#Narniathon21: the World’s End, and beyond

The picture in the bedroom, by Pauline Baynes

It’s time for the next stage in our exploration of C S Lewis’s Narnia, but now we are no longer in the company of Peter and Susan. Instead, it’s just Edmund and Lucy returning, with the addition on this trip of Eustace Clarence Scrubbs (whose middle and last names, note, have the initials of the author’s own forenames).

No horn-call this time however, nor even a wardrobe: it’s a picture in a bedroom that provides the portal in this Narniathon, now that we’ve reached the third of C S Lewis’s chronicles. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader first appeared in 1952 following on from Prince Caspian the year before. As is the established pattern I am posing three general questions which you can answer or evade, depending on whatever you may be bursting to say.

And as ever, feel free to to share here and elsewhere on social media your thoughts or your reviews, your favourite quotes or your photos, remembering to include the hashtag #Narniathon21 to let like-minded readers in on it all.

Detail from Everhardus Koster’s ‘Viking ships on the river Thames’ (1847)
  1. A picture as a portal didn’t originate with Lewis, for he may have taken the idea from an episode in John Masfield’s The Box of Delights (1935) in which Cole Hawlings passes into a painting called The Dents du Midi from the North in order to escape from wolves. Here however it’s a painting of a sailing ship on the high seas that the children enter. The question therefore is, Assuming you would like to enter a picture, what subject would you choose or even, if you have one in mind, what specific image would you opt for?
  2. There are many characters, old and new, that appear in this instalment, from Reepicheep to Eustace, Caspian to Coriakin, Aslan to the Duffers. What character (or characters) made the strongest impression on you in this book, and why?
  3. Stories of voyages and expeditions have always intrigued listeners and readers, whether to the north, west, south or — as here — east. Lewis uses The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to further explore the world made by Aslan — we will travel north, south and west in later instalments — so, What do you think is the significance, if any, of this sea voyage towards the rising sun?

Our next readalong is of course The Silver Chair, which was the next in the series to be published, and the date for our discussion is Friday 25th March (the day which once used to mark the beginning of the year).

#Narniathon21 image after Pauline Baynes

59 thoughts on “#Narniathon21: the World’s End, and beyond

      1. Okay, here I am 😉 Staying in the maritime mood, I think I’d choose a serene and gloriously hued Turner painting for my entry point ;). As for characters, I always thought Reepicheep’s arc was the most fulfilling. We knew Edmund and Lucy were sterling, and that Eustace would change in time, but Reepicheep’s unquenched thirst for adventure and knowledge always made a big impression on me (and the scene setting, too! 😉 ) As for the third question, alas, I felt this one was very lightly veiled bow toward Christianity (even though we can argue Sun deities occupied this sacred space much earlier than Christ).

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        1. Great to hear your thoughts, never too late! Yes, Turner’s anticipations of Impressionism would work very well, I agree, like his ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ for example.

          Reepicheep seems to be the leader in terms of readers’ favourites. I do slightly warm to him when he makes it his job to befriend Eustace despite the boy’s awful treatment of him earlier; but I find it hard to understand what drives him to head over the horizon, all on the basis of a traditional gnomic saying.

          I see the journey to the east as more than just a biblical pilgrimage — though I probably am influenced by a read of a Hermann Hesse novella in the 70s… Buddhism, or Daoism would do it for me as much as any biblical reason even if they weren’t at all what Lewis had in mind!

