Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 4

Status Report:

  • Book: A severely used copy of the 2001 The Chronicles of Narnia omnibus by HarperCollins. I hope these are coffee stains.
  • Books Read: 4/7
  • Pages Read: 445/767
  • Progress: 

Goodness, I’m halfway there! I’ve decided to read The Horse and His Boy after The Last Battle–I think I’ll need it. I finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before class this morning, but I’ve been quite busy; term papers and exams, yay! (Man, can you imagine if I hadn’t abandoned NaNoWriMo this year? I would have exploded!) I was pleasantly surprised by it. I know several people who count it as their favorite of The Chronicles of Narnia–while I can’t make my own choice until, you know, I’m done with the series, it’s not hard to see why.

Except for a few stumbles (such as the design of the Monopods and the swipes at the Scrubbs), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is charmingly whimsical without being childish. Narnia is under no real threat–it’s an episodic road trip narrative, which is perfect for young readers without pandering to or patronizing them. Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace encounter islands ruled by retired stars, a King Midas-inspired glade, and the stunningly dreamy End of the World. The cracks in the worldbuilding have been swept under the rug for the time being, allowing me to blissfully sink into the unique atmosphere of Narnia without my World-Builder’s Disease flaring up.

But The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the book where Lewis’s social commentary leaps to the forefront. The novel kicks off with a hilarious line about Eustace’s unfortunate name–but then mocks his thoroughly modern parents, who don’t drink, smoke, or eat meat, and Eustace is often referred to as not having read the right books. The right books, apparently, are fairy-tales and detective stories over any sort of nonfiction involving exports and imports. As a teetotalling nonsmoker who enjoys her economics, I was a bit perturbed, but at least I was prepared. (I also love meat, fairy-tales, and detective stories, but hey. Point still stands.) Lewis assumes that the reader is a child who thinks much the same way, conflating his assumed audience with Edmund and Lucy at least once.

Additionally, the Christian allegory stops being an allegory here. At the end of the novel, the children encounter Aslan–who tells them that their journeys in Narnia were to strengthen their relationship with him back in the real world, where he goes by another name. It’s made explicit that Aslan is the Narnian incarnation of Jesus in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I was a bit surprised by. It changes things a bit, but in a neutral way. During the novel, he appears to characters almost entirely in their heads–his only face-to-face encounter is when he rescues Eustace, who has recently been turned into a dragon. It’s related by Eustace, but I wish we’d seen it first-hand–it’s a beautiful, whimsical scene.

Lucy, I feel, is not a character that grows–she gets more capable and grows spiritually, but her core remains much the same. Edmund is calmer here and more at peace with his actions in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–he can even talk about it make Eustace feel better for being greedy and turning into a dragon. Eustace starts off as an obnoxious party-pooper (there’s much stronger language in my notes), even keeping a very passive-aggressive diary where he can be dull to his heart’s content–but over the trip, he becomes braver, more open-minded, and more aware of other people. It’s enjoyable to watch him grow, and I look forward to seeing more of new and improved Eustace in The Silver Chair. I was quite surprised to find that I loved Reepicheep, whom I only found amusing in Prince Caspian. He’s a romantic hero in the body of a Mouse, capable, brave, and proud. I really loved him here.

And, now being able to place things, I present to you my vaguely organized thoughts on the latest trailer for the upcoming film adaptation.

  • They’re going to show Aslan rescuing Eustace! Yes!
  • Jadis, what are you doing on the Dark Island? You are supposed to be dead. (Yeah, okay, it’s a dream of Edmund’s, but still!)
  • They’re trying to up the epic quotient, guys! Add world in danger, swords, and expand some female roles. (The pretty glowing woman is Ramadu’s unnamed daughter, who was named Lilliandil for the film.)
  • For some reason, I love movie!Susan (probably doesn’t hurt that Anna Popplewell is devastatingly gorgeous), so I was psyched to see her for a bit in the real world. GO SUSAN GO!
  • Where is that battle coming from? The rescue from the slavers? Wasn’t that bluffing?

Time to get onto The Silver Chair–and oh, I can’t wait for The Last Battle! I’m having tons of fun during this challenge, guys; I hope you are too!

If you’re participating in Narnia Week, don’t forget to add your posts to the Mr. Linky! And don’t forget about the #narniaweek hash tag on Twitter. Thanks!

9 thoughts on “Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 4

  1. I’m so enjoying reading your thoughts on the Narnia books!

    Dawn Treader is one of my favorites in the series. I actually loved the early digs at Eustace’s family, mostly because I thought they were probably a bit priggish in their self-denial of all things fun. Plus, I love what an unapologetic hedonist Lewis can be–so many of his readers in the conservative Christian world are more likely to be of the Scrubb-ish variety. No drinking, no smoking, nothing that cannot be clearly defined as “good for you.”

  2. This is one of my very favourites. 🙂 I don’t like the preview, but then, I tend to get cranky at movie adaptations of books I’ve loved for a long time. lol

  3. I enjoyed this one more than the second. I loved the Eustace plot line. I’m excited to see the scene with Aslan helping him shed the dragon skin too! I too love Reepicheep!

  4. Oh, God, I love Eustace’s diary so much. Did you not like the Monopods? Even when they were agreeing with their chief and agreeing with Lucy and she says “But we’re saying just the opposite!” and they say “True for you, true for you, nothing like an opposite. Keep it up, the pair of you.” I’m giggling just thinking about them.

    Very very solid call saving The Horse and His Boy for last. It has been accused of being racist, but I think it’s really more based in Arabian Nights-type legend than, you know, racism. Either that OR I am scrambling to defend it because it has been my favorite since practically before I was potty-trained. :p

    • Jenny! The Horse and His Boy is one of my other very-favourites! And I always thought I was all alone in that.

      Miller does a good job of parsing the racist from the non-racist descriptions of the Calormenes, and even knowing about the racism doesn’t stop me from loving the adventures in it.

    • I just don’t like their design–their concept is cute, though. (I wish they’d been crickets or something, but this is my World-Builder’s Disease rearing up again.)

      I think I’ve already encountered Lewis’s view of the Calormen, so I won’t be surprised, heh.

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