The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader provides the fifth chronological tale of Narnia but was the third in the series to be published.
Several characters in this story picture the trials and rewards of life’s quest, an adventure filled with both promise and peril. These complex characters show us that no one is exempt from danger or opportunity.
Setting. The story takes place aboard a Narnian sailing ship called the Dawn Treader and on a number of islands visited by the ship’s crew.
Plot Summary. Prince Caspian of Narnia has become king. He sets out on a voyage to find seven lords of Narnia who disappeared while exploring the Eastern Sea. Edmund and Lucy, accompanied by their spoiled and obnoxious cousin Eustace, are summoned from their world to help with the quest. They enter Narnia by falling into an enchanted painting of a sailing ship that becomes real.
Aboard the ship is Caspian, his crew, and the 2-foot-tall Reepicheep, the fearless and courageous chief of the Talking Mice. Together they visit various islands on their journey east. In the course of their adventure, they encounter slave traders, a dragon, a pool that turns everything into gold, and a sea serpent.
When the ship comes in view of the coast of Aslan’s country, Reepicheep paddles toward it on his own little boat with eager anticipation.
Spiritual Parallels. During their quest aboard the dragon-shaped sailing ship, the main characters illustrate a variety of motivations, temptations, and victories on life’s journey. How they respond to Aslan in the midst of their moral choices illustrates the perils and the rewards of a pilgrimage of faith.
In one compelling scene, Lewis illustrates the spiritual principle that true transformation can come only from the work of Christ in our lives and not through our own self-effort. On one of the islands, Eustace seeks shelter in a cave, not realizing that it’s a dragon’s lair filled with gold and jewels. When he sees the treasure, he greedily puts on a gold bracelet and stuffs jewels in his pockets. Eustace eventually falls asleep on his pile of loot, dreaming of his newfound riches. When he wakes up, however, he discovers that he’s turned into a dragon!
After some time spent as a dragon, he has an encounter with a talking lion who tells him to undress (remove his skin) and bathe in a well of water to ease the pain from the gold bracelet that was digging into his leg. Eustace tries three times unsuccessfully to scratch off his dragon skin until the lion tells him, “You will have to let me undress you.”
Having his skin ripped off by the lion’s claws is the most painful thing Eustace has ever experienced. But when the lion is done bathing him and dressing him with new clothes, he is not only a boy again but is transformed inside as well. When he is reunited with his cousins and the rest of the crew, they all notice his inner change.
On another island, a pool is discovered that turns everything into gold. Caspian becomes obsessed by the wealth that could be acquired by the king who owns that island. His greedy plans are cut short, however, by an appearance by Aslan.
Here the fantasy world of Lewis the storyteller illustrates how unrestrained greed can lead to death. Lewis signals the effect of unchecked desire in the name that Reepicheep gives the island: Deathwater.
All of this echoes the story behind the story. It was Jesus who asked, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mt. 16:26). The life of faith is a journey in which we learn that eternal values far outweigh temporal gain.
Reepicheep the mouse joined the quest not only to help Caspian look for the seven lost lords, but also to seek Aslan’s country. At the end of their journey, when the ship arrived at the World’s End, he lowered his own little boat and enthusiastically rowed toward Aslan’s country without fear or apprehension. This courageous warrior-mouse illustrates the “other worldly” orientation of the life of faith. The apostle Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Reepicheep’s life was filled with meaning, adventure, and joy in seeking his eternal home.