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Literature / The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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The third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia and the fifth book chronologically, which takes place a year later in Earth-time (and 3 years later in Narnia Time) since the previous installment, Prince Caspian. Along with an unpleasant cousin Eustace Scrubb, Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia and travel with now-King Caspian to the edge of the world, where he is searching for exiled Telmarine lords who were loyal to his father. On the journey, their cousin is turned into a dragon, and they encounter many wonders on an adventurous voyage, at the end of which, Lucy and Edmund, like Peter and Susan in the last book, are told they will never return to Narnia.

Much of the book is inspired by The Odyssey, with analogous scenes and plot elements.

Note that unmarked spoilers follow for viewers of the film who have not read the book, which is one of the series' most popular installments.


This book provides examples of:

  • Appeal to Familial Wisdom: The old sailor who asserts (correctly) that one must only sail far enough east to reach Aslan's country, "when questioned ... could only say that he had heard it from his father."
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Reepicheep. Inverted with Ramandu and his daughter, who used to be on a higher plane but came down to their island.
  • Backup Bluff: King Caspian decides to bluff the corrupt governor of the Lone Islands (because he hasn't got enough men to depose him by force). To trick him, he orders his crew to send signals "to all the other ships we haven't got but which it might be well that Gumpas thinks we have", commanding them to assemble at Bernstead, which the governor cannot see from his current position.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The quest is completed, but those who are not from Narnia have to leave it, perhaps forever.
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  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The hopping, monopedal Dufflepuds. They can also use their huge feet as canoes.
  • Blessed with Suck: There's a lake on Deathwater Island which has the Midas curse upon it. Turning everything into gold sounds awesome in theory, but in practice it gives everyone a violent case of Gold Fever, or worse, causes your death if you ignorantly jump in for a swim, like Lord Restimar did.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: During Lewis's Author Filibuster about how Eustace's upbringing made him an obnoxious brat, one of the points is that he calls his parents Harold and Alberta.
  • Captain Obvious: The entire race of Dufflepuds are prone to such astute observations as that water is powerfully wet.
  • Captain's Log: Eustace keeps a Diary while aboard the Dawn Treader, and a couple of episodes from the story are told using his journal entries, and completely from his point of view.
  • Captive Push: After arriving at the Lone Islands, Caspian, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Reepicheep are captured by slavers after which they are bound (except Reepicheep, who squirms too much) and marched off to the slave market in town.
  • Constellations: A brief scene has the Pevensies looking at the Narnian night sky and identifying constellations they'd seen on their previous trips. They're completely different from Earth's.
  • The Coup: Heroic example on the Lone Islands. Caspian is the legitimate Narnian king, but the corrupt Governor refuses to acknowledge his rule, and he does not have enough men to enforce it openly in a straight-up manner. So he and Lord Bern quickly march a small detachment of troops into the palace before anyone can react, intimidate the guards into surrendering and depose the Governor and his cabinet. The sequence reads like a rather surprisingly realistically (and effectively) executed Military Coup, especially considering that it takes place in a children's book.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Eustace gets magically transformed into a dragon, but treats the whole situation as something rather dreary and depressing. Then again, this is probably expected, as Eustace is the kind of person who considers going on a magical sea voyage in a fantasy land a thoroughly unpleasant affair.
    • Plus there's that golden bracelet stuck on his arm. Now that he's grown bigger, the bracelet is way too small and it causes Eustace a lot of pain until he's changed back into a human via Aslan's help.
    • He does consider the good side of being a dragon, but quickly realizes that he doesn't want it. It's an essential part of his Character Development.
    • He also realizes (no matter how hard they try to hide it from him) that his huge size would cause a lot of trouble for the crew, making it nearly impossible to bring him along, but he also knows that they wouldn't leave him. In short, he feels guilty that he is causing his friends so much trouble.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Governor Gumpas's official honorific is not "His Excellency" but "His Sufficiency."
  • Diary: Eustace keeps one while aboard the Dawn Treader. His entries are filled with Self-Serving Memory to a comical level.
  • Dirty Coward: The Dufflepuds, who freely admit that they want Lucy to break their spell because they're too chicken to ask any of their own people to do it. Lucy, of course, is just a little girl.
  • The Ditz: An entire race of them with the Dufflepuds.
    "Aye, you're right! No one could be righter than you!"
  • Does Not Like Shoes: In the book, Coriakin, Ramandu and, judging from the illustration, his daughter. It was also mentioned that Lucy didn't mind going barefoot on board a ship, or walking on the grassy isle of Doorn barefooted. Her lack of shoes is justified as she kicked them off in the beginning while treading water in the Great Ocean. She does eventually get shoes again.
  • The Drag-Along: Eustace, and he gladly makes his opinion known.
  • Dragon Hoard: Eustace stumbles upon one while the dragon is absent. He falls asleep on top of it, and is transformed into a dragon himself.
  • Dwindling Party: The previous expedition by the seven lost Telmarine Lords appears to have played out this way, with one after another either abandoning their quest or succumbing to its various perils.
  • Eccentric Mentor/Trickster Mentor: Coriakin, who is implied to have a quirky sense of humor: he has a bearded mirror in his mansion (which could be used to prank his visitors), and he turned the Duffers into Monopods (probably for amusement, except other reasons). His penchant for going barefoot all the time may be another of his eccentricities or have to do with the fact that he's a star.
  • Eerily Out-of-Place Object: On one of the islands, the group discovers some abandoned armour, not far from a pool of water. In the pool is a human sized golden statue, with arms stretched above its head. At first, they only notice its beauty; then they discover that the water turns everything that enters it into gold, and horrified realisation dawns.
  • Eldritch Location: Pretty much every island after the Lone Islands is a sliding scale of Eldritch, even by Narnia standards, particularly The Utter East and Aslan's Country.
  • Flipping the Table: Drinian and Bern do this to Gumpas' table, to get his attention.
  • Final First Hug: Lucy thinks Reepicheep (a talking mouse) looks very cuddly, but she knows it would be a dreadful insult for her to treat him like a cute little pet. She finally gives him a hug at the end when he sails off to Aslan's country.
  • Fountain of Youth: Ramadu, a retired sun, is brought a fire berry every day that takes a little of his age. This will happen until he is a newborn baby and he can rise again.
  • Fridge Horror:
  • Genius Bruiser/Smart People Play Chess: Reepicheep is a good player—as long as he doesn't project his own character onto the pieces.
  • Genre Blindness: Lampshaded by the Lemony Narrator:
    Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books.
  • Gold Fever:
    • Eustace catches a case when he discovers how much gold is in the Dragon Hoard. Unluckily, his greed causes him to change into a dragon himself.
    • Goldwater Island has a pool that turns whatever it touches into gold. When the landing party discovers it, the resulting gold fever becomes an Apple of Discord that nearly brings them to violence against each other. Fortunately Aslan shows up and brings everyone to their senses, but Reepicheep suggests renaming it to "Deathwater Island" as a warning to others.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: One temptation Lucy suffers when reading the magician's book.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After being turned into a dragon, Eustace begins changing for the better.
    "It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that "from that time forth Eustace was a different boy". To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun."
  • Heroic Vow: Caspian made one at his coronation to search for the seven missing lords of Telmar.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Lord Bern tries to persuade Caspian to stay in the Lone Islands to deal with the diplomatic repercussions and possible war that will follow from him deposing Gumpas and ending the slave trade with Calormen, but Caspian demurs on the grounds that he made a Heroic Vow. Never mind that governing your territories and preventing war is kind of an important part of the job for a king? (Then again, in a Medieval Stasis world like Narnia, keeping your vows is also very Serious Business.)
    • Later, however, when Caspian tries to abdicate so he can stay to see the world's end, Aslan shows up in person to tell him to stay and do his job.
  • Hey, You!: Eustace calls his parents by their first names.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: It is revealed that Lucy envies her sister's beauty.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: The water from the sea at the End of the World isn't just sweet and drinkable, it's all the crew needs for sustenance.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Dufflepuds go about everything they do in this manner, causing Coriakin endless headaches. There is no instruction, argument or even opinion, no matter how clear, that they will not interpret as meaning either exactly its opposite, some random nonsense or nothing at all.
  • Irony: Caspian says that in Narnia they have fairy tales about places where the world is round. Narnia, being a fantasy land that runs on magic, seems not to be.
  • Island of Mystery: Several of them. One of them has invisible inhabitants and a sorcerer, one has a dragon's lair, another has water that turns anything that falls in to gold, and the last has three old men in an eternal sleep and is inhabited by a star.
  • Karmic Transformation: Eustace sees a dragon moving toward him, which dies shortly thereafter. He walks past the fallen beast into its lair, and, finding a hoard of treasure, steals a ring and promptly falls asleep, dreaming of plunder and thinking "dragonish" thoughts. He awakens to find that he has become a dragon, and spends a short while in this state. When he re-establishes contact with the group, he exiles himself during meals, so that nobody has to watch the gory spectacle of him dining.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Eustace argues that the men should use less water while working because their perspiration would cool them down, so they would need less water. Ignoring the fact that the whole reason you need more water when warm is that you lose more in sweat... oh, and that perspiration would, at best, keep temperature at normal, rather than cooling down beyond normal. Despite reading a lot of non-fiction, Eustace actually doesn't have that much raw intellectual firepower.
    • In the same argument, he fails to grasp that continuing east after the storm in search of land is the only viable option for restocking the ship, because they cannot cover the distance back without a similar tempest before the water runs out. He instead decries it as "wishful thinking."
