For a long time, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has been my favorite of the The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s just something about the high seas adventure and the magic of the islands that gets me excited. This also happens to be the Narnia book with a dragon in it, and I can’t help but think that colors my opinion of the story as well. I’ve been looking forward to rereading this one and rediscovering what made me love it so much.
Most of my favorite characters from Prince Caspian return in Voyage—Caspian, Reepicheep, Edmund, Lucy—but we’re introduced to a new character: Eustace. Of course when talking about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we have to mention Eustace. He’s one of the chief characters of the story, and his character development is probably one of the greatest of all the Narnia characters. (Other than, maybe, Edmund’s.)
I love reading how Eustace goes from being this snobby, bratty, beastly kid who hates everything and everybody to being completely and utterly transformed into a new creation. The moment when Aslan helps Eustace “peel off” his dragon skin, layer after layer, digs into my heart so much. I love that C.S. Lewis chose to reveal that it’s not just one layer of “bad” Eustace has to scratch away, but multiple layers that only Aslan himself can truly tear off is so powerful. I also love how Lewis shows that becoming a new creation is not a simple one and done, but a process, a beginning.
But as much as I believe this book is Eustace’s book, I would also argue it’s Lucy’s book. Well, maybe every Narnia book with Lucy is also Lucy’s book. Because Lucy has to learn a lot in this story as well. Lucy is a Queen of Narnia, she’s known for her unshakable faith in Aslan. But even though she’s highly respected and valiant, Lucy isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes. She doesn’t always see Aslan.
When she’s on the Magician’s Island, she makes a few poor choices when it comes to the spell book. But it’s only after she lifts the invisibility spell and Aslan appears and gently points out what she’s done that Lucy realizes her mistakes. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, in wanting to be like someone else or letting our curiosity get the best of us. We need that gentle reminder to pull us back. I also love that Lucy couldn’t see Aslan until she lifted the invisibility spell, but Aslan was there all the time anyways.
But of course, my favorite moment of the book, of the entire series, comes when the Dawn Treader is stuck at the Dark Island. As someone who doesn’t like frightening things, to be in a place where nightmares essentially come to life is a terrifying thought. But among that terror, Lucy cries out to Aslan for help.
And he responds.
“Courage, dear heart.”
He doesn’t show up as a lion and vanquish the darkness like he did against the White Witch. He doesn’t call forth something from the sea or land to help settle the nightmares like he did in Prince Caspian. He sends a streak of light and a bird. And most importantly, he sends his words in a whisper.
I find it interesting that before Lucy didn’t think Aslan was there because she couldn’t see him, and only chapters later, he doesn’t show his face but she knows he’s there. That line, above everything else C.S. Lewis has written, fills me with so much hope. I’m not a brave person, but it makes me want to be brave. It’s such a simple phrase that inspires me to be better. To know that I can keep moving forward.
Of course, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is filled with so many other amazing moments. Reepicheep sailing into Aslan’s Country. Caspian meeting Ramandu’s daughter. The Dufferpuds learning to love themselves for who they are. Aslan reassuring the Pevensies that he is in their world too. If I continue on, highlighting every moment, every chapter, every sentence that catches my attention, it would be as long as the book itself.
There are many reasons why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader remains my favorite Narnia book, and most of those reasons are because of Aslan.
“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.”
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