“It is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what faults a star can commit”

After seeing the movie version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I went ahead and did a reread of the book, which still stands up remarkably well.

I liked the movie well enough, and don’t regret the two hours I spent seeing it, but it was only after rereading the book that I realized how much the movie had changed. I can sort of see why. The book is so very episodic, after all–no arc, no rising tension, the one character who truly needs to learn better (that would be Eustace) does so a third of the way through the book. All that’s really there are adventures and a slow-building sense of wonder.

Yet I loved the book, when I was younger and now, and it remains my favorite of the Narnia series.

While the movie has all the things I think of stories as needing: Eustace’s arc takes up much of the movie, the tension rises throughout, and one really believes the characters are all in danger and have things to lose.

In spite of all that, I merely liked the movie. My memory of it is already fading, and I can tell it isn’t going to stick with me. The book has stuck with me, through the years, and there are images and lines from it that have come to me in stray moments through the years.

Which leaves me wondering: by what trick of storytelling is it that a book that does everything wrong is so much lovelier than a movie that does everything right?

Telling powerful stories is not so simple a thing as learning rules and following them, or even learning mistakes and avoiding them. That’s a starting point, sure, but it’s not the whole of writing, or anywhere near to it.

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