  • Literal Transformative Experience: Eustace starts out as a bigoted, selfish Spoiled Brat who suffers a Karmic Transformation into a dragon. While transformed, he comes to realize that he's The Load to his traveling companions and to regret his bad behaviour, so Aslan restores him to human form and he begins to Take a Level in Kindness.
  • Made a Slave: The main characters after being kidnapped in the Lone Islands.
  • Magic Map: Coriakin creates a map for King Caspian (despite the fact that Drinian helped him make it), depicting the voyage to date with supernatural accuracy, including photo-realistic details (in a setting where photography doesn't exist!) on the cities, when viewed under a magnifying glass.
  • Magic Pants: Not literally with pants, but the idea behind this trope is still averted when the bracelet Eustace is wearing doesn't transform to the size of a dragon limb when Eustace transforms into a dragon. His other clothes, along with a bunch of jewels in his pockets, have disappeared when he reverts to being a human - fortunately, Aslan provides him with a new set of clothes when he changes Eustace back.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The sailors' reaction upon realizing what "dreams come true" really means.
    The stranger started horribly at the voice of the Mouse, which he had not noticed before. 'Nevertheless you will fly from here,' he gasped. 'This is the Island where Dreams come true.'
    'That's the island I've been looking for this long time,' said one of the sailors. 'I reckoned I'd find I was married to Nancy if we landed here.'
    'And I'd find Tom alive again,' said another.
    'Fools!" said the man, stamping his foot with rage. 'That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I'd better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams - dreams, do you understand, come to life, come real. Not daydreams: Dreams!'
    There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armor, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before...
  • Midas Touch: The heroes' voyage takes them to a volcanic isle where Edmund and Caspian discover a magic pool that transforms ordinary things to gold — including one of the Telmar lords who fell (or possibly, was pushed) into it. Evil forces spark an argument between Edmund and Caspian over potential uses for it, but Lucy breaks it up before they can come to harm.
  • More Hero Than Thou: When the characters are threatened to make Lucy to do something, Lucy argues for doing it, and the boys that they should fight to defend her.
  • Nerdy Bully: Eustace Scrubb is introduced as an effete Know-Nothing Know-It-All whose bland modernist upbringing taught him to wield intellectualism as a form of petty dominance over others. Much of the story focuses on him cultivating courage, humility, faith, and genuine wisdom through his adventures, and he returns in The Silver Chair and The Last Battle as a far more agreeable and heroic sort.
  • Nightmare Sequence: "The Island Where Dreams Come True." Sounds great, until you remember that nightmares are dreams.
  • Noiseless Walker: The duffers warn Lucy that the magician who made them invisible walks about noiselessly, not making more sound than a cat.
  • Noodle Implements: Several of the magical tools in Coriakin's house have no explicable purpose, most notably the "Bearded Glass," which is a mirror with attached hair to make your reflection appear to have a beard and mustache. The Lemony Narrator admits, "I don't know what the bearded glass was for because I am not a magician."
  • Not So Different: Remembering his behaviour on his first visit to Narnia, Edmund realises he can't be too judgemental of Eustace:
    You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: His Sufficiency, Governor Gumpas. His methods for governing the Lone Islands include lots of paperwork, commissions of inquiry, and no interviews without appointments except between nine and ten p.m. on second Saturdays every month.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When the ship is attacked by a giant sea serpent, Reepicheep yells at everyone to push the serpent off the boat rather than fight it. Since Reepicheep usually fights first and asks questions later, this is unusual enough to startle the rest of the ship's crew into helping him.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: While traditional merfolk dwell in the sea coast of Narnia (as mentioned in LWW), the Dawn Treader Crew encounter a different kind: They are two-legged, bipedal humanoids with ivory skin and dark purple hair who wear no clothing except for royalty (who wear only capes and circlets). They ride on giant seahorses, use hunting fish like land hunters use hawks and falcons, and shepherd other kinds of fish as well.
  • Portal Picture: How the children enter Narnia.
  • Prank Punishment: the magician Coriakin turned the Duffers (a kind of gnomes he was assigned to govern) into funny one-legged creatures called Monopods as a playful punishment for disobeying him and doing stupid things like planting boiled potatoes (so they wouldn't have to be cooked after) and washing dishes before the meal. One interpretation is that he wanted them to understand how ridiulously they behaved by making them look just as ridiculous.
    • Another interpretation is that it was a kind of Self-Deprecation on the part of C. S. Lewis. He was born with only one functional joint in each of his thumbs, which made him inept at sports and many other things that require physical agility, so he resorted to writing - which led to him becoming a great writer, something that would likely have never happened if he had normal thumbs. This mirrors the way the Dufflepuds eventually learned to make use of their single leg by using it as a boat, etc. Given that the relationship between Coriakin and Dufflepuds is a metaphor for the one between God and humanity, the parallel is quite likely.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: The reason why the island where dreams come true is so horrifying. We're not told exactly what Eustace's worst nightmare is, but apparently it involves a giant pair of scissors.
