The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
 
            A film based on the wondrous writings of C.S. Lewis is bound to be very satisfying for the believer, because Lewis himself was a Christian apologist, in the classic rhetorical sense, and he very much intended the heavy symbolism of his “Narnia” series to be understood as Christian.
            Of course, Professor Lewis wrote for a different age and circumstance.  What was considered “children’s” books at the time would be a challenge to many adolescents today, most of whom would also not readily understand the urgent context of the bombing of Britain by the Luftwaffe in the early years of World War II.  This was a time of great suffering and anxiety on the part of the entire British population, but most of all, the children, who would suddenly find themselves crowded into airless air raid shelters with frightened strangers, and afterwards, emerge to see their neighborhood in rubble, and their own house, perhaps, in ruins.  Nothing was easy, nothing was certain.  Most of their fathers were off at war, many of whom would never return.  Their mothers were overwhelmed, distracted, and anxious themselves.  Little wonder that Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” were so popular:  its heroes were brave children, and though they would encounter many strange and wondrous things, if they kept their wits about them and held their courage, despite all that seemed menacing and evil, they would prevail.  And they would be more mature, more confident, and more self-assured, for the harrowing experience.
            In this 3rd installment of Lewis’ unparalleled 7-part trilogy, the two older children, Susan and Peter, are already grown and gone, and the two younger ones, Edmund and Lucy, are living with their younger cousin, Eustace, who is a complainer and a skeptic.  He doesn’t believe any of their tall tales about Narnia, its lion king, Aslan, its magical properties, and most of all, the royal lineage of his two bothersome cousins, whom he considers merely a nuisance and a burden.  When the Narnia painting of the cobalt sea on the wall starts to move, and then gush water, Eustace disbelieves even what he is seeing, until they are thrown into that sea, in front of a large royal ship, “The Dawn Treader,” captained by none other than Caspian, their comrade from previous adventures, who promptly pulls them from the ocean and welcomes their highnesses aboard, much to the astonishment of the bedraggled Eustace.
            Narnia is once again in turmoil, and there are some missing allies who need to be found, and when they are, the insidious evil is discovered, as well-----that creeps into sight like an ugly green mist, confusing the senses and enveloping the consciousness and constricting line of sight.  Of course, this is also what real evil does: it confuses loyalties and creates chaos and division, it stirs up mistrust and greed, and is fueled by pride.  The children all have to wrestle with their own demons before they are prepared to do battle with the darkness that threatens to envelop them all (and here, Lewis’ wartime historical context colorfully informs his fanciful imagination). 
            Just as all seems lost and hopeless, the herculean travails themselves become opportunities to grow and learn, and the munificent and beatific Aslan makes his elusive presence felt at just the critical moment.  There are those who complain that this kind of obvious religious overtone is heavy-handed, but for the believer, it is a welcome sight to watch a “once upon a time” depend on the context of “in the beginning….”
            Yes, as a bonus, we have fire-breathing dragons, silver mermaids, hidden treasure, magic swords, lost warriors, astounding wizardry, and even some old-fashioned swashbuckling.  It’s a fun ride.  But more to the point, there is a point.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas