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Book Review

This fantasy adventure is the fifth book in " The Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis, although it was originally published as the third book in the series. HarperCollins Children's Books, a division of HarperCollins is the publisher.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is written for kids ages 8 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Edmund and Lucy are spending the summer with their annoying cousin Eustace when all three children are pulled through a magical painting and find themselves in the fantasy world of Narnia. Instead of being in the land of Narnia itself, the children are aboard a sailing ship called the Dawn Treader, and they take part in King Caspian X's quest to find the seven lost lords of Narnia who went to explore the uncharted Eastern Seas and never returned. Three years have past in Narnian time since the children last saw Caspian.

The Dawn Treader's first stop is the Lone Islands where the main characters, including Caspian, are kidnapped by slavers. Caspian ultimately manages to re-establish Narnian lordship over the isles, abolish the slave trade there and discover one of the missing lords. Next, the crew endures several days of stormy weather before landing on an island where Eustace is enchanted and turns into a dragon. It is revealed that one of the lost lords was also turned into a dragon and died in that form. Eustace is spared when Aslan, a lion who rules Narnia, changes him back into a human. Then the Dawn Treader narrowly escapes being wrecked by a sea monster before reaching Deathwater Island, a place where they find one of the lost lords turned into a gold statue at the bottom of an enchanted pool.

At the next island, invisible people capture the crew. The captors need a young girl to break their curse. Lucy goes to the abandoned home of a magician and finds the right spell to reverse their invisibility. Lucy is successful, and Aslan arrives to offer her encouragement. The adventurers, along with the crew, set sail again, and rescue one of the lost lords from an island of eternal nightmares. The final three lords are discovered on the island of Ramandu, where they have been under an enchanted sleep for seven years.

With their mission completed, Caspian and his crew decide to sail further and try to reach the world's end. After a short while, Aslan instructs Caspian to travel home, but without Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Reepicheep. Reepicheep sails past the end of the world and into Aslan's country, and Aslan sends the three children back to their own world.

Christian Beliefs

Aslan is a mighty lion, and his character is representative of Jesus Christ. Edmund tells Eustace that Aslan is the son of the unseen Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. In earlier books in this series, Aslan redeemed Narnia from an endless winter and gave his life to save Edmund. He shows himself briefly when Edmund and Caspian are about to duel, when Lucy is tempted to cast a spell to make herself inhumanly beautiful and when Caspian is about to abandon his kingdom and sail to the end of the world. Aslan is called the highest of all kings, and courageous deeds are done in Aslan's name. Lucy calls out to Aslan for help, and he delivers the Dawn Treader from the fog of nightmares surrounding the Dark Island. At the end of the novel, Aslan appears to Edmund, Lucy and Eustace as a lamb, before changing into his traditional form. Lucy laments that she doesn't want to leave Narnia because her own world doesn't have Aslan in it. He tells her that he does exist in her world, but goes by a different name — the children were allowed to enter Narnia so they could recognize him better on Earth.

When Eustace is desperate to turn from a dragon back into a human, he tries to scratch off his dragon skin, but Aslan has to remove his skin for him. Aslan throws Eustace under water, and Eustace rises from the water as a whole person.

Reepicheep hopes to journey to the end of the world because he believes Aslan's country, a representation of heaven, is there. Lucy questions whether Aslan's country is a location that can be reached by physical means. Reepicheep ends the novel by sailing up a waterfall and into Aslan's country.

Some of the books Lucy finds in the magician's study are said to be larger than any church Bible. When Lucy first spies the albatross that leads the ship to safety, it looks similar to a cross. Humans from our world are called either Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve.

Other Belief Systems

Magic appears throughout the novel. The Dufflepuds live on an island overseen by a magician named Coriakin. Lucy is recruited to go into the magician's house and find his book of spells. When she utters a spell to see what her friends secretly think of her, the narrator pointedly says he will not write down the actual words of the spell. Lucy casts one more spell to make hidden things visible, causing the Dufflepuds to re-appear. Aslan has ordained Coriakin the Magician as the ruler of the island, though Coriakin says he wishes the Dufflepuds could be ruled by wisdom instead of magic. Three of the lost lords are put under an enchanted sleep because one of them grabbed a forbidden stone knife, the same one used by the White Witch to kill Aslan.

Some magic is tied to a location, and some seems to occur naturally. Eustace becomes a dragon, but he simply falls asleep thinking greedy thoughts and wakes up as a dragon. This enchantment is not explained. Reepicheep says that Deathwater Island has a curse on it, but no one discusses who or what might have set the curse in place. The Dark Island is called accursed.

The White Witch, a magic-using villain from a previous book, is mentioned. Edmund suggests that Ramandu's daughter might be a witch. Ramandu and Coriakin are stars at rest, literal heavenly stars who have been sent to live in Narnia for a time.

