Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”

Far beyond her [Venus]

The heaven’s highway
hums and trembles,

Drums and dindles,
to the driv’n thunder

Of Sol’s chariot,
whose sword of light

Hurts and humbles;
beheld only

Of eagle’s eye.
When his arrow glances

Through mortal mind,
mists are parted

And mild as morning
the mellow wisdom

Breathes o’er the breast,
broadening eastward

Clear and cloudless.
In a clos’d garden

(Unbound her burden)
his beams foster

Soul in secret,
where the soil puts forth

Paradisal palm,
and pure fountains

Turn and re-temper,
touching coolly

The uncomely common
to cordial gold;

Whose ore also,
in earth’s matrix,

Is print and pressure
of his proud signet

On the wax of the world.
He is the worshipp’d male,

The earth’s husband,

Arch-chemic eye.

The Driv’n Thunder of Sol’s Chariot

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the third Narnia book written, and, if Lewis’s letter to “Laurence” (see my original C. S. Lewis post) is to be believed, he thought when he began it that it would be the final instalment. I am not so sure that his memory was up to scratch on that point, since an original sketch of the map from Prince Caspian includes a note by Lewis clearly showing that he was already planning the marsh scenes in The Silver Chair. Be that as it may, Lewis does seem to have committed himself more firmly to the planetary schema. Whereas in the primarily Martial Prince Caspian Lewis dallies with Venus for some time, as we saw, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has one planet of the mediaeval seven firmly in command.
Which is not to say the others don’t appear at all. Edmund invokes Jove three times:
“Meanwhile,” said Caspian, “we want to talk.”
“By Jove, we do,” said Edmund. “And first, about time. It’s a year ago by our time since we left you just before your coronation. How long has it been in Narnia?”
“Exactly three years,” said Caspian.
“All going well?” asked Edmund.
“You don’t suppose I’d have left my kingdom and put to sea unless all was well,” answered the King...

“Don’t you know me?” said the other. “It’s me – Eustace.”
“By Jove,” said Edmund, “so it is. My dear chap—”
“Hush,” said Eustace and lurched as if he were going to fall.
“Hello!” said Edmund, steadying him. “What’s up? Are you ill?”

All sat down, but one (it was Edmund) jumped up again very quickly.
“They go in for sharp stones on this island,” he said, groping about in the heather. “Where is the wretched thing? ... Ah, now I’ve got it ... Hullo! It wasn’t a stone at all, it’s a sword-hilt. No, by Jove, it’s a whole sword; what the rust has left of it. It must have lain here for ages.”
“Narnian, too, by the look of it,” said Caspian, as they all crowded round.
I can’t swear to the third one, but the first two both occur at Jovial moments. Jove is the god of kingship and of things going well. He is also, you remember, the planet Lewis associates with forgiveness of sin, and in the second passage above Eustace is about to tell us of his conversion and healing by Aslan. A couple of other planets also attend that scene in minor roles:
They went to the rocks and sat down looking out across the bay while the sky got paler and paler and the stars disappeared except for one very bright one low down and near the horizon.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was...
“...And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells – like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg.
Venus the Morning Star testifies that Eustace is now enjoying newness of life in Christ. Luna, whose sphere is the threshold of the Heavens, naturally appears when Aslan descends. We’ve seen this pattern in the previous two books. If you compare the parallels, however, you’ll find that the Lunar imagery, in particular, is rather perfunctory here. Neither the water nor the moonlight are described with any vividness, though perhaps this is meant to reflect Eustace’s faults as a storyteller rather than any disinterest on Lewis’s part. Luna again performs a liminal function when Lucy opens the Magician’s Book; the spells begin with “cures for warts (by washing your hands in moonlight in a silver basin)”. A softer echo of Luna is heard at the end of the book, when the coastal water of Aslan’s country is called the Silver Sea.
There are some hints of Saturn also, though he is not the source of all evils as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Governor Gumpas of the Lone Islands has Saturnine touches in his modernistic talk of economic development; but, on the other hand, he is also a fool, and folly is one evil not associated with Saturn. The Dark Island embodies Saturn’s aspect as the bringer of ill-fortune and perhaps old age, since it has turned the Lord Rhoop’s hair to “an untidy mop of white” – but the same sentence also tells us that he “he did not otherwise look very old”. Indeed, one major weakness of this book is that there is no villain, no existential threat to Narnia or its king, as there is in all six of the others. On its face, the titular voyage is little more than a pleasure-cruise (there are reasons for that, as we’ll see). Michael Apted’s film did what it could to fix that, elevating the Dark Island to the source of all the other evils the characters encounter. I find it less successful, as art, than Andrew Adamson’s adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and (especially) Prince Caspian, but sticking closer to the book would not have mended its faults.
Mars is present, as angel of chivalry and courage, mainly in Reepicheep. But Reepicheep is no longer solely a warrior. He has become a mystic:
“...But Reepicheep here [said Caspian] has an even higher hope.” Everyone’s eyes turned to the Mouse.
“As high as my spirit,” it said. “Though perhaps as small as my stature. Why should we not come to the very eastern end of the world? And what might we find there? I expect to find Aslan’s own country. It is always from the east, across the sea, that the great Lion comes to us.”
“I say, that is an idea,” said Edmund in an awed voice.
“But do you think,” said Lucy, “Aslan’s country would be that sort of country – I mean, the sort you could ever sail to?”
“I do not know, Madam,” said Reepicheep. “But there is this. When I was in my cradle, a wood woman, a Dryad, spoke this verse over me:
“Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.
“I do not know what it means. But the spell of it has been on me all my life.”
If “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, it’s not one that worried Lewis. In Prince Caspian, the Dryads had all been asleep for centuries until Aslan woke them for the decisive battle against Miraz, by which time Reepicheep was long out of his cradle. If Narnia was a real place, we would have to conclude that Reepicheep was hundreds of years old; I really can’t square that idea with the stories we have. I’ve said it before and I will have occasion to say it again: the Narniad is seven stories, not one story in seven parts. This one happens to have five characters in common with Prince Caspian (Edmund, Lucy, Caspian, Reepicheep, Aslan), but we cannot expect logical continuity.
That’s why I’m not going to get involved in the debate, such as takes place here on Ana Mardoll’s blog, over whether it is discriminatory for there to be only one non-Human aboard the Dawn Treader. Reepicheep serves the story Lewis wants to write; no other Talking Beast would. The suggestion that a Talking Dolphin or Talking Seabird guide the ship is attractive, but they don’t seem to exist – only land animals receive the power of speech in The Magician’s Nephew. Meanwhile, I should note that while Lewis continues to laugh at the contrast between Reepicheep’s size and his Martial aspirations, he never pokes fun at Reepicheep’s moments of Solar mysticism. For Sol, Apollo, the lord of sunlight and gold, is the ruling planet of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Beheld Only of Eagle’s Eye

There are far too many casual references to light, and especially sunlight, in this book to hope to enumerate them all here. I’ll pick out a few, er, highlights. We’ve already noted the moonlight around Aslan at his first appearance; he’s consistently luminous.
Across the grey hillside above them – grey, for the heather was not yet in bloom – without noise, and without looking at them, and shining as if he were in bright sunlight though the sun had in fact gone in, passed with slow pace the hugest lion that human eyes have ever seen. In describing the scene Lucy said afterwards, “He was the size of an elephant,” though at another time she only said, “The size of a carthorse.” But it was not the size that mattered. Nobody dared to ask what it was. They knew it was Aslan.

Then her face lit up till, for a moment (but of course she didn’t know it), she looked almost as beautiful as that other Lucy in the picture, and she ran forward with a little cry of delight and with her arms stretched out. For what stood in the doorway was Aslan himself, The Lion, the highest of all High Kings. And he was solid and real and warm and he let her kiss him and bury herself in his shining mane.

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little – a very, very little – better. “After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,” she thought.
“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.
Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross... Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