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          1. I guess the reason Reepicheep is a favorite is exactly this kind of uncompromising attitude to fight for your dreams? I feel like this is something we all would like to do at some point or another, but not really really – just entertaining the thought is enough to ground us in our lives again. He makes an impression because he actually follows through on his dream. Considering Aslan’s there, I guess he had solid facts to support the dream of Aslan’s Country 😉

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            1. It’s probably me, but I find it hard to take Lewis’s — indeed, most authors’ — talking animals seriously as individuals, with a few notable exceptions. But maybe that’s for another post… 😁

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            2. …and now Sting’s song is lodged in my head for the rest of the day 😂 I’m okay with talking animals in this case probably mostly because I originally read this as a child and human characters were no more realistic for me than animal ones back then 😁

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            3. Oddly, as a kid I was always more at home with miniature humans, even animated puppets, than with animals as surrogates for humans. I loved the Australian stories of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the Russian tales of Dunno and his friends in my pre-teen years, but The Wind in the Willows and that ilk didn’t fire my imagination — perhaps because I’m too literal-minded.

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  1. My own post is all about question #3! It will be up on Sunday.

    As for which character made the strongest impression, I was always quite taken by the sea-girl who is briefly seen by Lucy and with whom she instantly feels a sense of friendship. A brief but powerful encounter!

    That’s a good question about what image I would choose to enter. I will have to do some picture research. There are many magical pictures that are so inviting, aren’t they? That’s a lovely one you found of the viking ship.

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    1. Oh, I look forward to your Sunday post now, Lory! As for the sea-girl (fish-herdess, as Lewis dubs her) I have my own thoughts on that which I’ll be discussing in a related post after my own review, and ditto the picture of the Viking ship — I’m glad you liked it! I wonder if Lewis was taken with a reproduction of it, or one like it, when he was a child.

      As for pictures ‘inviting’ me into them, I quite like paintings of interiors but really all representational paintings draw me in, as my several posts on Bristol Museum and Art Gallery make clear! https://calmgrove.wordpress.com/tag/bristol-museum-and-art-gallery/

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    1. No, I haven’t come across the Handy, Marcie, but I see on Goodreads that it has had wildly diverging reviews! Handy seems to dislike Anne of Green Gables (a title on my TBR) and this has raised the ire of many, it seems.

      Less polarising an overview of children’s lit comes from Katherine Rundell,.whose Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise seems to resonate with more readers and reviewers, while Katherine Langrish’s From Spare Room to War Drobe is a fine paean to the Narniad.

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      1. Well, that certainly piqued my interest, having been raised on Anne and Emily. So I had to go and check past the Ramona chapter after all. Heheh

        It’s funny that so many people have criticized the book on those grounds; the index only shows one brief reference to the author as having written classic fiction for girls and this one footnote more than 200 pages into the book, which must comprise the core of their objections.

        He does briefly describe his frustration with a particularly flighty/imaginative description of Anne’s enthusiasm for naming things in her environment, which I can see could be annoying in the wrong reading mood, which led to his permanently abandoning his reading of this classic novel. It wasn’t a book he read as a kid.

        But fair enough, I say, because I know there are children’s books I’ve read as an adult that I didn’t love as much as I would have, if I’d encountered them as a young reader (some of Nesbit, for instance) and I also know that, as an adult, I have developed misgivings with some of LMM’s story elements too, even though I still consider her a grand favourite.

        Having said all that, I am very interested in the two books you have recommended as additional reading. This is one of my favourite themes so I’ll see what I can find!

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        1. You’re right, of course, our responses as adults can be very different from those as youngsters, for better or worse. Still, I’ll be happy to wear the two hats when I finally come to the Montgomery, which my partner loved!

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          1. I think if you go into it, knowing that Anne is “too much” and intended to be “too much” and lovable precisely because she is “too much”, which no doubt your partner has prepared you for (possibly in more than one way Heheh) you will be ready to engage just as LMM would have hoped you would too. It doesn’t sound like Mr. Handy had anything to assist his backward glance, other than the awareness that it was a classic. I hope you love it!

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  2. Oh, interesting! Here goes:

    1. A picture as a portal – at the moment, anything that would take me into the past would do… I’d quite happily return to the late 20th century.
    2. Always Reepicheep in this book – he made a great impression when I first read the books, though I can’t say why. Perhaps I admired his courage and single-mindedness.
    3. I always thought Lewis was echoing classic sea voyages from the past, though with no real knowedge to base it on. Still not sure, but I love the voyage and his wonderful way of conjuring the surreal landscape of the east at the end.

