How To Train in Dragons

by John J. Miller

Today is the release date of the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I haven’t seen it yet and will report back after I have, either this weekend or next.

Many readers of The Chronicles of Narnia, including me, regard Dawn Treader as one of the better installments in the series by C.S. Lewis. It has the best first sentence of all the Narnia books. Actually, it’s one of the best sentences in all of kid lit: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

One of the themes of Dawn Treader (the book) is that kids need to read, but not just anything. Poor Eustace is the victim of a lousy education–he gets into trouble because “he had read none of the right books.” Lewis makes the point several times and in several ways, most noticeably in an episode that involves a dragon:

Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.

Lewis thought the schools did a lousy job of assigning the right books. This was back in the 1950s. It’s probably best not to imagine what he’d think of the situation today. If Dawn Treader (the movie) does its job, however, it will make us a little stronger on dragons.

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