CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
Reepicheep's Desire: Signpost to God
By Marilyn J. Stewart
Reporter, The Baptist Message
CBN.com The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis once said, is about the spiritual life.
In this high seas adventure and quest for the Very End of the World, Lewis has given the reader some of his most powerful imagery of the journey of faith.
The Christian’s steps, and stumbles, along the road to maturity are captured in the journeys of Prince Caspian, Lucy, and Eustace. Through the valiant mouse Reepicheep’s quest, a moving depiction is painted of the joy that waits at journey’s end.
Lewis wrote, and spoke, often of yearnings that no earthly pleasure can satisfy. In Mere Christianity, he said:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists… If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
The World at the Very End
Almost from birth, Reepicheep searches for the “utter east,” a land “where the sky and water meet, where the waves grow sweet.”
The enchanting verse pronounced over Reepicheep’s cradle haunts him like a “spell” throughout his life. Convinced the “utter east” is land belonging to Aslan, the Christ-figure of the Chronicles of Narnia, Reepicheep is unstoppable in his quest.
Peter Schakel said of the noble mouse in Reading with the Heart, “Though Reepicheep is on a pilgrimage, it is not one toward maturity: his faith in Aslan is sure, his commitment is total.”
While others in the story experience trial and temptation, failure and redemption, Reepicheep remains steady. His untainted devotion to Aslan is the picture of the mature follower of Mt. 5:8.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
When the voyagers learn that only one of their party will reach the “utter east,” never to return again, Reepicheep answers simply, “That is my heart’s desire.”
Reepicheep vows he will sail east till the ship fails, paddle till his tiny rowboat sinks, then swim till his strength is gone, in order to reach his goal.
The journey’s end does not disappoint him. Just as the seeker who searches for God, finds Him, Reepicheep is exuberantly satisfied when, at last, he enters Aslan’s country.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jer. 29:13
Reepicheep’s mission was thrust upon him. He could not escape the verse spoken over him at birth and wanted keenly what Lewis described in Mere Christianity as “something that cannot be had in this world.”
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes the yearnings that lead the human heart to God as “the old bittersweet” and “the old stab,” and identified them as “joy.”
Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy [desire], but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing… I must take care… never to mistake [earthly blessings] for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. [Chapter 10, Mere Christianity, 120]
Near the world’s end, the salty seawater is turned sweet, and deeply satisfying. At the edge, the voyagers get a fleeting glimpse into Aslan’s country.
The beautiful music and mountains, two images Lewis associated with “joy,” are visible only briefly before Reepicheep disappears into Aslan’s country alone. Though Reepicheep attempted sadness in saying goodbye in order to spare his friends’ feelings, he was in actuality, “quivering with happiness.”
The Object of Desire
Lewis is careful to convey to the reader that joy is not found in a place, but in a person.
In a scene highly evocative of John 21 and Jesus’ final lesson with Peter, Aslan appears to the children first as a white lamb, then finally as himself.
Lucy, whose love for Aslan reflects the best of childlike qualities, is distraught when he tells them they will not return to Narnia. Lucy and Edmund fear they will never see Aslan again.
It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there [in their own world]. And how can we live, never meeting you?
Lucy rightly places her love in the Giver, rather than in his gifts. Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy that “it is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful.”
A Christian’s journey will end in the presence of Christ where, like Reepicheep, joy will be made complete. There, the human heart will find its deepest longings satisfied.
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better. Phil. 1:23
Just as the disciples learn in John 14 they can no longer depend on Jesus’ physical presence, the children learn they that must know Aslan in their own world. Lewis said Christ never meant for us to remain as children in intelligence: “He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.” [Mere Christianity, 75]
Just as Lucy and Edmund learn that their adventures in Narnia will help them know Aslan in their own world, Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia may create a longing for the Christian story.
The books are mainly, children’s books, and Lewis seems to have intended that they awaken in a child a love for Aslan… The Chronicles should not be expected to influence readers to ‘accept’ Christ, but they may lead children to love and desire Aslan and, through him, eventually, Christ. [Reading With the Heart, 134]
Bruner, Kurt and Jim Ware. Finding God in the Land of Narnia. Saltriver, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc., 1943.
Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy. Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Company, 1955.
Schakel, Peter. Reading With the Heart: The Way into Narnia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979.
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Copyright Marilyn J. Stewart, 2010. Used with Permission.
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