Years ago, while I was recovering from surgery or sickness of some sort, if my memory serves me right, I read the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia – “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” to my daughters, Katie and Hannah.
Last week, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had a sudden urge to read the second book, “Prince Caspian”, aloud to whomever I could attract. It turned out to be just Ben and I. Katie and Hannah came into the room and listened briefly before moving on to other teenage things. Ben and I enjoyed ourselves for a couple of hours, though, and made it halfway through the book.
Then Renee rented the movie for all of the kids, so we gave up on the reading and did the watching. Disappointing, but real.
A few days ago, Ben and I discussed the possibility of moving on to book three – “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. This morning, as I sliced leftover Thanksgiving ham for breakfast, Ben suggested we make our way to Wal-Mart so he could spend the twenty dollars he had earned shoveling snow last week, then walk to Starbucks for drinks and a reading session.
This afternoon, we did just that. I have never read this third book in the series, but I’ve heard some quotes from it which have always been a bit magical to me. I was looking forward to reading it, and the first 3 chapters have not let me down.
I like reading the English version of English, especially from someone so talented as C.S. Lewis, but the story and the symbolism sings to my heart. It’s so simple and yet so moving. I have not enjoyed the movies as much, but the language of the books and the poetic elements of the magical story move me.
Reepicheep, the two-foot tall, chivalrous, sword-fighting, knight of a mouse, is the best part of the magic. He continually displays the honorable loyalty, courage, and commitment of a knight, devoted to Aslan, and whenever he expresses such thoughts, my heart melts and longs to join his story.
After reading some of Reepicheep’s sentiments, I had to stop and explain to Ben and Noah, there at our corner table in Starbuck’s, the beauty of the meaning of these symbolic words, as I remember doing with similar words to Katie and Hannah all those years ago. I become giddy, and the boys laugh – with me or at me, I cannot tell – but they get the symbolism and I love that.
Explaining his presence and mission aboard the “Dawn Treader” to Lucy and Edmund, Reepicheep says:
“Why would we not come to the very eastern end of the world? And what might we find there? I expect to find Aslan’s own country. It is always from the east, across the sea that the great Lion comes to us.” . . .
“But do you think,” said Lucy, “Aslan’s country would be that sort of country – I mean the sort you could ever sail to?”
“I do not know, Madam,” said Reepicheep, “But there is this. When I was in my cradle a wood woman, a Dryad, spoke this verse over me:
‘Where sky and water meet,
Where waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.
“I do not know what it means. But the spell of it has been on me all my life.”
I know, it seems silly that an old man would be moved by the simple words of a talking mouse about the pursuit of a heavenly country. I can’t help it though.
I want to have such courage, such unwavering commitment to pursuing the country of my Lord, even without knowing what I’ll find along the way, or at my destination. I’m inspired to take up the pursuit, and to be loyal to my heart’s longing.
The spell of it has been on me all my life. I hope to put that spell on my children, too.
Near the end of the “Dawn Treader’s” voyage, Reepicheep explains the power of it:
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise . . .