Narnia Re-read. Finishing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

I’ve really enjoyed my re-read of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I’ve enjoyed sections of it just as much in 2015 as I did when I first read them. Some references and allusions were much clearer to me, adding to my enjoyment. Other aspects I enjoyed less.

For me, the absolute best thing about this story is Eustace Clarence Scrubb. He’s so brilliantly imagined – a thoroughly unpleasant little boy with a name he almost deserves. His reaction to finding himself in Narnia is hilarious, as is his constant griping and grumbling. He’s fun to dislike. The diary entries he writes are, in my opinion, the funniest parts not only of this book, but of the entire series.They demonstrate a perfect combination of Lewis’ moral intent, his wonderful prose and his storytelling skill. Despite their cleverness, they are understood perfectly by young and old readers alike.

‘Odious’ Scrubb does, of course, become dragon-Eustace. Again, I love this section of the story. I found it genuinely moving to read about his loneliness, self-loathing and clumsy attempts to be helpful. Another aspect of these chapters which I love is the development of Reepicheep’s relationship with Eustace.

Does everyone who reads the Chronicles love Reepicheep? Everyone I’ve spoken to does. We learned about his courage in Prince Caspian, but in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader his character is developed further. We see just how much he embodies the medieval ideal of the chivalrous knight on a noble quest. He isn’t just courtly in his manners, he speaks up for those who have no voice, comforts those who need it and is willing to speak against his king if it is what he judges to be right. He exasperates his crew-mates at times, but nobody travelling with him could fail to admire him.

Aside from these characters, I enjoyed the Dawn Treader itself. The descriptions of the ship, combined with the diagram and illustrations by Pauline Baynes, provided me with a most satisfying rush of nostalgia. The ship is like a character in its own right.

Another nostalgia rush came with the passages about Lucy sighting the Mer-world. As an adult reader I still relished the quality of the writing and the succinct world-building. I’m not even sure I can explain why I like the ‘Sea’Girl’ section so much. I just do. I wonder if other readers feel the same.

Other aspects of the story I enjoyed less than I expected to. The section about Caspian reasserting his authority in the Lone Islands I didn’t really enjoy. I can’t say for sure, but maybe the ‘meaning’ of the story in this section overtook the story itself. Pug and the slavery story left me equally uninspired. Again, I’m not sure why, although the speech of the characters here felt awkward at times. (Although I’d probably still take awkward Lewis over most other writers.)

Coriakin’s Island was provoked a mixed response. The Magician’s book I loved, and this section reminded me how much I liked Lucy. However, the Dufflepuds, particularly their chief, I found more tiresome than comical. Maybe it’s an age thing – I’m sure I didn’t feel this way as a child.

The book’s final chapter also left me a little confused. The religious symbolism felt somehow ‘not right’ for me. This might sound odd when I made no such complaint about Aslan’s resurrection in LWW. After all, how could there be anything more ‘obvious’ than a Christ-like figure sacrificing himself to erase human sin, then coming back to life? But for whatever reason young me never made the connection to Christianity with LWW. Here, the lamb-Aslan and the admission that Aslan exists in our world with a different identity just seemed too mundane for me, too clear a link. This was the case in my older childhood. I found I still didn’t enjoy it much on my re-read. The ending seemed somehow unsatisfying.

Despite this, however, I still really enjoy this book. It feels like a real adventure story, and I can understand why it is the story voted by an online poll as the Narnia story readers would most like to experience. Lewis’ storytelling is, as ever, masterful. The places the Ship visits are memorable. Most of all, the characters have existed in my imagination for many years now, clearer in my memory and closer to my heart than many real people I have encountered.


Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter sixteen. The very End of the World.

Synopsis: Lucy sees a sea-girl. The ship sails through part of the sea which is covered with lilies. Caspian says he will abdicate and continue to the world’s end, but is persuaded not to. Reepicheep, Eustace, Edmund and Lucy leave the ship in a small boat and sail onwards through the Last Sea, They reach a wave at the world’s end, which Reepicheep sails over in his coracle. The children leave the boat and walk across land, where they meet Aslan, who returns them to their world.

The passage where Lucy sees the sea-girl is totally superfluous to the book’s plot. It doesn’t tell us anything we need to know. But I always loved it. Lewis must have too, to have written it.  It doesn’t seem to have a specific religious or spiritual subtext. Lucy observes the mer-world, trying to work out how it works. For a fleeting moment, she finds herself face to face with a Sea Girl around the same age as her. In that moment, without communicating, the girls become friends. Lewis viewed friendship as one of life’s great joys. He wrote about it at length in ‘The Four Loves’. We are told here that if Lucy ever sees the girl again they will rush towards each other. Maybe it’s just the quality of the prose, but I always found this to be a memorable, moving passage. When I read ‘The Last Battle’ one of the thoughts which its ending prompted was, ‘I hope they meet again!’

As they near the edge of the world, the crew are in a dreamlike state of ‘wonder’ and quiet excitement, prompted by the light, the calm and the sweet water. Older sailors grow younger. Flexibility in age is mentioned a few times in the Chronicles. Jadis doesn’t age. For different reasons, neither does Aslan. In Aslan’s Country, age is impossible to tell.  The Pevensies become adults and then revert to childhood. Lewis warns of the folly of being either too grown up or too childish. Did the sailors ‘re-age’ upon their return? Or did their older wives and children get a surprise?

Lilies, especially white ones, carry various associations. They represent purity and innocence. They are a symbol of the Virgin Mary, and sometimes of Jesus. They also represent rebirth, due to their flowering in spring from a seemingly-lifeless bulb.

Just as sounds often trigger powerful emotions in the Narniad,  smells do too. Here, the lilies smell sweet, fresh, wild and lonely, and the scent affects Lucy emotionally. She loves it, but it is so intense she almost can’t bear it.

Caspian tries to abdicate in order to sail to the world’s end. I wonder what Lewis made of the real abdication of the British monarch in December 1936. I imagine he was unimpressed with the King’s desertion of duty. Edmund mentions Ulysses being bound to the mast of his ship in order to hear the sirens without succumbing to them. (Naturally, Lewis had read the Odyssey in its original language.) However, Ulysses was bound voluntarily. We are reminded of Caspian’s youth as opposition to his abdication leads to a teenage-style ‘strop’. He reappears, tearful, after being chastened by Aslan.

The glimpses of Aslan’s country in this chapter remind me very much of this passage from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

“And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

Both are describing a beautiful shore of a heavenly country beyond the sea. Although their friendship faded in the later years of their lives, their interests, beliefs and works were interconnected in many ways. These two passages feel like the closest connection between the stories of Middle Earth and Narnia, for me anyway.

When the children leave the ship, and then watch Reepicheep leave, the story changes.They feel that they are fated to act in the way they do. They become childlike once again. They are filled with wonder, and the Lewis staple, sehnsucht, is everywhere around them.

When Reepicheep casts away his sword it shows him to be a knight in the mould of the honourable knights who sought the grail, like Sir Galahad. He doesn’t want to fight for the fun of it – he counts this as a more important goal. The sword lands upright in the sea and doesn’t sink. It reminds me of Excalibur rising from the lake.