But between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles’ eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb...
“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?”
“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world.”
“What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world too?”
“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.
Sunlight dispels darkness, as on the Dark Island, and wakes us from sleep, as with the last three lords at Aslan’s Table. It makes things visible, like the Dufflepuds; the Chief Dufflepud’s daughter, who first cast the invisibility spell, is named “Clipsie” – from “eclipse”. Towards the end (with no plot-driving conundrum to resolve I’m not sure whether we should call it a climax or a dénouement) the characters drink the sweet water of the End of the World and take on some of Sol’s light-giving nature in their own right:
The King took the bucket in both hands, raised it to his lips, sipped, then drank deeply and raised his head. His face was changed. Not only his eyes but everything about him seemed to be brighter.
“Yes,” he said, “it is sweet. That’s real water, that. I’m not sure that it isn’t going to kill me. But it is the death I would have chosen – if I’d known about it till now.”
“What do you mean?” asked Edmund.
“It – it’s like light more than anything else,” said Caspian.
“That is what it is,” said Reepicheep. “Drinkable light. We must be very near the end of the world now.”
There was a moment’s silence and then Lucy knelt down on the deck and drank from the bucket.
“It’s the loveliest thing I have ever tasted,” she said with a kind of gasp. “But oh – it’s strong. We shan’t need to eat anything now.”
And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it... there had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu – the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less – if anything, it increased – but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. And next morning, when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it and could see the very feathers of the birds that came flying from it.
Need I point out that this isn’t how it works? For sense organs such as the eye, “powerful” is the same as “sensitive”. There’s a reason why eagles have those little fringes of feathers over their eyes, and it isn’t to give them a stern and haughty frown.
Sunlight is hot, which makes people thirsty. Eustace is particularly troubled by thirst, due to the sun’s heat, at several points in the story. Later we’ll examine the incident where he tries to steal water when the Dawn Treader is becalmed after a storm. And then there’s this.
Meanwhile Eustace stared round the unknown valley. It was so narrow and deep, and the precipices which surrounded it so sheer, that it was like a huge pit or trench. The floor was grassy though strewn with rocks, and here and there Eustace saw black burnt patches like those you see on the sides of a railway embankment in a dry summer.
About fifteen yards away from him was a pool of clear, smooth water. There was, at first, nothing else at all in the valley; not an animal, not a bird, not an insect. The sun beat down and grim peaks and horns of mountains peered over the valley’s edge...
At the bottom of the cliff a little on his left hand was a low, dark hole – the entrance to a cave perhaps. And out of this two thin wisps of smoke were coming. And the loose stones just beneath the dark hollow were moving... just as if something were crawling in the dark behind them...
The thing that came out of the cave was something he had never even imagined – a long lead-coloured snout, dull red eyes, no feathers or fur, a long lithe body that trailed on the ground, legs whose elbows went up higher than its back like a spider’s cruel claws, bat’s wings that made a rasping noise on the stones, yards of tail. And the lines of smoke were coming from its two nostrils...
It moved very slowly towards the pool – slowly and with many pauses. Even in his fear Eustace felt that it was an old, sad creature... before it had drunk there came from it a great croaking or clanging cry and after a few twitches and convulsions it rolled round on its side and lay perfectly still with one claw in the air. A little dark blood gushed from its wide-opened mouth. The smoke from its nostrils turned black for a moment and then floated away. No more came...
The relief was so great that Eustace almost laughed out loud. He began to feel as if he had fought and killed the dragon instead of merely seeing it die. He stepped over it and went to the pool for his drink, for the heat was getting unbearable. He was not surprised when he heard a peal of thunder. Almost immediately afterwards the sun disappeared and before he had finished his drink big drops of rain were falling.
What killed the old dragon? As far as I can tell, the sunlight. The tale of the sun-god killing a chthonic serpent is one of those stories that’s supposed to be a universal archetype, as Lewis would have known quite well. My impression, for what it’s worth, is that this has more to do with the 19th- and 20th-century quest for a single simple theory to explain all religion than with actual cross-cultural ethnographic data; “everything is about the sun” was a bee in several people’s bonnets, as “everything is about sex” was in others’. A quick stroll through Wikipedia finds me more examples of storm-god dragon-slayers than sun-god ones, which would seem to make this episode more suited to Jove than Sol. But in classical myth (probably the most familiar to Lewis) it is Apollo, the god of light, sometimes identified with Sol, who kills the evil serpent Python.
In Egyptian myth the boot is on the other foot, if snakes had feet; the serpent Apophis, or Apep, continually stalks the sun-god Ra as the latter rows across the sky in his boat. Apophis is known as the “encircler of the world”, an epithet he shares with the Norse sea-serpent Jörmungandr. In one tale, a giant sorcerer disguises Jörmungandr as a (giant) cat and then challenges Thor to lift it. To his own shame, but the astonishment of those in on the secret, Thor barely succeeds. Is it too far-fetched to suppose that those two myths, spliced together, inspired this?
Suddenly, only about the length of a cricket pitch from their port side, an appalling head reared itself out of the sea... It came up on what they first took to be a huge neck, but as more and more of it emerged everyone knew that this was not its neck but its body and that at last they were seeing what so many people have foolishly wanted to see – the great Sea Serpent. The folds of its gigantic tail could be seen far away, rising at intervals from the surface. And now its head was towering up higher than the mast.
...It shot its head forward across the ship on a level with the yard of the mast. Now its head was just beside the fighting top. Still it stretched and stretched till its head was over the starboard bulwark. Then down it began to come – not on to the crowded deck but into the water, so that the whole ship was under an arch of serpent. And almost at once that arch began to get smaller: indeed on the starboard the Sea Serpent was now almost touching the Dawn Treader’s side. that moment Reepicheep... called out, “Don’t fight! Push!” It was so unusual for the Mouse to advise anyone not to fight that, even in that terrible moment, every eye turned to him. And when he jumped up on to the bulwark, forward of the snake, and set his little furry back against its huge scaly, slimy back, and began pushing as hard as he could, quite a number of people saw what he meant and rushed to both sides of the ship to do the same...
The brute had made a loop of itself round the Dawn Treader and was beginning to draw the loop tight. When it got quite tight – snap! – there would be floating matchwood where the ship had been and it could pick them out of the water one by one. Their only chance was to push the loop backward till it slid over the stern; or else (to put the same thing another way) to push the ship forward out of the loop.
Reepicheep... had nearly killed himself with trying before others shoved him aside. Very soon the whole ship’s company except Lucy and the Mouse (which was fainting) was in two long lines along the two bulwarks, each man’s chest to the back of the man in front, so that the weight of the whole line was in the last man, pushing for their lives. For a few sickening seconds (which seemed like hours) nothing appeared to happen. Joints cracked, sweat dropped, breath came in grunts and gasps. Then they felt that the ship was moving. They saw that the snake-loop was further from the mast than it had been. But they also saw that it was smaller. And now the real danger was at hand. Could they get it over the poop, or was it already too tight? Yes. It would just fit. It was resting on the poop rails. A dozen or more sprang up on the poop. This was far better. The Sea Serpent’s body was so low now that they could make a line across the poop and push side by side...
...there came a great crashing noise like a tree coming down and the ship rocked and darted forward. For at that very moment, whether because the Sea Serpent was being pushed so hard, or because it foolishly decided to draw the noose tight, the whole of the carved stern broke off and the ship was free.
Funny, that. Aslan doesn’t take much of an active role in this book, not compared to the last two – but this is one of the few places where an incident is resolved without him.

