Study Guide

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Quotes

  • Exploration

    On my coronation day, with Aslan's approval, I swore an oath that, if once I established peace in Narnia, I would sail east myself for a year and a day to find my father's friends or to learn of their deaths and avenge them if I could. (2.15)

    Caspian's vow to seek out the seven missing lords has a specific time frame: he will explore for a year and a day, and if he hasn't found them by then, he'll give up. It's interesting to think of exploration as having limitations, parameters, and timing.

    "Why should we not come to the very eastern end of the world? And what might we find there? I expect to find Aslan's own country. It is always from the east, across the sea, that the great Lion comes to us."

    "I say, that is an idea," said Edmund in an awed voice.

    "But do you think," said Lucy, "Aslan's country would be that sort of country – I mean, the sort you could ever sail to?" (2.18-20)

    As Lucy suggests, nobody on the Dawn Treader is really sure how to get to Aslan's country. Can they sail physically to it? Do they need to approach it in a more metaphorical, emotional way? Time will tell!

    Where sky and water meet,
    Where the waves grow sweet,
    Doubt not, Reepicheep,
    To find all you seek,
    There is the utter East. (2.22)

    We're especially interested in the word "is" in the final line of the prophecy spoken over Reepicheep's cradle. He's not going to find what he seeks "in" the east –what he seeks is the east. What is Aslan's country? If you find what you're looking for, that is Aslan's country.

    The name of the ship was Dawn Treader. She was only a little bit of a thing compared with one of our ships, or even with the cogs, dromonds, carracks, and galleons which Narnia had owned when Lucy and Edmund had reigned there under Peter as the High King, for nearly all navigation had died out in the reigns of Caspian's ancestors. When his uncle, Miraz the usurper, had sent the seven lords to sea, they had had to buy a Galmian ship and man it with hired Galmian sailors. But now Caspian had begun to teach the Narnians to be once more sea-faring folk, and the Dawn Treader was the finest ship he had built yet. (2.53)

    One of the signs that Caspian's uncle Miraz was a bad king is that he squelched exploration of the seas. A good king, like Caspian, encourages his people to learn arts and sciences, like maritime skills and cartography, and also supports meeting other countries and peoples and getting to know them. A bad king, like Miraz, is narrow-minded and fearful, suppressing knowledge and cutting off diplomatic relations with other nations.

    While all this was being done Caspian missed no chance of questioning all the oldest sea captains whom he could find in Narrowhaven to learn if they had any knowledge or even any rumors of land further to the east. He poured out many a flagon of the castle ale to weather-beaten men with short grey beards and clear blue eyes, and many a tall yarn he heard in return. But those who seemed the most truthful could tell of no lands beyond the Lone Islands, and many thought that if you sailed too far east you would come into the surges of a sea without lands that swirled perpetually round the rim of the world – "And that, I reckon, is where your Majesty's friends went to the bottom." The rest had only wild stories of islands inhabited by headless men, floating islands, waterspouts, and a fire that burned along the water. Only one, to Reepicheep's delight, said, "And beyond that, Aslan's country. But that's beyond the end of the world and you can't get there." But when they questioned him he could only say that he'd heard it from his father. (4.48)

    Years before Star Trek, the Dawn Treader seems to be going where no man has gone before. Caspian and his crew are exploring the seas beyond the Lone Islands for the first time. We're a little curious as to why nobody's ever tried to do this before – didn't the people who live on the Lone Islands wonder what was just down the sea from them?

    Bern could only tell them that he had seen his six companions sail away eastward and that nothing had ever been heard of them again. He said this when he and Caspian were standing on the highest point of Avra looking down on the eastern ocean. "I've often been up here of a morning," said the Duke, "and seen the sun come up out of the sea, and sometimes it looked as if it were only a couple of miles away. And I've wondered about my friends and wondered what there really is beyond that horizon. Nothing, most likely, yet I am always half ashamed that I stayed behind." (4.49)

    Bern confesses to feeling "half ashamed" that he opted for a pleasant, comfortable life in the Lone Islands instead of accepting the challenge of exploring the edges of the known world. This gives us a clue to the attitude behind the novel: curiosity is highly valued by our narrator, and probably the author as well. Notice that people rarely get into serious trouble in the world of Narnia for poking their noses into things. When Lucy looks into a wardrobe, she finds a magic country; when Reepicheep insists on sailing into an evil-looking darkness, the Dawn Treader is able to rescue Lord Rhoop. What great deeds might Bern have accomplished if he'd continued voyaging?

    The others all voted for going on in the hope of finding land. I felt it my duty to point out that we didn't know there was any land ahead and tried to get them to see the dangers of wishful thinking. (5.9)

    Eustace's dislike of adventure and the unknown indicates his moral inferiority to his companions. Once he connects with his true nature, with Aslan's help, he will be just as excited to explore the eastern end of the world as everyone else. Fear is a sign of a blemished soul in the world of the novel.

    "I hope it will never be told in Narnia that a company of noble and royal persons in the flower of their age turned tail because they were afraid of the dark."

