by C.S. Lewis
Unconditional Recommendation: Lucy, Edmund, and their cousin Eustace join King Caspian and Reepicheep on their adventures aboard the Dawn Treader as they voyage in search of seven lost lords and Aslan’s Country.
Genre: Fantasy, Christian Allegory
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader takes place three years after Caspian has become king of Narnia. This is my favorite book of the series because of the numerous, wonderful pictures of Jesus Christ portrayed in Aslan dotted throughout the entire story. This book warms my heart and encourages my spirit by reminding me to remember the good and great character of my God. C.S. Lewis has tucked big important truths behind the thin veil of fiction.
Narnia . . . where anything can happen (and most often does), where a dragon awakens . . . where a final journey begins. Pulled into an enchanted painting, Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace. Aboard the Dawn Treader they embark on a voyage with King Caspian and Reepicheep, the Chief Mouse. Both adventure and danger await them as they sail through uncharted waters, beyond the Silver Sea and toward Aslan’s country at the End of the World. What they discover on the journey is more than they ever imagined.
Many books of the Bible contain a purpose statement—the reason the author gives for writing that particular book or letter. John provides one of the clearest examples of this near the end of his book: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). In like manner, I think C.S. Lewis gives us his reason for writing the Chronicles of Narnia in this passage from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can 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 be that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
I was talking to a friend about how I loved Aslan more and more each time I reread the Chronicles of Narnia, and he responded, “Isn’t that the point?” We read Narnia for the pleasure of a good story, but more than that we read it for the love of Aslan and the joy of seeing Jesus Christ in a different light. “…by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” And from what I’ve read, the Aslan of Narnia matches and well portrays Jesus Christ of the Bible.
I love stories of characters who undergo significant growth and transformation! Eustace is a nuisance and a spoiled jerk-brat in the beginning, but when hardship befalls him when he’s changed into a dragon—arguably his ugly inside becoming his outside in Beauty and the Beast fashion—he’s presented with the truth of himself in a way that he can’t ignore. What I love most about Eustace’s experience is that Aslan is the only answer to his problem. Eustace tries unsuccessfully to fix his problem by scratching layers of his dragon skin off like a snake…but there’s always another layer beneath and he can’t do what needs to be done.
So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good. Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—“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 down on my back and let him do it.
Eustace had a need: to change from a dragon back to a boy; however, he couldn’t accomplish it on his own—he tried three times and failed three times. Once he entrusts Aslan to do what he cannot, he is changed. It’s a beautiful picture of salvation! A desperate, needy sinner who cannot save himself must place his trust in the one who can save him to do it for him. Jesus Christ did on the cross what we could never do for ourselves—pay our sin penalty in order for us to be justified before God and reconciled to Him by faith. Beautiful!
I love Lucy’s relationship with Aslan. She is so soft to his leading and sensitive to his presence. When the crew lands on the island of voices and Lucy is tasked to read from the magician’s book, she becomes tempted by a spell that would make her beautiful, so beautiful that she would surpass Susan, the beauty of the family, and wars would be waged because of her great beauty. The spell clearly displays the horrors and consequences of getting exactly what you want to the extreme, but Lucy is still tempted and almost reads the spell. But Aslan.
Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”
Have you ever received a look from someone you know well and you know exactly what it means? Or as a parent, have you ever given your child a warning look and, seeing it, your child changed what they were doing or about to do? In the moment that Lucy will say the spell, Aslan gives her such a face that she is frightened right out of her temptation and quickly moves on. Lucy is soft to Aslan’s leading—she is guided by his eye, per se—but, ever a sinner, she falls prey to a different temptation and overhears an ugly conversation with someone who she thought was her friend. When Aslan appears he does two extraordinary things: 1. He allows her to come close and be intimate with kisses and hugs and 2. He confronts her about her wrongdoing. This is a wonderful picture of the God of the Bible who draws near to His people AND who doesn’t excuse sin. God is love and mercy, justice and holiness. He desires to properly address sin as well as have relationships with sinners. What an amazing God.
This is the most simplistic piece of encouragement C.S. Lewis has ever penned, or that I have so far read from from him! The crew of the Dawn Treader has entered the dark fog where scary dreams become reality and, upon realizing they can’t escape, Lucy whispers, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” A beam of light cuts through the darkness to shine on the ship and “Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times around the mast… But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”
Do you see it?? Lost in the darkness and the call for help is answered by light and a cross, then an albatross circles the mast three times. Jesus Christ came as the light to a world of sinners lost in darkness, He died on the cross for us, and He rose again on the third day. Very sneaky, Mr. Lewis! And then the wonderful line whispered only to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart.” Pull my heart strings and call me encouraged! God doesn’t leave us alone and afraid in the dark. He brings light to the darkness, strength to the weak, courage to the fearful, guidance to the lost and comfort to the afflicted. We are never alone in the fog of hardships, in the face of our worst fears realized, or in the darkness of our own minds. Believer, He is at hand. Take courage.
Reepicheep, whom we first met in Prince Caspian, is the gallant Chief Mouse of Narnia and he holds to the highest ideals of honor and bravery. He’s always quick to fight if he feels something or someone has been dishonored and equally quick to encourage bravery and daring rather than the easy way or the way of escape. His confidence far exceeds his small stature. This is why it’s so moving when he finally arrives where he has been heading his entire life, Aslan’s Country, that he casts his sword into the sea claiming he shall need it no more. It’s a short scene, taking up only part of a page, but the imagery lingers with me. A warrior having honorably and faithfully run his race, knowing that he was always on his way to the one he served, finally reaches his destination and there’s mystery, excitement, happiness, and peace in the end.
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