Millions of fans of C. S. Lewis’s booksare lining up to see the film adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—the third movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series.
I have to admit that I haven’t seen the movie—I’m afraid I just don’t go to the grand 3-D action movies anymore. But I am happy to say that the movie is getting good reviews from the likes of WORLD Magazine and Crosswalk.com—which credit the film with being true to the spirit of Lewis’s masterpiece, with a only a few cinematic liberties thrown in. And my colleague at BreakPoint, Anne Morse, loved the film.
But before you trundle up the kids to hit the Cineplex, why not re-read Dawn Treader with them? And you might also consult one of the fine books that carefully examine the themes of the Narnia tales.
In Dawn Treader, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie return to Narnia through a magical picture. They are accompanied by their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb, who, Lewis writes, is the kind of boy who “likes beetles if they were dead and pinned on a card,” and reads books “about exports and imports and governments and drains.”
According to the book, The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry Walls, “Eustace is Lewis’s portrayal of the thoroughly modern secularist.” He is “someone who views the world as a storehouse of physical stuff which science can use for human progress, but who rejects or ignores the ideas of spiritual reality and objective moral values.”
In Mere Christianity, Lewis taught that if we long for something not available in this world, it must be that we were created for another world, where these longings may be fulfilled. In Dawn Trader, Lewis expresses this idea through Reepicheep the mouse. Reepicheep sails with Caspian partly for the adventure, but also because he has always longed to find Aslan’s country—the Narnian heaven.
The Dawn Treader also illustrates differing philosophies of work, vocation, and the good life. For instance, when the childrenarrive on Dragon Island, Eustace sneaks off to avoid the work of repairing the ship. As Devin Brown notes in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, Eustace illustrates the teachings of Greek philosopher Epicurus, who “taught that the goal of life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, a philosophy that is called hedonism.”
When Eustace is turned into a dragon, he realizes that there are more important things than indulging one’s physical desires: human relationships, and putting one’s natural abilities to use in a greater cause than one’s self—like the defense of Narnia. The transformation of Eustace echoes the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, who taught that “to live well is to work well.”
Lewis, a master of allegory, has filled all of his Narnia tales with lessons on morality and living well. We should be ready to share his ideas with our friends if we see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Why not invite some non-Christian friends to the film, or give them a set of The Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas? And then, keep the discussion going.
The novels—and yes the film—are great examples of how moral and philosophical ideas can be conveyed in fantasy literature—including tales of a noble lion, a gallant mouse, and a little boy named Eustace Scrubb, who almost deserved his name.