Arch-Chemic Eye

Mediaeval astrology was closely entwined with alchemy. As there were seven planets in the sky, there were seven metals in the ground. Each metal was engendered by the rays of the corresponding planet falling on the earth. That’s why the word “mercury”, even today, means both a planet and a chemical. Mars’s metal was warlike iron, Saturn’s sombre lead, Luna’s pale silver. Venus’s was copper because of her mythical connection with Cyprus, where it was mined. Jupiter had to be content with tin, perhaps because it was the only one left. For – and how could it be otherwise? – gold is the metal of Sol.
Though all the planets had these metallurgic powers, Sol’s is the one most often referenced in mediaeval literature, presumably because it was the one the alchemists were most anxious to replicate. Accordingly, of all the Narniad The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the one that makes the most of its metal. Tin never appears in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; iron and steel, put together, get a whole three mentions in Prince Caspian; but the words “gold”, “golden”, “gilded” and “gilding” occur 43 times in this Solar book. Most often they refer literally to the metal, but sunlight, sand, Aslan and his images (which elsewhere in the Narniad are more often a Jovial red) are also golden. So is Caspian’s hair, which you’d think we’d have been told in the book named after him.
Gold is noble, it doesn’t rust or tarnish; gold is precious; gold is beautiful; gold is too soft to be made into tools or weapons; gold is heavy. Gold inspires greed. Gold is the folly of King Midas, and the prize of pirates and dragons. Alchemy, meanwhile, is about the transformation of substance, and three of the book’s major episodes concern transformations. Two of the three are closely tied to the mythic status of gold. The third, the Dufflepuds, I will leave until later. The briefest of the three succinctly recalls the lesson of Midas.
They came down and round to the little opening where the stream came out of the lake, and stood looking at the deep water within the circle of cliffs. If it had been a hot day, no doubt some would have been tempted to bathe and everyone would have had a drink. Indeed, even as it was, Eustace was on the very point of stooping down and scooping up some water in his hands when Reepicheep and Lucy both at the same moment cried, “Look,” so he forgot about his drink and looked.
The bottom of the pool was made of large greyish-blue stones and the water was perfectly clear, and on the bottom lay a life-size figure of a man, made apparently of gold. It lay face downwards with its arms stretched out above its head. And it so happened that as they looked at it, the clouds parted and the sun shone out. The golden shape was lit up from end to end. Lucy thought it was the most beautiful statue she had ever seen.
“Well!” whistled Caspian. “That was worth coming to see! I wonder, can we get it out?”
“We can dive for it, Sire,” said Reepicheep.
“No good at all,” said Edmund. “At least, if it’s really gold – solid gold – it’ll be far too heavy to bring up. And that pool’s twelve or fifteen feet deep if it’s an inch. Half a moment, though. It’s a good thing I’ve brought a hunting spear with me. Let’s see what the depth is like. Hold on to my hand, Caspian, while I lean out over the water a bit.” Caspian took his hand and Edmund, leaning forward, began to lower his spear into the water.
Before it was half-way in Lucy said, “I don’t believe the statue is gold at all. It’s only the light. Your spear looks just the same colour.”
“What’s wrong?” asked several voices at once; for Edmund had suddenly let go of the spear.
“I couldn’t hold it,” gasped Edmund, “it seemed so heavy.”
“And there it is on the bottom now,” said Caspian, “and Lucy is right. It looks just the same colour as the statue.”
But Edmund, who appeared to be having some trouble with his boots – at least he was bending down and looking at them – straightened himself all at once and shouted out in the sharp voice which people hardly ever disobey:
“Get back! Back from the water. All of you. At once!!”
They all did and stared at him.
“Look,” said Edmund, “look at the toes of my boots.”
“They look a bit yellow,” began Eustace.
“They’re gold, solid gold,” interrupted Edmund. “Look at them. Feel them. The leather’s pulled away from it already. And they’re as heavy as lead.”
“By Aslan!” said Caspian. “You don’t mean to say—?”
“Yes, I do,” said Edmund. “That water turns things into gold. It turned the spear into gold, that’s why it got so heavy. And it was just lapping against my feet (it’s a good thing I wasn’t barefoot) and it turned the toe-caps into gold. And that poor fellow on the bottom – well, you see.”
“So it isn’t a statue at all,” said Lucy in a low voice.
“No. The whole thing is plain now. He was here on a hot day. He undressed on top of the cliff... Then he dived and—”
“Don’t,” said Lucy. “What a horrible thing.”...
“All the same,” said Caspian, “we may as well test it.” He stooped down and wrenched up a spray of heather. Then, very cautiously, he knelt beside the pool and dipped it in. It was heather that he dipped; what he drew out was a perfect model of heather made of the purest gold, heavy and soft as lead.
Note that the gold is twice compared to lead, the metal of Saturn. Gold, Lewis warns us, can be deadly. Lead is only mentioned in two other places in this book. The old dragon has a “lead-coloured” snout, and sure enough, it succumbs to sickness and old age even as we watch; and the clasps of the Magician’s Book, which briefly keep its wonders hidden from Lucy, are “leaden”.
Let’s return to the old dragon now, for its death ushers in the most dramatic and consequential transformation in the book. Sun-god dragon-slayers may not be as common as faddish comparative mythologists would have us believe, but not all dragon-slayers are gods. Human warriors also fill the role. Sigurd, or Siegfried, is the hero of at least two of Lewis’s lifelong favourite art-works: Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, and William Morris’s epic poem Sigurd the Volsung. Morris, at least, evidently bought into the solar-myth theory; his Sigurd is born at daybreak, gleams with light, wears golden armour, and is frequently compared to the sun. No analogue of Sigurd/Siegfried appears in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (we will meet one in The Horse and His Boy), but his story supplies at least two elements of what happens next: a cursed hoard, and a dragon that was once a human.
Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair... There was light enough at the cave’s mouth to examine it by. And of course Eustace found it to be what any of us could have told him in advance – treasure. There were crowns (those were the prickly things), coins, rings, bracelets, ingots, cups, plates and gems.
Eustace (unlike most boys) had never thought much of treasure but he saw at once the use it would be in this new world which he had so foolishly stumbled into through the picture in Lucy’s bedroom at home. “They don’t have any tax here,” he said, “And you don’t have to give treasure to the government. With some of this stuff I could have quite a decent time here – perhaps in Calormen. It sounds the least phoney of these countries. I wonder how much I can carry? That bracelet now – those things in it are probably diamonds – I’ll slip that on my own wrist... Then fill my pockets with diamonds – that’s easier than gold...” He got into a less uncomfortable part of the pile, where it was mostly coins, and settled down to wait. But a bad fright, when once it is over, and especially a bad fright following a mountain walk, leaves you very tired. Eustace fell asleep.
...He moved his right arm in order to feel his left, but stopped before he had moved it an inch and bit his lip in terror. For just in front of him, and a little on his right, where the moonlight fell clear on the floor of the cave, he saw a hideous shape moving. He knew that shape: it was a dragon’s claw. It had moved as he moved his hand and became still when he stopped moving his hand.
“Oh, what a fool I’ve been,” thought Eustace. “Of course, the brute had a mate and it’s lying beside me.”
For several minutes he did not dare to move a muscle. He saw two thin columns of smoke going up before his eyes, black against the moonlight; just as there had been smoke coming from the other dragon’s nose before it died. This was so alarming that he held his breath. The two columns of smoke vanished. When he could hold his breath no longer he let it out stealthily; instantly two jets of smoke appeared again. But even yet he had no idea of the truth.
Presently he decided that he would edge very cautiously to his left and try to creep out of the cave. Perhaps the creature was asleep – and anyway it was his only chance. But of course before he edged to the left he looked to the left. Oh horror! there was a dragon’s claw on that side too.
No one will blame Eustace if at this moment he shed tears. He was surprised at the size of his own tears as he saw them splashing on to the treasure in front of him. They also seemed strangely hot; steam went up from them.
But there was no good crying. He must try to crawl out from between the two dragons... His nerve broke and he simply made a bolt for it.
There was such a clatter and rasping, and clinking of gold, and grinding of stones, as he rushed out of the cave that he thought they were both following him... His idea was to get into the water.
But just as he reached the edge of the pool two things happened. First of all it came over him like a thunder-clap that he had been running on all fours – and why on earth had he been doing that? And secondly, as he bent towards the water, he thought for a second that yet another dragon was staring up at him out of the pool. But in an instant he realized the truth. The dragon face in the pool was his own reflection. There was no doubt of it. It moved as he moved: it opened and shut its mouth as he opened and shut his.
He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.
