Wednesday, October 22, 2014

C. S. Lewis: The Undragoning of Eustace

Yesterday I mentioned a few reasons The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite Narnia book:

1. It has one of my favorite first lines of a book:
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

2. The un-dragoning of Eustace

3. Chapter 12: The Dark Island ("Courage, dear heart") - Yesterday's post.

So today I want to talk about Eustace.

Eustace is a character you kind of just want to punch in the face until his transformation experience with Aslan. He was arrogant, self-centered, and all around annoying to Edmund and Lucy.

On one of the islands the crew lands on, Eustace finds a dragon's lair and is very greedy for the treasure. He puts on a gold bracelet and falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he has been turned into a dragon. Lewis writes, "Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself." Eustace had fleeting thoughts of relief at being the biggest thing around, but he quickly realizes he is cut off from his friends, and all of humanity, and he feels a weight of loneliness and desperately wants to change.

That night, Aslan comes to Eustace and leads him to a large well "like a very big round bath with marble steps going down into it." Eustace describes the scene to Edmund after the fact. He says the water was so clear and he thought if he could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in his leg (from the gold bracelet he had put on when he was human). But Aslan told him he had to undress first. And doesn't God ask this of us? As Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: "We must lay before him [God] what is in us; not what ought to be in us.”

Original illustration by Pauline Baynes

Eustace found that no matter how many layers of dragon skins he managed to peel off of himself, he was still a dragon.

“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 off 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 ... 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..." - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

This scene always grabs my heart. It reminds me that I cannot fix myself. It paints a beautiful picture of baptism and transformation to new life. It humbles me as I put myself in Eustace's place. And even long after our initial baptism we have the ongoing challenge of surrendering to God's work in our lives which can be painful at times, even when it's a good pain.

And I like Lewis's note of narration at the end of this scene as well:

"It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that “from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.” To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun."

Isn't that the way it is for all of us? We begin to be different as the grace of God changes us for the better. The cure has begun. 

In response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be posting every day in October. You can read previous posts HERE. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to be notified of new posts. You can also Subscribe to get posts sent to you by email. (There is a simple form towards the top on the right where you can do this.)

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and questions!

Index of Posts (Highlights):
Day 2. C. S. Lewis on Longing (In "The Weight of Glory")
Day 3. C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)
Day 6: C. S. Lewis: The Intolerable Compliment (The Problem of Pain)
Day 7: C. S. Lewis: What is "The Weight of Glory"?
Day 8: C. S. Lewis: The Great Divorce and The Weight of Glory
Day 9: C. S. Lewis: A Grief Observed
Day 12: C. S. Lewis and Postmodernism (Part 3 - Conclusion)
Day 13: C. S. Lewis: The Grand Miracle (Myth and Allusions)
Day 14: C. S. Lewis: Is Theology Poetry? (Part 1: More on Myth)
Day 15: C. S. Lewis: Is Theology Poetry? (Part 2: Metaphors, Symbols, and Science)
Day 16: C. S. Lewis and The Trilemma Argument in Mere Christianity
Day 19: C.S. Lewis: Brief Biography: Did you know? (Part 2)
Day 20: C. S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia Correct Reading Order
Day 21: C. S. Lewis: Why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my Favorite Narnia Book

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