A lamb offers a breakfast of fish to the children, in an echo of Jesus’ actions in John, Chapter 21. Both lambs and fish are traditional symbols of Jesus. The lamb becomes Aslan, and tells the children he exists in our world, but is called something different. He calls himself the bridge builder; ‘Pontifex Maximus’ in Latin. Early Christians called Jesus the Pontifex, building a bridge between the physical and spiritual world. He tells them they must cross a river – maybe an echo of the Styx, which had to be crossed to reach the Ancient Greek afterlife.

Although I didn’t read the Christian symbolism in this section as a young child, by the time I was in double figures it was impossible for me not to spot it. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about this part of the book. It felt like Narnia was changing. I was unnerved by the lamb – why didn’t Aslan just show himself as Aslan? It felt strange. I also felt  sad on behalf of Lucy and Edmund (two of my very favourite characters) on being told they could not visit Narnia again. Fortunately the last sentence in the book ends on a lighter note, with Eustace’s parents being disappointed in the wonderful changes in their now pleasant son.









Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter fifteen. The wonders of the Last Sea.

Synopsis: The sun appears larger and the water clearer as the Dawn Treader sails east. Lucy sees an underwater world peopled with mermaids and mermen. The water becomes sweet.

The dreamlike quality that began in previous chapters develops further here. ‘All was different’. Everyone eats less, sleeps less and talks less. The birds sing with human voices. The sea water is so clear you can see the bottom. This is a very different place from those we’ve seen before. There is a sense of wonder, maybe even reverence developing. The ‘sprituality’ of Narnia, which of course makes some love and some hate it, is becoming more and more apparent. Colbert’s ‘The Magical Worlds of Narnia’ suggests that this book was intended as the final book in a Narnia ‘trilogy’, and that this is the reason why this element of the book comes to the fore here.

The submarine world Lucy sees has always stayed with me. Whenever I think of mermaids, it is this passage that springs to mind. It’s a perfect example of Lewis’ ability to use clear, concise prose to paint a memorable, beautiful picture for his reader. I would quote some, but suspect I would end up quoting pages and pages. I can only recommend that you revisit it. It’s a perfectly formed world within a world, which operates on its own logic. In five pages we learn about its geography, its buildings, its people and their pets/hobbies.

Drinian’s grumpy concern for Reepicheep is utterly endearing. Surely everyone can relate to feeling worried about someone, and this resulting in snappiness and anger.

I would love to taste the sweet, clear water from this sea: drinkable light. What an interesting taste that would have. Maybe this transformative water echoes baptism.

Lewis returns to the idea of mixed, contrasting emotions. Here, the crew are ‘almost too well and strong to bear it’. They find they have developed the ability to cope with the dazzling light of the sun. This reminds me of ‘The Great Divorce’, where those who visit heaven on a trip from hell find the wonder around them painful and difficult to bear, but can overcome this as the move closer to the ‘divine’.

It seems most fitting that Narnia is a ‘flat’ world. It reflects older ideas about the world (chivalry, astronomy etc.) in many different ways. This is another. When I read it as a child I found the idea of a world you could sail over the edge of thrilling. Now, having read (and re-read) every Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, this reminds me of maps I’ve seen of that flat world. Maybe Narnia is held on the back of elephants balancing on turtles We’ll never know. Caspian’s misconception about our ’round’ world always amused me. Does anyone from Narnia ever get called into our world? Is the link only ever one way? If so, (which I believe to be the case) why?

As a child, I enjoyed this part of the story, but had no idea about the religious side of things. I just wished I’d seen mermaids and tasted light.








Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter fourteen. The beginning of the End of the World.

Ramandu appears and explains what Caspian must do to break the enchantment. Birds appear and feed Ramandu. Caspian gives the crew a choice: stay on this island or sail to the end of the world.

Ramandu’s silver ‘glow’ echoes the silvery light emanating from Aslan earlier in the story. His general appearance and demeanor remind me of the Hermit of the Southern March in ‘The Horse and his Boy’. Were there really silver sheep somewhere, or was his robe reflecting his glow?

Once again, Lewis gives two seemingly contrasting or very different qualities to the same thing. Here, Ramandu is ‘mild’ but also ‘grave’.

Lewis was powerfully affected by music that he loved. Works such as Wagner’s Ring Cycle provoked intense emotional responses for him. Throughout the Chronicles, sounds, particularly voices and music, are described with words that not only convey tone, volume and so on, but also less ‘musical’ qualities.  Aslan’s voice and Susan’s horn are probably the best examples of this. Sounds can be sad, happy or something else entirely. Here the high song is also said to be ‘cold’ but ‘beautiful’.

Michael Ward’s ‘Planet Narnia’ argues that the underlying theme of the entire book is the Sun, and the qualities and properties ascribed to it by the medieval world. This chapter certainly strengthens his case. The sun becomes larger both in significance, as the herald of the world’s end, and physically.

We are told that for Edmund, of all the thrilling-sounding adventures, battles, monsters and magic encountered on the voyage, seeing the sun rise on Ramandu’s Island was the most exciting experience. For me, this corresponds with Lewis’ religious/spiritual beliefs and experiences. For people who believe in and feel that they are in some sort of communion with their God, this experience must be extremely powerful, but difficult to describe and not visible to other people. Maybe Edmund’s experience echoes this sort of response.

There are numerous religious references in this chapter. In the Bible, Elijah is brought food (bread and meat) morning and evening by ravens, just as Ramandu is brought food by the white birds. In another book of the Bible, Isaiah is brought a coal by a flying creature – in his case a seraphim – which is touched to his mouth. The coal cleanses him of his sin. Ramandu is fed a fire-berry from the sun (described as a ‘little live coal’) which rejuvenates him.

To be honest, the idea of birds landing all over me, and ‘picking clean’ a table I was going to eat from, did not appeal to me as a young reader. It still doesn’t.

Who carried Coriakin to this island? Why did they do it? Why this particular place? Are stars immortal? Can they die or do they all follow the same pattern as Coriakin? Did he have his daughter before or after he ‘set’?

A very popular quote from this chapter is: ”In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’ ‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.” This encapsulates Lewis’ beliefs about the world around him – the world was not just the one of matter which he saw – there were elements beyond that. Similarly, he saw humans as more than meat, bone and biological impulse, he thought they had souls, too.

How does Ramandu know about our world? Has he heard about it? Or do stars possess some sort of magic which allows this? Is it because he was there when Aslan called Narnia into being, and there were humans there from our world? How does he know the travellers have met with Coriakin? Was he told, or is he able to work it out in some way?

I would love to know what Coriakin’s ‘sin’ was. What could a star do which was so wrong that it had to be removed from the sky? Do the stars in Narnia do other things apart from dance through the heavens? Do they have personal lives? And why was his punishment so strange: being sent to live in a remote but luxurious country house, with the tiresome Duffers as servants? Why did Lewis include this detail – why wasn’t Coriakin just a retired star, or a human magician or wise man?

We see here how much Caspian has grown as a leader and ‘politician’ from the previous book. He is much more kingly in his speech and his actions.

Is this the only occasion where Reepicheep is referred to as ‘Sir’? I can’t think of another.

If anyone else had made Reepicheep’s speech about getting to the East, it would sound silly, or boastful. With him, it is simply a statement of fact. You don’t doubt Reepicheep’s word.

What is it that Ramandu does to Lord Rhoop? Is it star-specific magic or something more general? Are all stars capable of healing?

