Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

I remembered The Voyage of the Dawn Treader being my favorite of the series when I was little and it did not disappoint this time either. I think I know why, too. It’s a straight up quest-style adventure. You’re not so worried about evil men (or witches) ruling over Narnia, and how the kings and queens will be able to reclaim their thrones. In Dawn Treader all you care about is surviving one mysterious island so you can move on to the next and ultimately arrive at the Utter East. Add to that the introduction of a new character who is very different from any other we’ve met up until this point, a sea monster, a dragon, and a heavy dose of Reepicheep and you have a truly excellent book… Or at least excellent in my opinion, but then while most little girls were playing with ponies and unicorns I was reading books about dragons and dreaming about flying on them. This one struck eight-year-old me just right.

As with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, a couple things stood out to me in this book as well:
First of all it has one of the best opening lines ever.
But less comically, there were others.
“Tender as my years may be,” said Caspian. “I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as Your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands meat or bread or beer or wine or timber or cabbages or books or instruments of music or horses or armour or anything else worth having. But whether it does or not, it must be stopped.”

“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasped the governor. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

“I have seen them both in an egg,” said Caspian. ”We call it ‘Going Bad’ in Narnia. This trade must stop.”

I love this passage. At first it made me laugh, but there’s so much more there than a wisecrack on Caspian’s part. This conversation is about more than slavery. It’s about pragmatism, the ends justifying the means, and progress for progress’ sake. Caspian clearly is saying that it doesn’t matter if good comes out of something evil or not – that something is still evil. If only our politicians understood that. Caspian For President!

But my particular favorite point here is that something is not necessarily good and wonderful because it’s new and ‘progressive.’ We’ve become a culture obsessed with the latest, greatest, newest…who cares about what’s good, and right, and best. We’ve barely used our SmartPhone 11 before SmartPhone 12 comes out and we demand that. Why? Is it better? Not always, but sometimes. And even if it is, is it so much better that we need it NOW? And it’s a problem deeper than how we look at technology. Progress has made it so we can alleviate pain and suffering, yes. But we can also euthanize ‘better’, give ‘better’ abortions…play God ‘better.’ And it’s progress! Because it’s progress it’s inherently good…right?

Climbing off my soapbox now.

The other passage I loved:

“…we must do something,” said Lucy. “[Eustace] may have got lost, or fallen into a hole, or been captured by savages.”

“Or killed by wild beasts,” said Drinian.

“And a good riddance if he has, I say,” muttered Rhince.

“Master Rhince,” said Reepicheep, “you never spoke a word that became you less. The creature is no friend of mine but he is of the Queen’s blood, and while he is one of our fellowship it concerns our honour to find him and to avenge him if he is dead.”

I love this because even though Eustace had tortured, tormented and bullied Reepicheep mercilessly, Reepicheep shows him mercy. And mercy ‘behind his back’ so to speak. It’s not so hard sometimes to show mercy to someone suffering right in front of you, in need of help here and now. It’s a bit harder to stick up for someone you have every right to intensely dislike when they’re not even there to ask for it or see it, when you really may feel more like not saying or doing anything. But Reepicheep had no such failing. He saw that even his treatment of his worst enemy was a matter of honor.
And last of all, I couldn't leave this book without something about dragons.

Three down, four to go. Up next on my Narnia list, The Silver Chair.

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