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Book review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #5)The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew that people would be talking about the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so I re-read this book for the fifth time. This book is different from the other Narnia books in that it's a nautical journey, none of which occurs within Narnian borders. It has more variety than many of the other books because it's a series of adventures occurring on several islands and the sea between them. Like the other Narnia books, it's full of Biblical allegory and lessons about Jesus and faith.

When Caspian et al. visit The Lone Islands, C.S.Lewis makes the point that materialism shouldn't trump morality. Governor Gumpas tries to justify the slave trade, saying that it's "necessary, unavoidable. An essential part of the economic development of the islands...Our present burst of prosperity depends on it." Caspian responds that he doesn't see that the slave trade actually brings necessary imports to the island, "but whether it does or not, it must be stopped." Gumpas objects that "that would be putting the clock back" and would slow progress and development. Lewis uses this scene to show that neither economics nor progress are valid arguments for compromising morals.

When Eustace's selfishness and greediness turn him into a dragon, he finds himself unable to transform himself back. Only Aslan is able to restore his humanity, teaching us that we're helpless to save ourselves from sin, and reliant on Jesus for salvation.

There are several times where Aslan appears and snaps people out of "sinful" dreams. On Deathwater, Edmund and Caspian, their eyes glistening with visions of treasure, begin to fight over the water that turns anything it touches to gold. They snap back to reality when they see Aslan on a nearby hill. Later, in the magician's house, Lucy is about to cast a spell to make herself incredibly beautiful, then sees Aslan on a page, startling her back to her senses. Sometimes God acts in our lives to prevent us from sinning.

There are many other Christian lessons. When Lucy laments that she's forgetting the most beautiful story she's ever read, Aslan promises to tell it to her for years and years. Just before he vanishes from the Magician's house, Aslan tells Lucy, "I call all times soon." On Ramandu's Island, Ramandu's daughter describes faith when she says that "You can't know. You can only believe - or not."

At the end of the book, Lucy asks, "Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?" Aslan's reply echoes biblical passages about the journey of life and death: "I shall be telling you all the time. But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder."

On the last page, Lewis shows us why he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia for children. In one of my favorite parts of the series, Lucy cries, "We shan't meet you [in our world]. And how can we live, never meeting you?" and Aslan says,
"But you shall meet me, dear one. But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

My favorite scenes
Eustace's pessimistic diary.
Eustace's transformation into a dragon, and Aslan restoring his humanity.
The otherworldliness of the chapters "The Wonders of the Last Sea" and "The Very End of the World", with the sea people, sweet water, and stunning brightness.
Aslan's parting conversation with Lucy and Edmund.

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