The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter 16 Summary
The Very End of the World
- It turns out that Reepicheep did see the Sea People, and the reason he jumped into the water was because of the Sea King's challenging shake of his spear. However, when he tasted the sweet water, he forgot about them. Before Reepicheep can tell any of the sailors about the Sea People, Drinian warns him to keep quiet.
- The Dawn Treader is sailing over uninhabited waters now. However, the next morning, Lucy looks into the water and sees a shoal of fish grazing on weeds that grow on the sea bottom, just like flocks of sheep graze on grass.
- In the middle of the group of fish, Lucy sees a Sea Girl her own age standing with a crook in her hand, acting as a shepherdess – or maybe we should call her a fishherdess.
- For a moment Lucy and the Sea Girl look into each other's eyes. Somehow, they bond as friends. Then the ship moves on and they are separated.
- The Dawn Treader glides on for days and days. The light keeps getting brighter, but there is no wind. Nobody on the ship eats or sleeps, and they don't want to. They drink the strange fresh water and they don't talk very much. Everything is very still but also very exciting.
- One day Caspian asks Drinian what he sees ahead of them. Drinian says he sees whiteness all along the horizon. Caspian says he sees it too and asks what it is. Drinian says it looks like ice, but it's obviously too warm for that.
- They slow the ship down to avoid crashing into the white barrier. As they get close to it, it seems very smooth and on the same level with the water (it goes left and right but not up). They turn the ship south and row along the edge of it.
- They discover that the current that has carried them so quickly is only about forty feet wide; the rest of the sea is still. This is good news, because it means it won't be so hard to row their way back to Ramandu's island.
- They lower the boat, and several people, including Reepicheep, go out to investigate. The people on the ship see the boat go into the whiteness and hear their friends talking about it with surprise. Then the boat comes back, carrying some of the white stuff inside it.
- Rynelf, who is at the front of the ship in the bows, shouts to Caspian that the white stuff is water lilies!
- Lucy, in the boat, holds up an armful of lilies to show everyone.
- Drinian asks Rynelf how deep it is, and Rynelf (who has just taken a "sounding," or depth measurement) says it's three and a half fathoms (about 20 feet). This is surprising, because usually lilies only grow in shallow water.
- The Dawn Treader sails into the mass of lilies, which they name the Silver Sea. The flowers stretch out around the ship in every direction except behind them, where the ship's passage leaves a strip of glassy green water.
- For days they sail through the lilies. The whiteness of the lilies and the brightness of the sun combine to make things feel almost overwhelming, but in a good way.
- They take regular soundings, and after several days the water starts to get shallower. Eventually it gets so shallow that they steer out of the current and row slowly forward. Then they have to stop to prevent the ship from grounding on the bottom of the sea.
- Caspian orders the boat to be lowered and the men gathered together. Eustace notices that Caspian has a strange look about him.
- Everyone gathers to hear King Caspian's speech. Caspian tells them that they have fulfilled their quest and found the seven missing lords. He entrusts the ship to Drinian and instructs him to sail back to Narnia. If he doesn't come back, he says, then Trumpkin, who is the Regent, and several other important people have his permission to choose a new King.
- Drinian interrupts and asks if Caspian is abdicating. Caspian says he is going with Reepicheep to see the end of the world. The sailors are dismayed.
- Edmund objects, telling Caspian he can't do this. Reepicheep and Drinian also object. Rynelf says that if one of the sailors did the same thing, he would be called a deserter.
- Caspian insists that he is the King and they are his subjects; they can't tell him what to do. Edmund says that he's not a subject – he's a King of Narnia too, and a more senior one – and he says Caspian can't abandon his people.
- Reepicheep clarifies, saying that it's not about what Caspian can't do, but what he shall not do. He has a public duty to his country, and he can't just go off and have adventures.
- Reepicheep also says that, if Caspian won't listen to reason, they'll tie him up and stop him from leaving until he comes to his senses. Edmund agrees, comparing this to the way Ulysses' men tied him up when he heard the song of the Sirens. (See what Shmoop has to say about The Odyssey for more on this.)
- Lucy reminds Caspian that he promised Ramandu's daughter he would see her again. This does make Caspian pause.
- Caspian then announces that the quest is ended and everyone will return together. Reepicheep reminds him that he himself must go further east, both to break the spell on the three sleeping lords and to fulfill the prophecy spoken at his birth.
- Caspian orders Reepicheep to be silent and storms off to his cabin.
- A little later, the others go to check on Caspian. He is white-faced and teary-eyed. He says that Aslan spoke to him and said that Reepicheep, Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace are to go east while everyone else is to go back.
- Lucy reminds Caspian that he knew they would have to go back to their own world eventually, and that he'll feel better when he gets back to Ramandu's island.
- Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep say goodbye to their friends and set out in the boat, taking Reepicheep's little coracle with them. The Dawn Treader hangs out flags and shields to honor them as they go, then the ship starts rowing back west.
- The four remaining adventurers sit in the boat and let the current carry them east. They glide all night and all the next day without eating or sleeping. On the third day they see a wall of water around 30 feet high, like a waterfall in reverse.
- Beyond the wave and the sun, the four of them see an incredibly tall mountain range. Although it's awe-inspiringly high, it has warm green forests and waterfalls instead of snow and ice. A breeze blows toward them from the east. They hear music and smell something wonderful, and they all feel something sublime. They know they are looking at Aslan's country.
- The boat runs aground. Reepicheep lowers his coracle, throws his sword into the sea, and says goodbye. He gets into the coracle and paddles toward the wave. When he reaches it, the coracle is pulled upward along the wall of water, then it vanishes at the top.
- The sun rises and the vision of the mountains fades away.
- Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy get out of the boat and wade south through the water, keeping the backwards waterfall on their right. They don't know why they're doing this; it just seems like the right thing to do.
- They wade for a long time, holding hands and feeling very childish. Eventually they come to a grassy plain. As they walk along the plain, they realize they are at the place where the sky actually meets the ground, like a bright blue wall.
- On the grass they see a white lamb. The Lamb invites them to have breakfast and they see a fire with fish roasting over it. They eat hungrily.
- Lucy asks the Lamb if this is the way to Aslan's country. The Lamb says that, for them, the way to Aslan's country is through their own world.
- As the lamb talks, telling them there is a way to his country from every world, he transforms into the golden lion, Aslan.
- Lucy asks Aslan to tell them the way to his country from their own world. He says he will be telling them all the time, but he won't say whether the road is long or short.
- Aslan says he will open a door in the sky and send them home. Lucy asks whether they will ever return to Narnia, and Aslan says Lucy and Edmund are too old and must focus on getting to know him in their own world. Aslan says he is in that other world, but under another name. (What name, you ask? Let's just say his initials are J.C. See the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section for more.)
- Lucy asks whether Eustace will come back to Narnia. Aslan says she doesn't need to know.
- Aslan tears the blue wall of the sky open, revealing a bright white light. He kisses them all goodbye, then they find themselves back in Lucy's room at her Aunt Alberta's house.
- The narrator tells us that Caspian and his men returned safely to Ramandu's island, the three sleeping lords woke, and Caspian married Ramandu's daughter. (That's a lot of plot for one paragraph!)
- Back in England, everyone notices how much Eustace has changed for the better.
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