Setting

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1685

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...

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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 Darkness.

The most wonderful island of all may be Ramandu's Island. When Caspian, Lucy, and the others explore the island, they find a curious scene:

What they now saw was a wide oblong space flagged with smooth stones and surrounded by grey pillars but unroofed. And from end to end of it ran a long table laid with a rich crimson cloth that came down nearly to the pavement. At either side of it were many chairs of stone richly carved and with silken cushions upon the seats.

The table, they will learn, is Aslan's Table, set out for anyone who sails so far east in Narnia's world. Sleeping at the table are the lords Revilian, Argoz, and Mavramorn:

Their hair, which was grey, had grown over their eyes till it almost concealed their faces, and their beards had grown over the table, climbing round and entwining plates and goblets as brambles entwine a fence, until, all mixed in one great mat of hair, they flowed over the edge and down to the floor. And from their heads the hair hung over the backs of their chairs so that they were wholly concealed. In fact the three men were nearly all hair.

Two of the lords had fought over whether they should continue sailing east or return to Narnia; the third had been, sensibly, eating the fine food on the table. On the table is the very knife that the White Witch had used to murder Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; when one of the arguing men grabbed it as if to strike the other, they were all instantly sent into slumber. No one is allowed to use the knife that killed Aslan. The ruler of the island is a retired star named Ramandu, and he has a beautiful daughter who will eventually become Caspian's wife.

The part of the world into which the Dawn Treader has sailed is different from Narnia and the other lands of the western continent. For one thing, the sun is larger and turns out to be inhabited by birds that fly to Ramandu's Island everyday and eat what is left of the food that is put on Aslan's Table after people such as the voyagers have eaten. The voyagers must sail even farther east, because the three sleeping lords cannot be awakened unless the voyagers sail all the way to the Last Wave and leave someone behind.

The light from the larger sun becomes almost blinding as the Dawn Treader sails onward. Lucy looks over the side of the ship and sees roads and castles and towns under the water. She sees lords and ladies and makes a brief spiritual connection with a shepherd girl who looks up at Lucy as the ship passes by. The world of Narnia is teeming with life, with unusual and fascinating beings everywhere. Lord Drinian, the ship's captain, asks Lucy not to mention the undersea civilization to the sailors because men have been known to dive into the sea after sea-maidens. Therefore, he is at first furious with Reepicheep, who dives into the water and seems to be ready to give away the secret.

Reepicheep is a gallant mouse, determined to uphold the highest standards of honor, so when a sea lord made a hostile gesture at him, he plunged into the water to fight him. Yet his cries are not about the underwater people, they are about the water itself: "'I tell you the water's sweet,' said the Mouse. 'Sweet, fresh. It isn't salt.'" The seawater is usually poisonous to people because of its salt; but the Dawn Treader has sailed into a region where the water is safe to drink. Further, drinking the water affects the eyesight so that the very bright sunlight is easy to bear. The water is "like light more than anything else," Caspian says. "That is what it is," Reepicheep agrees. "Drinkable light." This seems to fulfill a prophecy made about Reepicheep at the mouse's birth:

Where the waves grow sweet,

Doubt not, Reepicheep,

There is the utter East.

He is to sail all the way to Aslan's country in the utter east and not return.

Soon the Dawn Treader sails into the Silver Sea (or the Sea of Lilies). The lilies cover the water; they are traditional symbols of Christ, and in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" they signal the nearness of Aslan. Beyond the lilies is the Last Wave, a giant wave always at its peak and never crashing on the eastern shore. Reepicheep rows his little boat over it and toward the far clifflined shore and is not seen again until the end of The Last Battle, when he is revealed to have made his way into Aslan's country, that is, into Heaven. In spite of his profound yearning to go to Aslan's country too, Caspian is persuaded to return westward toward Ramandu's Island, where he will pick up the three sleeping lords, who should be awake by then, and where he will court and win Ramandu's daughter.

Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace walk in the shallow water along the Last Wave, south to a bit of shore. There they find a lamb beside a fire. The lamb transforms into a gigantic lion, Aslan himself. He offers the children food and tells Lucy and Edmund that they will not be visiting Narnia again. Like Peter and Susan in Prince Caspian, Lucy and Edmund are too old to return, and they must learn to recognize Aslan in their own world, earth. The setting for The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" is a great, fun, high adventure, but a spiritual journey for all its participants, helping them form deeper connections to the wonders of their world and to Aslan.

Literary Qualities

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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 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 his brother and sisters killed out of lust for candy and a mean-spirited dislike for their truthfulness and trustworthiness. In The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." he can fall into imperious ways, as he does on Deathwater Island, yet he has learned to be humble in matters of faith. In The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," when asked about his acquaintance with Aslan, Prince Caspian says, '"Well—he [Aslan] knows me.'" This alludes to I Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Edmund here implies that he does not yet see Aslan well, but he knows that Aslan sees the whole of him.

When the voyagers are at great peril for their sanity as well as their lives, Lucy prays to Aslan. She hears a voice, "and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face." This alludes to John 20:22: "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost . . . . " The smell represents the Holy Spirit, that aspect of God that is always with people, and in "The Chronicles of Narnia" it binds Lucy to Aslan.

An incident on Ramandu's Island may have been inspired by one of the most wondrous passages in the Bible, Isaiah 6:6-7:

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the 424 The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" altar: / And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Compare this to a passage in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader":

But Lucy, looking out from between the wings of the birds that covered her, saw one bird fly to the Old Man [Ramandu] with something in its beak that looked like a little fruit, unless it was a little live coal, which it might have been, for it was too bright to look at.

The implication is that Ramandu is trustworthy ("thine iniquity is taken away"). Beyond that, Lewis has taken a beautiful inspiration and made it into a beautiful passage in his novel. Ramandu's being a retired star may also have been inspired by the Bible. Revelation 9:1 says, "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." The stars in "The Chronicles of Narnia" are living beings, and perhaps this passage suggested to Lewis that he make them living beings.

At the end of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace meet the lamb: '"Come and have breakfast,' said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice." In John 21:12 there is this passage: "Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord." It is likely that Lewis intended his audience to recognize the lamb, and he laid out plenty of clues leading up to the children meeting the lamb. That the lamb transforms into Aslan the lion is significant, because it suggests that one or more of the children may not yet realize who the lamb must be. On the other hand, Aslan says that the visitors to Narnia's world must learn his name on earth, and his taking the form of a lamb is a big clue as to who he is.

Social Sensitivity

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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 trade, but threats do not deter Caspian from doing what is right. Lewis himself believed that people sometimes had to fight wars against evil and in defense of good.

The matter of just rule is trickier in the island of the Dufflepuds, where Coriakin rules the foolish monopods, but signs of just rule are there. For instance, Coriakin does not punish the Dufflepuds for their foolishness in turning everyone invisible, including Coriakin; he treats them with tolerance and instruction. They complain about the work they do, but the island is well stocked with food from the work directed by Coriakin, and the Dufflepuds have a great deal of time to play. In addition, as on Ramandu's Island, everyone shares in the island's bounty. Thus, the Dufflepuds are able to express themselves freely without interference.

For Further Reference

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 220

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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