What, you might ask (and Ana Mardoll has), does Lewis mean by “dragonish thoughts”? Lewis passionately admired J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy stories, and the Dragon Island scenes are reminiscent in some ways of the Smaug chapters in The Hobbit. And Eustace’s plans for the treasure would appear to qualify as “dragonish” if Thorin’s dragon-lore is to be trusted:
Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically for ever, unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of current market value...
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit p. 22
A dragon, in the old cliché, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Gold is money, and money is another recurring theme of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Cordial Gold

Money is a bad thing in the Narniad for the most part. This is our introduction to Narnian commerce:
“Now, youngsters,” said the slave dealer, “let’s have no fuss and then you’ll have nothing to cry about. All aboard.”
At that moment a fine-looking bearded man came out of one of the houses (an inn, I think) and said:
“Well, Pug. More of your usual wares?”
The slaver, whose name seemed to be Pug, bowed very low, and said in a wheedling kind of voice, “Yes, please your Lordship.”
“How much do you want for that boy?” asked the other, pointing to Caspian.
“Ah,” said Pug, “I knew your Lordship would pick on the best. No deceiving your Lordship with anything second rate. That boy, now, I’ve taken a fancy to him myself. Got kind of fond of him, I have. I’m that tender-hearted I didn’t ever ought to have taken up this job. Still, to a customer like your Lordship—”
“Tell me your price, carrion,” said the Lord sternly. “Do you think I want to listen to the rigmarole of your filthy trade?”
“Three hundred crescents, my Lord to your honourable Lordship, but to anyone else—”
“I’ll give you a hundred and fifty.”
“Oh please, please,” broke in Lucy. “Don’t separate us, whatever you do. You don’t know—” But then she stopped for she saw that Caspian didn’t even now want to be known.
“A hundred and fifty, then,” said the Lord. “As for you, little maiden, I am sorry I cannot buy you all...”
“His Lordship” turns out to be Lord Bern, the first and most fortunate of the seven lost nobles. His own workers are “all freemen”, and he claims to have urged the Governor repeatedly to abolish slavery. Yet you’ll notice he seems to have some kind of business account with Pug. As a child I got the impression that Lord Bern made a practice of buying slaves, freeing them, and offering them jobs, but this is nowhere made explicit. It doesn’t sit terribly well with his knocking the price down to half and refusing to buy any of Caspian’s companions, I must say, given that we later learn Bern’s holdings in the islands are “happy and prosperous”. Perhaps Bern strictly limited his slave-buying budget so Pug wouldn’t go and capture more people just for him to free? Or perhaps Lewis just wasn’t good at doing economics? He confesses in Surprised by Joy to having been kept out of the sciences by “the lion Mathematics”.
Having known Caspian’s father, Lord Bern is easily convinced of his identity, and the following day they go off to confront the Governor together. The conversation is very largely financial:
“And we are come to enquire into your Sufficiency’s conduct of your office,” continued Caspian. “There are two points especially on which I require an explanation. Firstly I find no record that the tribute due from these Islands to the crown of Narnia has been received for about a hundred and fifty years.”
“That would be a question to raise at the Council next month,” said Gumpas. “If anyone moves that a commission of enquiry be set up to report on the financial history of the islands at the first meeting next year, why then ...”
“I also find it very clearly written in our laws,” Caspian went on, “that if the tribute is not delivered the whole debt has to be paid by the Governor of the Lone Islands out of his private purse.”
At this Gumpas began to pay real attention. “Oh, that’s quite out of the question,” he said. “It is an economic impossibility – er – your Majesty must be joking.”...
“Secondly,” said Caspian, “I want to know why you have permitted this abominable and unnatural traffic in slaves to grow up here, contrary to the ancient custom and usage of our dominions.”
“Necessary, unavoidable,” said his Sufficiency. “An essential part of the economic development of the islands, I assure you. Our present burst of prosperity depends on it.”
“What need have you of slaves?”
“For export, your Majesty. Sell ’em to Calormen mostly; and we have other markets. We are a great centre of the trade.”
“In other words,” said Caspian, “you don’t need them. Tell me what purpose they serve except to put money into the pockets of such as Pug?”
Gumpas has no answer, naturally. Actually, I’ve thought of another possibility. Magic and astrology are fakes in the real world, but they work in Narnia. Perhaps economics is the other way about – real here, a fake in Narnia? No, that’s too much of a stretch. I can imagine a visiting Narnian finding electricity magical, but not economics. (I have wondered whether perhaps Narnia can’t have an industrial economy because electricity doesn’t work there, but then I remembered Edmund’s electric torch in Prince Caspian.) I’m afraid the only answer that makes any sense is: Narnia doesn’t modernize because Lewis didn’t think modernity, including economics, was anything to get excited about. But in that case, I think it was a serious artistic mistake to include economic talk at all. Because, now that we know that economics is thinkable in Narnia, this—
The Dawn Treader was emptied and drawn on land by eight horses over rollers and every bit of her was gone over by the most skilled shipwrights. Then she was launched again and victualled and watered as full as she could hold – that is to say for twenty-eight days. Even this, as Edmund noticed with disappointment, only gave them a fortnight’s eastward sailing before they had to abandon their quest...
Lucy thought she was the most fortunate girl in the world; as she woke each morning to see the reflections of the sunlit water dancing on the ceiling of her cabin and looked round on all the nice new things she had got in the Lone Islands – seaboots and buskins and cloaks and jerkins and scarves.
—becomes deeply problematic.
So, just to be totally clear, they are basically looting the Lone Islands. Caspian literally rolled up into the castle with an army, suggested that the castle guards loot the cellars before either swearing allegiance to the new Duke or clearing out without back pay for lost wages, and he is now living it up by eating his fill of the stored provisions. And tomorrow and for the next week or so, they are going to continue to feast off the people and employ them as labourers in order to shiny up the ship and stuff it with provisions for their journey and they’re not going to pay for any of this because Caspian is the rightful king and that makes all the Lone Islanders... owe him their labour whenever he decides he needs it and he doesn’t pay them in return because being a king means getting unpaid labour from your underlings whenever you want it. Or if he does pay them, he pays them with the tribute that they owe him for not attacking them. Or with the taxes they pay to Bern that are supposed to be funneled back into the country infrastructure and welfare.
Mardoll elsewhere points out that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was shortly after the United Kingdom ceased to claim sovereignty over India and most of Ireland (Lewis’s native County Down remained, and remains, a colonial territory). Caspian’s claim to rule the Lone Islands is especially questionable given that it derives from his Telmarine ancestors’ brutal subjugation of the Narnian kingdom. Mardoll also notes Lewis’s non-ironic use of the word “savages” in relation to Dragon Island.
Some these points do need to be balanced with others. I’m afraid there was no other readily-understood word for indigenous people but “savages” in 1952. Not only are there none on Dragon Island, but such natives as the Dawn Treader meets on the further lands turn out to be highly civilized and courteous people. Caspian does claim an uninhabited island as his own, but he makes no attempt to annex Coriakin’s or Ramandu’s countries. Perhaps this is because he has learned a lesson in the interim, over the golden pool, in this culmination of the monetary theme:
“The King who owned this island,” said Caspian slowly, and his face flushed as he spoke, “would soon be the richest of all the Kings of the world. I claim this land for ever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian – on pain of death, do you hear?”
“Who are you talking to?” said Edmund. “I’m no subject of yours. If anything it’s the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother.”
“So it has come to that, King Edmund, has it?” said Caspian, laying his hand on his sword-hilt.
“Oh, stop it, both of you,” said Lucy. “That’s the worst of doing anything with boys. You’re all such swaggering, bullying idiots – oooh!—” Her voice died away into a gasp. And everyone else saw what she had seen.
What she has seen is of course the shining appearance of Aslan. There’s another small detail worth noting. The remains of the Lord Restimar’s effects on the cliff-top include “a few coins; not Calormen crescents but genuine Narnian ‘Lions’ and ‘Trees’ such as you might see any day in the market-place of Beaversdam or Beruna”. Calormene crescents will reappear in other books, but “Lions” and “Trees” will not. This passage poses a serious continuity problem: Restimar set sail before Caspian’s reforms, when Narnia was a Telmarine colony. Would Miraz have minted “Lions” and “Trees”? Or has Lewis simply forgotten the whole “Telmarines = oppressive invaders who hate forests and Aslan” thing? At the very least, he doesn’t want us to be thinking about invasions and armed resistance this time round. Those were matters for Mars, and this book does not belong to Mars.