I can’t find any reason why the man left behind was called ‘Pittencream’. It sounds like a medical preparation as much as anything. He is an example shown to us of what happens when you allow fear to prevent you from acting. It’s a depressing tale. He deludes himself about what his adventures consisted of, in a way familiar to readers of ‘The Screwtape Letters’.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter thirteen. The Three Sleepers.

Synopsis: The Dawn Treader reaches an island. They find a table set with a feast, where three men are sleeping. They realise that the men are the last three Narnian lords. A woman appears and explains what happened to them.

A common theme throughout the Chronicles is the coexistence or combination of apparently contradictory emotions. Here, Lucy looks at the unfamiliar constellations above her with ‘a mixture of joy and fear’.

It is at this point in the journey where the story becomes increasingly dreamlike. The weather becomes warm and  unchanging. The sea becomes calm. The sky appears larger, the stars nearer. When they reach an island, it is described using words like ‘gentle’ and ‘attractive’. Wherever they go on the island, the soft sound of waves breaking on the shore is in the background.

Ramandu’s table combines some different aspects of the story of St Breandan’s voyage. This is discussed in David Downing’s ‘Into the Wardrobe’.

Once again we are told about delicious food – this time ornate and extravagant: ‘flagons of gold’, ‘pies shaped like ships under full sail’, ‘peacock’. Apparently, similar feasts were a feature of life at Cair Paravel during the Golden Age. Pauline Bayne’s illustration (shown in this post) is reminiscent of Victorian cookbooks, with their extravagant puddings.

How much would hair and beards grow if left unchecked for seven years? Would it make a tangle like the three lords’ does here? Or is the island’s magic responsible?

For perhaps the last time in this book, we are reminded of the disadvantage Eustace is at, ‘having never read of such things … made it worse for him’.

How is a ‘sea cloak’ different from a normal cloak?

Ramandu’s daughter is never given a name. We know her by her relationships with her father, husband and son only. Was this intentional or an oversight? In the films made of the Narnia stories, she was given the name ‘Lilliandil’, which to me is reminiscent of the Elvish names created by Tolkien. We don’t know who her mother is, but presumably she wasn’t a star like Ramandu, as she herself isn’t described as a star. What happened to her? Does Ramandu’s daughter mind living on a completely isolated island with only her father? Has she always lived there?

What happened to the sailors who accompanied the three lords to this island? We are told they existed, but where did they go?

Why is the stone knife which killed Aslan being ‘kept in honour’ on a tabletop near the world’s end? What is the reason for this choice of location? Who brought it here?

‘You can’t know. You can only believe – or not,’ is a popular quote from this chapter, particularly with Christian Lewis fans. It pops up online quite regularly.

The table is set with food every day. Yet the island is only visited rarely – we only know of two instances in the last seven years. It seems a strange arrangement, particularly as Aslan is able to know who will visit the island, and when.

How does Caspian know the story of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from our world? Who told him about it?


Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter twelve. The Dark Island.

Synopsis: The Dawn Treader sails towards a mysterious darkness. They agree to sail into it. They bring a man on board who explains that they have found the island where dreams become real. They are led back out to safety by Aslan in the form of an albatross. They discover that the man is Lord Rhoop. The darkness is destroyed.

Chess is mentioned often in this book, but I can’t seem to find any underlying ‘meaning’ in this.

A total darkness, unexplained, would be frightening for many people, children or adults. I remember finding it a scary thought as a young reader. It is human nature to fear the darkness.

Here is another famous Reepicheep speech. When asked what the use of exploring the Darkness, he responds: ‘Use? … Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will 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 adventure.’

The sailors are irritated by this, and Reepicheep often exasperates people around him, but his intentions and motives are always completely honourable, which is difficult to argue effectively against. So it is here. He makes people face uncomfortable truths.

How had Lord Rhoop survived all the years alone in the darkness? What did he eat and drink? We are told nothing about the geography or flora and fauna found in the Darkness, but he must have had some fresh water and a source of food somewhere.

Whenever I see the ragged man at the start of old episodes of Monty Python (played by Michael Palin) who says ‘It’s…’ I always think of Lord Rhoop.

Rhoop says that the sailors’ talk about the Island of Dreams, where they imagine their favourite daydreams coming to is ‘what brought me here’. Does this mean others know about the Darkness? Are there rumours of what it contains? Why did Rhoop visit but not the other lords? How did he get to the Island? It doesn’t seem to make much sense.

For some reason, Nancy never struck me as a Narnian-world name. It just seemed too ordinary, especially for a world where women have names like Prunaprismia and Swanwhite.

Can anyone read Rhoop’s desperate explanation of the island’s true nature without wondering which of their own dreams would manifest themselves on a visit to the island?

When I read Terry Pratchett’s ‘Hogfather’ I was strongly reminded of this chapter of VDT. A group of criminals are in the Tooth Fairy’s country (it makes sense when you’ve read the book) and their childhood fears become real – the ominous creak of a wardrobe door, the snip of scissors and so on. I think the scissors in particular struck a chord, as this is also the basis of Eustace’s fear. The loose, unfinished descriptions of the fears allow the reader to fill in the horrible blanks for themselves.

Reepicheep is unaffected by the threat of dreams coming true. Is this because he is a mouse, and they dream differently, or is it something peculiar to Reepicheep?

I’ve often wondered how prayer is supposed to work for people when they (as far as I know) don’t receive direct responses. When Lucy ‘prays’ to Aslan here, she isn’t answered, and nothing changes around her. However, she feels better nevertheless. Her fear lessens. Maybe this is how it works for some people.

The Dark Island seems to the the most frightening part of the voyage for the Dawn Treader’s crew. This fits with the idea that the main enemies to be defeated on this journey are internal – fear, pride, ignorance and so on. The biggest enemy is one made of the character’s own thoughts.

Rynelf pounts out a beam of light appearing – a most welcome sight for the sailors. In ‘Meditation in a tool shed’ Lewis used an image of a beam of light to discuss ideas about perception, reality and how we understand the world around us:

‘I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.’

Lucy, high up on the ship, ‘looked along the beam’. What she saw there eventually turned out to be an albatross (Aslan appearing as an albatross), but at first she thought it was a cross. This section of the chapter seems linked to Lewis’ other religious writings more strongly than other parts.

Albatrosses feature in other writing, most famously in Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It was thought that killing them was bad luck, or that they contained the souls of sailors.

‘Courage, dear heart.’ This is a quote I often see popping up on Instagram pictures, Etsy merchandis and even tattoos. It seems to strike a comforting chord with many people.

Why did the Darkness disappear? It is suggested that Aslan destroyed it, but why do so at this particular time?





Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter eleven. The Duffplepuds made happy.

Synopsis:  Lucy meets the Magician. Aslan leaves. Lucy sees the Duffers for the first time. The others meet the Magician. The Dawn Treader leaves the island.

Coriakin wears a ‘chaplet of oak leaves’. Chaplet is a medieval word for a garland worn on the head, which also appears in heraldry (for example in the Irish name O’Hara’s crest). It is also a type of prayer which uses prayer beads. A chaplet of oak is also known as a civic crown, which was worn in Roman times. It was a distinguished military decoration which entitled the wearer to a place in the senate.

Why is Coriakin’s house ‘the least’ of Aslan’s ‘houses’? Where are his other houses? What’s the hierarchy?

Coriakin talks about ‘rough magic’. These words are taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’m not overly familiar with this particular play, but this link gives further detail:

Aslan tells Lucy that he calls ‘all times soon’. This fits in with Lewis’ discussion of God existing outside ‘time’ as we understand it. (He mentions this in Mere Christianity in order to try to explain how God could listen to multiple prayers at once.)

Coriakin reminds us of something we’ve known since LWW – Aslan is not a ‘tame lion’.

How does Coriakin know about British food? What else does he know about our world? Do other stars know these things?

Once my re-read of the Chronicles is complete, one of the other projects I’m hoping to begin is cooking and eating all the meals described in the books. The magician’s food here sounds like it would make a very pleasant lunch. The Magician only has bread and wine – is this a nod to Holy Communion?

The Magician’s instruments fall into two categories. Some are based on real things. An astrolabe is a navigational aid used in ancient and medieval times. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system (they also feature in the Harry Potter films and books). A chronoscope is an instrument to precisely measure small intervals of time. The other instruments are slightly different. The theodolind sounds like a theodolite (a surveying instrmuent) but may be named after a Lombard Queen of the Sixth Century. A choriambus sounds like a real machine, but is in fact a type of Greek poetic meter, and David Downing suggests in his book ‘Into the Wardrobe’ that a poisemeter is another play on words, being a fictitious machine for measuring poetic rhythms. Lewis seems to have enjoyed putting this list together.

When I was young I found the Duffers hilarious, particularly when they were mistaken for large mushrooms by Lucy. Now I’m less amused by this section, but I suspect that’s just down to my age! Why did the Magician make them only have one leg? What was the purpose of it?

Monopods (literal meaning: one foot) are not inventions of Lewis himself. Also known as skiapods (shadow foot), these mythical humanoids have been described and discussed in literature from Ancient Greece and Rome (including Pliny). This continued into the Middle Ages, with references in works by St Augustine – who wondered whether they were descended from Adam – and in the Hereford Mappa Mundi. They were always said to live somewhere far away, such as India.

Only Reepicheep could address the cowardly and spectacularly idiotic Dufflepuds as ‘worthy and intelligent’.

The magic used to create the map of the voyage so far sounds beautiful. I would love a copy of that map! We are told it now hangs in the Chamber of Instruments at Cair Paravel. This raises two questions for me. Firstly, what other treasures and interesting items are in there? Secondly, when we are told that Caspian lives at Cair Paravel, exactly what does this mean? Last time we saw Cair Paravel it was a deserted, overgrown ruin on a small island. Has it been rebuilt? Is it still on the island? Or has a new castle been created nearby which is called Cair Paravel?

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter ten. The Magician’s Book.

Synopsis: The invisible people host dinner. The next day, Lucy goes upstairs and finds the Magician’s book. She reads various spells, including the one which makes hidden things visible. Aslan appears.

Once again, a full table of tempting food is described. The book itself was written when rationing was still in place in Britain (it continued until 1954) so Lewis must have really missed hearty meals like the one mentioned here.

It must have been odd for Edmund, watching his sister going upstairs into the unknown. I’m not sure that it is ever explained why Lucy has to be alone to do this. Why couldn’t someone go with her? Would the magic not work then?

Do items like the mirror, with the false beard and hair, actually exist? Is it based on something or did Lewis invent the idea?

I think the Magician’s library is the only one we visit in the Chronicles. The room, and the long, quiet corridor with the magical room at the very end, remind me of Little Lea, Lewis’ childhood home, with the shelves full of books and the ‘little end room’. (This place and its significance in Lewis’ childhood and his imagination is discussed in ‘Surprised by Joy’ and in A. N. Wilson’s excellent biography.)

We learn that the Chief has no idea about searching for information in a book – again, a lack of knowledge of books and reading is shown as a real flaw.

For someone like me who loves books (and can’t seem to stop buying them) the Magician’s book sounds wonderful. It is a work of art, hand crafted and made with care. It even smells good. Of all the magical items in the stories, this is probably the one I’d most want to have – although Lucy’s diamond cordial bottle would come a close second.

The book includes a cure for warts: washing hands in a silver basin by moonlight. This cure was not invented by Lewis. Traditional wart ‘cures’ often involved moonlight or a specific phase of the moon. Romantic poet Robert Southey refers specifically to moonlight and a silver basin in his work ‘The Doctor’.

Very useful spells are contained elsewhere in the book – particularly those to help you either remember or forget things. Giving someone a donkey head would be less practical. (How many children have read this reference to ‘poor Bottom’ with absolutely no idea that it refers to Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’?)

Lucy’s temptation – the spell to make someone ‘beautiful beyond the lot of mortals’ – follows the pattern of different characters being tested in different places throughout the journey, rather than facing an external enemy. We see Lucy’s insecurities laid bare. She sees a vision where she is the cause of war because of her beauty (in similar fashion to Helen of Troy’s face ‘launching a thousand ships’) but the main thing that seems to appeal to her is that Susan would no longer be seen as the ‘beauty’ of the family.

The ‘spell for the refreshment of the spirit’ in the book is described as being the most wonderful story Lucy has ever read. The only fragments she can remember are a cup, a sword a tree and a green hill. When I was younger I thought it might be an adventure story. However, I have since been made aware of the Christian symbolism this could represent instead. (Colbert discusses this in ‘The Magical Worlds of Narnia’.) The cup is the holy grail, the tree is the cross, the sword pierces Christ’s side and the green hill is Calvary. Lewis believed that the story of the resurrection was the ‘one true myth’ which all other stories predicted or echoed. This idea sits comfortably with Lucy’s reaction to the story. After all, ‘what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book’. Afterwards, Aslan promises to tell Lucy this ‘story of stories’ for ‘years and years’.

At this point I have to mention Laura Miller’s excellent book, which is actually named after this chapter, ‘The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia’. She is a literary critic who explains in the book how her early love of and immersion in the Narnian world informed her future relationship with all other books, just as the spell informed Lucy’s future understanding of stories.  It is a very readable book, and, along with Lev Grossman’s Magician series, gave me more strongly than anything else I’ve encountered the sense that other people somewhere in the world felt about Narnia the way that I did. I found this thought comforting in some way. Miller articulated things I had felt about Narnia in ways I hadn’t been able to.

I love that Lucy’s joy at seeing Aslan transforms her so that she is utterly beautiful.

Does Aslan insisting that he must follow his own rules relate to the idea of God becoming physically human?

We are reminded of something Aslan has mentioned in other books – we can never know what would have happened, just as we are never told other people’s stories.

The Magician’s Book sees key ideas of the Chronicles converge: Christian religious symbolism, the moral choices of the individual, the joy and wonder of reading, medievalism, quests, Aslan. It is a memorable passage which remains with the reader.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter nine. The Island of the Voices.

Synopsis:  The Dawn Treader lands at a new island. They find a house and garden. Lucy overhears some invisible people talking. She warns the others. They are then threatened by the invisible people, who insist that Lucy finds the Magician’s book and reverses the invisibility spell which has been cast on them.

In Michael Ward’s ‘Planet Narnia’, he proposes the theory that every book in the Narniad relates to a different planet or star, with the Voyage of the Dawn Treader corresponding with the sun. When you read the book with this in mind, his point seems convincing. The idea and language of sun and light are referred to throughout, as at the start of this chapter.

It seems strange that such an ‘English’ place (in appearance, anyway) should be found in such a remote location. But throughout the Chronicles, Lewis adds very ‘British’ (or Irish) details and images to his Narnian world: tricks of speech, plants and animals and so forth. This is most unlike Tolkien’s meticulous world-building, where the climate, flora and fauna of Middle Earth were carefully designed to give a coherent natural world. (See also references to this in earlier posts on LWW.) Lewis tended to make use of familiar scenes and ideas unless he had a reason to create something new to serve a narrative or symbolic purpose.

I think – although it is hard to remember with absolute clarity – that when I was a child I found the Chief and his followers funny. As an adult, I found their (intended) lack of intelligence, and constant repetition of obvious statements, somewhat wearing. Why this has changed I don’t know.

Why is the island so still and quiet? Even if all life there had been made invisible, it would still make a noise. Or are there no birds, insects etc.? And if not, why not?

We are shown that Eustace is not completely different from the ‘old’ Eustace; here he thinks he sees some machinery, and expresses his relief at coming to a ‘civilised country at last’.

Peter is the only Pevensie whose first name is never shortened. Maybe high kings don’t like nick-names.

Here, Caspian refers to the invisible, unknown enemy as ‘gentry’. This term is one of many traditionally used to refer to the ‘fairie folk’, in order to avoid insulting them. The power in names and naming is a very old idea, more recently written about in Rowling’s Harry Potter series, where Voldemort’s name is shown as having a power of its own. For a brilliant, detailed and very funny take on this subject, I recommend Terry Pratchett’s ‘Lords and Ladies’. (The title is another euphemistic name for the ‘folk’.) It explores the power of names and words throughout.

Another favourite Reepicheep line is in this chapter: ‘If it is anything against her Majesty’s honour or safety … you will wonder to see how many we can kill before we die.’

The chief’s inability to tell a story ‘straight’, or to explain anything clearly or succinctly, is presented as a real fault, just as it was when Eustace couldn’t tell a story in Chapter Seven. (See previous post on this chapter.)

I can’t find any particular reason why the Chief’s daughter is called Clipsie.

Reepicheep’s support for Lucy’s idea shows that he isn’t just about fighting and glory. He really is a chivalrous knight – a lady’s safety  and honour must be prioritised over all else.

Lucy is less afraid of the invisible people than the others. Is this because she is more intuitive, or more trusting, or for some other reason?

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter eight. Two narrow escapes.

Synopsis: The Dawn Treader leaves Dragon Island. It visits Burnt Island. It is attacked by a sea serpent. The crew come to an island. They discover the remains of a Narnian lord, next to a stream which turns any item which touches the water into gold. They argue, then return to the ship.

Burnt Island shows signs of recent habitation, but we never discover who it was who lived there.

Reepicheep finds a coracle. As so often happened with the Narniad, I learned what this word meant solely from reading these stories, and didn’t encounter it in a different context for years.

Edmund, in a bad mood, says he wishes he’d visited America instead of Narnia. We are reminded of his similarities to Eustace, as this is much more like something Eustace would have said earlier in the journey.

I’d forgotten about the sea serpent until my re-read, but encounters with mysterious sea creatures are generally features of sea voyage stories. In Lewis’ beloved Norse myths, a sea serpent encircles Midgard. They feature in the works of Virgil and Aristotle. A sea serpent is mentioned in the Bible.  In later stories, Saint Olaf was said to have killed one.

The arrows glancing off the serpent’s side remind me of Smaug the dragon being impervious to the arrows of bowmen in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’.

Lucy is the only one to see the sea serpent’s face as they leave it behind. She is often privy to sights, or signs from Aslan, which others are not.

Lewis mentions tiresome drivers who don’t listen to directions. Lewis never passed his driving test, so would have plenty of experience being the passenger.

We discover that Narnian currency includes ‘lions’ and ‘trees’. As befits Narnia, the coins are named after natural things. It’s good to see familiar names such as Beruna and Beaversdam mentioned in passing, as little nods to the earlier books.

Once again, reading fiction comes to the character’s rescue. Edmund’s familiarity with detective stories helps him to piece clues together about the fate of the man whose armour and sword they have found.

I wonder what happened to the golden sprig of heather. It sounds so beautiful. Did it survive as a souvenir, or did Caspian not show it to anyone in case they were tempted to visit the island themselves? The text doesn’t mention the story of King Midas but it does spring to mind when you read about items being magically turned into gold, with unpleasant consequences. Interestingly, this story features in Ovid’s metamorphoses (Eustace undergoes a metamorphosis of his own in a previous chapter) along with Silenus, who appears elsewhere in the Chronicles of Narnia. (See earlier post on PC chapter 11.)

What is the strange enchantment which causes them all to start arguing? Are such things naturally occurring in the Narnian world, or would they be spells cast by someone or something? (I don’t think I even realised fully that this was an enchantment when I first read the book, and wondered why everyone was so uncharacteristically grumpy all of a sudden.)

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter seven. How the adventure ended.

Synopsis: The others realise that the dragon is Eustace. Eustace’s personality begins to change and he tries to be helpful. The others are concerned about what will happen to him when they set sail. Edmund wakes one morning to find Eustace has been restored to human form. Eustace explains that Aslan did this.

I wondered if the hammer and star symbol of Lord Octesian’s house reflected a real-world symbol of some sort. However, the only symbol I could find which used a star and hammer was the flag of the Soviet Union. I’m certain that Lewis did not find inspiration in this, as his political views are well known, and certainly not pro-Communism!

Again we are told that Eustace is hindered by having never read the ‘right books’. (See previous post on VDT chapter 6.) This time it means that he is unable to tell his story clearly- a skill which Lewis naturally prized.

I can’t help but love dragon-Eustace. After being hilariously odious for six chapters, his transformation into someone the reader can actually like is quite rapid. I think, were he just to have become a ‘nice’ human, it would have been harder to warm to him. But his vulnerability (despite being physically intimidating) and attempts to help are very touching, particularly when, ‘flying slowly and wearily but in great triumph, he bore back to camp a great tall pine tree…which could be made into a capital mast’. And who wouldn’t enjoy warming themselves on a chilly beach by resting against a dragon’s side?

The description of Eustace being ‘afraid to be alone with himself and yet… ashamed to be with the others’ describes his misery in a way which I feel could just as easily be used to describe emotions felt by some people experiencing depression.

Reepicheep comforts Eustace with tales of ‘Fortune’s wheel’. Also known as ‘rota fortunae’, Fortune’s wheel is a concept which appears in ancient and medieval philosophy. It demonstrates how fate is random, and people can experience great fortune – or misfortune – at any time. The image of a wheel is linked to the zodiac, which was believed to govern the fortunes of people on Earth. This image would have appealed to Lewis. This is partly due to his interest in the medieval view of the ‘heavens’ and what the ‘celestial spheres’ were in both reality and in symbolism. (This is of course the major focus of Ward’s ‘Planet Narnia’.) It would also have appealed due to its popularity in medieval literature as an allegory – a subject which Lewis wrote about extensively, notably in his book, ‘The Allegory of Love’.

Eustace’s shame at his past behaviour eats away at him, just as the bracelet pains him physically. His outside and inside again reflect each other.

Edmund is, of course, the perfect person for Eustace to relate his ‘un-dragoning’ to. We are told about it by Eustace himself, not the narrator. We know immediately, from his geniune laughter and his disregard for the gold, that this Eustace is very different to his former self.

Eustace explains that Aslan took him to a mountaintop with a garden and well. Is this Aslan’s country? Is it the same place Eustace and Jill visit in The Silver Chair? Or somewhere else entirely?

The symbolism of Eustace being thrown into water and emerging as a new, improved person is clearly intended as a reflection of baptism. I know this now, but when young I simply believed that Aslan had a magic well – why wouldn’t he? Reading about Eustace shedding the layers and layers of scaly skin is somehow very satisfying. His years of selfishness have generated many layers which need to be removed. He can start this, but only Aslan can complete it – again this reflects the Christian view that God’s help is required to truly transform yourself.

Eustace admits hating the sound of Aslan’s name until this point – just as Edmund did in LWW. Here, Edmund tells Eustace how much worse he was on his first visit to Narnia. Edmund always ranked highly in my childhood lists of favourite Narnian characters, and I think this was partly due to the fact that he hadn’t always been ‘good’ – just like I hadn’t.

‘Who is Aslan? Do you know him?’ Eustace asks. ‘Well – he knows me.’ Lines like this totally passed my by as a child, but now when I read this book I find the Christian symbolism very clear – more so than in LWW and Prince Caspian.

Again the ‘last bright star’ of the morning is mentioned. (See earlier post on LWW chapter 15 for a discussion of its possible symbolism.)

I’m so pleased that Eustace still has ‘relapses’ into his old ways  – he is much more human for doing so.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter six. The adventures of Eustace.

Synopsis: Eustace watches a dragon die. He falls asleep on its hoard. He awakes to find he has become a dragon himself. He makes his way to the others.

This chapter stands out in my memory particularly clearly. I’m sure this will be the case for other readers too.

Are there wines in our world which are so strong they have to be watered down?

Here, Lewis restates on more than one occasion his belief that reading the ‘right sort’ of books is important in knowing how to deal with problems in reality. Eustace must have been raised in an entirely fiction-free world to be completely ignorant of the existence and appearance of dragons. (I suppose, with Harold and Alberta as parents, this is not impossible!) In Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he describes his childhood home as being filled with books, which he read voraciously. I imagine that he would have found the idea of someone never experiencing the thrill of a good story quite alien. He formed friendships throughout his life with others who shared his passion for myths, stories, fantasy and language. His work was based on reading and analysing the written word. C. S. Lewis without books is not C. S. Lewis. This is made plainer by the narrator in this story than in any other Narnian tale.

The dragon’s death is quite an unpleasant scene, and the valley in which it takes place echoes this mood, with its ‘grim peaks and horns’.

Reepicheep shows his unwavering courtly manners when Rhince makes a joke at Eustace’s expense. Despite having been insulted – and swung around – by the boy, Reepicheep upbraids Rhince.

There is something satisfying to the reader about knowing, before Eustace himself does, that he has become a dragon. I did assume, after reading this chapter as a child, that that was exactly what would happen to anyone who was foolish enough to sleep on a dragon’s hoard. His outward appearance had come to match his character. A dragon sleeping on its hoard is a central image in Tolkien’s the Hobbit, which Lewis had read – and enjoyed – some years before he began the Chronicles. There is also an Icelandic myth which tells of Fafnir falling asleep on a golden hoard and waking as a dragon. Fafnir has a magic ring, rather than a bracelet, and his story ends less happily than Eustace’s, but the similarity is there. Wagner features this tale in the Ring Cycle, where Seigfried is shown to kill Fafnir. (Lewis loved Wagner, with its ‘Northern-ness’, and references it in his writing.)

I like the fact that Eustace eats the other dragon. It isn’t a necessary detail, but it really stayed with me after reading for some reason.

When facing the dragon, Lewis says that, ‘Everyone felt fonder of everyone else than at ordinary times’. Maybe he had experienced a similar emotion during his wartime experiences.

Lucy mentions ‘Androcles and the Lion’. This folk tale is hundreds of years old, and is sometimes attributed to Aesop. A lion with a thorn in its paw is an image which Lewis also uses in The Silver Chair. There is also the association with Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter five. The storm and what came of it.

A storm hits the ship. We see Eustace’s diary again. After the storm, the Dawn Treader  stops on an unknown island to repair and restock. Eustace sneaks away from the others.

Lucy is, at this point, thoroughly enjoying herself. This is quite a different situation to the majority of previous books in the Narniad. The visit feels less fraught and urgent than the children’s desperate attempts to meet with Prince Caspian, or their race to get to Aslan before Jadis catches them. The journey generally feels more leisurely, with frequent stops of days or weeks mentioned. Of course, there is also the lack of a specific, defined ‘enemy’ such as Miraz or Jadis. The things that the children must face on this adventure are their own faults and mistakes, more than external enemies. This fits with the religious theme of the story.

The description of a sea which was a ‘drab or yellowish colour like dirty canvas’ brings back memories of my childhood growing on the British coasts.

When Lewis writes about the practicalities of life on a ship, I wonder where he took inspiration. Did he have any real life experience or was his information learned from other books? I know he didn’t travel extensively (he left the British isles only during the war, and once more on a holiday to Greece later in life) but I don’t know if he spent much time on the water. I’ve only thought about this recently – until then I took for granted the narrator’s expertise on everything discussed.

I longed to be on the Dawn Treader as a young reader, but now I’m reading as an adult, the practicalities seem less appealing. Trying desperately not to be washed overboard while the ship is tossed on massive waves, far from land, would be terrifying. This never put me off as a child, but it would make me think twice now.

I’m always delighted to reach Eustace’s diary entries.. They are so clever. His use of italics to be sarcastic in a diary which nobody was supposed to read is so very ‘Eustace-ish’. And his phrase ‘fiends in human form’ particularly appealed to me when young, although I have no idea why. It still makes me laugh now.

Eustace’s complaint about the others’ ‘wishful thinking’ is Lewis again showing us his opinion on spiritual matters. He knows that people often argue that belief in God is wishful thinking. Here he wants to suggest that it is actually hope, and better than the alternative. His build-up to trying to sneak extra water rations is a perfect example of the self-justification Lewis discussed elsewhere, for example in the Great Divorce. Nobody reading it is left in the slightest doubt about Eustace and the others’ true actions and intentions.Lewis returns to this idea again and again throughout the Chronicles. He shows in his writing how cleverly we can try to deceive ourselves and others. I’ve certainly felt a pang of recognition in such passages!

Eustace is clearly intelligent, but puts his intelligence to poor use: sneaking away without being noticed in order to avoid work.

Just as in Prince Caspian, the ‘air’ of the Narnian world is shown to be beneficial to visitors from our world. Eustace is becoming stronger and fitter. (See also the discussion of this, in posts on PC.)

Eustace begins his ‘transformation’ in a small way, even before the events in the next chapter. He feels lonely. This most un-Eustace-ish sentiment is a little foreshadowing of what is to come.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter four. What Caspian did there.

Caspian and Bern arrive in Narrowhaven. They meet Gumpas, and replace him with Bern. They save the others from the slavers.

