As Devin Brown reminds us in the Introduction to Inside The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Guide to Exploring the Journey beyond Narnia (2010 Baker Books), the third Chronicle is about learning and growth. That is why Lucy and Edmund are sent back.
“…since [Lucy and Edmund] are not essential to this adventure, as they were to the earlier ones, it could be argued that the main reason they are called back into Narnia this third time is so they can continue the education they began earlier.” (p.11)
The trials and testings the siblings will go through will help them know Aslan better, and prepare them to learn to know him “by another name” back in their own world. In the movie version of Dawn Treader, Edmund tries to enlist in the British army, lying about his age. Apparently movie Edmund feels the lessons he learned in Narnia have matured him enough to take on battles back on Earth. Aslan has other plans.
The Pevencies’ cousin Eustace is not just along for the ride either. Aslan intends for this to be the beginning of his education. As Devin will point out, Eustace has been raised in a family that delights in feeling superior to others. Because he likes to bully and boss people around, he has no friends.
“Eustace’s condition of being friendless, self-centered, and dominated by the desire to dominate is a state in which Aslan will not abandon him.” (p.27)
As in the first two books in the Inside Narnia series (See links to reviews 4 and 5 below this article.), Brown will refer frequently to JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth, as well as other classic literature. He compares the dragon hoard Eustace finds to the dragon treasure in The Hobbit. He also sees precursors to Eustace becoming a dragon in the tales of Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, and the myth of Narcissus.
Lewis had a love for the medieval conception of the cosmos. Brown points out that this love is seen not only in how the stars are described as sentient beings, participating in the “great dance,” but in the other “elements” of the Narnian universe, which are full of life. With the living stars, birds which live on the sun, seapeople, and (in The Sliver Chair) Earthmen, “Lewis populates Narnia’s earth, air, fire, and water.” (p. 208)
There is so much more in this book. Hopefully this brief glimpse will prompt you to read it for yourself. Walking through the first three Chronicles with Dr. Brown has been been a rich experience. There is so much more to these stories than can ever be depicted in a movie. The film series has its place, but how much more there is to explore from reading what Lewis would call “the right books.”
Devin Brown will not only help you mine the depths of Narnia, but he will also point you to many of the “right books” along the way. We are sure to be mining them for years to come.