    "But what manner of use would it be ploughing through that blackness?" asked Drinian.

    "Use?" replied Reepicheep. "Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it would be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventures. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours." (12.12-14)

    Reepicheep admits that exploration isn't always useful but rather it's an end in itself. The crew of the Dawn Treader aren't just trying to survive; they're going out on a limb, pushing the boundaries of the known world.

    "I myself will sit at this table till sunrise."

    "Why on earth?" said Eustace.

    "Because," said the Mouse, "this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear." (13.40-42)

    Sometimes Reepicheep takes his drive to explore to extremes. Is it really necessary to sit all night at every table where you find some mysteriously enchanted people? Maybe not, but that's how it goes in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    "You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person." (16.38)

    Caspian's thirst for exploration is limited by his responsibilities as King of Narnia.

  • Transformation

    He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon's hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself. (6.32)

    Transformations in Narnia usually consist of the outside of something suddenly looking like the inside. Because Eustace behaves like a cold-blooded monster, he becomes a terrifying reptile. Consequently, we can guess that, in order to turn back into a boy, he'll have to start acting more human.

    In spite of the pain, his first feeling was one of relief. There was nothing to be afraid of any more. He was a terror himself now and nothing in the world but a knight (and not all of those) would dare to attack him. He could get even with Caspian and Edmund now....

    But the moment he thought this he realised that he didn't want to. He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realised that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had always been such a nice person as he had always supposed. (6.34-35)

    Becoming a dragon gives Eustace the ability to see himself for who he really is: an unpleasant, selfish person who is a burden and blight to everyone around him. Once he recognizes this, he is better able to understand his companions and their motivations.

    It was, however, clear to everyone that Eustace's character had been rather improved by becoming a dragon. He was anxious to help. (7.14)

    Making Eustace's appearance match his behavior encourages him to change that behavior right away.

    "So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling." (7.38)

    Eustace's transformation into a dragon is instantaneous (we assume) and occurs almost painlessly while he sleeps. The only pain is caused by the bracelet stuck on his arm when it turns into a thick dragon foreleg. But his transformation from a dragon back into a boy is a much more difficult, painful, and messy process.

    "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 to let him do it.

    "The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away." (7.41-42)

    Eustace was able to make himself hard-hearted and selfish, but he's not able to strip away his outer "shell" and get back to his true nature on his own. For that he needs Aslan's help.

    "And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again." (7.44)

    Aslan seals Eustace's transformation from a dragon back into a boy with a baptism-like dunking in a miraculous pool.

    It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that "from that time forth Eustace was a different boy." To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun. (7.61)

    The narrator doesn't ask us to believe that Eustace changed overnight – he makes it clear that personal transformation is a gradual process that happens in fits and starts.

    "That water turns things into gold. It turned the spear into gold, that's why it got so heavy. And it was just lapping against my feet (it's a good thing I wasn't barefoot) and it turned the toe-caps into gold. And that poor fellow on the bottom – well, you see." (8.71)

    Perhaps what makes the gold on Goldwater Island more appealing than regular deposits of gold in mines is that it's so easy to obtain. Anything can turn to gold, instantly, without any apparent price or sacrifice.

    "The king who owned this island," said Caspian slowly, and his face flushed as he spoke, "would soon be the richest of all kings of the world. I claim this land for ever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian – on pain of death, do you hear?"

    "Who are you talking to?" said Edmund. "I'm no subject of yours. If anything it's the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother."

    "So it has come to that, King Edmund, has it?" said Caspian, laying his hand on his sword-hilt. (8.78-80)

    The Midas-like transformation of everything into gold on Goldwater Island also causes another, more sinister transformation: Caspian and Edmund are almost instantaneously turned into greedy enemies.

    "And we thought we'd rather be invisible than go on being as ugly as all that." (9.54)

    We suspect that what the Dufflepuds really didn't like about the way Coriarkin transformed them into Monopods is that they didn't have any control over the process. They counteract their feeling of powerlessness by working a spell of their own.

    She saw herself throned on high at a great tournament in Calormen and all the kings of the world fought because of her beauty. After that it turned from tournaments to real wars, and all Narnia and Archenland, Telmar and Calormen, Galma and Terebinthia, were laid waste with the fury of the kings and dukes and great lords who fought for her favour. Then it changed and Lucy, still beautiful beyond the lot of mortals, was back in England. And Susan (who had always been the beauty of the family) came home from America. The Susan in the picture looked exactly like the real Susan only plainer and with a nasty expression. And Susan was jealous of the dazzling beauty of Lucy, but that didn't matter a bit because no one cared anything about Susan now. (10.20)

    Lucy is tempted to transform herself into an incredible beauty, even more striking than her sister, Susan. But this is a transformation that she senses just isn't appropriate for her. The narrator hints that, if she focuses only on making herself desirable, then whole nations will be torn apart by that desire. (Remember Helen of Troy whose beauty caused the Trojan War?)

