The Key to a Great Story – ‘Voyage and Return’ Plot


dawn treader

I talk a lot about Tolkien. So you won’t be surprised when I mention that The Hobbit is a classic example of a Voyage and Return plot. You’ll probably be more surprised to find out though that in truth I really don’t like the Hobbit. As a child it was ‘The Silmarillion’ that captured my imagination. It is only as an adult (helped by Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Orlando Bloom) that I now appreciate that the Hobbit is a really great story. It’s just not as epic as Lord of the Rings.

While the Hobbit epitomises the Voyage and Return plot, for me C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ captures the ideas of this type of storyline even better. The film has more of a quest plot than the original material in the book, but the journey of Eustace Scrubb is the classic example of a voyage and return journey.

Edmund and Lucy are just along to have another adventure in Narnia this time on the open sea, but Eustace is very much there against his will. Bilbo Baggins while reluctant and more than a little bit frightened at times, Eustace is just down right angry that he’s been brought along. He is absolutely indignant about the situation that he has found himself in. When he comes across some gold, he decides to try and get himself a little bit of ‘reward’ for all of his troubles. He gets turned into a dragon and taught humility.

For Eustace, he didn’t get to come back from Narnia with gold, but he does come back a better person. The voyage has given him experience to recognise that he needs to change his attitude. That is the entire basis of these sorts of stories. Going on an adventure and coming back to life with more experience of the wider world.

Yes this does happen to Bilbo too, but it is with a horror hanging over his head. He comes back with the One Ring too, something that will consume him bit by bit, and then do the same to Frodo as well. While I love Tolkien, on this particular occasion in my opinion, Lewis did a better job.


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