makes fun of them for talking about Narnia—thinking it’s a baby game they made up.

One day during their vacation, Lucy and Edmund have finally managed to find a few minutes to themselves and are discussing Narnia when Eustace barges in and begins to tease them. Suddenly, the picture on the wall—a painting of a beautiful ship in a choppy sea—begins to move. Shocked, the three children watch as the painting seems to get bigger and bigger (or are they getting smaller?) until they are standing on the picture frame. Unable to keep their balance, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace fall into the sea, where they are rescued by King Caspian.

They soon find out that Caspian has built the Dawn Treader to find the seven lords his uncle Miraz banished from Narnia when he usurped the throne. They were good men, unlike Miraz, and Caspian intends to bring them back to Narnia—if he can find them. The journey takes them on many adventures, from the Dark Island to Dragon Island to the End of the World, and they meet many different kinds of people along the way, like the odd Dufflepuds.

The first thing that I have to say about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is that it was definitely the most…scattered of these books so far. It seemed like Lewis had a ton of ideas and couldn’t decide which ones to use and which not to use, so he just said “screw it” and used all of them. That’s not to say it was bad, not at all (in fact, I liked this one quite a bit), but it did lead to what seemed to me like too many cop-outs, and not enough development of things that really could have been interesting. The Dark Island, for instance—the island where dreams come true. He could have done a LOT with that, I thought, but instead they just turned around and left. Same with the enchanted pool they find on an island early on their journey (I won’t give away what the pool does for those of you who haven’t read it).

On the subject of cop-outs, I think I also partly felt like that because I’m so used to stories like Stephen King’s, where he really doesn’t hold back on terrible things that can happen to people. C. S. Lewis was writing for a completely different audience, obviously, but since I never read them when I was in that age range, I keep forgetting that these are kids’ books and get excited about scary things that are about to happen, and then they don’t and I feel let down. I’m really mad I didn’t read these as a kid.

Once again, of course, lots of Christian symbolism abounded. There were two things I noticed in particular. First, as they approached the End of the World and Aslan’s country, the sea was just completely covered in lilies; this reminds me of the verse in Battle Hymn of the Republic that goes “In the beauty of the lilies, Chris was born across the sea / with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.” The lilies part is obvious. The transfiguration part comes in when each of the people on the ship drinks the water they are sailing through, and no one no longer needs to sleep or eat and can stand the brightness of the sun, even though it’s five or six times larger than what they’re used to.

The second thing I noticed (that, to me, was even more obvious than the lilies thing) was that, when they got to pretty much the end of the world and waded to an island, they were greeted by a Lamb, who then turned into Aslan—I’m thinking this was a not-so-subtle allusion to Christ as the Lamb. Oh, and they ate fish with the Lamb, although it wasn’t never-ending fish, so maybe I’m just making this part up, but it reminded me of the loaves and fishes story. Maybe I’m just so primed to the Christian symbolism now that everything looks like something.

Anyway, despite the fact that it almost seemed they had too many adventures in this book, I would venture to say it’s one of my favorites so far. But I really liked all of them, so it’s hard to judge yet. Oh well. On to The Silver Chair!


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