    "You see, it's only they who think they were so nice to look at before. They say they've been uglified, but that isn't what I called it. Many people might say the change was for the better." (11.21)

    Coriarkin suggests that the Duffers don't know what's good for them. Although they've been very resistant to the change, perhaps they are actually better off as Monopods. Maybe each of us has gone through personal changes that we resisted at first, only to learn that we were better off in the end.

    "In the world from which my friends come . . . they have a story of a prince or a king coming to a castle where all the people lay in an enchanted sleep. In that story he could not dissolve the enchantment until he had kissed the princess."

    "But here," said the girl, "it is different. Here he cannot kiss the princess til he has dissolved the enchantment." (13.74-75)

    The disenchanting of the lords is linked to Caspian finding a queen – but not in quite the way he hoped it would be!

    And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, there had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu – the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less – if anything, it increased – but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. (15.47)

    The miraculous sweet water at the eastern edge of the world of Narnia transforms the crew of the Dawn Treader, making them more able to bear the natural and spiritual glories they encounter.

  • Awe and Amazement

    "I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it – if you can understand." (7.34)

    Eustace's fear of Aslan isn't a fear of any particular thing: Aslan simply inspires fear, in a good way. It's a deep awe that comes from recognizing something far more powerful than yourself and knowing that you have to submit to that power.

    Across the grey hillside above them – grey, for the heather was not yet in bloom – without noise, and without looking at them, and shining as if he were in bright sunlight though the sun had in fact gone in, passed with slow pace the hugest Lion that human eyes have ever seen. In describing the scene Lucy said afterwards, "He was the size of an elephant," though at another time she only said, "The size of a cart-horse." But it was not the size that mattered. Nobody dared to ask what it was. They knew it was Aslan. (8.82)

    Lucy can't really explain how big Aslan was when he made this appearance, because his exact size doesn't really matter. He's just giving an impression of size and strength and seems bigger than normal. How much bigger isn't clear, and doesn't need to be.

    But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of the Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming towards her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterwards that it hadn't really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once. (10.22)

    Lucy is afraid of Aslan at this moment, not because Aslan himself is terrible but because she knows she has been wishing for a terrible thing that would bring on Aslan's anger.

    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 round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. 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, as Aslan's, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face. (12.59)

    It's interesting that when they are visited by Aslan in the form of the albatross, none of the crew of the Dawn Treader even think to question it. They all instinctively know that the bird is good and is offering them a way out of a difficult situation.

    And every night they saw that there rose in the east new constellations which no one had ever seen in Narnia and perhaps, as Lucy thought with a mixture of joy and fear, no living eye had seen at all. (13.1)

    The "mixture of joy and fear" that Lucy feels here is similar to the feeling that the narrator suggests is inspired by the presence of something divine.

    Now they could see that it was a tall girl, dressed in a single long garment of clear blue which left her arms bare. She was bareheaded and her yellow hair hung down her back. And when they looked at her they thought they had never before known what beauty meant. (13.51)

    Ramandu's daughter is impressive and striking. In fact, she's so striking that Edmund implies she is similar in some ways to the White Witch. In this case, however, the powerful woman is actually on the side of good and right – a rare event in the Narnia chronicles!

    Once or twice before, the Narnians had wondered whether the sun at its rising did not look bigger in these seas than it had looked at home. This time they were certain. There was no mistaking it. And the brightness of its ray on the dew and on the table was far beyond any morning brightness they had ever seen. And as Edmund said afterwards, "Though lots of things happened on that trip which sound more exciting, that moment was really the most exciting." For now they knew that they had truly come to the beginning of the end of the world. (14.3)

    The truly exciting events in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader aren't the battles with sea serpents or the struggles against invisible enemies. The most striking thing that happens to Edmund and the others on this journey is realizing how close they are getting to something sacred and powerful at the end of the world.

    Very soon after they had left Ramandu's country they began to feel that they had already sailed beyond the world. All was different. For one thing they all found that they were needing less sleep. One did not want to go to bed nor to eat much, nor even to talk except in low voices. Another thing was the light. There was too much of it. The sun when it came up each morning looked twice, if not three times, its usual size. And every morning (which gave Lucy the strangest feeling of all) the huge white birds, singing their song with human voices in a language no one knew, streamed overhead and vanished astern on their way to their breakfast at Aslan's Table. A little later they came flying back and vanished into the east. (15.1)

    The last stage of the Dawn Treader's voyage to the east has a timeless, dreamlike quality. The travelers no longer need to divide their day into rest and wakefulness or observe set mealtimes.

    And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, there had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu – the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less – if anything, it increased – but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. (15.47)

    Aslan knows what he's doing – just when it seems like the crew of the Dawn Treader is going to be overwhelmed by the glory of the sun at the end of the world, he provides them with magic water that helps them to bear its power.

