Some books that start out bitter end up being the sweetest of all.
C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle lacks the charm, magic, and wonder the preceding stories possessed. An unsettling gloom lurks over the land as the story opens with two of the few talking animals left in Narnia, an ape named Shift and a donkey called Puzzle. When Shift and Puzzle find a lion skin, the ape gets the brilliant idea to masquerade his dumb donkey friend as the great lion Aslan, fooling many. Upon hearing the news that Aslan has been spotted in the country, King Tiran and Jewel the unicorn are thrilled, until they realize terrible deeds are being performed in Aslan’s name. Dryads are being murdered, talking horses abused, and Calmorenes are invading.
“Do you think I care if Aslan dooms me to death?” said the King. “That would be nothing, nothing at all. 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.” (Pg. 30)
The land of Narnia is suppressed by darkness. Though King Tiran is aware of this ever-present evil, he clings to his faith in the One True Aslan. As events contradict everything he believes about the great lion, Tirian determines to find out the truth, even if he must die for it.
The Last Battle is my favorite of the series, hands down. Why? As I mentioned before, Narnia is no longer the enchanting place described in The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or even The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. At this time, Narnia is in an apocalyptic state, and the first two-thirds of the book focus on this. The Last Battle is rather grim. It is the end of the land of Narnia. Yet, beauty shines through in the book’s finale. After death and defeat, all of the characters from Lewis’s chronicles (with the exception of Susan), are reunited in a magnificent, enhanced form of Narnia that represents heaven.
The Last Battle is like candy that is sour when you first bite into it, for all is bitter and bleak; however, as the story draws to a close it releases an unexpected sweetness, especially to readers who understand the excitement of Jesus’ return.
“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 the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth had read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (Pg. 210)
Lewis had to decide whether to continue in the world of Narnia to avoid upsetting fans, or to put it to rest and wrap up everything in a meaningful way. Unlike many authors and filmmakers who keep pushing out content to fans (Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers, anyone?), Lewis chose the more difficult path, but one that writers should take. Let your story run its course. It’s okay not to produce more when your story could and should have ended.
Overall, The Last Battle will never fail to satisfy. It ties all the strings together and brilliantly concludes this epic story. Lewis showed readers the birth of Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew, and in The Last Battle we witness its death in a glorious and fulfilling way that delivers hope by giving a glimpse of an even greater God and His great land that believers will someday call home.
“We are all between the paws of the One True Aslan.” (Pg. 121)