Unbound Her Burden

There is one word which never occurs in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but is nevertheless central to understanding it. It is one of the words Lewis explores in Studies in Words, and the ideas he lays out in the chapter in question form almost a blueprint for the political framework of this Chronicle. If you’re not familiar with Studies in Words (and it is rather obscure), in each chapter Lewis takes an English word and traces the changes of meaning across multiple texts through the centuries. Since many of the texts are translations of Greek or Latin works, he also picks out the meaning of the Greek and Latin words which the English ones are used to translate; and, for good measure, follows up the English words derived from the Greek and Latin roots. One chapter centres upon the English word free. The Latin for this is liber, which has a derived adjective liberalis.
Unless followed by the word “education”, liberal has now lost this meaning. For that loss, we must thank those who made it the name, first of a political, and then of a theological, party. The same irresponsible rapacity, the desire to appropriate a word for its “selling-power”, has often done linguistic mischief. It is not easy now to say at all in English what the word conservative would have said if it had not been “cornered” by politicians. Evangelical, intellectual, rationalist, and temperance have been destroyed in the same way...
Studies in Words p. 131
So Lewis opens his third Narnia book by laughing at modern political liberals:
[Eustace] didn’t call his Father and Mother “Father” and “Mother”, but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.
The Liberal Strawman has changed somewhat since the 1950s. Nowadays Harold and Alberta would certainly be annoying faddish environmentalists as well as annoying faddish vegetarians, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a decade away when this was written. Ana Mardoll, so often uncomfortably on-point, overshoots slightly in this instance.
We’ve already seen [Eustace’s] sins catalogued earlier at his initial introduction – he doesn’t eat meat, he doesn’t drink alcohol, he reads non-fiction, he’s an environmentalist, he wears different clothing...
We can be quite certain that the Scrubbs are not environmentalists. Aunt Alberta’s textual forerunner is Digory’s Aunt Gertrude, from the draft known to Lewis scholars as the Lefay Fragment, which I introduced you to last time. Aunt Gertrude is a Member of Parliament and a busybody and is clearly intended as a parody of a nanny-state liberal: she spouts trendy educational theories and “loved telling other people what made them happy.” And her environmental philosophy is that trees are unhealthy and need to be cut down. Her entire value-system revolves tightly around usefulness (I’m afraid there’s not quite space to quote the passage here). She is not liberal in the sense that Lewis uses the word, but its opposite: servile.
Liber is “free”, not a slave... One’s mind or judgement can be liber when one is not “committed” or bound by previous engagement or prejudice. Honest jurymen who come to the case with an “open” mind are liberi solutique in Cicero’s Verrines, “free and without ties”. Conduct is liberalis when it is such as becomes a freeman. Justice, according to Cicero, is the most magnificent virtue and most suitable-to-a-freeman (liberalis)... “Liberales are the sort of people who ransom prisoners of war.”
Studies in Words p. 113
Which is what Caspian does in his first adventure in this book – or prisoners of piracy, at least.
...Pug, on a platform, was roaring out in a raucous voice:
“Now, gentlemen, lot twenty-three. Fine Terebinthian agricultural labourer, suitable for the mines or the galleys. Under twenty-five years of age. Not a bad tooth in his head. Good, brawny fellow...”
But Pug stopped and gaped when he saw the mail-clad figures who had clanked up to the platform.
“On your knees, every man of you, to the King of Narnia,” said the Duke. Everyone heard the horses jingling and stamping outside and many had heard some rumour of the landing and the events at the castle. Most obeyed. Those who did not were pulled down by their neighbours. Some cheered.
“Your life is forfeit, Pug, for laying hands on our royal person yesterday,” said Caspian. “But your ignorance is pardoned. The slave trade was forbidden in all our dominions quarter of an hour ago. I declare every slave in this market free.”
He held up his hand to check the cheering of the slaves and went on, “Where are my friends?”
“That dear little gel and the nice young gentleman?” said Pug with an ingratiating smile. “Why, they were snapped up at once—”
“We’re here, we’re here, Caspian,” cried Lucy and Edmund together and, “At your service, Sire,” piped Reepicheep from another corner. They had all been sold but the men who had bought them were staying to bid for other slaves and so they had not yet been taken away. The crowd parted to let the three of them out and there was great hand-clasping and greeting between them and Caspian. Two merchants of Calormen at once approached... They bowed most politely to Caspian and paid him long compliments, all about the fountains of prosperity irrigating the gardens of prudence and virtue – and things like that – but of course what they wanted was the money they had paid.
“That is only fair, sirs,” said Caspian. “Every man who has bought a slave today must have his money back. Pug, bring out your takings to the last minim.” (A minim is the fortieth part of a crescent.)
“Does your good Majesty mean to beggar me?” whined Pug.
“You have lived on broken hearts all your life,” said Caspian, “and if you are beggared, it is better to be a beggar than a slave...”
All this happens after Caspian has marched into the castle and wrested power from Gumpas. Why not the other way around? Mightn’t a few “good brawny fellows”, with fresh reason to be loyal to the Narnian crown, have been just the thing in case things went Bism-side up? But no, Lewis takes great care not to get the slaves involved in their own liberation. That would have undermined the authority of the King. Narnia is not unfallen but it is less begrimed by sin than Our World, and therefore (in Lewis’s way of thinking) it has real kings who are properly kingly and don’t need to be reined in by officialdom and – ick – democracy. Ana Mardoll queries why Lewis chose to include a slave-market scene at all:
C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia between 1949 and 1954, or in other words, 4 to 9 years after the end of World War II. During the war, slave labour made up a full quarter of Germany’s work force. German plans for an invasion of Britain intended that all “the able-bodied male population between the ages of 17 and 45” should be deported from Britain back to Germany to serve as slaves... It seems unlikely to me that C.S. Lewis could have been unaware that the Germans were using brutal slave labour during the war. In 1942, he published The Screwtape Letters, and referenced the “concentration camps and labour camps” in the preface...
That being the case, says Mardoll, it’s a bit off for Lewis to have put slavery in as a cosy little adventure to get the story going. But Lewis had to face the problem of slavery on a much deeper level. He studied classical as well as mediaeval literature; he read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Horace, and hosts of other Greek and Roman authors, and he tried to learn from their wisdom and pass it on in his own writings. And just as we, reading Lewis, are sometimes brought up sharply by issues of race, gender, and class, so he, reading the ancients, had somehow to deal with the fact that most of them were slave-owners and yet not altogether horrible people in every department of their lives.
The ancients themselves justified slavery, as modern people do poverty, by shaming and belittling those trapped in it. Slaves were people who had cravenly surrendered in war, and had not pleased their masters well enough to be set free (the latter happened more often in Greece and Rome than it did in the United States or Brazil before emancipation). Of course, it might sometimes happen that a person of free or even noble nature might find themselves enslaved, but in general slaves were held to be people of low character, and the words we translate “slave” and ”servile” denoted that character as well as the legal status of slavehood. “Liberal” – liberalis in Latin (eleutherios in Greek) – was the opposite of that. Liberal people had their own pursuits, which slaves ignored.
But the idea that leisure occupations, things done for their own sake and not for utility, are especially eleuthera, soon comes into play. It is perhaps present when Xenophon says “They have a square (agora) called the Free (eleuthera) Square from which tradespeople and their noises and vulgarities (apeirokaliai) are excluded”. The tradespeople need not be, and probably are not, slaves. But they are engaged in activities which have no value except in so far as they contribute to some end outside themselves. The contrast becomes explicit when Aristotle says in the Rhetoric “of one’s possessions those which yield some profit are the most useful, but those which exist only to be enjoyed are eleutheria”... Only he who is neither legally enslaved to a master nor economically enslaved by the struggle for subsistence, is likely to have, or to have the leisure for using, a piano or a library. That is how one’s piano or library is more liberal, more characteristic of one’s position as a freeman, than one’s coal-shovel or one’s tools.
Studies in Words p. 126
Things done for their own sake and not for utility. Remember, this is the one book in the Narniad where there is no serious threat facing Narnia. Caspian has set out to find the seven lords for the sake of finding the seven lords, not for any profit, or safety, that may accrue from it. He commands Gumpas to abolish the slave trade, dismissing profit reasons for continuing it, and sacks him when he refuses. Lord Bern tries to convince him to abandon his quest on grounds of expedience, but—
“...But I wish your Majesty wouldn’t go. We may need your help here. This closing the slave market might make a new world; war with Calormen is what I foresee. My liege, think again.”
“I have an oath, my lord Duke,” said Caspian. “And anyway, what could I say to Reepicheep?”
In case that’s not clear enough, Reepicheep himself later brings the question into crystal focus. Note the reference to “peasants or slaves”.
It was a Darkness. It is rather hard to describe, but you will see what it was like if you imagine yourself looking into the mouth of a railway tunnel – a tunnel either so long or so twisty that you cannot see the light at the far end...
“Do we go into this?” asked Caspian at length.
“Not by my advice,” said Drinian.
...But all at once the clear voice of Reepicheep broke in upon the silence.
“And why not?” he said. “Will someone explain to me why not.”
No one was anxious to explain, so Reepicheep continued:
“If I were addressing peasants or slaves,” he said, “I might suppose that this suggestion proceeded from cowardice. But I hope it will never be told in Narnia that a company of noble and royal persons in the flower of their age turned tail because they were afraid of the dark.”
“But what manner of use would it be ploughing through that blackness?” asked Drinian.
“Use?” replied Reepicheep. “Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours.”
Or, as Lewis would explain eight years later,
The free study seeks nothing beyond itself and desires the activity of knowing for that activity’s own sake. That is what the man of radically servile character – give him what leisure and fortune you please – will never understand. He will ask, “But what use is it?” And finding that it cannot be eaten or drunk, nor used as an aphrodisiac, nor made an instrument for increasing his income or his power, he will pronounce it – he has pronounced it – to be “bunk”.
Studies in Words p. 127
Which is all very well if you’re a private adventurer funding your quest out of your own pocket, but that’s not the case here. Caspian is a king spending the public purse to fulfil his rash oath.
Caspian is driven by ideals like End Slavery and Be Merciful and Keep Oaths, but without any kind of awareness of the way his ideals play out in reality. Or, worse, he doesn’t care about reality because as long as his ideals are satisfied that’s the important thing. I’m not sure, but I think we’re supposed to view this as a good thing, as an example of God’s Chosen Ruler on earth.
Aslan does eventually curtail Caspian’s ambition, as we’ll see, although rather belatedly and not in a way that saves the beleaguered Lone Islands economy any resources. In the meantime, you might be wondering what this lengthy riff on the word “liberal” has to do with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’s ruling planet. Here is Lewis again in the last book he ever wrote:
Sol... makes men wise and liberal and his sphere is the Heaven of theologians and philosophers.
The Discarded Image p. 106

Mists are Parted

Sol’s light wakes us in the morning, as the Dawn Treader undertakes to break the enchantment of sleep on the three lords on Ramandu’s island. Metaphorically, he enlightens us and brings us to wisdom. When Aslan disrupts the quarrel over the magic pool,
...nobody ever saw how or where he went. They looked at one another like people waking from sleep.
“What were we talking about?” said Caspian. “Have I been making rather an ass of myself?”
“Sire,” said Reepicheep, “this is a place with a curse on it. Let us get back on board at once. And if I might have the honour of naming this island, I should call it Deathwater.”
“That strikes me as a very good name, Reep,” said Caspian, “though now that I come to think of it, I don’t know why. But the weather seems to be settling and I dare say Drinian would like to be off. What a lot we shall have to tell him.” But in fact they had not much to tell for the memory of the last hour had all become confused.
Enlightenment is highlighted by contrast with its absence. The second seriously unenlightened person we meet (after Eustace, who I’ll deal with later) is Governor Gumpas:
“Your Majesty’s tender years,” said Gumpas, with what was meant to be a fatherly smile, “hardly make it possible that you should understand the economic problem involved. I have statistics, I have graphs, I have—”
“Tender as my years be,” said Caspian, “I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands... anything... worth having. But whether it does or not, it must be stopped.”
“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasped the governor. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”
“I have seen them both in an egg,” said Caspian. “We call it ‘Going Bad’ in Narnia...”
Gumpas talks as you’d expect a politician to talk, except that most politicians actually do have some kind of argument. So, perhaps, Gumpas talks as you’d expect a politician to talk if you thought politics and economics were bunk. “I have statistics, I have graphs” is transparently a non-argument. “Progress, development”, the idea (as he saw it) that something is good merely because it is modern, was one of Lewis’s favourite punching-bags. We can take this fictional situation as a rhetorical question: if “progress” had promoted the slave-trade instead of abolishing it, would that make slavery good? Obviously not. A more telling question would be: why has “progress” in fact worked against slavery, as well as discrimination, colonial oppression, judicial torture, and a host of other evils? The answer is not simple, and I’ll refer you to Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature rather than attempt to tackle it here.
Meanwhile I have to confess something: I think the Gumpas scene influenced my politics considerably, though not in the direction Lewis would have liked. I was born just in time for the Reagan-Thatcher era, when it was generally neoliberal capitalists talking economics against the Left’s pleas for human well-being. I was also a rather arrogant kid and assumed that, because I didn’t know what the word “sharemarket” (which came up a lot on the news in the ’80s) meant, it didn’t mean anything. Whenever I heard it there was an echo of Gumpas with his statistics and his graphs. I’m sure Gumpas is meant to be a nanny-state official, but to me he stood for crony capitalism. I don’t regret scorning crony capitalism, and I do think there’s a lot wrong with economics. I just wish I hadn’t blithely dismissed the entire field as a waste of head-space.
But even Gumpas is a beacon of rationality compared to the Dufflepuds. I will not quote the entirety of the Chief Dufflepud’s expository speech. Here is a version much shortened, but with everything of substance left in.
“This island has been the property of a great magician time out of mind. And we all are – or were – his servants. This magician told us to do something we didn’t want to. He fell into a great rage, for he wasn’t used to being crossed. He goes upstairs (he kept all his magic things up there) and puts an uglifying spell on us. We couldn’t bear to look at one another. So we waited till we thought he would be asleep in the afternoon and we creep upstairs and go to his magic book; but we couldn’t find any thing for taking off the ugliness. What with time getting on – the old gentleman might wake up any minute – in the end we see a spell for making people invisible. So my little girl Clipsie, who’s about your little girl’s age (and a sweet child she was before she was uglified), says the spell, for it’s got to be a little girl or else the magician himself, for otherwise it won’t work. It was a relief not to see one another’s faces, at first, but we’re mortal tired of being invisible. And we’ve never seen the magician since. We don’t know if he’s dead, or gone away, or just invisible, and it’s no use listening because he always did go about with bare feet, making no more noise than a big cat. And it’s getting more than our nerves can stand.”
That’s 245 words, reduced from an original 600, which the narrator tells us is itself an abridgement:
Such was the Chief Voice’s story, but very much shortened, because I have left out what the Other Voices said. Actually he never got out more than six or seven words without being interrupted by their agreements and encouragements, which drove the Narnians nearly out of their minds with impatience.
The Dufflepuds have no common sense at all.
The Magician sighed. “You wouldn’t believe the troubles I’ve had with them. A few months ago they were all for washing up the plates and knives before dinner: they said it saved time afterwards. I’ve caught them planting boiled potatoes to save cooking them when they were dug up. One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat...”
And only the Chief Dufflepud has even the faintest inkling of logic.
“And we’re extremely regrettable,” said the Chief Monopod, “that we can’t give you the pleasure of seeing us as we were before we were uglified, for you wouldn’t believe the difference, and that’s the truth, for there’s no denying we’re mortal ugly now, so we won’t deceive you.”
“Eh, that we are, Chief, that we are,” echoed the others, bouncing like so many toy balloons. ”You’ve said it, you’ve said it.”
“But I don’t think you are at all,” said Lucy, shouting to make herself heard. “I think you look very nice.”
“Hear her, hear her,” said the Monopods. “True for you, Missie. Very nice we look. You couldn’t find a handsomer lot.” They said this without any surprise and did not seem to notice that they had changed their minds.
“She’s a-saying,” remarked the Chief Monopod, “as how we looked very nice before we were uglified.”
“True for you, Chief, true for you,” chanted the others. “That’s what she says. We heard her ourselves.”
“I did not,” bawled Lucy. “I said you’re very nice now.”
“So she did, so she did,” said the Chief Monopod, “said we were very nice then.”
“Hear ’em both, hear ’em both,” said the Monopods. ”There’s a pair for you. Always right. They couldn’t have put it better.”
“But we’re saying just the opposite,” said Lucy, stamping her foot with impatience.
“So you are, to be sure, so you are,” said the Monopods. ”Nothing like an opposite. Keep it up, both of you.”
Now, in the Studies in Words chapter on “liberal”, Lewis analyses a passage from Aristotle’s Metaphysics in some detail. Aristotle compares the universe to a household with slaves and masters:
The attitude of any slave-owning society is and ought to be repellent to us, but it is worth while suppressing that repulsion in order to get the picture as Aristotle saw it. Looking from his study window he sees... the slaves, any of them who are not at that very moment on some appointed task, flirting, quarrelling, cracking nuts, playing dice, or dozing. He, the master, may use them all for the common end, the well-being of the family. They themselves have no such end, nor any consistent end, in mind. Whatever in their lives is not compelled from above is random – dependent on the mood of the moment. His own life is quite different: a systematized round of religious, political, scientific, literary and social activities... consistent with itself. But what is it in the structure of the universe that corresponds to this distinction between Aristotle, self-bound with the discipline of a freeman, and Aristotle’s slaves, negatively free with a servile freedom between each job and the next?... It is the things in the higher world of aether which are regular, immutable, consistent; those down here in the air that are subject to change, and chance and contingence... The free life is to the servile as the life of the gods (the living stars) is to that of terrestrial creatures. This is so not because the truly free man “does what he likes”, but because he imitates, so far as a mortal can, the flawless and patterned regularity of the heavenly beings, like them not doing what he likes but being what he is...
Studies in Words pp. 128–129
I haven’t (I confess) read Aristotle myself, and I presume that phrase “the living stars” is a gloss on something he said rather than Lewis’s own comment. Nonetheless, it is revealing: Lewis just could not leave astrology alone. More to the point – we know that slavery is bad when it’s humans in the shackles, but the Dufflepuds seem designed to illustrate Aristotle’s concept of servility. And their master Coriakin is indeed a living star.
“...Their work is to mind the garden and raise food – not for me, as they imagine, but for themselves. They wouldn’t do it at all if I didn’t make them. And of course for a garden you want water. There is a beautiful spring about half a mile away up the hill. And from that spring there flows a stream which comes right past the garden. All I asked them to do was to take their water from the stream instead of trudging up to the spring with their buckets two or three times a day and tiring themselves out besides spilling half of it on the way back...”
So which star is Coriakin? He wears a red robe and a wreath of oak leaves, he is hospitable and provides feasts, he is a jolly and magnanimous fellow. By now we should all recognise Jove when we encounter him. But then which star is Ramandu?
Slowly the door opened again and out there came a figure as tall and straight as the girl’s but not so slender. It carried no light but light seemed to come from it. As it came nearer, Lucy saw that it was like an old man. His silver beard came down to his bare feet in front and his silver hair hung down to his heels behind and his robe appeared to be made from the fleece of silver sheep. He looked so mild and grave that once more all the travellers rose to their feet and stood in silence.
His great age suggests this is a rare glimpse of Saturn’s positive aspect; the triple “silver” hints rather strongly at Luna, were Luna ever male in Lewis’s works. Most likely he is supposed to be generally stellar rather than identified with any particular planetary figure.
“Do you mean you were flying in the air?” Eustace blurted out.
“I was a long way above the air, my son,” replied the Old Man. “I am Ramandu... the days when I was a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations have changed... When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall... once more tread the great dance.”
“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of...”
Here we have a nod to the modern picture of the Sun, but with a little barb against scientific reductionism. Being a Platonic essentialist, Lewis seriously believed our understanding of the world would be improved by reintroducing the concept of “what a thing is” (its “essence” or “nature”) alongside what its components are and how they work together. I’ve argued against this before, and it’s going to keep coming up in the Narniad. Ana Mardoll asks why Narnia is full of stereotypes; I think Lewis would have answered that it was full of archetypes. Essentialism is very closely connected to prejudice. Last time (about halfway down) we saw Lewis claiming that animals’ “essence” exists only in relation to Man, as Man’s did in relation to God. I am very sorry to say he also believed that women’s “essence” exists only in relation to Man. Lewis’s idea of “wisdom” leads directly to a great many of his follies.

Hurts and Humbles

Chief of those follies I would place Lewis’s belief in the morally corrective power of humiliation. If the “essence” of created beings is defined by their relation to their Creator, then whenever a created being claims to have worth in its own right, it is denying its nature and needs to be humbled. The most consequential matter in the story is the humbling of Eustace.
He could get even with Caspian and Edmund now—
But the moment he thought this he realized that he didn’t want to. He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see that the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed. He longed for their voices. He would have been grateful for a kind word even from Reepicheep.
When he thought of this the poor dragon that had been Eustace lifted up its voice and wept. A powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon in a deserted valley is a sight and a sound hardly to be imagined.
At last he decided he would try to find his way back to the shore. He realized now that Caspian would never have sailed away and left him. And he felt sure that somehow or other he would be able to make people understand who he was.
To be cured of his dragon shape, Eustace must endure pain as well.
“The water was as clear as anything [said Eustace] and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first...
“...I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins... So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana... But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’...
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off... Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious... I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.”
Eustace has already been punished for insolence, by Reepicheep. When I said back in the introductory post that Lewis’s sadism sometimes shines through uncomfortably, this is the sort of thing I was talking about. One of the high points for me of the Michael Apted film was when he turned this scene into a swordsmanship lesson instead of a beating. soon as he saw that long tail hanging down – and perhaps it was rather tempting – he thought it would be delightful to catch hold of it, swing Reepicheep round by it once or twice upside-down, then run away and laugh... But unfortunately Reepicheep, who had fought for his life many a time, never lost his head even for a moment. Nor his skill. It is not very easy to draw one’s sword when one is swinging round in the air by one’s tail, but he did. And the next thing Eustace knew was two agonizing jabs in his hand which made him let go of the tail...
“Why do you not draw your own sword, poltroon!” cheeped the Mouse. “Draw and fight or I’ll beat you black and blue with the flat.”
“I haven’t got one,” said Eustace...
“Then take that,” said Reepicheep, “and that – to teach you manners – and the respect due to a knight – and a Mouse – and a Mouse’s tail—” and at each word he gave Eustace a blow with the side of his rapier, which was thin, fine dwarf-tempered steel and as supple and effective as a birch rod... it seemed to Eustace that the rapier as well as the pursuit was hot. It might have been red-hot by the feel.
Now Aslan also acts correctively in this book, three times. Yet he does not inflict physical pain to do so, as he does to heal Eustace. The first is his appearance on Deathwater Island, scaring the protagonists out of their greed by his mere presence. The second is sterner, but less direct, because Aslan is not physically present; in this book, and in this book only, he communicates via his depictions.
Then she came to a page which was such a blaze of pictures that one hardly noticed the writing. Hardly – but she did notice the first words. They were, An infallible spell to make beautiful her that uttereth it beyond the lot of mortals...
“I will say the spell,” said Lucy. “I don’t care. I will.” She said I don’t care because she had a strong feeling that she mustn’t.
But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of The Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming towards her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterwards that it hadn’t really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once.
The third is a little harsher, and also still more removed, because we only hear about it second-hand from Caspian.
“But, Sire,” interrupted Drinian, “are you abdicating?”
“I am going with Reepicheep to see the World’s End,” said Caspian...
“Caspian,” said Edmund suddenly and sternly, “you can’t do this.”
“Most certainly,” said Reepicheep, “his Majesty cannot.”
“No indeed,” said Drinian.
“Can’t?” said Caspian sharply, looking for a moment not unlike his uncle Miraz... “I had thought you were all my subjects here, not my schoolmasters.”
“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... 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.”...
Caspian... stood irresolute for a moment and then shouted out to the ship in general.
“Well, have your way. The quest is ended. We all return. Get the boat up again.”
“Sire,” said Reepicheep, “we do not all return. I, as I explained before—”
“Silence!” thundered Caspian. “I’ve been lessoned but I’ll not be baited. Will no one silence that Mouse?”... And he flung down the ladder in a temper and went into the cabin, slamming the door.
But when the others rejoined him a little later they found him changed; he was white and there were tears in his eyes.
“It’s no good,” he said. “I might as well have behaved decently for all the good I did with my temper and swagger. Aslan has spoken to me. No – I don’t mean he was actually here. He wouldn’t fit into the cabin, for one thing. But that gold lion’s head on the wall came to life and spoke to me. It was terrible – his eyes. Not that he was at all rough with me – only a bit stern at first. But it was terrible all the same... You’re to go on – Reep and Edmund, and Lucy, and Eustace; and I’m to go back. Alone. And at once. And what is the good of anything?”
So just as there were limits to Martial honour in Prince Caspian, there are limits to Solar liberality here in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While we’re on the subject of punishment, there’s also this odd little vignette:
“...And in this world you have already met a star, for I think you have been with Coriakin.”
“Is he a retired star, too?” said Lucy.
“Well, not quite the same,” said Ramandu. ”It was not quite as a rest that he was set to govern the Duffers. You might call it a punishment. He might have shone for thousands of years more in the southern winter sky if all had gone well.”
“What did he do, Sir?” asked Caspian.
“My son,” said Ramandu, “it is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what faults a star can commit...”
Presumably Lewis put this in here for some reason. I know every fantasy universe needs some details that aren’t related to the story, to make it feel like a world with other things going on in it than the protagonists’ lives, but this isn’t that. Those kinds of details need to fade into the distance; this runs into a brick wall. I can make nothing of it.

