Study Guide

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Supernatural

By C.S. Lewis

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.