Bern’s plan is a clever one. Human nature can be relied upon – if there is a commotion, with cheering, ringing bells and a parade of ‘handsome’ soldiers, with royalty among them, then people can be guaranteed to stop what they are doing and come to watch. Many will also join in, even if they aren’t fully aware of what is going on. (I was surprised to read that Drinian was handsome. For some reason, in my head, he was more of a grizzled old sea-dog than a Narnian dreamboat.)

Governor Gumpas reminds me of the film version of the Master of Laketown, from Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’. Both are officious, corrupt, greedy men who lose their position upon the return of a rightful ruler. The word ‘gump’ is an old-fashioned term for a foolish or stupid person.

Here, as in other places in the Narniad, courtly, medieval sounding speech coexists with some sort of faux cockney slang speech. ‘Uncover before Narnia, you dog,’ is given the reply: ”Ere? Wot’s it all about?’ I’m not sure that I noticed this when young, but now I find it a little incongruous. I think I’d prefer it without the faux cockney touches. Maybe this is because in my head, Narnia is a consistently medieval place, with all that that entails in terms of social structure, language and culture. (I suppose it could be argued that King Frank and Queen Helen introduced such speech at the beginning of the world itself, but it still doesn’t fully work for me.)

Lewis doesn’t seem to worry about using words which younger readers may not understand, such as postern, bilious and ingratiating. I’ve been surprised at some words when I’ve encountered them on the re-read. I must have skimmed past them as a child, without worrying about understanding them.

Lewis portrays monarchy as the ideal system in the Narniad. Kings and Queens are the right, and rightful, rulers for a country. Narnia is not a democracy. People govern because of their title, not their ability. The removal of Governor Gumpas and his replacement with a Duke, appointed by a King, is portrayed as the best possible solution to the problems in the Lone Islands. The Chronicles often show people ‘knowing their place’ or filling particular roles. I intend to devote a full post to this subject once the re-read is complete.

Bern and Drinian overturn Gumpas’ table, perhaps in an echo of the Bible story of the moneylenders’ tables being overturned in the Temple. The corruption of the Lone Islands is to be cleansed, as the Temple was.

Caspian speaks here words which perfectly reflect the author’s view of the world. When asked, ‘Have you no idea of progress, of development?’ he replies, “I have seen them both in an egg… We call it ‘going bad’ in Narnia.’ In other works such Lewis warns against progress for progress’ sake, and rails against the idea that old things and ideas automatically have less worth than their modern equivalents.

We are given our first view of Calormen and its inhabitants in this book. We learn that the currency is Crescents (with forty Minims to a Crescent). The portrayal of the Calormenes themselves is probably the most contentious and problematic aspect of the Chronicles. It warrants a dedicated post so I will attempt to do that once the re-read is finished, rather than discussing it here.

The tales told by sailors of ‘islands inhabited by headless men, floating islands, waterspouts, and a fire that burned along the water,’ are reminiscent of medieval cartography, and the travel tales of people such as Joh Mandeville. Travellers told of islands inhabited by dog-headed people, people with no heads but faces on their torsos and other strange creatures. Islands with unique inhabitants remained popular in all kinds of stories, with modern tales such as The Island of Dr Moreau continuing the tradition.

Bern forsees war with Calormen over the closing of the slave market, but we never learn if this actually happens or not.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter three. The Lone Islands.

The Dawn Treader reaches the Lone Islands. Caspian, Reepicheep and the children are captured by slavers. Caspian is bought by the Lord Bern. They make plans.

Rhince and Drinian are both really likeable characters, with a humourous side which is evident through their speech.

Lewis tells us that if he ever hears how the Lone Islands came to belong to Narnia, he’ll put it in another book. This never happened, but Lewis positively encouraged readers to fill in the gaps in Narnian history, so maybe someone somewhere has. Jadis styled herself ‘Empress of the Lone Islands’ in LWW, so they have been part of Narnia for many years.

Avra means ‘breeze’ in Greek, which may be the reason for Lewis choosing that name for a wild, windswept place. I can’t find any meaningful origin for Felimath or Doorn. (Doorn is Dutch for ‘thorn’ and the name of a town, but I imagine this is just coincidence.)

As is so often the case throughout the Chronicles, we are given a taste of the wistful bittersweetness that meant so much to Lewis in his experience of ‘sehnsucht’. (See earlier posts on LWW and PC.) Lucy describes a ‘nice kind of loneliness’ when remembering Felimath.

When Eustace boasts that ships in his world are so large ‘you wouldn’t know you were at sea,’ Caspian retorts with the excellent point that, ‘In that case you might just as well stay ashore’. Again it is clear where Lewis’ preferences lie.

Before beginning my Narniad re-read, I really believed that every part of every story was so familiar I remembered all the scenes in the books. However, when I came to this point, I realised I had completely forgotten the entire slaver story. Maybe this is because I didn’t particularly enjoy it (although Reepicheep’s reaction is – unsurprisingly – very readable).

Pug the slaver’s name brings various things to mind: pugnacious (argumentative), pugilist (boxer) and pug dogs.

Katherine Paterson’s popular story ‘Bridge to Terebithia’ owes its name to the Narnian island of Terebinthia;  the author subconsciously used the name and only realised later where she had got it from.

Like other characters from Narnia, Pug dresses up his evil actions by giving justifications and pretty words. Lewis doesn’t allow the reader to be swayed by this, as Lord Bern speaks against him, and his treatment of characters we know and respect such as Lucy and Reepicheep demonstrate his real character.

I’d love to know what Reepicheep said to the slaver as he was being carried. It must be worse than ‘poltroon’ at the very least.

We see how much Caspian has changed since the last book. He is able to speak in a kingly fashion. He is prepared for combat if necessary. He takes counsel from those who are wise, such as Bern, but is not afraid to lead and act. He is not yet the ‘finished article’, but none of the others, with the possible exception of Reepicheep, are either. We see their faults and flaws throughout the story, but know that they are trying to do right. This fits with the story’s religious themes – the quest for God, the religious life, becoming a better person.

Why doesn’t Bern tell Caspian his plans for the next day? It seems strange for him not to do so.

Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter two. On board the Dawn Treader.

Caspian and the Pevensies catch up. He explains the reasons for the voyage and shows them over the ship. Edmund is seasick and complains. We are shown an extract from his diary. Eustace and Reepicheep have a disagreement.

Here we learn of the seven lords Caspian is seeking. Argoz’ name reminds the reader of the famous mythical ship, the Argos (as in Jason and the Argonauts) but so far I’ve not been able to identify a particular reason for the other lords’ names.

Reepicheep shares the rhyme which was said to him as an infant. We’ve seen prophesies in rhyme before, in LWW, and they all came true. This suggests Reepicheep may well be successful in finding the utter east of the world. (Flat worlds such as this one, and Pratchett’s Discworld, which have a physical ‘end’, have always been appealing.)

Caspian rejected a potential bride due to her squint and freckles. This has been discussed as an example of Lewis’ attitude to women. This topic warrants its own post, which I’ll be writing once my re-read is finished.

We are given tantalising glimpses of the islands already visited: jousting and tournaments on Galma, escaping pirates near the Seven Isles. As an Irishman who also lived in England, Lewis was raised and lived on islands. A famous Irish saint, St Brendan, also probably influenced this story. Brendan the Navigator (Caspian would go on to be known as Caspian the Navigator) was known for completing a legendary quest, where he set sail in search of the Garden of Eden, or Isle of Paradise. On his travels he encountered strange islands, drinks which sent you to sleep and sea monsters. All of these sound familiar to Narnia readers.

