The Last Battle

I was rereading C.S. Lewis a while ago. I remembered that the last Narnian book wasn’t very good. I had forgotten just how bad. Ignoring the simple things: poor characterisation, continuity breaking, new characters who are forced to act like idiots to forward the plot, and Susan not getting to come to Narnia because she decided she liked dating men, we hit the deep problems: The whole thing is about how evolution is a devilish trick that will damn us all, and how horrible Muslims are.

The plot, in simple form, is as follows: A monkey, who later puts on clothes and claims to be a man (spot the allusion to evolution) disguises a donkey in a lion skin and claims he’s Aslan. All the other characters act like idiots, so the monkey is able to manipulate things, make deals with an Arabic country to take Narnia over and exploit it, and this causes the end of the world as per the Revelation of St. John. In the process, anything Lewis disliked is bashed, from young girls wearing makeup to evolution to skeptics (there’s a group of dwarves who are so wrapped up in not wanting to be tricked that in the end they delude themselves that heaven is a mucky stable, because they entered it through a stable door. Those of you who know my love of dwarves can imagine how I feel about that.)

The first half, with religious feeling leading all the Narnians to bow down to the will of a donkey in a lion skin costume, going so far as accepting their enslavement by the Calormenes (basically, Arabs) because “Aslan” wishes it, is almost a parody of religion. The intended targets, however, remain evolution and Muslims (with a side of skeptics), with the foolishness displayed by the religious evidently being considered absolutely appropriate, I suppose. Lewis’ views on evolution are explained further here, where he’s quoted saying that Darwin’s “monkeying with the ancestry of Man”, as well as the study of psychology, stripped away (in that article’s summary) “rationality, purpose, volition and freedom, imagination, commitment, [and] the image of God.”

…What? So using rational thought to investigate man’s origins and modes of thought is less rational than blind belief? Are the vague purposes given man in the Bible – to basically serve God as his servants every waking moment – conductive to volition and freedom, or are they in fact subsuming yourself to a God that cannot be as he is defined in the Bible? Is imagination destroyed by showing us the full spread of reality in all its myriad forms – the animals of Cambrian explosion, the strangeness of nature as a whole, the stars spiraling above us? Or is it destroyed by narrow-mindedness and refusal to consider new ideas that contradict with a single book? Commitment to what? Is this a request to return to the days when beaten wives were forced to remain married to their husbands and put up with it? And what exactly is “the image of God” anyway?

…In short, skip the book. The whole thing, save maybe the last 10 pages, (which it must be admitted do manage, unlike every other depiction I’ve ever seen, to create a view of Heaven that might actually be livable in), is a badly-writted screed with all the subtlety of “All those with living fathers step forwards. Not so fast, Johnson!”

2 replies on “The Last Battle”

  1. It’s been a long time since i read The Last Battle, but i recall it well as the weakest of the series, for such as me, at least; reveling in Revelations is a good way to leave me cold. Those last 10 pages, though — ‘farther up and farther in’ — seem a remarkably Tantric approach to heaven, in archetypal geography; specifically phallic, so i wonder how well they speak to those of other genders.

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