Thoughts on Narnia #4 by Andy Bartosh

‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.’ The
opening sentence of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sets the tone for Eustace Scrubb’s
personality. With a distasteful, superior attitude, Eustace grates on those around him. When Eustace and the Pevensie children (Edmund and Lucy) examine a painting, they are drawn into the picture and find themselves thrown into the sea.

Rescued by ‘a golden-headed boy’ and the mariners, the three find themselves aboard the Dawn Treader and the golden headed boy is none other than King Caspian (you will have to read Prince Caspian on your own). Eustace demands to be let off at the next station, which is quite impossible as there isn’t a next station. Life aboard the ship continues and Eustace starts a diary where he records his perceived injustices from those onboard, including Reepicheep, the Talking Mouse (in Narnia animals can talk). Eustace’s personality comes to the fore and he finds himself confronted by Reepicheep.

‘ “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. “I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe in fighting.”

“Do I understand,” said Reepicheep, with-drawing his sword for a moment and speaking very sternly, “that you do not intend to give me satisfaction?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Eustace, nursing his hand. “If you don’t know how to take a joke I shan’t bother my head about you.”

“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. Eustace (of course) was at a school where they didn’t have corporal punishment, so the sensation was quite new to him. That was why, in spite having no sea-legs, it took him less than a minute to get off that forecastle and cover the whole length of the deck and bust in at the cabin door - still hotly pursued by Reepicheep. Indeed it seemed to Eustace that the rapier as well as the pursuit was hot.’

The narrative eventually finds the Dawn Treader and its crew anchored in a bay off of an unknown island. The next morning the whole ship’s company went ashore. Eustace meanders off by himself. He stumbles upon a dragon shortly before it expires. After the initial fright, Eustace explores and finds the dragon’s cave filled with jewels and riches. Being exhausted from his exploration, Eustace falls asleep on the dragon’s hoard. I’m sure everyone is aware of the fact that ‘sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart” a person becomes a dragon’ himself. And so it is that Eustace becomes a dragon. Much transpires, including the ship’s crew realizing that Eustace is now a dragon and the dilemma associated with that fact.

This portion of the adventure ends when Eustace sees ‘a huge lion coming slowly’ towards him. The lion was Aslan, the King above all High Kings, the King of the Beasts, the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. The lion told him to follow him, which he did. Eustace was led to the top of a mountain where there was a garden and a well in the middle of it. Eustace wanted to get into the water but the lion told him he would have to undress first.

‘ “I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when 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.... I started down into the well for my bath. But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before.’

Eustace performs the same procedure multiple times with the same result. The lion tells him that “you will have to let me undress you”.

‘ “I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
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..... Well, he peeled the the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt - and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch.... Then I saw, why I had turned into a boy again.’

Eustace becomes a new person following this experience. While I don’t know much about
metaphors or allegories, I am aware of parallels. People have dragon hides on them and they are unable to remove the scales and skin. There is a great lion, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King of kings, and Lord of lords who can remove the “darker, more knobbly-looking” skin that covers each of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. The parallels continue throughout the book: Caspian redeemed from being a slave, Deathwater Island where the lure of riches threatens friendships, Reepicheep’s unquenchable desire to see Aslan’s country. Geometry aside, adventure begins with the supreme occurrence of having THE LION remove our scales.

1 Comment

Denise Pierce - October 18th, 2023 at 9:08am

I have never read all the Narnia books but you have peaked my interest to what other “spiritual gems” are hidden in the pages. You have reminded me that God’s removal of our scales may be painful but it is necessary for lasting change in our character. Thanks, Andy:)




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