    Every day and every hour the light became more brilliant and still they could bear it. No one ate or slept and no one wanted to, but they drew buckets of dazzling water from the sea, stronger than wine and somehow wetter, more liquid, than ordinary water, and pledged one another silently in deep draughts of it. And one or two of the sailors who had been oldish men when the voyage began now grew younger every day. Everyone on board was filled with joy and excitement, but not an excitement that made one talk. The further they sailed the less they spoke, and then almost in a whisper. The stillness of that last sea laid hold on them. (16.3)

    The kind of awe that Lucy and her friends feel as they approach Aslan's country isn't a loud, passionate, ecstatic joy. It's a solemn feeling that makes them want to be quiet and absorb everything that's happening around them.

    Day after day from all those miles and leagues of flowers there rose a smell which Lucy found it very hard to describe; sweet – yes, but not at all sleepy or overpowering, a fresh, wild, lonely smell that seemed to get into your brain and make you feel that you could go up mountains at a run or wrestle with an elephant. She and Caspian said to one another, "I feel that I can't stand much more of this, yet I don't want it to stop." (16.17)

    There is a sense of being almost, but not quite, overwhelmed by Aslan's power at the eastern end of the world.

    And suddenly there came a breeze from the east, tossing the top of the wave into foamy shapes and ruffling the smooth water all round them. It lasted only a second or so but what it brought them in that second none of those three children will ever forget. It brought both a smell and a sound, a musical sound. Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterwards. Lucy could only say, "It would break your heart." "Why," said I, "was it so sad?" "Sad! No," said Lucy. (16.53)

    As Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace get close to Aslan's country, they also get close to a place where all strong emotions seem to fuse together. Joy is heartbreaking.

  • Literature and Writing

    He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools. (1.2)

    One of the first things the narrator tells us about Eustace is that he has terrible taste in reading. Don't be like Eustace. Shmoop is here to help.

    What Eustace thought had best be told in his own words, for when they all got their clothes back, dried, next morning, he at once got out a little black notebook and a pencil and started to keep a diary. He always had this notebook with him and kept a record of his marks in it, for though he didn't care much about any subject for its own sake, he cared a great deal about marks. . . . But as he didn't seem likely to get many marks on the Dawn Treader he now started a diary. (2.54)

    Because Eustace can't seem to take control over his position on the Dawn Treader or his relationships with Caspian, Lucy, and Edmund, he takes narrative control instead. In his diary he can put his own slant on the Dawn Treader's adventures and activities. If he had wireless access, we're sure he'd be blogging, too.

    Caspian nodded to Bern and then stood aside. Bern and Drinian took a step forward and each seized one end of the table. They lifted it, and flung it on one side of the hall where it rolled over, scattering a cascade of letters, dossiers, ink-pots, pens, sealing-wax and documents. Then, not roughly but as firmly as if their hands were pincers of steel, they plucked Gumpas out of his chair and deposited him, facing it, about four feet away. (4.12)

    Governor Gumpas shores up his power base in the Lone Islands with a show of bureaucratic business – not just business in the sense of "serious managerial stuff," but business in the sense of "busy-ness." When Caspian objects to the slave trade, Gumpas starts to channel the King's objections into the busywork of council meetings and legislative procedure. For Gumpas's, writing is a mechanism for ensuring that nobody can change the status quo.

    And then Caspian showed up in his true colours as a brutal tyrant and said out loud for everyone to hear that anyone found "stealing" water in future would "get two dozen." I didn't know what this meant till Edmund explained to me. It comes in the sort of books those Pevensie kids read. (5.13)

    Eustace recognizes that his cousins have knowledge that he doesn't, but he reacts by looking down on them and disdaining the kind of reading they do.

    What awaited them on this island was going to concern Eustace more than anyone else, but it cannot be told in his words because after September 11 he forgot about keeping his diary for a long time. (5.20)

    Eustace doesn't need to maintain control of his narrative once he becomes his own hero. If you're the protagonist, you don't need to be the narrator, too (although it's certainly possible).

    Edmund or Lucy or you would have recognised it at once, but Eustace had read none of the right books. (6.6)

    Strangely the books that have educated Edmund and Lucy for their experiences in Narnia are fantasy stories – usually the last texts anyone would accuse of teaching valuable lessons!

    Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons. (6.12)

    Eustace's "progressive" education has only included nonfiction reading; he hasn't read any fiction and he can't appreciate literary artistry. His lack of familiarity with the world of fantasy is unfortunate in England, but it's very nearly fatal in Narnia.

    And of course they were all very anxious to hear his story, but he couldn't speak. More than once in the days that followed he attempted to write it for them on the sand. But this never succeeded. In the first place Eustace (never having read the right books) had no idea how to tell a story straight. And for another thing, the muscles and nerves of the dragon-claws that he had to use had never learned to write and were not built for writing anyway. As a result he never got nearly to the end before the tide came in and washed away all the writing except the bits he had already trodden on or accidentally swished out with his tail. (7.12)

    Despite his relatively successful stint at keeping a diary, it turns out that Eustace is a terrible author and narrator. As a dragon, he's physically prevented from writing, and as a pedantic fool, he's not mentally equipped to tell a story. But never fear – Aslan will come along to help him shape the narrative of his life.

    It was a large room with three big windows and it was lined from floor to ceiling with books; more books than Lucy had ever seen before, tiny little books, fat and dumpy books, and books bigger than any church Bible you have ever seen, all bound in leather and smelling old and learned and magical. But she knew from her instructions that she need not bother about any of these. For the Book, the Magic Book, was lying on a reading-desk in the very middle of the room. (10.12)

    Coriarkin's book-filled study is our first indication that he's going to be a good magician rather than an evil one. As we know from some of the comments that our narrator has made, reading the right kinds of books is essential for success in the world of Narnia, and Coriarkin seems to be doing pretty well.

    One thing that worried her a good deal was the size of the Book. The Chief Voice had not been able to give her any idea whereabouts in the Book the spell for making things visible came. He even seemed rather surprised at her asking. He expected her to begin at the beginning and go on till she came to it; it obviously wouldn't have occurred to him that there was any other way of finding a place in a book. (10.15)

    Although Lucy appreciates books as literature, she also expects to make use of them in an almost technological sense. The narrator implies here that she is familiar with concepts like an index and a table of contents. She expects to be able to search through a book, find what she needs, and retrieve it. If this makes a book sound a bit like the Internet and an index sound a bit like a search engine, well, you get the idea. But the Chief of the Duffers sees a book as a narrative that progresses from beginning to end: you have to dive in at the beginning and let it unfold in front of you, hoping that it will eventually give you what you need.

    She went up to the desk and laid her hand on the book; her fingers tingled when she touched it as if it were full of electricity. She tried to open it but couldn't at first; this, however, was only because it was fastened by two leaden clasps, and when she had undone these it opened easily enough. And what a book it was!

    It was written, not printed; written in a clear, even hand, with thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, very large, easier than print, and so beautiful that Lucy stared at it for a whole minute and forgot about reading it. The paper was crisp and smooth and a nice smell came from it; and in the margins, and round the big coloured capital letters at the beginning of each spell, there were pictures. (10.16-17)

    The Magic Book that Lucy reads in Coriarkin's study is not only full of powerful spells but is also an art object in its own right. It's handcrafted, has a definite physical presence, and appeals to several of Lucy's senses. Its artistry is so impressive that it momentarily distracts Lucy from its actual content.

    On the next page she came to a spell "for the refreshment of the spirit." The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, "That is the loveliest story I've ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years. At least I'll read it over again."

    But here part of the magic of the Book came into play. You couldn't turn back. The right-hand pages, the ones ahead, could be turned; the left hand pages could not. (10.31-32)

    In the Magic Book, the reader's ability to be absorbed into a narrative is so complete that story and reality blur together. For the narrator of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this kind of total-immersion reading experience is the ideal way to interact with a book.

    "Shall I ever be able to read that story again; the one I couldn't remember? Will you tell it to me, Aslan? Oh do, do, do."

    "Indeed, yes, I will tell it to you for years and years." (10.54-55)

    Aslan implies that going to heaven will be like reading a really good story.

    And after dinner the Magician did a very useful and beautiful piece of magic. He laid two blank sheets of parchment on the table and asked Drinian to give him an exact account of their voyage up to date: and as Drinian spoke, everything he described came out on the parchment in fine clear lines till at last each sheet was a splendid map of the Eastern Ocean, showing Galma, Terebinthia, the Seven Isles, the Lone Islands, Dragon Island, Burnt Island, Deathwater, and the land of the Duffers itself, all exactly the right sizes and in the right positions. They were the first maps ever made of those seas and better than any that have been made since without magic. For on these, though the towns and mountains looked at first just as they would on an ordinary map, yet when the Magician lent them a magnifying glass you saw that they were perfect little pictures of the real things, so that you could see the very castle and slave market and streets in Narrowhaven, all very clear though very distant, like things seen through the wrong end of a telescope. The only drawback was that the coastline of most of the islands was incomplete, for the map showed only what Drinian had seen with his own eyes. (11.71)

    Coriarkin does Drinian a huge favor by magically translating his real-world experience into a written map. If only all of our experiences of writing could be a direct translation of what we see and say into words (and diagrams) on the page!

  • Contrasting Regions: Narnia and England

    Narnian time flows differently from ours. If you spent a hundred years in Narnia, you would still come back to our world at the very same hour of the very same day on which you left. And then, if you went back to Narnia after spending a week here, you might find that a thousand Narnian years had passed, or only a day, or no time at all. You never know till you get there. Consequently, when the Pevensie children had returned to Narnia last time for their second visit, it was (for the Narnians) as if King Arthur came back to Britain as some people say he will. And I say the sooner the better. (1.35)

    Our narrator seems to be implying that a revival of medieval heroism is just what 20th-century Britain needs to counteract the after-effects of World War II.

    Eustace of course would be pleased with nothing, and kept on boasting about liners and motor-boats and aeroplanes and submarines ("As if he knew anything about them," muttered Edmund), but the other two were delighted with the Dawn Treader, and when they turned aft to the cabin and supper, and saw the whole western sky lit up with an immense crimson sunset, and felt the quiver of the ship, and tasted the salt on their lips, and thought of unknown lands on the eastern rim of the world, Lucy felt that she was almost too happy to speak. (2.53)

    Eustace connects his identity with the technological advancement of his own world and its point in history. However, as Edmund observes, Eustace didn't create any of the devices he feels so invested in. Eustace invests his self-worth in something outside himself rather than really getting to know himself and his own nature.

