It is “10 weeks and counting” to the December 10 opening of the film adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This week I’ve been reading the next two chapters of C.S. Lewis’ classic work. I’ll combine these two chapters to help us get through the whole book before the film opens in theaters. Chapters Three and Four go well together because they tell us what happens when the Dawn Treader makes its first island landing in search of the lost Lords of Narnia.
Coming to the Lone Islands, from which Chapter Three derives its title, Caspian and crew have a decision to make. Should they head directly to the main island of Doorn, and the government center of Narrowhaven located on the island, or take the time to hike across the smaller island of Felimath, which the Pevensies remembered from their first visit to Narnia. Opting for the latter, Caspian, Edmund, Lucy, Reepicheep and Eustace are captured by a band of slave traders, headed by the villainous Pug. Since slavery is outlawed in Narnia, the entire party learns the hard way that all is not well in the Lone Islands, or with its governor – Gumpas.
To further complicate matters, Caspian, keeping his true identity a secret, is sold prior to the slavers departure from Felimath, splitting the party. Lewis often reminds us in his writing that sometimes what we think it bad news can actually be good. In this case, Caspian’s new master turns out to be Lord Bern, one of the seven missing Lords. When Lord Bern discovers that he has purchased the King of Narnia, he and Caspian begin plotting how they can rescue the rest of the party and set things right in the Lone Islands.
In Chapter Four, appropriately titled “What Caspian Did There”, we are told…you guessed it…what Caspian did “there”, i.e., when he and Bern, and the crew of the Dawn Treader land at Narrowhaven. Creating the illusion that the Dawn Treader sails at the front of a massive fleet of Narnian warships, Caspian enters the town like a victorious warrior King returning in triumph. As the band make their way through the streets of the town Lewis describes, in his classic manner, how the crowd grows to include nearly the whole town. It begins when the young boys join in because young boys “like a procession.” Then the older boys join thinking that if they can make enough of a ruckus, school might get cancelled. The old women put their heads out doors and windows and begin cheering because it is a king! The young women join the procession because Caspian and his crew are so handsome, and of course the young men join in because they are checking out the young women! By the time Caspian reaches Gumpas, the entire town is engaged.
Caspian’s confrontation with Gumpas is again classic Lewis. One can only imagine that Lewis based the Gumpas character on numerous British bureaucrats he had encountered through the years. When Gumpas attempts to justify the slave trade on the basis of “progress” and economic “development”, Caspian replies that in Narnia, such things are called Going Bad. Gumpas is deposed and Lord Bern is made a Duke and put in charge of the Lone Islands.
The final action of the chapter takes place at the slave market, where Lucy, Edmund, and Reepicheep have already been purchased by the highest bidders, while no one is willing to take Eustace – even when Pug tries to give him away! Slavery is again abolished in the Lone Islands, the children and Reep are set free, and the Dawn Treader is prepared and provisioned for the eastward trip into territory from which no one has ever returned (and where Eustace is about to have the experience of a life-time!)