I love C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. They are fantastically written in a whimsical, conversational style that engages and creates within the reader the illusion that you are sitting around a fire listening to a master story-teller weave an enrapturing tale. Other reasons I love them are legion, but only one of them I intend to expand upon here: The presence of implicit and explicit allusions to the Christian faith of C.S. Lewis. There are many of these allusions that I could write about and perhaps will do so in the future, but for this post, I wanted to talk about my favorite scene from all of the books. (Disclaimer, I am currently re-reading these with my youngest child, so this designation may change several times before that journey is complete.) The scene to which I refer takes place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and describes Eustace Scrubb’s first encounter with Aslan. (Aslan represents Jesus Christ in the world of Narnia.)
It does not take long in one’s first encounter with Eustace Scrubb to ascertain the opinion that the boy is a beastly fellow. If you were to look up the definition of a brat in the dictionary before the book’s completion, you would not be shocked to find a school picture of young Eustace. Everything changed for Eustace when he first encountered Aslan.
The Dawn Treader (the boat belonging to the king of Narnia) was damaged and harbored on an uninhabited island for repairs. As one whose disposition is allergic to work, Eustace wanders off from the crew. He soon discovers that a dragon inhabits the island. The dragon, fortunately for Eustace, is dying. He watches from seclusion as the beast breathes his last steam. When curiosity sparks in the boy, he explores the area around the dragon and discovers the vast horde of treasure. He loads his pockets and places a golden bracelet on his arm. Once the adrenaline from his dragon sighting subsides, exhaustion sets in, and he falls asleep on a bed of treasure. He is awakened later by a terrible pain in his arm. In the comical scene which unfolds (I’m certain Eustace did not find it funny), the boy discovers he has changed into a dragon. The subsequent scenes are a transformative experience for the young man. In this new state, he encounters his old friends and the golden lion, Aslan. In much the same way that a sinner who has been introduced to Christ recognizes the depths of their sinfulness, Eustace realizes the type of person he has been to every one.
Aslan informs the boy that he could be human again, but first, he must bathe in the waters before him. To enter the waters, Eustace must remove his dragon scales. The boy/dragon immediately sets to work painfully ripping away the scales, but no matter how hard he tries to remove them, they always seem to be replaced by new ones. The lion eventually steps forward and informs the boy that only Aslan must remove them. Then he extends his claws and rips them away.
The first time I read this part of the book, I’ll confess that I got emotional. C.S. Lewis encapsulated the state of man. We all have lives calloused by the dragon scales of sin (Romans 3:23). There is nothing we can do; no self-sufficient remedy can remove the sin from our lives. Only Christ can take away our sins. When Aslan finished removing the scales, Eustace was himself again, the self he was intended to be. He was not a perfect child afterward, just like Christians are not perfect, but he was different, as are all who encounter Aslan in Narnia and Jesus Christ in this world.