Authority Roles

Eustace's parents do not appear in the novel, but they are mentioned. They consider themselves progressive and will not smoke, drink alcohol or eat meat. They allow Eustace to call them by their first names, and when Eustace becomes kinder after his trip to Narnia, his mother does not like the change in him.

Edmund and Lucy's parents are also absent — their father is lecturing in America and their mother is spending the summer with him. Their older sister, Susan, accompanies their parents because they believe she will enjoy America more than her siblings. It is too expensive to take all the children.

King Caspian seems to be in his late teens, but he is treated as an adult and serves as the chief authority figure aboard the Dawn Treader. Caspian shows hospitality to his English guests, providing for their needs and making them as comfortable as possible, even letting Lucy take his own cabin as her own while she is on the Dawn Treader.

Caspian insists that Edmund and Lucy, as former rulers of Narnia, should be treated with respect, and he is patient with Eustace's constant complaints. He experiences some lapses in judgment, such as when he takes a party ashore on the Lone Islands without first learning if the inhabitants are still friendly. His lack of foresight causes his friends to be captured by slavers, but he later uses his ingenuity to save them. Caspian displays greed and selfishness when he fights with Edmund at Deathwater Island, and he becomes angry and demanding when he wants to see the world's end, abusing his authority by saying that no one aboard the ship has the right to contradict his wishes. Reepicheep reminds Caspian that a king is responsible for his kingdom and subjects and may not leave them behind for private pursuits.

Caspian is called sire and liege, and all members of the crew address Edmund, Lucy and Caspian as Majesty.

Edmund usually defers to Caspian's authority, but Edmund confronts Caspian on two occasions. On Deathwater Island, Edmund says he is not Caspian's subject and Caspian actually owes allegiance to him, because Edmund was one of the original Narnian rulers. Again, when Caspian wants to travel to the end of the world, Edmund says that he is not Caspian's subject and as such, he can contradict Caspian. Edmund is in authority over Eustace, but he has little patience with his cousin, avoids his company and rebukes him for his bad behavior.

Eustace does not recognize any authority or rules, except those that benefit him. He repeatedly requests to meet with a British Consul, a representative of the British Embassy, to air grievances against Caspian.

Lucy holds a unique place in the crew as the only female. She is given special courtesy, and she uses her position to tend the needs of others, especially those of Eustace.

Caspian's uncle, Miraz, is briefly mentioned as a negative example of authority. Miraz usurped his brother's throne and strengthened his position by effectively exiling the seven lords who supported Caspian's father, the rightful king.

The Lone Islands no longer acknowledge Narnia's lordship over them. Governor Gumpas profits from the local slave trade, but he is deposed and replaced by Lord Bern, who detests slavery and honors Caspian as his king.

Coriakin the Magician rules the island of the Dufflepuds, but the Dufflepuds resent his interference. For their continual disobedience, he turns them into monopods; they have to hop around on one leg.

Aslan is the ultimate authority figure in the novel. When he speaks, he is obeyed.

Profanity/Violence

Eustace is called stinker, blighter and brat. When assonance in poetry is mentioned, Edmund calls it assy-thingummy, though he does not say the word in the same way one would use profanity. For heaven's sake, by Jove, blasted, blimey, sucking up and drat are used. Reepicheep uses the word poltroon to insult anyone he finds cowardly. A-- is used once in reference to a donkey, and once as an insult.

Reepicheep follows a code of chivalry and places a high value on personal combat. He says that the Dawn Treader should have pursued a pirate ship and hanged its crew. When Eustace sneaks up on Reepicheep and swings him around by his tail, Reepicheep retaliates by stabbing Eustace's hand and hitting him with the flat of his sword. Governor Gumpas is threatened with flogging. When the Lord Octesian dies as a dragon, he convulses and blood flows from his mouth. Shortly thereafter, Eustace, in the form of a dragon, eats Lord Octesian's remains. A sea serpent attacks the Dawn Treader, but no one is harmed.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Caspian hints that he'd like to kiss Ramandu's daughter, but she says that he can't until he has dissolved the enchantment that holds the three Narnian lords in sleep. The enchantment is broken, and Caspian later marries her. One of the illustrations in one version of this book depicts a topless mermaid.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Whining and bullying: Before his transformation, Eustace complains constantly and tries to bully his cousins. He puts his own needs first and steals water when it is being carefully rationed.

Alcohol: Edmund, Lucy and Eustace are offered spiced wine when they board the Dawn Treader. Edmund and Lucy accept, but Eustace spits out his drink and asks for a vitamin tonic instead. Ship provisions include casks of beer and bottles of wine. Wine is consumed during meals and used for toasts.

Tobacco: A crewman mentions that he is running out of tobacco.

Literature ties: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader makes brief references to a few other works of literature: the Roman story of “Androcles and the Lion,” donkey-headed Bottom from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and “Ulysses and the Sirens” from The Odyssey by Homer.


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