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Saturday, March 05, 2005

cover of The Last Battle

I've always liked The Last Battle-- it's one of my top two or three favorite Narnia books (I know, there are only seven of them), and I think that might be because it is so different from the other books in the series. There are lots of wonderful characters, and you get to see Lewis' view about what the end of time and heaven might look like (a different kind of view than what you get in The Great Divorce).

There are lots of great characters in The Last Battle, and I kind of enjoy the fact that this book starts in Narnia, and it is a while before any Earth children come into the picture. You get to learn about the sweet donkey Puzzle, who underrates himself and his own wisdom, and gives in too easily to the selfish, malicious ape Shift; you get to meet the last king of Narnia, Tirian, and his trusty friend, the unicorn Jewel. Lewis also uses this opportunity to show how different people choose to believe or not believe-- some of the cleverer animals, like Shift and the cat, deliberately refuse to believe in Aslan and try to trick the others. One of the sadder moments in the book is the self-deception of the dwarfs-- they are sick of being tricked and refuse to be "taken in" again, so even though they are sitting inside the doorway to paradise, they close their eyes and refuse to see or believe in Aslan or eternity.

One of the details I particularly liked from Lewis' view of heaven presented here is that Narnia and our Earth both offer paths to the same Aslan. The Pevensie children start in the Narnian heaven, presumably because that is where the first came to know Aslan well, but with their heightened vision, they can look across and see their parents, who are also moving towards Aslan's country. I think I read somewhere that Lewis believed there really might be other planets somewhere with sentient beings on them (you might get a taste of this from the Narnia books and the space trilogy, but not every writer believes even remotely in the things they imagine), whether fallen or unfallen-- and it seems to me both foolish and arrogant to assume we are the only ones in this immense galaxy, or that God is limited in some way as to be unable to handle more than one planet. That must be why I love the images we get here, of people from different worlds all moving towards Aslan's country.

Because I grew up reading this book with my family, we all know and love the repeated refrain from the end of the book. Every now and then, it will come up again as appropriate, whether we are hiking or just encouraging each other:

Further up and further in!

Title:The Last Battle
Author:C. S. Lewis
Date published:1956
Genre:Fantasy / Young Adult
Series:Chronicles of Narnia
Number of pages:184
Notes:Read this book aloud with G. This is a repeat reading.


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