Again I am reminded of how much I coveted Lucy’s diamond cordial bottle.

Lev Grossman’s ‘The Magician King’, which is heavily influenced by VDT (Grossman is a lifelong Narnia fan, and the Magicians trilogy is based around a world called Fillory, which any reader will recognise as a reflection of Narnia. The description of hams and onions hanging from the roof below deck reminded me of Abigail the Sloth in The Magician King.

In my childish imagination, the Dawn Treader seemed quite large, but on re-reading as an adult, I was aware of how compact it is.

Eustace once again demonstrates his general odiousness with his complaints and demands, and his habit of repeating ideas he has heard from his parents which he doesn’t fully understand.

The Scrubbs are from Cambridge. Lewis, of course, worked in both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The design of the ship delighted me as a young reader. It still does. A favourite touch is the ability to man the lookout post by staring through the dragon’s head.

The ships of Narnia’s Golden Age are mentioned: oak-built cogs (used for trade and warfare); dromonds (these also feature in G.R.R. Martin’s Westeros world); carracks (sailing ships with three masts) and galleons (also generally three-masted.

One of the passages which immediately come to mind when I think of this book is: ‘She was a beauty of her kind, a “lady” as sailors say, her lines perfect, her colours pure,and every spar and rope a pin lovingly made.’ This made me absolutely sure that if I ever had to choose a Narnian ship, mine would be like the Dawn Treader, not some huge galleon. We are invited to compare this beautiful ship, hand-crafted from natural materials, with Eustace’s preferred liners and submarines. As ever, Lewis prefers the old-fashioned option.

Lucy is described as ‘almost too happy to speak’. This specific sensation occurs at other times throughout the Chronicles, fitting with the idea that solemnity and joy are not mutually exclusive, and that emotions we don’t always ‘put together’, such as fear and happiness, can co-exist.

Eustace’s diary is one of the most amusing sections of any of the Chronicles. Even young readers instinctively understand the unreliability of Eustace as a narrator and see through his excuses and lies to the truth of the events described. Lewis wrote elsewhere about how people deceive themselves in order to justify their actions – notably in The Screwtape Letters – and this is the perfect illustration of how it happens. It is also very funny. His disgust at the ship, its crew and everything around him only makes them sound more wonderful and Eustace more ridiculous and spoiled.

Of course Eustace, the spiteful, self-centred beetle collector would be the sort of boy who hurt animals. It is most satisfying to see the animal fight back on this occasion, especially as he calls Eustace a ‘poltroon’, a word which is woefully underused. Mouse or not, had they really had a duel, the sensible money would have been on Reepicheep.



Narnia re-read. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter one. The picture in the bedroom.

Synopsis:  Edmund and Lucy are staying with their unpleasant cousin, Eustace. They are drawn into Narnia through a magical painting of a ship. When they are brought aboard it, they are reunited with Caspian and Reepicheep.

This book starts really  well for me. I love a map (especially a fictional one) and here we are given one for the first part of the journey. Next, we are given one of my very favourite Pauline Baynes illustrations: a cutaway diagram of the Dawn Treader itself. I like this image just as much now as I did when I first saw it. (Although I can now look at the label for the ‘poop deck’ without laughing.) The map and diagram make the book feel immediately more real. As if all this wasn’t enough, the story itself begins with (in my opinion, anyway) one of the best ever opening lines of a novel. For me, it’s up there with Orwell’s 1984, Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: ‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.’  Its wit reminds me of Wilde. Lewis knew about unfortunate names – he himself refused from a young age to be called by his own name (Clive Staples Lewis) and instead referred to himself as Jack. His family came to do the same.

Lewis sets his stall out quite clearly here on the subject of ‘modern’ life. We are left in no doubt as to his opinion on vegetarianism, tee-totallers and non-smokers etc., as he introduces Harold and Alberta. We never meet them, but hear about them via the narrator and Eustace himself, and it is suggested to us that their ‘modern’ ideas are foolish. Lewis was of course self-consciously old-fashioned, and enjoyed smoking and drinking among other things. To the 21st Century reader, however, making fun of people for these things feels strange – especially in a children’s book.

I always wondered what the special underclothes were.

We are shown what sort of child Eustace is through his approach to nature – he likes animals which are dead and collectible. This doesn’t bode well. We also see that he reads non-fiction books. Throughout the Chronicles Lewis repeatedly highlights the usefulness of reading the ‘right sort’ of books (i.e. fantasy and adventure). These are shown as preparing visitors to Narnia for what they encounter there. Eustace is not prepared at all.

A rare mention is made of the Pevensie parents here. We discover that the father’s job involves lecturing.

Peter’s summer of studying, living with Professor Kirke, is of course an echo of Lewis’ own time living and studying with ‘the old knock’, Kirkpatrick. (See also posts on LWW.)

I remember feeling sad that Kirke had lost the old house, with all its secrets and mysteries.

Susan is dismissed as being ‘no good at school work’ and we are told that she is old for her age. (This is not intended as a compliment.) She is also the ‘pretty one of the family’. Which discourteous relative said this in front of the children?

Lewis mentions the fact that many people have their own country, but Lucy and Edmund’s conutry is of course real. For me, and for lots of other children, Narnia was our own special country too. Never actually getting there made no difference to this.

Something I always wondered was how a picture of a real Narnian ship – in a scene which actually happened – came to be given as a wedding present to the Scrubbs. Was it sent there magically by Aslan? Who painted it?

Lewis writes about Eustace with the same dry wit he employs in The Screwtape Letters. Everything he does shows us how unpleasant he is: he listens at doors, he bullies, he teases, he shows off, he outstays his welcome…

Edmund avoids discussing assonances and ‘Art’  – both things which Lewis could and did discuss in his own work.

When Eustace insults the painting, Edmund’s response is perfect: ‘You won’t see it if you step outside.’ (In certain corners of the internet, much is made of ‘sassy Edmund’.)

As ever, Lewis brings to life a scene through different senses: the wind whips Lucy’s hair about her face, she smells the briny sea. Lewis acknowledges the unlikely, surprising nature of the painting coming to life, then sidesteps it by explaining that this reaction was the same for the characters it was actually happening to.

Eustace complains bitterly about being in the Narnian world – the very thing most readers wish they were. His behaviour from the outset is rude, immature and self-centred. We see this, but also see the other characters tolerating it and being reasonable. Caspian simply chuckles as his hospitality is insulted.

Lewis tells us he hopes that King Arthur returns to England, as the legend tells us he will. Of course, Lewis loved Arthurian legends.

Who wouldn’t enjoy a steaming flagon of spiced wine after being unexpectedly drenched? Eustace of course.

I must confess to stealing Reepicheep’s mention of someone being ‘singularly discourteous’. I’ve shoe-horned that phrase into many (work-based) conversations.

‘To the convenience of a lady, even a question of honour must give way,’ Reepicheep announces. His manners, as ever, are impeccable.

Lucy falls in love with the cabin – as do we when it is described to us. Like most places we are shown in the Chronicles which we are intended to think of positively, it is ‘cosy’ and welcoming.