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    1. Late 20th century? After the fall of the Berlin Wall? Or maybe after 1997? I hadn’t thought about going back in time, just somewhere other than where one is at the moment, but that’s valid, especially if one’s looking at a photograph. As for Reepicheep, I suspect he may be top of many readers’ lists!

      I have a post in preparation about sea voyages so I won’t jump the gun here and blurt out the kinds of stories that may have influenced Lewis, sea voyages but also other journeys. But yes, that surreal landscape at the end with the lilies and the wave: I wonder if Lewis had seen the 1923 Cecil B De Mille film The Ten Commandments (not the 1956 version by De Mille which came out after VDT) — I’m thinking of the parting of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the Pharaoh.

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  3. Pingback: #Narniathon21: the World’s End, and beyond – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  4. As a kid I was captivated by the Mary Poppins movie, when she and Bert decide which chalk picture to pop into. I’ve often thought that I’d like to pop out of the cave where the psammead is initially discovered in Five Children and It, because I have a mental picture of coming out of the dark (as of February) onto a hot, brightly lit seaside, with the blue water warm enough for swimming.

    The wardrobe to Narnia and the ship painting in The Box of Delights were later images for me–irresistible, inevitable, even… seeming like less of a choice. The wardrobe goes to one place. The ship is the destination. What would each one of us draw, though, if we got to go to the place depicted?

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    1. I’d forgotten the Mary Poppins sequence with the chalk drawing as a possible parallel with the painting here! And any opportunity to escape a dreary northern hemisphere winter is of course very welcome. What would I draw to get to somewhere I wanted? I’d rather like Will Parry’s subtle knife to open ‘windows’ onto new worlds — not forgetting to close them up again to stop the Spectres coming in!

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  5. Oh goodness what a question! There are too many options to choose from. Something with a ruined castle and a tunnel of trees, perhaps. Or alternatively, something from the past — Stonehenge thousands of years ago, or something.

    I think Reepicheep steals the show, with his over-the-top gallantry and bravado and his “it is, then, my good fortune not to be a man.” But like Lory, I have always loved the fish-herdess, and I hope she and Lucy do get to meet.

    It seems to me that the eastward journey is pointing towards Aslan’s country — heaven. They are going to the origin and the destination of all things; the sunrise and the beginning of the world, but also the end. Much like Tolkien’s idea of “The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it….White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

    Here’s my post about Dawn Treader: https://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2022/02/narniathon-voyage-of-dawn-treader.html

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    1. In Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet the children do a lot of time travelling, don’t they, though they go to Babylon and Atlantis rather than ancient Stonehenge. Luckily I live in Wales, chockful of ruined castles (our town even has one!) and with three National Parks (yep, we live within one) so am not sure what picture I’d choose to enter if I could.

      I liked your review (and left a comment there) and pleased you expanded on the protagonists’ journey to the east. I hope to say more about this in separate posts following my review, up soon.

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        1. I occasionally have posted comments on blogspot (you, say, or Kristen at webereading.com) and they just disappear, either into some spam plughole or out into the ether … C’est la vie.

          I’m glad we’ve ended up in Wales. Coincidentally we’re just watching a programme about singer-songwriter Labi Siffre (known for hits like ‘It Must Be Love’ and ‘So Strong’) and it turns out he lived for a while up a mountain three or four miles from where we are. It’s a lovely area.

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  6. The Voyage of the Dawntreader reminded me a lot of that old Irish epic The Voyage of Máel Dúin. Lewis’s Irish background manifests itself in unexpected ways throughout the Narnia series, maybe because it’s never explicitly stated – e.g. most people would naturally associate the White Witch with Anderson’s Snow Queen, but she’s also clearly inspired by the Cailleach.

