Reepicheep's Honor

Sarah McIntire '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

After departing from the Island of the Dufflepuds, the Dawn Treader sailed south and a little to the east for thirteen days until Edmund observed what he thought to be a dark island off in the distance. The ship altered her course, and by the next morning, the Dawn Treader and her crew suddenly came upon the dark island. Except that it wasn't an island as they originally believed -- it was a massive dark mist, a Darkness that instilled an instinctive fear on all men aboard the ship. In this passage, the crew and passengers debate whether to enter in to the pitch black mist in front of them.

"Do we go into this?" asked Caspian at length.

"Not by my advice," said Drinian.

"The Captain's right," said several sailors.

"I almost think he is," said Edmund.

Lucy and Eustace didn't speak but they felt very glad inside at the turn things seemed to be taking. But all at once the clear voice of Reepicheep broke in upon the silence.

"And why not?" he said. "Will someone explain to me why not."

No one was anxious to explain, so Reepicheep continued:

"If I were addressing peasants or slaves," he said, "I might suppose this suggestion proceeded from cowardice. But I hope that it will never be told in Narnia that a company of noble and royal persons in the flower of their age turned tail because they were afraid of the dark."

"But what manner of use would it be plowing through that blackness?" asked Drinian.

"Use?" replied Reepicheep. "Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful, but seek honor and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as I ever heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honors." [192]

Questions

1. Why does Lewis make the bravest character aboard the ship a mouse no taller than three feet? Is it just a Napoleon complex, or does Reepicheep's character serve a different purpose?

2. Is there any significance in Edmund's "almost" (from the line "'I almost think he's right,' said Edmund.")? Does it affect the mood of the passage, or set the stage for Reepicheep's argument?

3. Reepicheep first compares peasants and slaves to cowardice, and then claims that such rewards as food or money are useless to him. What is Lewis trying to say here about not only peasants and slaves but also nobles?

4. Can honor be interpreted as a material possession for Reepicheep?

References

Lewis, C. S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. New York: HarperCollins, 1952.


Victorian Web Overview C. S. Lewis Victorian courses

Last modified 16 February 2004