Narnia: Sweet Sea Waters

[Narnia Content Note: Genocide, Religious Abuse, Chivalry, Racism, Slavery]

Narnia Recap: Our heroes meet Sea People and start drinking sea water.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 15: The Wonders of the Last Sea

Okay! Phew! Feels like forever since we were here last, and I'm sorry about that. For a good cause, I know, but I still hate leaving everyone hanging like that. Still, I'm hopeful that being more restful and more focused will only improve the deconstruction posts, ha. Now where were we? I remember: Reepicheep had flung himself into the sea in order to plot-reveal that the sea isn't salty anymore.

   But when the dripping Mouse had reached the deck it turned out not to be at all interested in the Sea People.
   “Sweet!” he cheeped. “Sweet, sweet!”
   “What are you talking about?” asked Drinian crossly. “And you needn’t shake yourself all over me, either.”
   “I tell you the water’s sweet,” said the Mouse. “Sweet, fresh. It isn’t salt.”

And here is, of course, where the Telmarine lack of experience on long voyages becomes sadly relevant, because the point at which sailors start throwing themselves overboard in order to drink sea-water is never a good thing. What you do not want to do in that case is haul up a bucket of sea-water and hand it to your king to take a big hearty gulp, so of course that is precisely what the Dawn Treader crew does. I think we need someone to math-up how many assassination attempts this is on King Caspian at this point.

   “Perhaps your Majesty would like to taste it first,” said Drinian to Caspian.
    The King took the bucket in both hands, raised it to his lips, sipped, then drank deeply and raised his head. His face was changed. Not only his eyes but everything about him seemed to be brighter.
   “Yes,” he said, “it is sweet. That’s real water, that. I’m not sure that it isn’t going to kill me. But it is the death I would have chosen—if I’d known about it till now.”
   “What do you mean?” asked Edmund.
   “It—it’s like light more than anything else,” said Caspian.

And I'm kinda tickled to parse out that we're once again at the Euro-centric Christopher Columbus narrative, and so bald-facedly here. Caspian isn't the first to taste the water because Reepicheep tasted it not five minutes ago. But that's sort of colonialism in a nutshell; it's not really that Caspian is the first guy to find and claim these islands or the first guy to drink the magic sweet-water, but rather he's the first guy who counts. And he's the first guy who counts because he gets a high score on the Privilege-o-meter machine that the narrator runs outside a tent at the Texas State Fair.

The water may or may not be dangerous. On the one hand, Reepicheep just swallowed a big mouthful of the stuff and he hasn't died yet, but on the other hand not all poisons are instantaneously effective. Yet the fact that there's already been a beta-taster accomplishes the feat of de-fanging any real threat (i.e., Caspian probably won't drop dead because Reepicheep hasn't dropped dead), while minimizing Reepicheep in order to glorify Caspian as the "first" drinker of the magic water. The first deliberate, ceremonial guzzler of the stuff, granted, as opposed to accidental swallowing while fervently trying not to drown, but there's still a sense here that Caspian is taking none of the risk and all of the reward.

Anyway, now that the king has tasted sea-water that he thinks might kill him, the entire crew immediately does the same because apparently time's a-wasting? This whole sequence reads extremely strangely--there's no indication that the crew is starving or dying of thirst at a level that would require everyone to throw caution immediately to the wind in order to drink the sea-waters. (And indeed they shouldn't be low on supplies, not after that huge feast on offer from the birdly pizza deliverers on Aslan's Table.) Without immediate, life-threatening thirst at stake, there is no reason why they need to drink the magic waters right now--it's not like they're just going to run out of magic sea-water, is it? They're surrounded by the stuff.

Moving on. Lucy drinks after Caspian, reinforcing the theme of priority-by-holiness that's been going on in these scenes; Caspian the Golden Boy and Lucy the High Priestess of Aslanian Mysteries both go first (with some wiggle room for the Token Animal), and then everyone else goes in order of pious priority. (And I will spare you all by not diving again into this idea of prioritizing people by holiness and how poorly, in my opinion, it fits with a "least of these" flavor of Christian theology, except to just say that I still feel really strongly that Eustace and Susan and Edmund should be front-and-center in these scenes rather than the "good" Christians who never commit any [narratively-acknowledged] sins.)

   “It’s the loveliest thing I have ever tasted,” she said with a kind of gasp. “But oh—it’s strong. We shan’t need to eat anything now.”
   And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, there had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu—the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less—if anything, it increased—but they could bear it. [...]
   Hardly a word was spoken on board all that day, till about dinner-time (no one wanted any dinner, the water was enough for them) 

And so now they've entered the caloric-rich (and high vitamin content, surely) sweet waters that are near heaven and they don't need food anymore and the water is purifying them inside and out and I'm sure this is all a metaphor for something except that... I dunno. I find it really uncompelling. Our heroes haven't really burned and pillaged their way to this point, but they've done a lot of looking the other way while other people burned and pillaged, it feels. So if they're arriving to heaven purified, it's not because they've learned and grown and changed and become something better... it's because they kept moving forward long enough to make it to the heavenly soda fountain and take a deep swing of PureFizz or whatever. That's not really character growth so much as a colonic. 

Anyway, but, so, Drinian--Master Sailor Extraordinaire--notices that the ship is flying along but there is zero wind. He sorta notes this as kinda interesting and not the terrifyingly bad thing I would expect it to be if I lived on a ship and depended on physics working in order that I not drown. But what do I know.

   “I can’t understand this. There is not a breath of wind. The sail hangs dead. The sea is as flat as a pond. And yet we drive on as fast as if there were a gale behind us.”   “I’ve been thinking that, too,” said Caspian. “We must be caught in some strong current.”
   “H’m,” said Edmund. “That’s not so nice if the World really has an edge and we’re getting near it.”
   “You mean,” said Caspian, “that we might be just—well, poured over it?”
   “Yes, yes,” cried Reepicheep, clapping his paws together. “That’s how I’ve always imagined it—the World like a great round table and the waters of all the oceans endlessly pouring over the edge. The ship will tip up—stand on her head—for one moment we shall see over the edge—and then, down, down, the rush, the speed—”
   “And what do you think will be waiting for us at the bottom, eh?” said Drinian.
   “Aslan’s country, perhaps,” said the Mouse, its eyes shining. “Or perhaps there isn’t any bottom. Perhaps it goes down for ever and ever. But whatever it is, won’t it be worth anything just to have looked for one moment beyond the edge of the world.” we just straight-up don't plan to bring back Caspian or the Lost Lords then, huh? That's... that's great, guys. I'm sure the Narnian civil war that they name after you, not to mention your broken vows to Aslan to bring these seven guys back, that'll all look great on your tombstone.

And then there's this bit about how Caspian always dreams of living on a round earth, you see, because he lives on a flat earth and the grass is always greener on the other side. It's kinda sweet in a cute-children-literature kinda way, so I'm not going to pick it apart. Happy Ana-Is-Back-From-Transcribing-Day, everybody!


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