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    1. I’m sure you’re right, Aonghus, and it’s also likely Lewis took the Navigatio Sancti Brendani as a model (though of course Brendan travelled to the west). I shall be posting about voyages after I put up a review; but I found it a lovely coincidence that as I was editing a Narnia post I was listening to lunchtime concert on the radio from the Belfast church, St Mark’s, Dundela. Here was where Lewis’s family had connections, and where local lore has it that a lion doorknob on the rectory door helped inspire his first Narnia title.

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  7. 1. As an adult I’m not sure… casting back, I would pick a Roger Dean illustration. I had his badger poster on my wall growing up, but I’d go with one of the floating island landscapes, or the “Morning Dragon” (a straight lift of Hunan Province pillars, which I’d love to visit in real life!)

    2. Definitely Eustace. I love a redemption arc, and he is so memorably awful before his enchantment. Lewis makes his transformation internally believable. I especially enjoy the journal he keeps on board and his attempts to tell his story by writing in the sand as a dragon.

    3. I think one of the reasons VotDT is a favorite is how many different stories the sea journey can fit in. Transitions between islands can be realistically abrupt, so it’s easier for the episodes to feel natural, and for the atmosphere to change radically as we move away from the known worlds towards “Aslan’s country.” It’s like Caspian’s reaction to learning the Pevensies live on a round world – the idea of a world’s end that you can actually travel to amazes me, and the sweet water –> sea of lilies –> eternally cresting wave feels magically plausible.

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    1. I can see why one might pick one of Dean’s dreamlike landscapes — they do invite you in, don’t they? Hah, I was just reminded of Dr Seuss’s worlds, they’d be fun to visit — though perhaps not the land of the Lorax…

      I quite like Eustace too, though his personality shift when it comes does seem somewhat abrupt to me. But bravo to him for his journal keeping, it helps to get a handle on the timeframe of the voyage.

      I hope to discuss the world in one of my follow-up posts so won’t expand on it now, but the idea of a sea journey with an inbuilt trajectory is certainly attractive — more than the to-ing and fro-ing of Prince Caspian in my opinion!

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  8. Oh this has given me so much to think about, but here goes…

    1. As a child the portal to the world of Narnia being a painting captured my imagination and I remember looking at my parents’ paintings on the walls wondering which one would work. My dad, as an ex merchant navy man, had several maritime prints so I used to peer at the ships looking for possible characters from the book just in case.

    2. I’m not showing much imagination I’m afraid but definitely Reepicheep for me, I found his positivity appealing and still do really.

    3. Despite my father’s naval background I had never travelled on a ship at the time I first read Dawn Treader so had a slightly romanticised view of it and the book confirmed that for me I suppose. It does feel like a larger world in this story and that subtly alters the reader’s interpretation I think. Even as a child I was aware of the changing tone to the narrative.

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    1. Interesting answers, Anne, and food for further thought! My father was a chief engineer for cargo ships based in Hong Kong and though as a family we occasionally had trips with him (to Japan, the Philippines, Thailand) my favourite thing was to get a postcard of whichever ship he was on and make pinpricks in some of the windows, just so I could hold it up to the light and imagine it sailing along in the night!

      When there are storms in the story I recall being in a typhoon on a return journey to Hong Kong — bad enough on a steamship but I imagine more terrifying in a sailing ship. I’ve been aboard the Matthew, a replica of the ship John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland in 1497, and being on something like that in a tempest (as the Dawn Treader was) is not something I’d welcome…

      Reepicheep seems to be a favourite, but I rather like Coriakin as a character — like him I have the beard but, sadly, not his magical ability.. Or wisdom.

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  9. Apologies for getting a bit late in responding–I’ve been rather off track with things lately, so only managed to finish my read after time.