    It's madness to come out into the sea in a rotten little thing like this. Not much bigger than a lifeboat. And, of course, absolutely primitive indoors. No proper saloon, no radio, no bathrooms, no deck-chairs. I was dragged all over it yesterday evening and it would make anyone sick to hear Caspian show off his funny little toy boat as if it was the Queen Mary. I tried to tell him what real ships are like, but he's too dense. (2.55)

    In Eustace's opinion, things aren't "real" unless they are the biggest and the best of their kind. It must be hard to accept the fact that he himself isn't as big or as good at things as Caspian or Edmund. We also notice that Eustace seems to have trouble distinguishing between meaningful technological advances that really change the way life is lived (such as bathrooms) and unimportant creature comforts (such as deck chairs).

    They call him a King. I said I was a Republican but he had to ask me what that meant! He doesn't seem to know anything at all. (2.55)

    Narnia is an unashamedly monarchical world: what the king says goes. There's no voting in Narnia, and no sense that representative democracy is desirable or necessary. As much as we like Caspian, we still like to vote on things, too… (By the way, here "Republican" means someone who is in favor of government being a republic instead of a monarchy where a king or queen rules.)

    Needless to say I've been put in the worst cabin of the boat, a perfect dungeon, and Lucy has been given a whole room on deck to herself, almost a nice room compared with the rest of this place. C. says that's because she's a girl. I tried to make him see what Alberta says, that all that sort of thing is really lowering girls but he was too dense. (2.55)

    Eustace and his progressive parents believe in gender equality – which, in their view, means no chivalry, like giving Lucy a bigger, nicer cabin because she is supposedly more delicate than the men around her. The problem, however, is that Eustace doesn't really think Lucy should be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as the men around her. He's just jealous that she has a nicer cabin on the ship than he does.

    "In a civilized country like where I come from," said Eustace, "the ships are so big that when you're inside you wouldn't know you were at sea at all."

    "In that case you might just as well stay ashore," said Caspian. (3.16-17)

    The Narnians appreciate that a little hardship can be good for the soul. Perhaps in our world we're too concerned about making things comfy while we're traveling and not concerned enough about making a real difference when we get where we're going.

    Eustace (unlike most boys) had never thought much of treasure but he saw at once the use it would be in this new world which he had so foolishly stumbled into through the picture in Lucy's bedroom at home. "They don't have any tax here," he said. "And you don't have to give treasure to the government. With some of this stuff I could have quite a decent time here – perhaps in Calormen. It sounds the least phoney of these countries." (6.13)

    Eustace may object to many of the customs and manners of Narnia, but he immediately sees a loophole in the way things are run that might enable him to take advantage.

    "Machinery!" said Eustace. "I do believe we've come to a civilised country at last." (9.20)

    For Eustace, civilization means technology. For the Narnians, it means adhering to a certain code of behavior.

    "Do you mean to say," asked Caspian, "that you three come from a round world (round like a ball) and you've never told me! It's really too bad for you. Because we have fairy-tales in which there are round worlds and I always loved them. I never believed there were any real ones. But I've always wished there were and I've always longed to live in one. Oh, I'd give anything – I wonder why you can get into our world and we never get into yours? If only I had the chance!" (15.58)

    Looked at from a Narnian perspective, our world is just as fantastic and amazing as Narnia seems to us.

    "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." (16.70-72)

    While they are children Lucy and Edmund have a malleability that will allow them to visit and participate in different worlds. As adults, they are required to "specialize," becoming good citizens of one world in particular.

    "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by 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." (16.76)

    Narnia serves an important function in the spiritual development of the Pevensie children.

  • Principles

    Of course Caspian's ship was not that horrible thing, a galley rowed by slaves. Oars were used only when wind failed or for getting in and out of harbour and everyone (except Reepicheep whose legs were too short) had often taken a turn. (2.43)

    Narnia may not be a democracy, but it does have principles of equality. Everyone on the ship, from the king down to the lowliest crewman, takes his turn doing hard labor to keep everything moving. Hey, maybe the Dawn Treader is a metaphor for or tiny version of the country of Narnia itself.

    There was not much difficulty in settling the matter once Eustace realised that everyone took the idea of a duel quite seriously and heard Caspian offering to lend him a sword, and Drinian and Edmund discussing whether he ought to be handicapped in some way to make up for his being so much bigger than Reepicheep. (2.68)

    Reepicheep's desire to duel is one of the most obvious signs of a medieval code of honor in the world of Narnia.

    "Your Majesty's tender years," said Gumpas, with what was meant to be a fatherly smile, "hardly make it possible that you should understand the economic problem involved. I have statistics, I have graphs, I have – "

    "Tender as my years may be," said Caspian, "I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands meat or bread or beer or wine or timber or cabbages or books or instruments of music or horses or armour or anything else worth having. But whether it does or not, it must be stopped."

