Back in 2008, I saw Prince Caspian on a date with Kendell and our friends Paul and Becca. No one but me really loved it, and I distinctly remember Kendell and Paul being annoyed by Reepicheep. Today, when I took the kids to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I kept thinking of that post-movie discussion and, in that sense, took our friends along with me (they now live across the country from us).
I also took my childhood self along. She sat near me and reminded me of the images she loves from this story: Eustace's dragon arm bothered by the golden cuff, and the sauropods hopping in their foolishness; the feast on Aslan's table, the Midas pool, the Dawn Treader itself. Lucy wishing to be beautiful (how my childhood self wished for that spell, too) and, most strong of all, the small boat being rowed through the lilies towards Aslan's Country.
To my delight, the filmmakers included all of my favorite images. It bothers me a bit that they added the bit with the green mist and the sacrificed Narnians, but I also understand the impulse to introduce a thread of drama. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is, I think, a story—as with all good Odyssean tales—of the journey towards discovering oneself. Eustace figures it out ("I tried to change back on my own," he says when Edmund asks him what it felt like to be changed by Aslan back into a boy, "but I couldn't do it without Him") and Edmund, and even Caspian. One of my favorite lines is when he says that he has been thinking too deeply about what was taken from him rather than what he has been given.
But it is Lucy's story that impacted me the most, probably because I have my own discontented Lucy-ish self inside, wanting (still) to be beautiful. Well, not only beautiful. In fact, it's not even about beauty anymore, really. Instead, it is the wanting to be successful, to feel that I have managed to become fully myself, that leaves me standing at the mirror now, looking. Wanting a spell to put things right.
I love what Aslan tells her (and I am paraphrasing): you lose who you are by focusing on who you are not; value yourself. As I watched this scene (very different from the book), with Lucy seeing herself as Susan, I kept wanting to tell her two things: that she didn't have to look like Susan to be beautiful, and that she was made the way she is for a purpose. By the end, Lucy knows this.
Ultimately, what I love about the Narnia movies is not their faithfulness to C. S. Lewis's work. (They both are and aren't faithful.) Instead, it is how they reconnect me to that younger version of myself. They bring to life the things that fed that girl's imagination, reminding me to feast on ideas that are larger than my own. They remind me to be faithful, and thoughtful, and daring; this specific one encourages me to keep moving forward in my own journey toward knowing myself.