Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) is the 3rd installment with the series, though the first and only film to have been completed outside of Disney’s production influence (though, Disney’s acquisition of Fox in 2019 may give hope of including The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for the die-hard Reepicheep fans out there). However, the film does continue with the beloved series’ return to Narnia with Edmund and Lucy for another adventure with Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley literally at the helm. This movie is a fun excursion back to Narnia three years after the events of Prince Caspian (2008).
This film can be enjoyed by most families with children ages 10 and up. The film is a treasure to enjoy, but some younger viewers may grow bored with the film’s pace and how the narrative moves with each island visited.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
Once again, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie find themselves separated from their parents and in the care of another. This time though they are in the care of their aunt and uncle and far away from siblings Peter and Susan (who are traveling in the Americas with their parents). Lucy and Edmund find themselves in a situation much like that of many children in foster care: in a kinship home and having to manage challenges related to separation from their nuclear family and establish a new normal with extended family. One of these challenges comes in the form of their bully cousin, Eustace “Scrubb”. Children in care can relate to Lucy and Edmund’s separation from their loved ones as well as the challenges that come with coexisting with a biological child in the home. “It’s my house, you’re just guests.” Scrubb tells them frequently, making it difficult to feel comfortable while far from home. So, of course, the moment a picture begins to move and pour water they welcome another adventure in their second home of Narnia. The tables are turned once aboard the Dawn Treader though as Scrubb finds himself to be the outsider looking in and responds to the sense of “otherness” with behavior and emotions very similar to children that have come from the child welfare system. Children in foster and adoptive homes (especially in that of kinship homes) can find characters here that they may identify with and make it easier to connect feelings to behavior upon seeing the connection on screen.
- Separation & Loss
When working with Foster Care and Adoptions, separation and loss are inevitable and so caregivers must become experts in grief. There are several types of loss and separation experienced in Dawn Treader, including Lucy and Edmund being placed with their aunt and uncle, the realization that some of the Lords of Narnia have perished, the feelings of separation from Aslan and his voice, and then the crew saying goodbye to Reepicheep as he continues forth alone to Aslan’s Country. Caregivers love children and don’t like to see them hurt so it is very easy to want to take away pain or distract a child from the feelings they may experience from grief and loss. However, caregivers should remember that navigating grief and loss is an essential life skill as these themes are inevitable in the human experience and a need for our children. With that in mind, the various losses in this film can open dialogue for children of various ages about separation and loss as well as the grief that accompanies it.
- Self-Esteem & Self Image
Most films about young people are going to touch on the subject of self-esteem and self-image and Dawn Treader is no different. Lucy struggles with comparing herself to beautiful, popular Susan, Edmund’s fear manifesting as a terrifying sea serpent and the White Witch, and Eustace becoming a dragon to reflect his greed and internal darkness all approach the subject and give the characters a chance for personal growth and change with confronting these insecurities openly. In the same way as our heroes, our children sometimes need help identifying their fears and struggles so that they may be able to confront them. As Lord of Narnia Coriakin says, “To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself.” As supportive adults, we have the opportunity to shed light on these harder issues and help our children feel less alone as they traverse their traumas and insecurities.
- The Healing Power of Relationships
Human beings are social creatures and we grow in the context of relationships. If you think about all of your habits and trace their origin, many of our behaviors mimic those that we were modeled especially when we are acting on instinct and without thinking. While maladaptive relationships can absolutely harm, loving relationships can heal trauma and transform it before it is transferred. With each of our heroes, their pain and fears are healed with the support of a loved one willing to weather through the elements and pain. Think of Lucy’s reassurance of her self-worth and value from Aslan, Edmund’s and Caspian’s ability to face his past when the mist assumes the form of their fears due to the support of Lucy and the crew, and Eustace’s ability to overcome the dragon curse through his relationship with Reepicheep and the others. None of these characters would have been able to move forward without the support of those around them. In the same way we can have the privilege of providing a foster or adoptive child with an example of a positive relationship that will serve them into adulthood.
- War Themes/Violence
It is clear a war is occurring in England as Edmund tries (unsuccessfully) to enlist in the military. There are also several battle sequences involving swords and cannons. There are also fist fights. These scenes are not overly graphic but still may be triggering for children that have been exposed to violence and human trafficking.
- Separation from Family/Siblings
Themes of separation from family and siblings may be difficult for children in foster care or have been adopted due to their own experiences of grief and loss. Caregivers should be aware of this so that they may support a child if residual feelings of grief arise from seeing a character separated from primary family members.
- Poor Relationship with Cousin/Birth Child
Due to Scrubb’s bullying behavior this film may have elements that trigger children that have had challenging experiences with birth children in the home or bullying in general. While Scrubb does eventually experience immense personal growth his mean demeanor and aggressive stances may be triggering for children that have had conflict with bullies and, especially, birth children in the home.
- Children are Sold into Slavery
In one scene it is revealed that an island is plagued with slave traders and two of the children are caught by these slave traders and attempted to be sold. This may be triggering for children if they have potentially been subject to human trafficking or have witnessed human trafficking.
- A Character Hears Voices
During the encounter with Dufflepuds, Lucy hears voices from the (invisible) Dufflepuds until the spell concealing them is lifted. This is a potential trigger specific to children who have perhaps struggled with responding to internal stimuli or having a scary experience with someone responding to internal stimuli (i.e. – audio or visual hallucinations, etc.).
- Scary Fantasy Features
There are several elements of fantasy that some children may find scary due to personal fears. These include an evil mist that consumes people, a child almost sacrificing themselves to the mist, mist taking the form of phantoms that taunt children with insecurities, a sea serpent, and a dragon. I point the last one out as a parent with a child that was once terrified of any sort of dragon, whether friendly or not.
- Sad Goodbyes
By the end of the film it is revealed that Edmund and Lucy will not return to Narnia, leading to another series of goodbyes with characters they have bonded with through the voyage. Reepicheep also is the lone character that chooses to continue forth to Aslan’s Country and the finality of this goodbye in particular may be triggering for children that have experienced immense loss.
About The Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.