    "But that would be putting the clock back," gasped the Governor. "Have you no idea of progress, of development?"

    "I have seen them both in an egg," said Caspian. "We call it Going bad in Narnia. This trade must stop." (4.25-28)

    Caspian's straightforward ethical principle that "slavery is wrong" prevents him from being confused by Governor Gumpas's sophistry, or false logic. In the world of Narnia, most important moral issues boil down to very simple principles, and it's always wrong to compromise anything in order to get something done, make somebody happy, or bargain for something else. Caspian argues that the slave trade isn't necessary or useful for the Lone Islands, but even if it were, he'd abolish it anyway because it's wrong.

    "And then Caspian showed up in his true colours as a brutal tyrant and said out loud for everyone to hear that anyone found "stealing" water in future would "get two dozen." I didn't know what this meant till Edmund explained it to me. It comes in the sort of books those Pevensie kids read.

    "After this cowardly threat Caspian changed his tune and started being patronising. Said he was sorry for me and that everyone felt just as feverish as I did and we must all make the best of it, etc. etc." (5.13-14)

    When the Dawn Treader runs low on water, everyone suffers alike. Eustace's attempt to steal a little extra water for himself is immediately punished because it suggests that he sees himself as superior to others on the ship. Maybe Narnia is more about equality than we thought!

    "That's all right," said Edmund. "Between ourselves, you haven't been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor." (7.54)

    Eustace may be irritating, but he's not immoral.

    "Her Majesty is in the right," said Reepicheep. "If we had any assurance of saving her by battle, our duty would be very plain. It appears to me that we have none. And the service they ask of her is in no way contrary to her Majesty's honour, but a noble and heroical act. If the Queen's heart moves her to risk the magician, I will not speak against it." (9.79)

    Everyone is surprised when Reepicheep argues that it's ethical for a group of strong, powerful men to let a little girl take a serious risk on her own. However, as Reepicheep points out, some risks are honorable. Lucy may be in danger, but it's an acceptable kind of danger.

    "Spying on people by magic is the same as spying on them in any other way." (10.47)

    Supernatural elements may make the world of Narnia more exciting than the "real" world, but they don't change fundamental moral rules.

    "Sometimes, perhaps, I am a little impatient, waiting for the day when they can be governed by wisdom instead of this rough magic." (11.4)

    Coriarkin would prefer to run his island according to reason, explaining his decisions to his subjects, but he and Aslan both know that his subjects need to be dominated and controlled with magic for now. The Dufflepuds don't know what's good for them.

    "It's better for them to admire him than to admire nobody." (11.25)

    Celebrating heroes is a valuable activity in its own right, even when the heroes may not be completely worthy of admiration. The effect on us of feeling admiration and looking up to heroes is morally beneficial, even when the heroes themselves make mistakes.

    "My son," said the star, "it would be no use, even though you wished it, to sail for the World's End with men unwilling or men deceived. That is not have great unenchantments are achieved. They must know where they go and why." (14.27)

    Caspian is a king, but he's not supposed to be a tyrant. As Ramandu reminds him, he governs with the consent of his subjects – especially when it comes to dangerous adventures!

  • The Supernatural

    Eustace rushed towards the picture. Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him, warning him to look out and not to be a fool. Lucy grabbed at him from the other side and was dragged forward. And by this time either they had grown much smaller or the picture had grown bigger. Eustace jumped to try to pull it off the wall and found himself standing on the frame; in front of him was not glass but real sea, and wind and waves rushing up to the frame as they might to a rock. (1.28)

    It's telling that Eustace's first visit to Narnia begins with an art object coming to life. In the Scrubb household, there's not much art of any kind. We learn that this picture is here only because it was a wedding present to Eustace's mother. She didn't want to offend the person, so she kept it. So the education that Aslan plans for Eustace involves a greater appreciation of artistry and beauty, and it begins with sucking Eustace into a painting.

    The thing that came out of the cave was something he had never even imagined – a long lead-coloured snout, dull red eyes, no feathers or fur, a long lithe body that trailed on the ground, legs whose elbows went up higher than its back like a spider's, cruel claws, bat's wings that made a rasping noise on the stones, yards of tail. And the two lines of smoke were coming from its two nostrils. He never said the word Dragon to himself. Nor would it have made things any better if he had. (6.6)

    The dragon Eustace encounters seems all the more supernatural and impressive because he doesn't know what it is. If this passage began with a name for the supernatural creature, it wouldn't have the same effect on us. Because the passage starts with a description and leads up to the name "dragon," it makes the creature seem unfamiliar and helps us see it anew.