    1. Re a picture I’d like to enter, oddly the one that seems the most peaceful and inviting to me was from a story in a Korean TV Programme I watched–a fantasy with ghosts and spirits–one of the stories was about this tiger whose spirit is not at rest because he was brought away from his home, and finally the character in the story who is supposed to help spirits shows him a painting of an open meadow (not a forest for some reason) and he goes into it and is at rest–it was really beautifully done. That image has stuck in my mind so firmly, and that with my love of open green spaces (away from people) seems the ideal picture I’d like to enter.

    2. One was Reepicheep for sure–I loved his bravery and sense of honour, and how he spurred the others on when they were losing courage (also how he dealt with Eustace); The duffers were fun too, they rather reminded me of Enid Blyton’s stupids that I mentioned in my review as well. I also wondered if Ramadu the star was partial inspiration for Stardust–taking on a ‘human’ form I mean.

    3. I rather enjoyed the seafaring adventure that this takes us on (somehow, books set around sea voyages don’t work for me in every instance–in some the natutical terms and dialect feel too much and such, but here it did). The quest for the end of the world here reminded me a lot of the Pilgrim’s Progress and the search for the Land of Beulah

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    1. It’s never too late, Mallika, all responses whenever posted are welcome! Your description of the scene in the Korean programme sounds lovely, and reminds me of all the gorgeous landscapes I’ve admired in Studio Ghibli animations — so many of them Edenesque in their beauty and pristineness.

      I too thought of Stardust when reading about who Ramandu and Coriakin were, but indeed VDT has a few striking characters that stick in the mind. And your parallels for the novel include at least one I shall refer to in a future post, among many others!

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  10. Such intriguing questions. I’ll be brief in my answers though.
    1. I’d jump into a Turner painting of Venice or Florence
    2. I liked Eustace as a dragon, but I can’t get the bloomin’ lamb out of my head, which only appears right at the end.
    3. I like the aim of the voyage, and it gives scope for all the mini adventures.

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    1. Oh, a Turner painting, now that appeals! Though for Venice I wouldn’t mind stepping into a Canaletto — just so long I didn’t step into a canal. The bloomin’ lamb? That bit, to me,.rather grates, and just seems heavy-handed symbolism: I think he could somehow have been a bit more subtle than that

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      1. I’m a little behind this month. I just finished reading Dawn Treader about 2 hours ago.

        Good questions. I would love to step into a picture that takes me to the world of Harry Potter. I disagree with Rowling’s views on trans people and I still love the Harry Potter series more than any other except Dune.

        I love Reepicheep. I also love Coriakin and I’m curious what he did to get as punishment to babysit the dufflepuds.

        I think the significance of sailing east is because there are many scriptures that say that Christ and God will appear in the east. So, it’s just part of the allegory.

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        1. It’s okay, there’s no cut-off date at the moment, so now is perfectly fine, Jenni Elyse.

          Fantasy films can be great at allowing the movie-goer to imagine themselves within the scene and experiencing the action — though some more than others! As for Coriakin, yes, what did he do to deserve the Duffers?! There’s a backstory there waiting to be revealed, I feel.

          I’ve no doubt that the journey to the east is meant to allude to Eden. Most medieval graves and many modern ones are literally oriented towards oriens, the ‘rising sun’ so that on the Day of Doom the faithful are facing the Second Coming. Lewis signals the symbolism very strongly with his references to the sun getting bigger, and the very name of the ship alludes to the theme.

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          1. I posted my discussion of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on my blog today if anyone’s interested in reading it.

            I didn’t even think of the name of the ship alluding to the theme. I also didn’t think about the symbolism of sailing east until I read your question and answered it in my earlier comment. Both of those are really interesting to think about in terms of the allegory.

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  11. Pingback: #Narniathon21 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Annabookbel

  12. Here is my The Voyage of Dawn Treader post: https://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-voyage-of-dawn-treader-by-cs-lewis.html

    I am sure I am not the only American reader of Puffin paperbacks who was intrigued by the descriptions of other books in the back. Probably this deserves a whole post. The Box of Delights was one that sometimes appeared but was not in my library. When I did finally get a hold of it, I have to admit it did not appeal to me. In my copy of Dawn Treader, two books are mentioned – Jennings Goes to School and Landslide by Veronique Day. I do really enjoy Jennings but I don’t think I found any in this country; I probably located a few on visits to the UK. There was a hardcover copy of Landslide in my library, translated from French, and I did enjoy it.

