The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" Analysis

C. S. Lewis


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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 tests Caspian, Edmund, Eustace, and Lucy with temptation. While hiking across a hillside on the island, they discover the remains of armor and cloth and wonder whether they have found what is left of one of the lost lords. Then they find a pool with a statue of a man in it. Quickly, they realize that the water in the pool turns anything in it to gold, and, just as quickly, Caspian and Edmund begin bickering over who owns the pool, much to Lucy's distress. The brief appearance by Aslan, huge and fierce, brings Caspian and Edmund back to their senses. They decide to name the island "Deathwater" and to tell no one of what they have found.

After that comes Burnt Island, whose population has disappeared, leaving rabbits and the remains of a fishing community. Sailing ever southeast, the Dawn Treader reaches the island of the Dufflepuds, who are governed by a star, Coriakin. Old Coriakin committed an unspecified transgression while a star, and his punishment is to rule over the Dufflepuds while helping them become wise. The islanders were called "Duffers," a word implying foolishness or stupidity, and they are also called "monopods" because they each have only one foot, on which each hops about. They The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" 417 themselves blend the two words into "Dufflepuds."

They are invisible because they thought themselves ugly and had one of their girls sneak into Coriakin's tower and read an invisibility spell from a book of magic. They demand, threatening violence, that Lucy go up the tower to the book and read the visibility spell. It is while reading the book that she is sorely tempted, resisting once and failing once.

Coriakin's island is laid out with broad roads and farms, and Coriakin is a generous host. The Dawn Treader had been damaged by a sea serpent, but Coriakin uses his magic to repair the ship. The voyagers have had many strange adventures, but after they leave the Dufflepuds, they have what may be their most awful one, because they encounter the Darkness and the Dark Island. While enveloped by the Darkness, they hear a man's cries for help, and when they call back a man desperately swims to the ship. He is Lord Rhoop, one of the lost lords, and he urges the voyagers to flee from the island and the Darkness. Dark Island is where dreams come true, Rhoop explains, "This is where dreams—dreams, do you understand—come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams." The sailors think they see all sorts of horrors climbing over their ship. A prayer by Lucy brings an albatross, a symbol of good luck, that looks like a white cross in the Darkness, and which leads the Dawn Treader out of the...

(The entire section is 1685 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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 of friends, the consequences of cruelty, that he has almost made himself into a monster of greed, and that he has the capacity for courage. He, like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy, demonstrates how even the worst of people can be redeemed.

Lewis was very insistent that he wrote his Narnian novels primarily to entertain his audience and that the moral matters found their way in as he wrote the books. The novels are exceptionally entertaining, so Lewis may be taken at his word, but it is only natural that someone as steeped in mythology and biblical lore as he was would fill in background and deepen events with some of the philosophical and religious materials that interested him most. Judging by his books, as well as how he lived, Lewis was especially interested in the practical application of philosophy and theology, and given that The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" is in part a tale of spiritual voyages, it is natural that he would include references to the Bible.

Edmund, for instance, is a character who starts out a traitor and a cruel bully who nearly has...

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Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 388 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 196 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 335 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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

Prince Caspian

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...

(The entire section is 851 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 220 words.)