What is a Star? The Ramandu Quote in “The Dawn Treader”

With my seven-year-old I am reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis’ third Narnian chronicle. Every time I read it, this Harper Collinsscene jumps out at me both in its imaginative dept–“I am not so old now as I was then,” says the old man–and because it captures in such a succinct form Lewis’ entire worldview.

In this scene, Narnian royals Lucy and Edmund, with their regenerated cousin, Eustace, encounter Ramandu, a sky-star that has retired to this Narnian island near the edge of the world. They ask him what lies beyond the island, and Ramandu shares a bit about who he really is.

“I saw [the last lands at the end of the world] long ago,” said the Old Man, “but it was from a great height. I cannot tell you such things as sailors need to know.”Will Poulter in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader Film

“Do you mean you were flying in the air?” Eustace blurted out.

“I was a long way above the air, my son,” replied the Old Man. “I am Ramandu. But I see that you stare at one another and have not heard this name. And no wonder, for the days when I was a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations have changed.”

“Golly,” said Edmund under his breath. “He’s a retired star.”

“Aren’t you a star any longer?” asked Lucy.

“I am a star at rest, my daughter,” answered Ramandu. “When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth’s eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance.”

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of. And in this world you have already met a star: for I think you have been with Coriakin [the master on the island of the Dufflepuds].” (page 117, HarperCollins eBook)

The one film that I think captures this so well is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. In this clever film, the Counting Mutant (Accountant played by Jason Batemen)  confronts Natalie Portman about some strange things at the toy store. She tries to explain that it is a magic store, but he simply doesn’t understand. To him, it is just a store–never suspecting that what a thing is made of is not what it is.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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