Friday, September 30, 2011

The Last Battle.

Every C.S. Lewis-fan will know that I in this moment have given myself an almost impossible task, and that you can find millions of entries on the subject. However, I spent a lot of time looking into wardrobes as I was a little girl, almost convinced I met Aslan, and to be quite honest, I don't think I ever stopped looking for him. Only now, I look into the metaphor that is the wardrobe and meet the metaphor that is Aslan. So in my view, I'm more than equipped to have an opinion or two on the matters of Narnia!

Clive Staples Lewis, or better known to his friends as Jack, was a writer born the 29th of November 1898. He died, at age 64, the 22nd of November 1963. The trained historian, or even just people interested in history, will note that the date of his death is somewhat epic...why? This was the day J.F.K was assassinated, and the coverage of his Lewis' death was not as important. However, he lives on through his books and stories. The books that will follow his name into eternity are The Chronicles of Narnia, an epic tale dealing with his relationship to Christianity.
One of his closest friends, another one of my favorites, was J.R.R Tolkien, and together they (and a few others which I could specify, although Wikipedia has the details...I think Tolkien's son Christopher and Lewis' brother were members.) formed a group discussing literature (both their own and already existing). They called themselves The Inklings.
They met frequently at a pub called The Eagle and The Child (or the bird and the baby), a pub which still exists, and also a pub where yours truly spent an entire day...writing! And I'll tell you, that place holds some of the magic presented in the books of the two masters, and I'm sure they really did inspired me as I sat, just where they used to sit, below their pictures...writing a story...about magic...

The Last Battle is from The Chronicles of Narnia, and this is the last of the seven books about the magic country.
Why do I start with this story and not at the beginning?
Oh, there are so many reasons.
For one, most of you know how the story begins... The first book that was written is called the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but if you have read the books, you'll know that this is the second story about Narnia. The first one is called The Magician's Nephew. Confused??? Don't be, buy them all as one large book, and they'll be printed in the correct reading order...or check with Wikipedia... But my point was that most of you know the beginning of the story, and some of you may even continue to watch as they kill book by book on film. I'm not very fair here. I do like the films, I like them very much,

but I think they took a few liberties (at least in the last two), and I can't say I'm a fan of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as they completely changed the story, even though it has Ben Barnes, but I really do like the films, in general...But the books are better!

But the one book I never expect they'll make into a film is this one, the story is simply too big. It has the Apocalypse, for crying out loud!

Now, maybe I should have shouted Spoiler alert there, for those of you who are completely in the dark at the moment. But as Lewis battled with the loss and then the retrieval of his faith in God, so does his characters. He wrote seven books, a strong link to the creation myth of the Genesis. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan gives his own life for a sinner, and death itself must give up...another strong link to Christianity, and Jesus in particular. Aslan frequently refers to his father, The Emperor across the sea, a link to the one God. And in The Last Battle, Aslan sais: "Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash I account as service done to me. I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. And unless thy desires had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek. "
I wanted to paraphrase, but I had the book just here. I looked it up, and Lewis said is so much better that what my summary would have been, so begging your pardon if this made for a long read...

So, to the book
The Last Battle is about King Tirian. He's the last king of Narnia.
Aslan has been seen in Narnia, but the Centaurs know for a fact that it can't be the real Aslan, the times are not peaceful and nor do they hold any signs of Aslan's coming. But the people of Narnia are blinded by the impostor, a donkey called Puzzle who is wearing a lions skin. He is demanding the population of Narnia to give him food and riches for him to grant them his presence. And weirdly enough they are only allowed to look at him from a distance. "Aslan" is killing dryads and nymphs, and selling the talking animals as slaves to Calormen. Could this really be the real Aslan? - the Narnians ask themselves, as their only conclusion is that he's not a tame lion and we better do what he says. They are only allowed to talk to Shift. He's the monkey governing the "operation".
King Tirian is captured and tied to a tree awaiting his execution. Here he pleads to the real Aslan, offering his own life for the safety of Narnia, and if he is unable to come himself, if he could send some of the children from the other world. When nothing helps, he cries out, as King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, Emperor of the Lone Islands that he wishes to get in contact with the humans. He then manages something that no other Narnian has managed before him, he opens up a portal to our world, and around a table he counts seven individuals. They try to speak to him, in the name of Narnia, but Tirian is unable to answer. The vision fades away. But then Jill and Eustace find themselves in Narnia, literally next to the King. They untie him and escape.
Now everything becomes a race to the end, and the end is through the door of an old shed. This is where it becomes bigger on the inside. On the inside of the shed is paradise, Aslan and the Narnia within Narnia. And through this door they can see the destruction of Narnia, see how the stars falls from the sky, how the sun dies, how the ocean swallow the land, and how everything in the end just seize. All the talking animals, all the nymphs and dryads and really all that's magic, end up walking through the door, and are urged to go further up and further in, where they end up in the Aslan's land, or the land of the Emperor across the sea. And all of the people who loved Narnia, Polly, Digory, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Jill are really dead, and get to come to their version of heaven. It's all very sad, yet incredibly powerful.

I first encountered the marvels of Narnia when my parents read to me when I was a child, and I think I've read the books at least twenty times, cover to cover.
After a while a lovely series from the BBC entered our screens in Norway. At first it aired as a series between Christmas and New Year, and I remember sitting in the living room with my duvet wrapped around, snacking on tangerines and watching The Chronicles of Narnia.

My favorite fairytale on the time, anyway. Later I came to think that the story could be grander, it could have a vaster landscape, fiercer and more brutal battles and a better lion!

Did I ever get my wish?

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