    But what it turned out to be was far worse than anyone had suspected. Suddenly, only about the length of a cricket pitch from their port side, an appalling head reared itself out of the sea. It was all greens and vermilions with purple blotches – except where shell fish clung to it – and shaped rather like a horse's, though without ears. It had enormous eyes, eyes made for staring through the dark depths of the ocean, and a gaping mouth filled with double rows of sharp fish-like teeth. It came up on what they first took to be a huge neck, but as more and more of it emerged everyone knew that this was not its neck but its body and that at last they were seeing what so many people have foolishly wanted to see – the great Sea Serpent. (8.14)

    As in the first passage that describes the dragon, this passage begins with a physical description of the supernatural creature and reserves the label for the very end. We're forced to visualize the monster before we get a label for it.

    He stooped down and wrenched up a spray of heather. Then, very cautiously, he knelt beside the stream and dipped it in. It was heather that he dipped; what he drew out was a perfect model of heather made of the purest gold, heavy and soft as lead. (8.77)

    The water of Goldwater Island is one of the most striking magical moments in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Before our very eyes it turns a spray of heather into gold – miraculous alchemy!

    The invisible people feasted their guests royally. It was very funny to see the plates and dishes coming to the table and not to see anyone carrying them. It would have been funny even if they had moved along level with the floor, as you would expect things to do in invisible hands. But they didn't. They progressed up the long dining-hall in a series of bounds or jumps. (10.1)

    Invisible people are creepy, so C.S. Lewis gives us a little comic relief here: the Duffers move with strange, insectoid hops.

    There was no title page or title; the spell began straight away, and at first there was nothing very important in them. They were cures for warts (by washing your hands in moonlight in a silver basin) and toothache and cramp, and a spell for taking a swarm of bees. The picture of the man with toothache was so lifelike that it would have set your own teeth aching if you looked at it too long, and the golden bees which were dotted all round the fourth spell looked for a moment as if they were really flying. (10.18)

    In the world of Narnia, magic might appear in the form of serious and significant enchantments, but it also comes in the form of little spells to perform minor tasks or take care of petty irritations. Magic doesn't always have to blow you out of the water; it can be subtle.

    "It must be an enchanted sleep," said Lucy. "I felt the moment we landed on this island that it was full of magic. Oh! do you think we have perhaps come here to break it?" (13.27)

    The presence of a major enchantment is a challenge to the travelers to get involved and break the spell.

    "And as they quarrelled he caught up the Knife of Stone which lies there on the table and would have fought with his comrades. But it is a thing not right for him to touch. And as his fingers closed upon the hilt, deep sleep fell upon the three. And till the enchantment is undone they will never wake." (13.59)

    Some magic is so magnificent that human beings, even in Narnia, aren't supposed to interact with it.

  • Fate and Free Will

    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (1.1)

    Eustace's unpleasant name seems to reflect his unpleasant personality, even though he was named before his personality developed.

    "I do not know what it means. But the spell of it has been on me all my life." (2.23)

    We find it a little irritating that Reepicheep has been living with a prophecy all this time and didn't think to mention it once in the previous book, Prince Caspian.

    "Did you know I was there all the time?"

    "Well, of course I knew when I let the Duffers make themselves invisible that you would be coming along presently to take the spell off. I wasn't quite sure of the exact day." (11.11-12)

    As a magician, Coriarkin has a general sense of things that are fated to happen in the future, but he doesn't know exactly how they will come about.

    "Oh dear," said Lucy. "Have I spoiled everything? Do you mean we would have gone on being friends if it hadn't been for this – and been really great friends – all our lives perhaps – and now we never shall."

    "Child," said Aslan, "did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?" (10.50-51)

    We suspect that Aslan can't tell Lucy (or anyone else) "what would have happened" because there is no such thing. Even though Lucy and the others make their own choices in life, Aslan knows what they're going to do, so there's only one possible future. It's a classic case of free will and predestination coming together – they seem to conflict, and yet Aslan makes them work together.

    "Can't again," said Caspian. "What do you mean?"

    "If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not," said Reepicheep with a very low bow. "You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially with Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason, it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses." (16.37-38)

    Caspian's "fate" is his role. His responsibilities as King of Narnia circumscribe his possible actions and lock him in to one particular way of living. In some ways, he is the least free of anyone in the book.

    "It's no good," he said. "I might as well have behaved decently for all the good I did with my temper and swagger. Aslan has spoken to me. [. . .] It was terrible – his eyes. Not that he was at all rough with me – only a bit stern at first. But it was terrible all the same. And he said – he said – oh, I can't bear it. The worst thing he could have said. You're to go on – Reep and Edmund, and Lucy, and Eustace; and I'm to go back. Alone. And at once. And what is the good of anything?" (16.48)

    When Caspian resists the ordering of events that Aslan has intended, Aslan steps in and gives him direct and specific instructions. We sort of think this is cheating: shouldn't Aslan be leading Caspian toward the right decisions with gentle suggestions? Maybe this is a small flaw in the novel's plot.

    They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. (16.56)

    Is there a difference between feeling like something is "fated" to happen and feeling like it has already happened? Is déjà vu like destiny?

    The children got out of the boat and waded – not towards the wave but southward with the wall of water on their left. They could not have told you why they did this; it was their fate. (16.58)

    Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace just know what to do when they get to the eastern edge of the world. Maybe being that close to Aslan's country has sharpened their intuition.