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: The Island Where Dreams Come True.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Caspian cannot possibly wrest control of the Lone Islands from Gumpas and his slaver allies with the relatively small number of men he has with him on the Dawn Treader. So he makes a huge flashy show of his arrival to keep any of their enemies from realizing that. It works beautifully.
  • Reverse Psychology: How Caspian convinces his crew members to continue their voyage to the end of the world, while also averting the threat of mutiny. See Shaming the Mob, below.
  • Riches to Rags: It's mentioned that Professor Kirke is no longer the rich man he was in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and he now lives in a small cottage with one spare bedroom, occupied by Peter who's being coached for an exam. There is a throwaway line in the later books saying that his house was bombed during the war, which may be part of the reason for this.
  • Schmuck Banquet: The Island of the Star, or so the main characters assume: It actually is completely benign, and the only reason the Telmar lords were cursed to sleep was because they tried to grab the White Witch's stone knife on a corner.
  • Sea Serpents: On its journey east, the Dawn Treader comes under attack from a sea serpent that almost manages to crush it in its coils.
  • Shaming the Mob: Once they've gotten as far as Ramandu's island, the crewmen don't want to sail on any farther. Caspian counters this by announcing that being allowed to accompany him farther eastward is an honor that he's not sure any of them deserves.
  • Slave Liberation: Caspian does this at the Lone Islands, by effectively launching a coup d'état against the corrupt governor and replacing him with an honest man who shuts down the slave traders.
  • Slave Market: The main characters are captured by slave traders. Caspian is rescued/bought by one of the Lords they have been sent to find who recognises his father in him, but the rest are sent to a slave market. Caspian comes and rescues them before their new owners can take them away; no one was willing to take Eustace even for free.
  • Spoiled Brat: It's discussed that Eustace is such a pill before his Heel–Face Turn because of vapid "modern" educational and parenting theories that over-indulged his sense of self-importance.
  • Super-Fun Happy Thing of Doom: The "Island Where Dreams Come True." Dreams, as in nightmares.
  • Take That!: At modern educational and childrearing techniques that produce such a brat as Eustace.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: But — we really want to know what kinds of sins a star can commit.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Coriakin's Great Big Book of Everything. Also a bit of Forbidden Fruit, in regards to some spells.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Duffers are close to this. Coriakin has to look after them because they are barely clever enough to survive on their own. For example, when a cat gets into their food stores, the entire group relocates all the food to a new location, and it never even occurs to any of them to just get the cat out of there and close the door.
  • Unfortunate Names: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." In the next book, after Eustace's Heel–Face Turn, Lewis introduces him with "but he wasn't a bad sort".
  • Unreliable Narrator: The excerpts from Eustace's Travel Diary present him as tragically put-upon by arrogant prigs who willfully refuse to see him as the voice of reason in every situation. Yeah, we're sure that's exactly how it happened.
  • Vehicle Title: "Dawn Treader" is the name of the ship.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: the Dufflepuds. As the journey mostly consists of random encounters, many others may also qualify. Justified, since one of the expedition's main goals is exploring Narnia's distant island provinces and see what's going on there.
  • Weird Sun: The sun gets larger, casts more light and appears to have tall mountains from Aslan's Country behind it.
  • What an Idiot!: In-Universe. The sea serpent mistakenly believes it destroyed the Dawn Treader and keeps searching the same patch of ocean for its wreckage, instead of noticing it sailing away.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Used with an actual mouse, though unlike most examples of this trope, it is certainly NOT due to the author forgetting or simply not caring. It is implied, but not explicitly stated, that Reepicheep made it to Aslan's country. We don't know if he reached it successfully in his boat after going over the giant wave, or died in the attempt and went to Heaven the old-fashioned way; the book simply states that after that moment, no one could claim to have seen him again.
    • It's explicitly shown in the BBC version, where his boat floats up the waterfall to Aslan's Country.
    • In the last book, he is there and greets everyone.
    • We never find out exactly what happened to Lord Octesian; the characters guess that he was either eaten by the dragon or turned into a dragon on Dragon Island, but the only clue they have is his bracelet.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Caspian in his Pride wants to stay at the end of the world; the entire crew and even Aslan calls him out on abandoning his responsibilities and promises.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • Eustace, it's mentioned several times, has spent all his time reading boring nonfiction books and thus has no idea how to react when he finds himself in a fantasy adventure.
    • When they find the table with the sleepers, they do not eat the feast in case that was what caused them to fall asleep, but this turns out not to be the case and the food is safe to eat.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: "The Island Where Dreams Come True." (Unlike most places described by the phrase, emphatically not a nice place to visit.)


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