The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Friday Book Pick: The Voyage of the The Dawn Treader by C.S.Lewis
Friday Book Pick: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
If you are a priest, a catechist, a mother or a father, the books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia could be worthy of your time, simply for their excellent teaching value. You know yourself that the lessons that stick are those we learn either “the hard way” (by our own life experiences), those taught by stories, or those taught by songs. (I still remember the physics formulas from high school that were taught in the form of catchy jingles!) Jesus, the greatest of all teachers, was never without a story to make His point. In fact, storytelling was His preferred method for teaching His disciples.
The vivid stories in the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are priceless for their teaching power. This third book in the series of seven Chronicles of Narnia feature the familiar characters Edmund and Lucy but now with their awful cousin, Eustace. Lewis manages to successfully create a very disagreeable character in Eustace. In the early chapters of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he has seemingly no redeemable qualities. The threesome are magically transported to the world of Narnia through a painting of a ship that hangs in a spare bedroom in Eustace’s house. The three find themselves on the ship "Dawn Treader," where King Caspian is searching for the seven lost Lords of Narnia, friends of his father.
The journey takes the crew to one “lost island” after another, and fascinating adventures of danger, battle and liberation ensue at every turn. Now to the point about learning through the vehicle of imagination and good storytelling, the events that surround the conversion of Eustace are such a story. Coming ashore on a certain island, Eustace slinks away from the group in an effort to escape the hard work of setting up camp and tending to the maintenance of the storm-battered ship. Eustace has a general disposition of superiority (assuming he is generally smarter than everyone else and considering himself above hard work), and he also has a propensity for feeling sorry for himself. While wandering off, nursing his woes, he comes across a dragon’s lair. In a fascinating series of events, Eustace witnesses the death of an old dragon and quite accidentally discovers the dragon’s long-accumulated treasure. Eustace pilfers a bracelet and then falls fast asleep on the dragon’s lair.
Meanwhile, as the crew finishes up a hard day’s work, Eustace’s absence is finally noticed. And even though he was a wretched person—mean, selfish, and spiteful—the most honorable among the crew are determine to find him, or avenge him if he is dead.
Eustace, awaking from his long sleep, discovers to his horror that he is no longer a boy but rather a large, scaly, winged, fire-breathing dragon. The story continues with Eustace finding his way back to the others (made easier now that he can fly), and eventually finding a way to communicate to them that it is him—it is Eustace, now a dragon.
It seems that this horrid fate was working for Eustace’s good, because now he was eager to pitch-in and everyone could see that his character had greatly improved by becoming a dragon.
On the sixth day after the landing on Dragon Island, Eustace the dragon has a remarkable encounter. Aslan comes to him and bids him to follow. They travel to the top of a mountain where there is a garden and a large, deep, bubbling well. Eustace knows that he is to get into the water, but Aslan makes him to know that he must “undress” first. Being a dragon, he is not clothed, and Eustace realizes that it is his dragon skin that he must shed. Scratching away at his scales with his claws, his whole dragon skin comes off beautifully
and he steps right out of it. But just as he is going down to the water, he realizes that his foot was still the scaly, clawed foot of a dragon and he begins the process all over again. Then, approaching the well a second time, the whole thing happens all over again. After three attempts to shed the dragon skin, Aslan makes Eustace know that he cannot do it by himself, he must allow Aslan to do it. Though he is terrified by the thought of the Lion’s claws, he surrenders completely to the treatment and soon he is free of the dragon flesh completely and restored to boyhood.
The tale goes on with Eustace now converted to a humbler and kinder state of being. and while his conversion is not complete, he is markedly improved for the rest of the voyage. The adventures of Eustace are one of many vivid illustrations ready to be retold in a catechism class or a homily about ongoing conversion. The themes of repentance, conversion, submission to God, loyalty to friends, kindness, courtesy and valor are all sorely neglected in our age. The Chronicles of Narnia are an engaging and effective way to bring these lessons back into fashion.
This is the ninth “Book Pick” in a series on the works of the great Irish-born author