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    1. This is what I wrote on your post, in case my comment disappears:

      Interesting who you choose as your impressive character. Caspian, who’d just entered his teens in PC, must be at least 16 in VDT — certainly a very mature and, by now, battle-hardened young man! In the films, though, he’s clearly a lot older…

      I’m also struck by your choice of image — a human being as opposed to a scene, a landscape or whatever — not one I’d imagined but not invalid of course! Anyway, great answers, and thanks for joining in this discussion.

      Puffin Books: so many of these that I remember from decades ago noted on their back cover that they weren’t for sale in the USA, though usually available in Canada or Australia — I suppose often for copyright reasons — though now secondhand copies are generally available online from multiple sources.

      By the way, I was never a particular Jennings fan — no particular reason — while Veronique Day is a new name for me, so I shall now need to research a bit. 🙂

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      1. I almost picked a Pissarro picture of a busy urban avenue but I don’t know its name! Then I remembered my Howard picture and how much I like it.

        I am sure the Landslide book would be popular with children who like disaster books. I am sure it was one of the first translated books I read other than perhaps Heidi. One of the memorable things about it is that one of the children dashes off a week’s worth of postcards and pays someone to mail one each day – to get the chore of writing home done with. But when the children are cut off, they think, “Well, at least our families will know something is wrong when they don’t hear from us,” and the girl has to confess she has messed that up!

        Stig of the Dump, The Fair to Middling, The Minnow on the Say, The Moon of Gomrath, and very surprisingly an American book, The Phantom Tollbooth (my favorite of that group) are all in the back matter of the Puffins near my desk.

        Constance

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  13. Pingback: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Discussion – Jenni Elyse

  14. 1. I think I would be quite happy falling into a sailing scene or a fishing scene on a british river or into a quite pastoral scene perhaps on the outskirts of Hobbiton (I’m thinking of the painting of Frodo reading a book under a tree). I really would enjoy falling into the painting the children fall into in Dawn Treader in fact – it would be awesome – sailing on an old fashioned sailing boat with Prince Caspian in the seas off Narnia with talking animals all around. How good would that be?! If I had to think of my own painting I think I would choose “Breezing Up” by Winslow Homer…

    2. Reepicheep and Eustace are the characters which interest me the most in this book. I find Eustace interesting because of the significant psychological journey he goes on within himself and the way his character builds as he is challenged during the adventure. Reepicheep’s single-minded devotion to the “utmost east” is what interests me about him and his fierce courage despite his small stature.

    3. I find the utmost east idea a little tricky. I think in the story it represents a way to heaven from Narnia, to a second life in “Aslan’s country”. I suspect Lewis chose East for practical reasons – perhaps he wanted the name “Dawn Treader” and so the ship had to sail towards the dawn? Or maybe he chose east simply because this was a sea voyage and on his map of the lands near Narnia the sea is in the east (I think!)?

    If Aslan’s Country represents some kind of heavenly second life then I don’t understand why Lewis didn’t put that gateway or transitional place in the North. I though “Northness” was a big thing in Lewis’ life, something which inspired him greatly and helped him form his views on heaven.

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    1. I’ve not come across Winslow Homer before, shall have to research him now! As for the name of the ship, I suppose Dusk Treader doesn’t have the same ring to it…

      Why didn’t Lewis put Aslan’s country to the north? Well, two reasons I suppose: the east has Christian associations which he would have wanted to emphasise, and he was probably planning The Silver Chair which, of course, is the domain of the Giants and the Lady with the Green Kirtle — not a place for a Narnian paradise!

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