Title: The Last Battle
Author: C. S. Lewis
Paperback: 767 pages
Publish Date: 2001
Miscellaneous: The copy I have read is in a complete book. There aren’t 767 pages in The Last Battle alone.
“Look! What’s that?”
“What’s what?” said Puzzle.
“That yellow thing that’s just come down the waterfall. Look! There it is again, it’s floating. We must find out what it is.”
“Must we?” said Puzzle.
“Of course we must,” said Shift. “It may be something useful. Just hop into the Pool like a good fellow and fish it out. Then we can have a proper look at it.”
… He flung it down in front of Shift and stood dripping and shivering and trying to get his breath back. But the Ape never looked at him or asked him how he felt. The Ape was too busy going round and round the thing and spreading it out and patting it and smelling it. Then a wicked gleam came into his eye and he said: “It is a lion’s skin…. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”
…As soon as he was alone Shift went… into his little house. He found needle and thread and a big pair of scissors… Then he came down the tree and shambled across to the lion-skin. He squatted down and got to work…
Late in the afternoon Puzzle came back. He was not trotting but only plodding patiently along, the way donkeys do… “Come and try on your beautiful new lion-skin coat,” said Shift.
… The skin was very heavy for him to lift, but in the end… he got it on to the donkey… No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment. But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he just might mistake him for a lion… “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”
–The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, pages 671-673
Thus begins the great deception and the beginning of the end of Narnia. Shift the Ape manipulates and bullies Puzzle the Donkey into believing that Aslan himself wants them to go to the people of Narnia and claim Puzzle is really the Great Lion, and to rule the land through this pretense. Puzzle has been used by Shift for so long (under the guise of “friendship,” though “servitude” might better describe the Donkey’s side of the relationship), that he is unable to stand up to the damn, dirty Ape (nod to Heston and “Planet of the Apes” hehe).
It is through this false-Aslan that Shift enslaves the land of Narnia, using the Animals as slaves and threatening anyone who dares to question his authority with the Wrath of Aslan. “He is not a tame lion” is repeated over and over to fill their minds with terror, and, even when they know this new “Aslan” is the opposite of everything they’ve always been taught is the nature of the true Aslan, the Narnians are unable to throw off the Ape’s bonds and fight back.
Even when Shift brings in Calormene soldiers and announces that the Narnian Animals are to be sent to work, and all their wages are to be paid to “Aslan’s” treasury, for only “Aslan” can care for their true needs. Compounding a lie with a lie, the Calormene Captain and Shift tell the Animals that Tash, the Calormene god to whom men are sacrificed, and Aslan are one in the same; two different names for the same person. This new god is called “Tashlan,” the meshing of the two names.
When Tirian, the last King of Narnia, calls on Aslan to rescue his country, the Great Lion is silent, so Tirian, remembering how children from another world had saved Narnia in it’s darkest periods of history, calls on the friends of Narnia to come and save his land. And, after a vision-dream of the seven legendary Friends sitting down to dinner and seeing the phantom of Tirian among them, he is surprised by the appearance of Jill and Eustace. Along with Jewel the Unicorn, who is Tirian’s best friend, the two children and a Dwarf named Poggin, the stage is set for the last battle of Narnia.
In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving. It was gliding very slowly Northward. At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it. But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke. Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done. It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak. It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails. It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it…. [They] watched it… until it streamed away… and disappeared. Then the sun came out again, and the birds once more began to sing….
“I have seen it once before,” said Tirian. “But that time it was carved in stone and overlaid with gold and had solid diamonds for eyes…. [It was in] the great temple of Tash… carved above the altar.”
“What was it?” said Eustace in a whisper.
–The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 712
The entrance of the Calormene god Tash takes this final fight into the realm of the supernatural, as it becomes the epic battle of the ultimate good, Aslan, and his antithesis Tash: Life versus Death.
The message of The Last Battle, I believe, is this: We are not always meant to win the good fight, only to FIGHT the good fight. Early on in the book we know this is a lost cause, the side of evil will prevail, and the heroes’ lives will be forfeit. But, even then, Aslan will have the final say.
In The Last Battle, Lewis also addresses two major questions of Christianity. First, how can a person who has known the goodness and greatness of Christ turn his or her back on Him, choosing, instead, their own will. Second, what of those people who have never heard the Gospel and therefore had no chance to believe? Will He condemn them to Hell?
Missing for the Friends of Narnia is Susan, and somehow I knew this immediate when I counted eight helpers of Narnia, but only seven Friends of Narnia. Somehow I knew the missing person was Susan.
“Sire,” said Tirian… “there should be another… Where is Queen Susan?”
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”
“Oh, Susan!” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight to keen on being grown-up.”
“Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her shool time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
–The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 741
Susan turned away from Narnia and Aslan and, instead, made vanity and things of the world her focus. BUT, Lewis did not say she could not become a Friend of Narnia again. Further, someone had to survive to tell The Chronicles of Narnia.
As the Seven plus Tirian go “further up, further in,” they meet a Calormene who tells them of his meeting Aslan:
“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. Both the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my fourehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’ But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’ He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’ The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false. Not because4 he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the service which thou hast done to him. For I and he are such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?’ I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’ But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’ ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.’ ”
–The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 757
Honestly, it was impossible to review this book without incorporating the religious aspects of it. That is not to say it can’t be enjoyed without being religious. It stands alone as the heart-wrenching finale of a much loved and favorite literary classic series. I couldn’t help but cry at the end; for the beauty, for the Friends, for all who had been were together again… and for Susan, who, by her folly, missed the train (if you’ve read this, or when you do read this, book you’ll get that reference).
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is beyond words, and I sigh with a bittersweet happiness, as I have come to the end of my journey through Narnia. I leave you with the last paragraph of the last book of Narnia:
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chaper One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
–The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 767
5 out of 5 stars.
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