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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Part I

I read Voyage of the Dawn Treader before the start of this challenge and with any luck at all, I'll be able to make it through at least one more time before the month is out! I also started listening to the full cast radio drama of the same title which was put out by Focus on the Family (and several of you have mentioned.)

I'm enjoying hearing the story come to life, as well as reading it. Admittedly though I'm getting more out of the read than the listen. I'm NOT an audio learner and tend to avoid books on tape as a result. It's too hard to keep track of the finer points of the story, I find, but if I read and then write down what I read, I'm more apt to review it. That explained, I sat down with Voyage and a notepad and went to town!

First of all, I revisited my earlier review of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Does anyone else hate reading their old reviews as much as I despise reading mine?) And I was wrong about how many times Aslan makes an appearance in the form of a lion in this particular book. He appears more than once in that form.

For some reason, when I first wrote that review, I seemed to see Aslan as playing a very small role in this particular story, and therefore it wasn't necessarily my favorite in the series. However, after re-reading it this time and making more meticulous notes about my thoughts on various parts of the book, my view has changed tremendously. Aslan is all over this story - in every nook and cranny! Therefore I would have to say that Voyage is probably rivaling for the top spot in my favorites of the series. (I've always preferred The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - in part because of how visible Aslan is and how inspiring I find the tale.)

Now, as I've said, I'm reading Voyage alongside the Book of Proverbs because as I was reading this story this time I also began to see all sorts of lessons that can be tied up into the wisdom book of scripture. I'm using Concordia's Proverb's Commentary, by Andrew E. Steinmann (if you click on the link, you can view my initial thoughts on that.)

A lot of the Proverbs that initially jumped out at me were ones that discussed relationship issues between the characters, and I find easy application to my own life among them - some of which I'll talk about and some of which I will not (which is kind of unfortunate because I think the ones with deeply personal applications are the most interesting. However, this is a book blog and not entirely a personal testimonial site. Maybe someday, eh? ha!)

To get started, one point that jumps out at me right off the bat happens during a discussion between Eustace, Edmund and Lucy.

Eustace, if you aren't familiar with him, is Edmund and Lucy's cousin and pokes fun at their 'Narnia talk.' Eustace rejects the idea of Narnia, and pokes fun at his cousins with this "clever" little limerick:

"Some kids who played games about Narnia
Got gradually balmier and balmier - "
(Chapter 1, The Picture in the Bedroom)

Lucy hears what Eustace is saying and attempts to engage with him over it, and wants to offer some "reasoned" argument to his obnoxious claims. Edmund quickly sizes up the situation and advises Lucy against discussing Narnia with Eustace, saying, "His only longing is to be asked."

Which is frequently the way of the fool. Raise your hand if you are a Christian and you've been teased about some aspect of your faith. You probably don't have to think very hard to remember such a time. If you believe in God, then no doubt you've come up against someone who has waggled their eyebrows at you in some form or fashion because of either the things you believe or the way you act out your belief system. (If no one has ever done this to you - then I'd start asking yourself why not.)

Here we see Lucy - for many reasons wanting to reach out and try to reason with Eustace, whereas Edmund's insight into the situation causes him to realize that there is no talking about it at the moment. In fact, Edmund is right, for very soon after tossing out this clever limerick, in complete frustration with the Pevensie children, Eustace reaches for the painting of the ship up on the wall and tries to smash it. Edmund tells him not to be a fool. Eustace offers proof both with words and actions that he is, indeed, the fool. Narnia exists and it will come to him. It is happening whether he likes it or not!

Proverbs 26:4 says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself."

Proverbs 26:5 says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes."


So which is it? I turn to the commentary and read the following:

1. Proverbs 26:1-12 is all about fools so I started by reading these verses.

2. "These verses are probably the best-known pair of proverbs in the book and have received much attention from commentators. General agreement exists that these two proverbs speak of differing circumstances. The first states that, in general, it is foolish to engage in dialogue with fools (26:4). However, the second affirms that on some occasions a fool's words are so dangerous that they must be answered and refuted (26:5) or else he (and any others listening to him) will think that he has presented the truth. The same apparent contradiction exists in proverbs in the English language. Compare for example, "look before you leap" and "he who hesitates is lost." Each truism must be applied to the right situation." (page 525)

I've heard this interpretation before and acknowledge it as my own. In general I don't feel like a fool deserves a "logical, reasoned", etc. conversation. However, when something is presented as a truth that is dangerous for an individual or a group of individuals to believe, then I do believe that fact must meet fiction. In the case from Voyage above, Edmund recognized that it was useless to engage with Eustace over the existence of Narnia. The taunting and the teasing were something that Lucy and Edmund were called to bear. However, when Eustace tried to grasp hold of something and destroy it, Edmund stepped in. Truth collided with disbelief. Eustace cannot then argue with wet water.


Furthermore, once on board, Edmund and Lucy reacquaint themselves with old friends, Caspian and Reepicheep. Eustace, scowling and bitter, becomes haughtier by the minute. Caspian recognizes that his friends are feeling a little queasy, and offers them some spiced wine. This acts as a medicinal for Edmund and Lucy and their Narnian health is restored. Eustace, on the other hand, with grunts and moans discovers that the wine makes him sicker. Truth does that to the defiant.

Eustance lacks discernment. He rails against the truth that he is surrounded by! He foolishly declares his own righteousness on board Aslan's ship and in the midst of an Aslan-appointedapproved mission. So when he is given truth to heal him, all it does it make him more sick.

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)

"Because the carnal mind is enmity with God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor can it be." (Romans 8:7)

This is the state we find Eustace in. He makes fun of truth and is proclaimed a fool. He rejects truth and ends up being sent below deck to moan in agony over the rocking of the ship. He cannot comprehend truth and he despises it when it is served to him.

By contrast, Edmund and Lucy who have already committed to learning the ways of Aslan, drink the Narnian brew and feel better. It heals, restores, and invigorates them for the journey they find themselves committed to.

They are excited to be on this Voyage and to be back in Narnia. I have to say I am as equally glad as I can be - without actually being in Narnia for a physical fact.

I echo Doug Wilson's sentiments from What I Learned in Narnia in saying that this is a series of books that is worth reading many times over, all throughout life. I'm glad to have the yearly excuse to do so. It's good for the soul.

I'll stop there this time around and let this post serve as an explanation for where I'm headed on my own Voyage.

Happy to be back in Narnia,
Carrie

9 comments:

Annette W. said...

Whether review or just a post, I definitely see improvements in all aspects of blogging over time for me.

I'm sure you know from other book reviews that don't belong to you, but you have a natural way of reviewing a book. I figured you must take notes...though it's something that I have yet to do, though I know it would help me write a better review and help me understand the book even better.

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Wow!! You've given me much to think about. I agree that you can read the Narnia series over and over and understand something new each time.

Janet said...

I agree with Stephanie -- so much to ponder here!

Your reviews are great -- without being full of details from your personal life, they capture your personal reading experience and take and connection to the book. Always very interesting reading around here!

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