Edition Note: There are two editions of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the main difference between them is in some of the details of Chapter 12. Our summary is of the original British version of the book, which is also the edition published in the United States since 1994. If you have a pre-1994 American edition, your Chapter 12 might be slightly different. For more info on this point, including a quick test to figure out which edition you have if you're not sure, check out the "Trivia" section.
The Dawn Treader sails south and east for almost two weeks. Lucy and Reepicheep play a lot of chess. On the thirteenth day away from the island of the Dufflepuds, Edmund spots a dark mountain in the distance.
They set sail toward the land, rowing a lot because the wind isn't coming from the right direction. They row all day and night.
The next day the wind is flat. The darkness is larger and closer, but still fuzzy, like a mist.
Around 9 in the morning, they get close to it and realize that it's not land or mist – just a smooth, solid patch of black, like the darkness inside the mouth of a long tunnel.
Caspian shouts to the boatswain (one of the officers) to keep the ship back. Caspian and Drinian discuss what they should do. Drinian advises not to go into the blackness. Several of the sailors agree, and so does Edmund. Lucy and Eustace don't want to say anything, and seem afraid, but they also hope the ship won't go into the blackness.
Reepicheep interrupts, arguing that the only reason not to go into the blackness is cowardice, and that noble adventurers don't turn back just because it's getting dark.
Drinian asks what use it would be to go into the darkness. Reepicheep says it wouldn't be useful, but that the purpose of their voyage is to explore and have adventures. Turning back, he claims, would be dishonorable.
Several of the sailors mutter that they don't care about honor. Caspian is irritated with Reepicheep, but says they will go on, unless Lucy doesn't want to. Lucy says she's game, even though she feels very nervous.
Drinian suggests lights, and Caspian orders the lanterns to be lit. The Dawn Treader has three large lanterns at the stern (the back end of the ship), the prow (the front of the ship), and the mast. Drinian also orders two torches in the middle of the ship.
Everyone who's not rowing comes on deck and prepares for a possible battle. Lucy and two others are ready with bows and arrows. Rynelf gets ready to take soundings – that is, to check the depth of the water using a line with a weight on the end. Reepicheep, Edmund, Eustace, and Caspian put on their chain mail and get their swords ready. Drinian steers.
Caspian orders the men at the oars to row forward. Everyone is silent, waiting for orders.
The ship moves forward slowly and enters the darkness. The only light comes from the lanterns and the torches. It gets very cold.
For a long time the ship moves forward slowly and almost silently into the unnatural darkness. Everyone starts to shiver from the cold.
Suddenly there is an inhuman cry of terror. Reepicheep asks who calls and whether they are friend or foe.
The voice replies, crying for mercy and begging to be taken on board.
Caspian asks where the voice is and welcomes the person aboard.
The man cries out again and they hear him swimming toward them. Caspian orders the sailors to help heave the man up with ropes.
When the man is brought on board, his appearance is startling. He is thin, wearing rags, with long untidy hair and wide, staring eyes. He looks terrified.
As soon as the man gets onto the deck, he begs them to get away from the darkness as fast as they can.
Reepicheep asks the man to calm down and explain what's going on. The man tells them that this is the island where dreams come true.
The sailors are excited and start talking about their hopes and dreams. But the man angrily corrects them – it's not daydreams but actual dreams that come true.
There is a short silence while everyone remembers nightmares they've had in the past. Then they all spring into action – men rush to the oars, Drinian steers the ship around, and they hightail it out of there!
Reepicheep objects, pointing out that this is a cowardly mutiny. Caspian is shouting orders to the men to get the ship out of there. He tells Reepicheep that "there are some things no man can face."
Lucy, who is aloft in the "fighting top," is remembering one of her own nightmares and hoping they make it out of the darkness before it becomes reality.
Despite the noise made by the men rowing, there is an eerie silence surrounding the ship, and everyone can hear strange little noises in the silence.
Eustace can hear an enormous pair of scissors opening and shutting.
Rynelf can hear enemies crawling up the sides of the ship.
Caspian can hear a monster about to settle on the mast.
One of the sailors can hear ominous gongs.
Caspian goes over to Drinian and quietly asks how long they rowed into the darkness. Drinian says they rowed in for five minutes, and Caspian points out that they have already been rowing out for longer than that. Everybody on the ship starts to fear they are going around in circles.
The strange man, lying on the deck, laughs hysterically and says they will never get out.
Lucy whispers to Aslan, asking him to send help to them. She feels better after calling on him and realizes that nothing bad has actually happened yet.
Rynelf calls everyone's attention to a speck of light. As they turn to look at it, it becomes a bright spotlight. In the light they see something cross-shaped moving toward them. It's an albatross!
The albatross circles around the mast three times, whispering secretly to Lucy in Aslan's voice that she must have courage. Then it begins to fly slowly ahead of them, leading the way through the darkness. Drinian steers the ship to follow it.
After a few moments the blackness turns grey, then into bright light. The ship is back in the sunlit ocean with no harm done.
Everyone laughs. Rynelf says they have been foolish.
Lucy comes down to the deck where everyone is gathered around the strange man they picked up in the darkness. He cries tears of joy.
When he can speak, the man thanks them for rescuing him and says that he is Lord Rhoop of Narnia. Caspian introduces himself and explains his quest.
Lord Rhoop asks Caspian never to take him back there. But as he points in the direction of the darkness and everyone looks that way, they see that the darkness has vanished without a trace.
Lord Rhoop says they have destroyed the darkness. Lucy says it wasn't them, implying that it was Aslan.
The Dawn Treader sets sail for the southeast and the men take a break after all the rowing. Nobody notices that the albatross is gone.