In The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," Lewis greatly expands the size of Narnia's known world, sending his characters across a vast expanse of ocean and to many islands, until they reach the Last Wave and the End of the World, beyond which is Aslan's country, high atop and beyond sheer cliffs. Once the ship reaches the Lone Islands, soon after picking up Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace, it sails from the island, heading roughly southeast until reaching the Last Wave.
A Narnian king has not visited the Lone Islands for hundreds of years, and its government has fallen into corruption and there is a slave market in Narrowhaven, the capital of the province. When Caspian asserts his authority, he bans slavery, removes the corrupt government, and appoints Lord Bern a duke and governor of the Lone Islands. Bern is one of the seven faithful lords that the usurper Miraz had sent on the suicide mission to explore the Eastern Sea.
As the Dawn Treader sails to the southeast, it is buffeted by a fierce storm, during which a sailor is lost. The main mast is broken in the storm, so the voyagers anchor at the next island they find in order to look for a tree suitable for replacing the mast. It is on this island that Eustace is transformed into a dragon, becoming in the flesh the monster he is in spirit, and it is on this island that Aslan begins his reforming of Eustace, washing away the penitent boy's sins.
The next island on the voyage...
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The narrative voice of all the novels about the world of Narnia are told in a personable voice, with the occasional mention of "I," as in the sentence "'Why,' said I, 'was it so sad?'" in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." However, in this novel, the narrator takes his personal interjections to a level not found in the other chronicles. When he gets near the end of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." he says that Lucy actually told him that she, Edmund and Eustace experienced "a musical sound" and a smell that affected them profoundly. He says that "Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterwards. Lucy could only say, 'It would break your heart. "Why,' said I, 'was it so sad?"Sad? No,' said Lucy." This implies that the narrator has been told the story of the voyage of the Dawn Treader by Lucy herself and that the narrator had access to accounts by Edmund and Eustace. Perhaps Lewis hopes to enhance the impression that the Narnian novels are indeed chronicles, recorded by someone from eyewitness accounts.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" is a spiritual journey for some of the novel's characters. Caspian learns to assert his authority and to suppress his passions in favor of doing his duty. Lucy learns that Aslan follows his own rules, that she needs to overcome her envy of her sister Susan, and that she has a bond with Aslan on the earth. Edmund, too, learns that he must find Aslan in his own world. Eustace learns the value...
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Much of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" depicts what constitutes just rule. In the case of Ramandu's Island, the rule of Ramandu extends only over his daughter and visitors, and he has received his commission from Aslan himself, which means Aslan takes a personal interest in how Ramandu conducts himself. One can see signs that the rule is just in Aslan's Table, which is always set with food that anyone may eat without fear or hindrance. Unjust rule is easy to spot in the Lone Islands. Slavery is abhorrent, a practice that is counter to Aslan's creed, laid out at the creation of Narnia's world in The Magician's Nephew— a creed that includes equality for all intelligent beings.
The Lone Islands are run by a corrupt government in which money is more important than people. When the governor argues with Caspian, he insists that Caspian does not understand the economics of the situation, that slavery is essential to the economy. Thus, one sign of unjust rule is that money matters more than people. This contrasts with Lord Bern's estate on the island of Avra, in the Lone Islands, where there are no slaves and everyone is properly paid. It also contrasts with Ramandu's Island, where everyone shares in Aslan's blessings, without distinction. A sign that Caspian is a just ruler is his risking his life to put an end to slavery and the money-grubbing rule of the governor. He is warned that Calormen might go to war over Caspian's ending of the slave...
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Topics for Discussion
1. Why would Caspian feel compelled to fulfill an oath he made to Aslan?
2. Why would Caspian want to go with Reepicheep beyond the Last Wave and to Aslan's country? What responsibilities would require him to return to Narnia, instead?
3. Why does Aslan consider Lucy's use of magic to look at a friend to be eavesdropping? Why would Aslan regard such eavesdropping as wrong?
4. Why is The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" to be the last adventure in Narnia for Lucy and Edmund? Why would Lewis decide to exclude them? Will you miss them?
5. What is the special connection between Lucy and Aslan? How does her relationship with Aslan shape events in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader?"
6. What is the point of having Aslan appear first as a lamb at the end of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader?"
7. Why does Eustace become a dragon? What does this say about his personality?
8. How does Ramandu differ from Coriakin?
9. If Eustace is such a pest, why do the other voyagers not just throw him overboard and be done with him?
10. Why does Aslan tell Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace that they must enter Aslan's country from their world?
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Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Where is slavery found in "The Chronicles of Narnia"? Who are the slave owners? Who are the slaves? How does each group stand in relation to Aslan?
2. The Dawn Treader is similar to a Viking longboat. What did Viking longboats look like? Where did they sail? In what ways does the Dawn Treader resemble a Viking longboat?
3. Draw or paint a picture of the Dawn Treader. Pay careful attention to the descriptions in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" and remember that it is a colorful ship.
4. When Caspian wishes to journey all the way to Asian's country, he is told that he has responsibilities that require him to do his duty rather than what he wants to do. What was the medieval concept of a good king? What responsibilities would the good king be expected to fulfill?
5. Asian appears in several places in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." What is the purpose of each appearance? What do the other characters learn from each appearance of Aslan?
6. There are two great tables in "The Chronicles of Narnia": the Stone Table that appears in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian and Aslan's Table that appears in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." In what ways do the tables differ from one another? What does each symbolize? Why would Lewis link the two by having the stone knife that killed Asian while he was on the Stone Table be kept on Aslan's Table?...
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Lewis said that his publisher chose the order in which his Narnia books were published, and when asked in what order they should be read, if possible, he provided this sequence:
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader"
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
Each novel can stand on its own, without being read in any particular order, but the sequence Lewis preferred is chronological, from the beginning of Narnia's world to its ending.
The Magician's Nephew was written after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so Lewis had the task of making his account of the beginning of Narnia's world match the events that would later occur in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In The Magician's Nephew, he provides explanations for the origins of the mysterious lamp post in the woods, the White Witch, the wide variety of talking animals, and the introductions of evil into Aslan's young world. The Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is presented as the boy Digory.
In the period between the events in The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the kingdom of Archenland, south of Narnia, is established by the younger son of...
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For Further Reference
Bingham, Derek. C. S. Lewis: The Storyteller. Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1999. This is an engagingly written, fictionalized version of Lewis's life, intended for young readers.
Coren, Michael. The Man Who Created Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1994. Intended for young readers, this is a well-illustrated and well-rounded account of Lewis's life.
Lewis, C. S. C. S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead. New York: Simon & Schuster, Touchstone, 1985. Lewis had an extensive correspondence with children, who wrote to him from all over the world. He made a point of replying to every letter he received, although near the end of his life he needed his older brother Warnie's help. This book is a selection from his many letters written to young readers. He is charming, and he gives serious answers to serious questions.
Sibley, Brian. The Land of Narnia. New York: HarperCollins, Harper Trophy, 1989. Sibley finds the beginnings of Narnia in Lewis's childhood fantasies and includes some early drawings of "Animal-Land." It is well suited to young readers.
Wilson, A. N. C. S. Lewis: A Biography. London: Collins, 1990. In this biography, Wilson sorts through the legend to uncover the real C. S. Lewis, explaining much of Lewis's private life as well as his public career.
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