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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Aslan "Unscales."

Updated: Sep 3, 2022


Illustrated by Pauline Baynes


What follows is the fifth entry of blog posts where I share insights about the character Aslan who reminds me of Jesus the Christ from the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. You can read Prince Caspian: Aslan's "Bigger" to see the post before this one. We find ourselves in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader today, and it contains great adventure, with even greater themes woven throughout the narrative.


The tiny but noble warrior Reepicheep stands out despite his lack of height; he was "the most valiant of all the Talking Beasts of Narnia and the Chief Mouse" (Lewis, p. 7). Through the character of Reepicheep, Lewis pens this powerful truth: You must be brave and courageous, no matter how "small" you are. The smallest of us can muster up the greatest of courage.


One of my favorite mini-adventures the occupants of The Dawn Treader finds themselves on begins in chapter five and ends in chapter seven. Between these three chapters is where a significant amount of character development occurs in Eustace; he is a proud, whiny, and self-centered brat who joins his cousins, Lucy and Edmund, on this adventure in Narnia.


Lucy and Edmund don't like Eustace. Those onboard The Dawn Treader don't like Eustace.


Those reading the book don't like Eustace, yet I think he is the one who takes home the most improved character reward at the end of the book. His character development arc is more significant than Edmund's throughout this series.


Lewis used the ink of his pens to write stories we could not only see but could also feel, and his fantastic penmanship stands out in chapter seven. We find Eustace going on an adventure without the crew in chapter six and ends up in a cave. He later becomes a dragon after entering this cave filled with treasure.


Some dialogue between the crew happens after Eustace returns as a dragon, and they realize it is Eustace. They were repairing The Dawn Treader and preparing to head out in a few days, but Eustace was a dragon, and it wouldn't work out to bring him on board. Some time passes, and Eustace flies away because he thinks more about the crew instead of focusing on himself. Towards the end of chapter seven, we find Eustace reuniting with the crew as a boy again, and he proceeds to tell them how he turns back into a human.


Visualize what he shares:


"I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it — if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.'

'You mean it spoke?'

'I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden — trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

'I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells — like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

'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. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. 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 beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

'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. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.'


'Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.'


'Then the lion said — but I don't know if it spoke — 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. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.'


'I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund. 'Well, he peeled 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 was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.'

'After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me —'

'Dressed you. With his paws?'

"Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes — the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.'

'No. It wasn't a dream,' said Edmund.

'Why not?"

'Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been —well, un-dragoned, for another.'

"What do you think it was, then?" asked Eustace.

'I think you've seen Aslan,' said Edmund.


"Then the lion said — but I don't know if it spoke — 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. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.'

'I know exactly what you mean,' said Edmund.

'Well, he peeled 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 was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again.

'After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me — '

"Dressed you. With his paws?'

'Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes — the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.'"


Yeah, that was a long dialogue but painting a beautiful truth in a visually compelling way takes time and incredible talent.


Did you see the "huge lion?"


Did you see Eustace trying on his own to remove the scales and failing three different times?


Did you feel the Lion taking off the scales from Eustace?


Did you feel the healing after the Lion unscaled Eustace and he got into the water?


Only after Eustace allowed Aslan to "unscale" him did he turn into a boy again.


Eustace couldn't turn back into a boy through his power; he needed Aslan's help.


The imagery is vividly astonishing, and the connection to real-life even more so. The scales remind me of sin and how it makes us "beastly," or, in other words, not human. Humans are created in the Imago Dei, the Image of God, and sin has marred and damaged His Image in us.


So, the God whose Image we were made in has wrapped Himself in our Image so that He would restore the Divine Image in us.

We cannot "unscale" ourselves no matter how many times we try. Jesus the Christ is the only one with the power and grace to remove from us what has contaminated us so that we may be humans who reflect His Image again.


Eustace shared the pain that he felt as Aslan took the scales off him, but the end of that pain was restoration; Eustace became a boy again. Baptism symbolizes the person's transition as they are submerged or sprinkled underwater, signifying them dying with Christ and dying to sin. Their raising out of that water represents their raising to a new life in Christ. (Romans 6)


If you look around in this world, you'll find many like dragons walking around; they are "beastly" in their actions because they still have the scales of sin. But, if you look a little closer, you'll find that the God of the universe has stepped into this mess of a world so that He would clean us from the inside out. Jesus "unscales" so that we would be whole, healed, and truly human again.


"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - II Corinthians 5:21 (ESV).


This is one reason King David cried out as recorded in Scripture:


"Create in me a clean heart, O God,..." -Psalm 51:10a (ESV)



C. S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a great narrative that helps me see more clearly that Jesus has the power to "unscale" me and make me truly human again.

I am reminded of this powerful song penned by Brooker Fraser and sung here by Hillsong UNITED:


"Precious blood has left me forgiven


Pure like the whitest of snow


Powerful to make sin and shame retreat This covenant is making me whole


So I will rise and lift my head For by His mercy my life was spared The highest Name has set me free Because of Jesus My heart is clean


Purify my heart in Your presence Teach me to discover the joy Of holiness that forms as You draw me close In You what was lost is restored


So I will rise and lift my head For by His mercy my life was spared The highest Name has set me free

Because of Jesus My heart is clean


So I will rise and lift my head For by His mercy my life was spared The highest Name has set me free

Because of Jesus My heart is clean


Because of Jesus My heart is clean."


Sources:

Lewis, C. S. 1., & Baynes, P. (1994). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. First HarperCollins edition. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.


http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/PDFs/VoyageoftheDawnTreader_CSL.pdf




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