While all of CS Lewis’ Narnia books are fundamentally allegories for Christian tales and concepts, they can be viewed simply as stories of the journey of life.
Voyage of the Dawntreader is the fifth of seven books, and is essentially a ‘journey’ book, with the characters on a quest. For some, this quest is literal and external, for others, it becomes a quest for understanding of their ‘self’.
It is for this reason, that it resonates so strongly. Personal growth and journeys have been a strong theme in my life for the past five years in particular.
The strongest themes presented here are exploration and transformation. The quest itself is an exploration, and none more vividly written in these seven books than this one. They find literal wonders and unexpected outcomes wherever they travel.
Transformation is an even stronger theme especially for Eustace, a new character who hasn’t appeared before book five. Being unexpectedly thrust into another world, his desire for clear rules and regulations comes hard up against a world that has few, other than honour and decency – traits he sadly lacks.
Within a few chapters of the story, his greed overcomes him and he falls victim to the Dragon’s curse, stealing items from a dragons hoard and thus becomes a dragon himself.
That transformation is both internal and external – his change into a dragon wouldn’t have occurred if he were not so greedy, and in need of something that would give him a perceived value. He feels that by being the holder of riches, the others must respect him.
What he finds is quite the opposite. In realising his awful position, he expects rejection, but instead receives kindness.
Ultimately, he learns to be more giving and kind himself.
He also has to journey through frustration and literal pain in order to return to his ‘real’ self, reinforcing the lesson strongly.
While this story is strongly in the realms of fantasy – dragons and other magic creatures are not truly known in this world – it still has strong relevance in telling a tale of transformation of character.
I believe that the best approach is to narrow the focus – or re-focus the story from a broader quest, down to just one incident, and expand on that particular incident.
In our mythology, dragons are greatly feared. There is a delightful irony in that becoming a strong and feared creature – effectively similar to the outcome of being ‘respected’ because of wealth and status – Eustace learns that not all strength and power is what it seems. His new shape has great limitations and he yearns to become himself again.
The focus will be from the moment he wanders away from his friends, through to the return having had his scaly skin removed to reveal the reborn boy. His scars are not physical, but mental, and his lessons hard learned.
This is a story for all ages.