The Uncomely Common

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none...
Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.
Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn’t have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.
[Edited to point out that the above excerpt is the first appearance of the name “Pevensie” in the Narniad. The name is so strongly connected with Narnia now that Google is no help in figuring out where Lewis got it from. The alternative spelling “Pevensey” is the name of an ancient fortress on the southeast coast of England, which I suppose resonates with Cair Paravel.]
There was a boy named Clive Staples Lewis, and he felt, when he was grown-up, that he deserved even worse. He didn’t call himself Clive, but Jack. Jack liked animals and books, but he was unhappy in the company of most children his age. Jack (of course) was at a school where they had vicious corporal punishment dealt out in screaming rages for the most minor of offences, and perhaps that’s why he developed a taste for bullying and hurting. When he was grown-up, he took to bullying and hurting himself for having wanted to bully and hurt other people.
There’s an urban legend here in New Zealand that the Victorian settlers shivered through the winters in their summer clothes and then sweated through the summers in their winter garb, because just because this stupid country didn’t know what season it was didn’t mean they had to abandon their standards. I don’t believe this. No-one’s that dim. If there’s a grain of truth to the story (and there may well not be; I’m just speculating) then it’s more likely that some settlers whose education had been practical or artistic rather than scientific didn’t quite understand the whole thing about the seasons flipping over when you cross the Equator, and, arriving in May and June, said to themselves “If it’s this cold in summer, imagine what the winters are going to be like!”
I tell this story because I think C. S. Lewis did something similar in creating Eustace. I think he must have said to himself something like “If I was such a conceited little brat with all the discipline I had, imagine what children brought up without corporal punishment are going to be like!”
Eustace is not an exact portrait of the young Lewis, mind you. Lewis read fairy-tales and poetry from his very earliest years, and would never have been fobbed off with “books of information” about economics or sociology. He would certainly have recognised a dragon, especially if he had lived for five weeks on a ship carved in the shape of one. Eustace is the young Lewis minus the few things that the older Lewis thought good about his younger self. But sometimes those few things leave gaps.
“The question is,” said Edmund, “whether it doesn’t make things worse, looking at a Narnian ship when you can’t get there.”
“Even looking is better than nothing,” said Lucy. “And she is such a very Narnian ship.”
“Still playing your old game?” said Eustace Clarence, who had been listening outside the door and now came grinning into the room. Last year, when he had been staying with the Pevensies, he had managed to hear them all talking of Narnia and he loved teasing them about it. He thought of course that they were making it all up; and as he was far too stupid to make anything up himself, he did not approve of that.
“You’re not wanted here,” said Edmund curtly.
“I’m trying to think of a limerick,” said Eustace. “Something like this:
“Some kids who played games about Narnia
Got gradually balmier and balmier—”
“Well Narnia and balmier don’t rhyme, to begin with,” said Lucy.
“It’s an assonance,” said Eustace.
“Don’t ask him what an assy-thingummy is,” said Edmund. “He’s only longing to be asked. Say nothing and perhaps he’ll go away.”
How does Eustace, who reads about grain lifters and foreign education, know what an assonance is when Edmund does not? Moments later he is mocking Lucy’s artistic taste.
“Do you like that picture?” he asked.
“For heaven’s sake don’t let him get started about Art and all that,” said Edmund hurriedly, but Lucy... had already said, “Yes, I do. I like it very much.”
“It’s a rotten picture,” said Eustace.
“You won’t see it if you step outside,” said Edmund.
“Why do you like it?” said Eustace to Lucy.
“Well, for one thing,” said Lucy, “I like it because the ship looks as if it was really moving. And the water looks as if it was really wet. And the waves look as if they were really going up and down.”
Of course Eustace knew lots of answers to this, but he didn’t say anything. The reason was that at that very moment he looked at the waves and saw that they did look very much indeed as if they were going up and down.
I imagine Lewis did prefer depictive paintings over modern abstractions, but I was wrong to think he was presenting Eustace as a blockhead who didn’t know a decent picture when he saw one. For a start I missed the significance of Edmund’s comment; evidently Eustace is known to go on about “Art and all that”. Also, to my surprise, Lucy’s reaction to the picture – it’s good because of what it’s a picture of – is elsewhere characterized by Lewis as naïve.
I liked Beatrix Potter’s illustrations at a time when the idea of humanized animals fascinated me perhaps even more than it fascinates most children; and I liked Rackham’s at a time when Norse mythology was the chief interest of my life. Clearly, the pictures of both artists appealed to me because of what was represented. They were substitutes. If (at one age) I could really have seen humanized animals or (at another) could really have seen Valkyries, I should greatly have preferred it. Similarly, I admired the picture of a landscape only if, and only because, it represented country such as I would have liked to walk through in reality. A little later I admired a picture of a woman only if, and only because, it represented a woman who would have attracted me if she were really present.
The result, as I now see, was that I attended very inadequately to what was actually before me. It mattered intensely what the picture was “of”; hardly at all what the picture was. It acted almost as a hieroglyph. Once it had set my emotions and imagination to work on the things it depicted, it had done what I wanted. Prolonged and careful observation of the picture itself was not necessary. It might even have hindered the subjective activity.
An Experiment in Criticism pp. 13–14
So it is not a case of Lucy and Edmund being the rightful appreciators of the painting and Eustace the vulgar dunce. The puzzle is solved a chapter or so later.
He always had this notebook with him and kept a record of his marks in it, for though he didn’t care much about any subject for its own sake, he cared a great deal about marks and would even go to people and say, “I got so much. What did you get?”
This is what Eustace is:
On the one hand, since most men, as Aristotle observed, do not like to be merely equal with all other men, we find all sorts of people building themselves into groups within which they can feel superior to the mass; little unofficial, self-appointed aristocracies. The Cultured increasingly form such a group. Notice their tendency to use the social term vulgar of those who disagree with them... On the other hand, inevitably, there is coming into existence a new, real, ruling class: what has been called the Managerial Class...
...Not content with making sure that the pupil has read and remembered the text, [modern education] aspires to teach him appreciation. It seems harsh to quarrel with what at first sounds so reasonable an aim. Yet there is a danger in it. Everyone now laughs at the old test-paper with its context questions and the like, and people ask, “What good can that sort of thing do a boy?” But surely to demand that the test-paper should do the boy good is like demanding that a thermometer should heat a room. It was the reading of the text which was supposed to do the boy good; you set the paper to find out if he had read it. And just because the paper did not force the boy to produce, or to feign, appreciation, it left him free to develop in private, spontaneously, as an out-of-school activity which would never earn any marks, such appreciation as he could. That was a private affair between himself and Virgil or himself and Shakespeare.
“Lilies that Fester”, The World’s Last Night pp. 40–42
Lewis believed that appreciating art in the approved way would become the new ticket to the managerial class that he lampooned in Gumpas. This system he called “Charientocracy”. The fault it makes in the story – the not-quite-believability of a Eustace who knows what an assonance is but not what a dragon is – highlights the falsity of Lewis’s theory. This ties in very neatly with all the “liberality” stuff, but it’s not one of Lewis’s better insights into human nature.
Incidentally, did you notice that’s not the last time a picture comes to life? Lucy says one of the spells in the Magician’s Book to hear what her friends are saying about her, and in response she gets, basically, an embedded YouTube video of two of them in one of the illustrations. And then there’s the bit where the gold lion’s head talks to Caspian. Apollo is patron of the arts, and perhaps the visual arts are especially suited to a god of light.
Anyway, Lewis is better on self-deception. We saw this with Edmund when I picked holes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and I won’t repeat what I said there; but Eustace is an even better example.
“As for rowing back [wrote Eustace in his diary], it would take far too long and Caspian says the men couldn’t row on half a pint of water a day. I’m pretty sure this is wrong. I tried to explain that perspiration really cools people down, so the men would need less water if they were working. He didn’t take any notice of this, which is always his way when he can’t think of an answer. The others all voted for going on in the hope of finding land. I felt it my duty to point out that we didn’t know there was any land ahead and tried to get them to see the dangers of wishful thinking. Instead of producing a better plan they had the cheek to ask me what I proposed. So I just explained coolly and quietly that I had been kidnapped and brought away on this idiotic voyage without my consent, and it was hardly my business to get them out of their scrape...
6 September. A horrible day. Woke up in the night knowing I was feverish and must have a drink of water. Any doctor would have said so. Heaven knows I’m the last person to try to get any unfair advantage but I never dreamed that this water-rationing would be meant to apply to a sick man. In fact I would have woken the others up and asked for some only I thought it would be selfish to wake them. So I got up and took my cup and tiptoed out of the Black Hole we slept in, taking great care not to disturb Caspian and Edmund, for they’ve been sleeping badly since the heat and the short water began. I always try to consider others whether they are nice to me or not... All was going beautifully, but before I’d drawn a cupful who should catch me but that little spy Reep. I tried to explain that I was going on deck for a breath of air (the business about the water had nothing to do with him) and he asked me why I had a cup... I asked, as I think anyone would have, why Reepicheep was sneaking about the water cask in the middle of the night. He said that as he was too small to be any use on deck, he did sentry over the water every night so that one more man could go to sleep. Now comes their rotten unfairness: they all believed him... And then Caspian showed up in his true colours as a brutal tyrant and said out loud for everyone to hear that anyone found ‘stealing’ water in future would ‘get two dozen’. I didn’t know what this meant till Edmund explained to me. It comes in the sort of books those Pevensie kids read.”
I didn’t know what it meant either when I was a kid. It means two dozen lashes with a whip, which makes me wonder how being a sailor on the Dawn Treader is supposed to be different from slavery. Well, obviously Drinian and Caspian can’t sell them, but I honestly don’t think money changing hands is the worst part about slavery. I really do think the flogging is worse.
But I think we have a pretty good idea of how likely it is that Eustace’s responded “coolly and quietly”, and how important Caspian and Edmund’s welfare really was to him compared to nobody finding out he was taking water beyond his ration. What’s questionable here is the idea that one can be “cured” of this condition by misfortune, even the misfortune of loneliness. The purpose of self-deception is to deceive others and thereby continue to enjoy the benefits of their company. Loneliness would make him cling more tightly to his delusions or think up better ones.
One more point convinces me that Eustace is a self-insert.
“But who is your friend?” said Caspian almost at once, turning to Eustace with his cheerful smile. But Eustace was crying much harder than any boy of his age has a right to cry when nothing worse than a wetting has happened to him, and would only yell out, “Let me go. Let me go back. I don’t like it.”
Of course something much worse than a wetting has happened to Eustace. He has been thrust into a new world with no opportunity to give or refuse consent, not even the slightest hint of an explanation. And, unlike any other Narnia character, he resents it – as the young Lewis resented being thrust into this world without so much as a by-your-leave. As a teenager he wrote a poem on the Norse gods:
My Loki was not merely malicious. He was against Odin because Odin had created a world though Loki had clearly warned him that this was a wanton cruelty. Why should creatures have the burden of existence thrust upon them without their consent?...
I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
Surprised by Joy p. 115
Ana Mardoll repeatedly points out that Eustace is a child – for instance, when the others fail to notice his absence on Dragon Island for a couple of hours. Technically that’s true, but I’m not sure how fair it is as a criticism. From a Narnian viewpoint, Eustace is not just a child; he’s one of the Children From Beyond The World, a semi-mythical figure of deep religious significance, and they’re more likely waiting to see what superpowers he has than worrying about his safety. But the books don’t bring out that perspective much, apart from briefly in Prince Caspian and The Last Battle. I’ve already pointed out that the Narnia books consistently treat children as adults, and Eustace is no exception. No, the Eustace passages leave a worse taste in my mouth than that. Near the climax of Lewis’s longest work of fiction, the villains subject one (non-believing) protagonist to an initiation ritual in which he is to trample and insult a crucifix:
Not because its hands were nailed and helpless, but because they were only made of wood and therefore even more helpless, because the thing, for all its realism, was inanimate and could not in any way hit back, he paused. The unretaliating face of a doll – one of [his sister]’s dolls – which he had pulled to pieces in boyhood had affected him in the same way, and the memory, even now, was tender to the touch.
That Hideous Strength p. 333
Not because he is a child and helpless before adults, but because he is only a fictional character and therefore even more helpless before his author, I cannot jeer at Eustace the way Lewis wants me to. There’s bullying going on all right, but it’s not Eustace doing it.

