Chivalry, duty, and honor are themes present throughout much of The Voyage of the Dawntreader. In many ways, these ideals are either challenged or encouraged by the act of travel. Reepicheep, is the most obvious embodiment of these virtues. He is comically overzealous in his defense of Caspian and Lucy, letting no threat, real or imagined, rise before them. As such, he takes this sense of bravery into his approach to traveling, which can sometimes be troublesome. His attitude is best expressed when Lewis writes, “The way to find out is to go right in among them,’ said Reepicheep, drawing his sword and pattering off ahead of everyone else” (207). He considers travel a challenge of his own identity and constantly berates the others for not being as bold as he. Furthermore, the prospect of falling off the side of the earth is one that is entirely exciting to the mouse. However, as over the top as Reepicheep is, there are also characters that are bound by a sense of deep obligation, especially as they relate to travel.
Prince Caspian is one such character. The reason for the Dawntreader’s journey is, after all, Caspian’s sacred pledge to find what became of his betrayed uncles and avenge their deaths. But, as the journey progresses, it takes on broader implications. Despite a few hiccups, the travelers are able to locate the scattered nobles with little trouble. It is only after finding the last of the remaining uncles that Caspian starts seriously discussing traveling to the End of the World, into Aslan’s land. But much of his crew seems to have cold feet.
It is here that honor and obligation are brought to the forefront of the novel. Ramandu says, “My son, it would be no use, even though you wished it, to sail for the World’s End with men unwilling, or men deceived. That is not how great unenchantments are achieved” (228). What Ramandu is saying, in other words, is that to truly understand and appreciate the purpose of travel, one must enter it deliberately and knowingly. Otherwise, the experience would be forever tainted.
Furthermore, this journey is a sacred thing and must not be diminished by deception.
Rynelf takes Ramandu’s sense of obligation and twists it on its ear saying, “And there were some standing on the quay who would have given all they had to come with us. It was thought a finer thing then to have a cabin boy’s berth on the Dawn Treader than to wear a knight’s belt” (230). Here, the travelers have an obligation to those they left behind, as well as to themselves, to suppress their fears and continue with the journey.