The Last Battle : Suffering and the True Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia #7)

“Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia, who stood firm at the darkest hour.”

“The dream is ended- this is the morning.”

“If The Magician’s Nephew is Narnia’s Book of Genesis, The Last Battle is its Book of Revelations,” Markos begins, “complete with the End-Times, Tribulation, Last Judgment and Final Destruction of Narnia.”

last battle 8      The beginning of the end for Narnia arises when a Machiavellian ape named Shift convinces a donkey (Puzzle) to dress up like a lion and pretend to be Aslan.  Many of the Narnians are fooled, and a new, relativistic faith is begun in which Aslan is actually the pagan Calormene deity Tash (and comes to be called Tashlan).  The opportunistic, tyrannical Calormene leader Rishda Tarkaan takes advantage of the increasing moral confusion to take control of Narnia, setting up Shift and Puzzle as figureheads.  Rishda claims to serve Tashlan, but is secretly an atheist.

Opposition to Rishda’s reign does persist, as Tirian, the last Prince of Narnia and loyal to Aslan leads an underground resistance, but the members are martyred one by one.  Rishda mimicks the fascist and communist propaganda rallies of Lewis’s day (recall he wrote the Chronicles shortly after WWII, in the 1950s), and stages a grand meeting by the stable door.  Rishda claims that Tashlan is inside the stable, and as proof, sends in his talking cat, Ginger. A screech is heard from inside, and when Ginger returns, she can only meow – she has lost her power of language, as Aslan had warned (in Magician’s Nephew) of those who followed evil.  Rishda later enters the stable, and is met by the very real, vulture-headed Tash, who promptly devours the ravenous Calormene leader.  As Lewis warns – beware whom you wish for – call on the devil, and he will come! Tash then turns to devour Tirian (whom Rishda had previously thrown into the stable), but is rebuked in The name of Aslan, and disappears.  The rebuke comes from the seven Kings and Queens of Narnia – Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Jill, Eustace, Digory and Polly – all of whom have just moments before died in a train crash in England and been transported to Narnia for its final moments.  As darkness descends on Narnia, the animals of Narnia are paraded by the stable door, where Aslan judges them, sending them off to either His left or His right.  The finale of Narnia includes forests being devoured by dragons, a massive deluge and a giant who squeezes the sun dry/dark like an orange.

last battle 5

Of the new Narnia, Lewis states it is like the old Narnia, but with “all that mattered pulled through,” and far more glorious, “as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.” Finally, there is also Emeth, a Calormene who ented the stable door in search of Tash. Lewis pays honor to Emeth’s search for truth (“Emeth” means “truth” in Hebrew), stating that what he did in honor of Tash, Aslan would count as done for Him.  Many have claimed Lewis is advocating a “all roads lead to Rome” theology here, which is taking too much liberty with the example, as Lewis’s other writings would indicate. Instead, the point is that Emeth’s search for the truth actually led him to Aslan.

Susan was not among the Narnian /royalty, nor among those killed on the train it appears, due to her vanity and loss of child-like faith in Narnia and Aslan.  Lucy states that “she’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations, ”while Polly added “”She wasted all her school 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.”

last battle 7

 

Last Battle 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 till now…Come further up, come further in!”

“They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

“Emeth speaking of Aslan, “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…And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog”

“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 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 the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter 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.”

“You’ve no idea how good an old joke sounds when you take it out again after a rest of five or six hundred years.”

“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”

“Would it not be better to be dead than to have this horrible fear that Aslan has come and is not like the Aslan we have believed in and longed for? It is as if the sun rose one day and were a black sun.”

“For all find what they truly seek.”

“Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia, who stood firm at the darkest hour.”

“The dream is ended – this is the morning.”

last battle 6“but that was not the real Narnia – that Narnia had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s world … it’s all in Plato, what do they teach them at these schools?”

“All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”

“Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?”

“I believe it all. If I seem not to, it is only that my joy is too great to let my belief settle itself.”

ptolomaic-cosmos-from-planet-narnia-dot-com1

PLANET: SATURN

In the responses of its characters to the cataclysmic end of Narnia, The Last Battl

displays a wisdom and divine perspective on suffering. As Saturn represents Infortuna Major in the Medieval planetary scheme underlying LB, Lewis imaginatively demonstrates the path of wisdom that can be taken in the face of suffering.  The last King of Narnia, Tirian, exhibits a resignation to his fate, while still continuing onwards heartily at every step.  The faint hope that follows his cry to Aslan for help, his symbolic submission depicted in his being tied to the tree by the Calormenes, and the recognition of his steadfastness throughout his sufferings in receiving his “well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm in the darkest hour” depict wisdom in submitting to suffering from a sense of service to the King, Aslan. By contrast, the dwarves, who are only ‘for the dwarves,’ cannot taste or in any other way sense the richness of rewards found from suffering, suffering instead from a “prison in their own minds … and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out,” due to their having “chosen cunning instead of belief” and refusing offers of help from Aslan. While the comparison between King Tirian and the dwarves is fairly cursory here, it clearly depicts the contrast in responses to suffering, and the stakes involved, namely, the “humility (which) after its first shock, is a cheerful virtue,” (Problem of Pain, p. 69) the rich remaking of the soul by its Maker, and the rich humanity that ensues.

The Planets – Saturn

Up far beyond
Goes SATURN silent in the seventh region,
The skirts of the sky. Scant grows the light,
Sickly, uncertain (the Sun’s finger
Daunted with darkness). Distance hurts us,
And the vault severe of vast silence;
Where fancy fails us, and fair language,
And love leaves us, and light fails us
And Mars fails us, and the mirth of Jove
Is as tin tinkling. In tattered garment,
Weak with winters, he walks forever
A weary way, wide round the heav’n,
Stoop’d and stumbling, with staff groping,
The lord of lead. He is the last planet
Old and ugly. His eye fathers
Pale pestilence, pain of envy,
Remorse and murder. Melancholy drink
(For bane or blessing) of bitter wisdom
He pours out for his people, a perilous draught
That the lip loves not. We leave all things
To reach the rim of the round welkin,
Heaven’s heritage, high and lonely.

 

 

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