Book Review: The Last Battle

Last BattleThe Last Battle is the last book in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. It opens with a false Aslan: a confused donkey coerced to wear a lion skin by a conniving ape, who in turn is being controlled by others. In Aslan’s name, talking beasts are turned into slaves, dryads are dying because their trees are being cut down, Calormenes are overseers. Strange things are afoot, everything seems not quite right to everyone, but Aslan is not a tame lion, after all, so his ways will of course be a little different, and they think they must obey.

King Tirian sees at once that something is wrong, but he sets off rashly without thinking and winds up in trouble, He calls out for help, and Eustace and Jill show up. Together with the few Narnians who don’t believe in the false Aslan, they wage a last battle to save Narnia.

Even though the Narnia series is not an allegory per se, it’s still not hard to see the Biblical allusions to the end times and the antichrist. In Narnia as on Earth, things will get much, much worse before the end comes. And “Aslan’s country” has always typified heaven. All the beasts and creatures and people going “further up and further in” to Aslan’s country, the joyful reunions with those who have gone before, the sense that “this is what I have been seeking and waiting for my whole life” are the best parts of the books to me.

I think this time through the series, that is most what I have carried away with me: that longing, as in the song “Beulah Land”: “I’m kind of homesick for a country where I’ve never been before.” I have to admit that too often I am caught up with the joys and cares of this life. I look forward to having no more sin, sorrow, suffering, and tears some day, but I don’t always carry that personal longing just to be with Christ there, and this series as a whole stirs up that longing for Narnia and Aslan that all who visit experience while they’re away. It calls to mind Biblical texts like Hebrews 11:16: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city,” and Colossians 3:1-2: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” as well as Lewis’s own words from Mere Christianity: , “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…I must [therefore] keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find til after death.”

There is sadness for those who choose not to believe, such as the dwarves who are only for the dwarves and refuse to be “taken in.” As Aslan says, “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” Unfortunately there will be people like that as well.

There is a point of confusion with the Calormene Emeth, who served the Calormene god Tash, yet is admitted to Aslan’s country, not because Tash and Aslan are one, as some tried to proclaim (Aslan shook the earth with his growl at the very thought), but because Aslan took to himself everything Emeth had done for Tash. For, he says, “he and I are of 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 knew 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…unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.” I don’t know how much of this reflects Lewis’s personal belief system, but I can’t endorse the idea that someone sincerely serving and seeking a false God is really serving the one true God unaware.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it til now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

“Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begin. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

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 Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever.”

I have to thank Carrie for sponsoring the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge, which spurred me on to revisit the series. I’ve so enjoyed being in Narnia again! I also marvel at how someone with an intellect as large and complex as Lewis’s can write something simple enough for children to understand yet engaging to adults, too, with such nobility and depth and beauty.

Here are my posts from the whole series:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
Voyage of the Dawn-Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Graphic Novel.
The Way Into Narnia
Narnian Magic.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Last Battle

  1. I have theological issues with this last book in the series. But I do like the series overall. I think my favorite may be Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

  2. The Last Battle has always been my least favorite. I really can’t stand Shift. Then again, I have only read this particular title once (maybe twice?) because I didn’t like it. I didn’t like Voyage until my second read through and then it became my favorite.

    I find The Last Battle depressing and so I go on avoiding it. I am working up the nerve to go back to it. in the meantime, I enjoying hearing your take on it this go ’round and am glad you participated in the challenge.

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