The Worshipp’d Male

God did not ask Lewis’s consent before creating him, as Aslan did not ask Eustace’s consent before yanking him into Narnia. God generally doesn’t. Our souls, bodies, and lives belong to him, not to us. He can and does do what he wants to them, all to make us better people (Lewis believed), but he never asks first. That’s why Aslan never asks first either. This is an important point in Lewis’s theology. And he’s quite right, it follows necessarily if you believe in God at all – well, unless God has asked your permission before subjecting you to every life lesson you have experienced. He hasn’t asked mine.
Lewis evidently saw that this was no way to treat people, because he has Ramandu say to Caspian:
“My son,” said the star, “it would be no use, even though you wished it, to sail for the World’s End with men unwilling or men deceived. That is not how great unenchantments are achieved. They must know where they go and why...”
But this is an exception. Elsewhere in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the characters’ bodily integrity is treated with flagrant disregard. The greatest culprit is not Aslan, however, but Coriakin.
“And now that they’re visible [said Lucy], are you going to let them off being ugly? Will you make them as they were before?”
“Well, that’s rather a delicate question,” said the Magician. “You see, it’s only they who think they were so nice to look at before. They say they’ve been uglified, but that isn’t what I called it. Many people might say the change was for the better.”...

...Each body had a single thick leg right under it (not to one side like the leg of a one-legged man) and at the end of it, a single enormous foot – a broad-toed foot with the toes curling up a little so that it looked rather like a small canoe...
“Oh, the funnies, the funnies,” cried Lucy, bursting into laughter. “Did you make them like that?”
“Yes, yes. I made the Duffers into Monopods,” said the Magician. He too was laughing till the tears ran down his cheeks...
“Will they have to be turned back into their proper shapes?” asked Lucy. “Oh, I do hope it wouldn’t be unkind to leave them as they are. Do they really mind very much? They seem pretty happy. I say – look at that jump. What were they like before?”
“Common little dwarfs,” said he. “Nothing like so nice as the sort you have in Narnia.”
“It would be a pity to change them back,” said Lucy. “They’re so funny: and they’re rather nice...”
No, I’m sorry, that’s just wrong. You don’t alter other people’s bodies without their consent. Not to something frivolous and disabling (the Dufflepuds now have to jump everywhere, and can no longer carry liquid foods without spilling them). Not to punish them for disobeying an order they didn’t understand, however cognitively limited said misunderstanding proves them to be. Not, bloody well not, for your own personal amusement. As for whether they mind very much, they dared the terrifying journey upstairs and the Magic Book to try and fix themselves; what does that tell you?
Coriakin, we saw, is Jove – that is, a small-scale portrait of God – to the Dufflepuds. It might be worth pointing out that Lewis suffered from a hereditary immobility of the thumb joints which rendered the simplest daily tasks endlessly troublesome for him; he said he took up writing as a boy because he could not make model castles and ships no matter how hard he tried. Perhaps the Dufflepuds are in a small way a portrait of their author, empowered by the very condition they find so disfiguring (in their case to leap and paddle about using their foot as a canoe, rather than to discover the joys of literature). But that doesn’t make what Coriakin did to them all right, and it doesn’t make all right what God must be doing, if God exists, every time someone is born with a disability.
And if Coriakin is God to them, I suppose their Chief is their earthly sovereign. Lewis thought people naturally needed a sovereign and would be unhappy in an egalitarian society.
“Are they awfully conceited?”
“They are. Or at least the Chief Duffer is, and he’s taught all the rest to be. They always believe every word he says.”
“We’d noticed that,” said Lucy.
“Yes – we’d get on better without him, in a way. Of course I could turn him into something else, or even put a spell on him which would make them not believe a word he said. But I don’t like to do that. It’s better for them to admire him than to admire nobody.”
“Don’t they admire you?” asked Lucy.
“Oh, not me,” said the Magician. “They wouldn’t admire me.”
Lewis on more than one occasion stated that God was “more masculine than the male”. I’m not sure how much the dominance of male characters in the Narniad has to do with this; there are if anything rather more girls and women about than was usual in 1950s children’s adventure stories. But Lewis has an odd superstition about naming his female supporting cast. In the Michael Apted film Ramandu does not appear; the Star is a shining young woman who introduces herself as “Lilliandra”. That name doesn’t come from the book. She doesn’t get a name in the book. The one sailor who gets left behind on the island while everyone else gallivants off to the End of the World has a name; he’s called Pittencream. But Ramandu apparently named his daughter Ramandusdaughter. (It must have been him; there’s no hint of her ever having had a mother.)
Lewis once told a child who wrote to him that Aslan became more like Christ, less specifically Narnian, at the edges of the Narnian world. That must be why this scene—
“Come and have breakfast,” said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice.
Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted...
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices...
“And is Eustace never to come back here either?” said Lucy.
“Child,” said Aslan, “do you really need to know that? Come, I am opening the door in the sky.” Then all in one moment there was a rending of the blue wall (like a curtain being torn) and a terrible white light from beyond the sky, and the feel of Aslan’s mane and a Lion’s kiss on their foreheads and then – the back bedroom in Aunt Alberta’s home in Cambridge.
—echoes the last chapter of John’s Gospel, where the resurrected Jesus cooks the fish he has miraculously helped the disciples catch, and hints that one disciple may not die before his Second Coming. John is of course the Gospel in which Jesus declares himself to be “the Light of the World”, which would bring the Solar theme to a shining conclusion. Looking at this, it does seem plausible that Lewis thought, writing it, that he was wrapping up Narnia.
But he wasn’t. Four planets have yet to take centre stage. Saturn and Venus have had minor roles, and Luna has walked on whenever a spiritual threshold is crossed, but one planet has barely been mentioned. So Mercury will have the next starring role. Next, we turn to The Horse and His Boy.

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