Ok, folks, you have until May 2010 to read this book before the movie comes out. (I love it that the Narnia movies have all come out during my anniversary month which allows us to always celebrate our wedding anniversary with Narnia. Or perhaps this is not such a good thing. At any rate, the date night is predictable. Looks like we'll be on our own in 2009 but maybe we'll have some luck in 2010! - ha)
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader we are introduced to the Pevensie children's cousin, Eustace. Lewis provides the following description in detailing this young boy's character: "There was a boy called Eustice Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Eustace isn't much fond of his Pevensie cousins, particularly Lucy and Edmund who come to stay with his family for a period of time. He can't stand the way that they are always talking over secrets having to do with some magical world that they pretend to have visited. His dislike of them can easily be overlooked though because they don't much care for him either. Choosing to return to Narnia as a threesome wouldn't have been an adventure any of them would have chosen - but it is the adventure that they find themselves on in the third of the Chronicles books.
In this story, Edmund and Lucy discover their old friend Caspian sailing the seas in hopes of finding the seven lost lords of Narnia that were previously banished while under the rule of the false king Miraz. Lucy and Edmund are delighted to join in on the fun but Eustace takes some warming up.
This book is unique from the previous books in Chronicles for several reasons. First, Aslan only makes one appearance in lion form and then only as Eustace references having seen him. It is not a meeting that the reader gets to experience for themselves so much as it is an "off stage" account. Aslan makes an appearance in the form of an albatross and a lamb, but only in brief moments in which the unsuspecting reader would have to draw some lines to connect the dots to understanding that the lamb and albatross represent Aslan.
As Paul Ford notes in the Companion to Narnia, this particular work is a good example of how Lewis claimed to have written stories. Lewis stated that he would get mental pictures of a lion, a lamppost, etc. and from there a story would become connected and form (beautifully, I might add). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader feels more like a series of vignettes as Caspian and crew travel to many strange, wonderful and fearful islands on their quest to discover the lost lords. (It is going to be interesting to see how they will memorialize this story on film!)
My absolute favorite part of this book - and the one part that makes the whole story quite worth the reading - takes place on Dragon Island where Eustace is turned into a dragon for a period of time. It is on Dragon Island that the transformation of Eustace takes place and the old Eustace is cast off in favor of a braver, kinder and more admirable sort of chap that you would actually want to know. The scene in which the dragon skin is painfully removed by the lion (Aslan) hits home. The dragon skin is a picture of sin and the old man. It is a hard thing to give up and one can't walk away from sin in their own strength. We need a savior who can forcefully remove our own layers of sin once and for all. It is then that we can stand whole, new and beautiful -- blameless! -- before the Throne of Grace. Dragon Island is Eustace's moment of truth. From this time on Eustace is helpful, generous, brave and useful. Edmund, of course, understands Eustace best at this point, having once suffered under the power of sin himself (in the form of the White Witch). Dragon Island is my favorite of all of their adventures as I find it so personally impacting.
There are more things to say (as there always are) but I'm not writing a book. Just a review. ha. ha.
So much to think on. So much to learn. So much to say and to process. I'm discovering this week that there's only time to scratch the surface of this series. Thankfully it will take a lifetime of constant rereading to continue to learn to fully appreciate the Chronicles.
See my review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
See my review of Prince Caspian.