this book was my second favorite as a child. i read it almost as many times as magicians nephew and the lion the witch...it was the third book written by lewis, but falls 5th chronologically. the story brings lucy and edmund back to narnia (for the last time) and also brings their cousin, eustace, which the opening of the book and the first description of him sums it up best:
"there was a boy called eustace clarence scrubb and he almost deserved it. his parents called him eustace clarence and masters called him scrubb. i can't tell you how his friends called him for he had none. he didn't call his father and mother "father" and "mother", but "harold" and "alberta". they were very up-to-date and advanced people. they were vegetarians and non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. in their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open"
i simply loved this description. the book itself was written in 1952 and i can just picture his house and his family with all the "modern" craze going on...anyway - that is eustace.
the book follows the adventures of prince caspian (3 years after they first met him in prince caspian the book) on board the dawn treader attempting to find the 7 lords and friends of his father that were sent out to discover the eastern islands. one of the stories that stood out for me as a child was the island of the duffers - the dwarf monopod creatures. i also recalled the island of dreams, which frightened me then and i would make my mom skip that part usually.
a part that really spoke to me as an adult was when eustace turns into a dragon *spoiler* and he meets aslan for the first time. the description of him turning back into a child really spoke to me as a symbol of true change and enlightenment. it is a long telling of a story so i will shorten it by prefacing that aslan came to eustace as a dragon and told him to undress and bathe in this stream. he thought that since he is a reptile he can just sort of shed his skin - which he did by attempting to scratch it off himself and he saw the skin on the ground next to him but when he went to step into the stream he could tell that his feet were just as scaly as before. he attempted to do it himself 3 times.
"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.
well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as i thought i'd done it myself the three other times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying in 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 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."
after his experience eustace's attitude rightly changed as well. it brought forth some images of times in my life where i experienced the unveiling of some ugly truth and how much easier it was to go on living like it wasn't there. even though i knew it was, covered up it was easier to deal with. when it came out and turned my world upside down and the pain i experienced was beyond anything i had experienced, but the longer i spent in my skin knowing the truth is now exposed was more a freeing feeling than anything i had known. this is also true in relationships when someone you love knows some awful truth about you and can love you anyway and the freedom from that. it is these earthly examples that i try to understand my relationship with God and how someone could love me like that and at the same time know all the ugliness that lies beneath the covering.
P.S. sorry about the little picture - i wanted to include the book covers that i grew up with as a kid and there aren't too many pictures of them online and i am way too lazy to bust out my camera!