The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
© 1952 C.S. Lewis
There are unwanted gifts, and then there are unwanted gifts that pull your only son into a fantasy world of dangerous creatures, powerful enchantments, and the odd supernatural beging. These last are usually called books, but a certain portrait of a ship at sea can do the same thing. At any rate, that’s what happened to Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their obnoxious cousin Eustace. One moment they were sitting in a guest bedroom, staring at it, and the next they were on the ship with the boy-prince whose throne they’d help win. With his country at peace, regal Caspian decided to set out to find some lost countrymen, and perhaps discover the End of the World. So begins The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a tale of Narnian adventures at sea. There’s no enormous stakes here, just the call of the open ocean, a thirst for adventure slaked only by salt spray as a ship of merry friends sails into the unknown. They have a serious mission in discovering the fate of several nobles who were sent on fools’ errands by the wicked regent who attempted to kill Prince Caspian. The forlorn peers have met various fates; some, eaten by dragons; others turned to gold; still others captivated by spells. The character of Eustace makes for a particularly entertaining tale, not because he’s a delight because he’s such a boor. He’s a very modern boy, Eustace, raised by parents who know better than everyone else, and whose head is filled with practical things like the workings of watermills, and no cranial capacity given over to dragons. It’s a pity, for when he was turned into a dragon it might have helped to know what such a thing was! The humorless Eustace is completely out of place in this magical world, although he takes the existence of talking, combative mice in stride. The mishaps and adventures aren’t mere amusement; each carries with it some moral import. This is most obvious on the isle of Deadwater, where the party encounters a pool of water that turns anything immersed in it into gold; the wealth is tantalizing and deadly. Aslan makes infrequent appearances, offering mercy or a warning to those who err. Lewis’ interweaving of Christian themes and European myths continues, with an ending that makes plain Aslan’s significance.