The island's reputation for making dreams come true made it a much fabled and sought location, but this was a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, the Dark Island's powers brought dreams, not daydreams or longings, to life. Even worse, it brought "dreams that made you afraid of going back to sleep". While in the dark area, visitors imagined their worst nightmares coming true. Men who were trapped on the island, most notably Lord Rhoop, were nearly driven insane with terror.
Within the darkness around the island, any lights looked weak and unnatural, the water appeared inky black, travellers felt extremely cold, and an ominous silence reigned in the background, no matter how much noise visitors made. It is unknown whether the fog around the island is the source of its terrible powers, or if the darkness itself is generated by the island as part of its vile enchantments.
In the books
When the seven Narnian lords were sent out to sea (read: exiled) by King Miraz in search of the end of the world, Lord Rhoop was trapped on this island for a time. Like many seafarers, he at first believed himself on the fabled island of dreams made real. After discovering the true nature of the place, he claimed that he would've "better died or never been born".
Caspian X and his crew encountered the Dark Island on their own voyage to the end of the world in the Dawn Treader. Although most of the crew was reluctant to enter the mysterious fog, Reepicheep insisted that they investigate for the sake of their honor. With Lucy's consent, Caspian agreed, and the Dawn Treader ventured into the darkness with lanterns alight and weapons drawn.
After some time sailing through the abyss, the ship came upon Lord Rhoop, by now so desperate for freedom that he begged to be taken aboard if only to be killed. The crew of the Dawn Treader gladly took him in, where he revealed the nature of the land in the darkness to them. At first, many sailors were overjoyed, thinking that they would be reunited with loved ones, but when Rhoop said that the island brought their dreams (and thus, their worst nightmares) to life, the entire crew ran for the oars and began rowing for their lives.
However, the ship never seemed to make any headway (whether this is panic-induced misdirection or an actual element of the island's power is not indicated), and many crewmen despaired of ever escaping. With terrible sounds echoing in everyone's ears, an unhinged Rhoop declaring that they would never get away, and hope fading fast, Lucy quietly prayed to Aslan, beseeching his aid.
The creator of Narnia soon responded to the Pevensie's pleas, and the darkness was pierced by a lone beam of light. An albatross emerged from the light (either a transformed Aslan or an avatar of himself) and acted as a guide, allowing Drinian to find the path out of the darkness at last.
Rhoop, nearly speechless with joy, profusely thanked Caspian for saving him from the Dark Island at last. After introducing himself, he requested to never be taken back to the horrible place again (or, alternately, never to be asked what he saw during his stay). Then the Dawn Treader sailed onward, with the island fading away into the distance (either literally or figuratively, depending on the version).
| Movie-based Information|
In the films
The Dark Island appears in the BBC television miniseries, as a thick fog rather than solid blackness as the novel described.
According to the 2010 film adaptation, the island was the source of a mysterious and evil "green mist" that threatened to devour the whole Narnian world. Hundreds of people were sacrificed to this mist, especially from the Lone Islands where slave traders were terrified of the mist.
The seven lost lords, friends of Caspian IX, sailed to find the source of the mist but disappeared without a trace.
In Narnian Time, Narnian Year 2306, Caspian X attempted to find the lost lords and bring each of their swords together at Ramandu's Island, which was the only way to destroy the Dark Island and end the plague of mist. The battle with the sea serpent, which was a manifestation of Edmund's fear created by the mist, occurred near the Dark Island.
The island was not a solid blackness, but rather a mass of black smoke with streaks of green light running all throughout.
Differences between British and American editions
A substantive change appears in chapter 12, "The Dark Island", where Lewis rewrote the ending.
A side by side comparison of the ending of chapter 12 follows:
|British Edition||Pre-1994 American Edition|
|In a few moments [...] warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of [...] grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.“I reckon we’ve made pretty good fools of ourselves,” said Rynelf.||In a few moments [...] warm, blue world again. And just as there are moments when simply to lie in bed and see the daylight pouring through your window and to hear the cheerful voice of an early postman or milkman down below and to realise that it was only a dream: it wasn’t real, is so heavenly that it was very nearly worth having the nightmare in order to have the joy of waking, so they all felt when they came out of the dark. The brightness of [...] grime or scum.|
|Lucy lost no time [...] Grant me a boon.”“What is it?” asked Caspian.||Lucy lost no time [...] Grant me a boon.”“What is it?” asked Caspian.|
|“Never to bring me back there,” he said. He pointed astern. They all looked. But they saw only bright blue sea and bright blue sky. The Dark Island and the darkness had vanished for ever.
“Why!” cried Lord Rhoop. “You have destroyed it!”
“I don’t think it was us,” said Lucy.
|“Never to ask me, nor to let any other ask me, what I have seen during my years on the Dark Island.”
“An easy boon, my Lord,” answered Caspian, and added with a shudder. “Ask you: I should think not. I would give all my treasure not to hear it.”
|“Sire,” said Drinian, [...] the clock round myself.”||“Sire,” said Drinian, [...] the clock round myself”|
|So all afternoon with great joy they sailed south-east with a fair wind. But nobody noticed when the albatross had disappeared.||
So all afternoon with great joy they sailed south-east with a fair wind, and the hump of darkness grew smaller and smaller astern. But nobody noticed when the albatross had disappeared.