Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Last Battle

This is the seventh and final installment of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. It is also one of my absolute favorites. Aslan has not been seen for centuries. Everything is just as it should be in the land until one day a very clever and sinister ape finds a dead lion. He skins the beast and puts the skin on a donkey and makes the donkey pretend to be Aslan. He then goes on to join forces with Narnia's enemies and combines Aslan with the god they worship to create Tashlan, an abomination since Tash basically represents the devil. They go about deceiving most of the people. When the King of Narnia resists, along with some faithful animals, they are captured or driven away. While captured, the king suddenly finds himself in a room filled with people. They were Diggory and Polly, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, Eustace, and Jill. All those who had been to Narnia (except Susan), were having a sort of Narnia reunion. When they see the king in the corner, they know they must get back to Narnia somehow. Before their plan can get into motion, Eustace and Jill find themselves in Narnia and are able to free the king. Everything leads to a great, terrible, last battle.

But when pushed through a door, Eustace and Jill (and the king) find themselves in a pleasant country, along with Diggory and Polly and the Pevensies (minus Susan). They are told to go upward and inward and as they do they begin to meet people they know. King Caspian, the Beavers, Reepicheep, even Mr. Tumnus. During their journey they meet a soldier that was an enemy to Narnia. But he tells them he is confused. All his life he served Tash and did all the good he could, only to find that Aslan was the real person to be worshipped. But then he tells them that Aslan found him and said that all the good done in Tash's name is really service to Aslan, whereas all the evil done in Aslan's name is really service to Tash. The soldier joins the party until they reach a beautiful scene. They see a world that is Narnia and England. It is everything good about both places with none of the bad. It is Aslan's country. It is a perfect world. A unicorn puts it best: "I have come home at last. This is my real country! I belong here."

Then they meet Aslan. Lucy gets tears in her eyes and Aslan says, "You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." Lucy responds, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." Aslan replies, "No fear of that...The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." What happens next can be said best only in the words of C. S. Lewis:

"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 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 Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

What a description of Celestial glory! What a description of the joyful reunion with all those we love! What a paradise! "The dream is ended: this is the morning." I long for that day! Whenever I read this book I have tears in my eyes. It is just so beautiful to me. What a masterpiece! Thank you, C. S. Lewis, for sharing this treasure with the world!

The Silver Chair

The sixth book of C. S. Lewis's series is the first book since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that does not feature any of the Pevensie children. This time Eustace returns to Narnia with his new friend Jill. They are sent to Narnia and Jill is almost immediately given an assignment by Aslan. King Caspian's son and heir to the throne has been kidnapped. They are to find him. They go off on their quest, but they are easily distracted multiple times. Jill was given four signs by Aslan and did not obey three of them. One night Aslan has to appear to her to remind her of her quest. She feels awful and almost ruins their entire mission, risking their lives in the process. At the end of the story, Jill again meets up with Aslan and is almost ashamed to meet him. because of all the mistakes she made. But then Aslan says to her, "Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia."

I love this imagery of the Savior. Throughout the book, Jill feels chastened for what she is doing wrong (or not doing what she should). But each time she was chastened, it wasn't to punish her. It was to put her on the right track. In the end, through the chastisement, Jill was able to do the work she was sent to do, and was lovingly received by Aslan. Each of us makes mistakes and we fall from the path. Fortunately God loves us and so He chastens us and helps us become better people. In the end, if we heed the chastisement and improve and learn to do His will, He will also welcome us into His warm embrace and say, "Well done. You have done the work for which I sent you to Earth."