To briefly summarize the plot of Dawn Treader, you should think of it in terms of a swashbuckling, episodic quest. Edmund and Lucy are staying with their annoying cousin Eustace. A painting of a lovely ship “comes to life” and the sea sweeps them into the painting, and they come to find that the ship is none other than King Caspian’s, and he is on a quest to find the fates of seven Lord’s who his uncle had essentially exiled for being loyal to Caspian’s father.
The Dawn Treader sails from island to island until all the lost Lord’s are discovered. But along the way the hero’s are beset by various enemies both external & internal. There’s no one villain, but there are various vice’s which must be overcome. This is the most introspective chronicle.
But there is a helpful lesson to be learned by the introspection displayed in this story. The hearts of the heroes are searched by making the sun get brighter and brighter, not by sinking deeper and deeper into their inner depths.
This story completes what I think should be called the “Lucy Trilogy”. So, I want to take a closer look at the character of Lucy over these first three books of Narnia. In LWW she is the first to arrive in Narnia and refuses to capitulate when others questioned the truth of her tale. When she first hears Aslan’s name we are told, “Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” In PC, it’s Lucy who’s told by Aslan that she should have followed him even if no one else did. She also observes that Aslan has grown, and we are given an important example of maturing faith:
“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
Here, in Dawn Treader, she again spots Aslan first when he appears to them during their dispute on Goldwater/Deathwater Island. Aslan again comes to her in the Magician’s library, and rebukes her for her eavesdropping on her friends, for envying Susan’s beauty, and then promises to comfort her with an eternal story of joy (of a cup, sword, green hill, and a tree). He comes (as an albatross, which at first appears to be a white cross) to their aid when the nightmares of Dark Island are creeping nearer and their escape seems impossible, and whispers to Lucy “Courage dear heart.”
At the end, when they’ve reached the world’s end, Aslan meets them (as a lamb nonetheless) and when he tells Lucy she and Edmund are not to return to Narnia her response is not to grieve never seeing Narnia again, but in her lovely words:
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
In Lucy, we see the life of true, child-like faith. It is beset by trial, by doubts, by sin. But it holds steadfast. Not to the benefits which Aslan brings, but to Aslan Himself. She rests between the Lion’s paws. She is ever on the lookout for the Lion, and her eyes, though she is the youngest, spot him first, more often than not.
The most poignant episode, and one which proves that Lewis was a closet Calvinist, is the undragoning of Eustace. He sleeps on a dragons horde, while cherishing dragonish thoughts (an apt description for total depravity if ever there were one). He becomes externally what he’s been inwardly, a child of the dragon.
But this revelation of his dragon soul brings great sorrow to Eustace, but no matter how many good deeds he does in order to reform himself, he remains a dragon. Disney, unsurprisingly, gets the heart of the story upside down, and in that retelling, Dragon Eustace is given a task in order to redeem/undragon himself. Lewis, by contrast, has the Lion undragon Eustace. This is the only way to redemption. The Lion must tear off your dragon skin, and then cloth you with new garments of his own making. Not of works, but by grace.
Fat Thor vs. King Caspian
Towards the end, Caspian begins to mope that he isn’t permitted to continue the journey to the very edge of the world. He is on the edge of abdicating in order to pursue the thrill of adventures new and glorious. But Reepicheep, as a true friend rebukes him:
“If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not,” said Reepicheep with a very low bow. “You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially with Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses.”
Contrast this with the “Fat Thor” of Avengers: Endgame. His grief over his losses and his depression from failure has led him to a dissolute life of sloth. When his mother meets him she coddles him with a “be true to yourself” mantra, and in the end, Fat Thor abdicates his throne, abandons his people, and joins the circus (which in this case is the goofballs of the Guardians of the Galaxy). Instead of doing his duty, and thus finding meaning, purpose, and glory, he takes the path of miserable irresponsibility.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and Reep and the rest of the crew are true friends to King Caspian. They remind him of his duty, and summon him to take up the responsibilities which fall to him and the office he’s been assigned.
Reepicheep the Prophet
With the dauntless Reepicheep we have one of the most exemplary characters in the Narnian catalogue. Amongst many of the other virtuous lessons we can learn from this noble mouse, the one I want to draw our attention to is the contrast between the dream which guides Reepicheep’s quest, and the dreams which terrorize the lost souls on Dark Island.
Reepicheep is guided by the oracle that had spoken prophetic lines over his cradle. He fears no foe, for he trusts that the word which was spoken over him would indeed come to pass. He is never shaken in his resolve that this word must come to pass.
The Dawn Treader comes, in her various adventures, to Dark Island––where dreams, nightmares, come true. While everyone else aboard is gripped with terror, it’s Reepicheep who alone remains unmoved. It’s a striking point to consider.
Most people only know dreams of horror, for their minds have been given over to lust, anxiety, envy, or carnal fears. But the Narnian mouse is one whose mind was stayed upon a good promise. We don’t know how prophetic revelation works in Narnia, but if I may take the liberty, Reepicheep rested in the peace of mind which comes from the Revelation of Aslan’s Word by the mouth of the prophetess.
Until a Perfect Day
In this sea-born adventure, we see a story of sanctification. This is not accomplished by crawling down into the depths of ourselves, but by chasing after the utter east, where the brightness of the sun makes even the salt-water sweet. The central lesson in this story is that as the heroes draw near to the Light of Aslan’s country all the dark corners of their own hearts are exposed, all the night-terrors are chased away, all the sea-serpents defeated by newfound courage, and all the foolish dufflepuds have their folly revealed.
In other words, we have here in story form what Solomon spoke in proverb: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (Pro 4:18 KJV).” As you walk in your own adventure, recognize that sanctification only can take place by drawing closer to the Light of Christ. It is not found by rummaging around in your own heart. Only by walking in the Light, as He is in the Light, is there deliverance from sin, strength for temptation, and hope for the final glory which awaits God’s people.