The Last Battle

From Academic Kids

The Last Battle is the final novel in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Lewis was awarded the Carnegie Medal for the book.

Synopsis

In The Last Battle, Lewis brings The Chronicles of Narnia to an end. The book deals with the end of time in Narnia and sums up the allegory of the books by linking the experience of the human children in Narnia with their lives in this world.

The story begins during the reign of the last king of Narnia, King Tirian. Narnia has experienced a long period of peace and prosperity begun during the reign of King Caspian X, whose dynasty was established in Prince Caspian and confirmed by the succession of his son Rilian at the conclusion of The Silver Chair. Tirian, who is the great-grandson of the great-grandson of Rilian, becomes aware that strange and uncomfortable things are happening to his land and that the stars portend ominous developments.

The king's magical call for help results in the arrival of Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole, the two children who last visited Narnia during the final year of the reign of Caspian, to help him battle an invasion by an army from the southern land of Calormen. The Calormenes have internal allies in Narnia, in the form of an Antichrist-figure, Shift the Ape, and his dupe Puzzle the donkey, who has pretended to be Aslan and spread the heresy that Aslan and the Calormene god Tash (the Satan-figure) are one and the same. The heresy causes the dwarfs and some other Narnian talking beasts to lose faith in, and loyalty to, Aslan and the King; meanwhile, Shift proceeds to sell Narnia into Calormene slavery. Tirian has only a small loyal force to fight the Calormenes, and prepares to die in a last stand against the forces of darkness. The Battle concludes with Aslan stepping in to bring Narnia to an end. All creatures, including those who had previously died, are judged by Aslan as they approach a door; those who have been loyal to Aslan, or to the morality upheld by Narnians, join Aslan in Aslan's country (heaven), while those who have opposed or deserted him do not pass through the door and disappear to an uncertain fate.

It becomes clear that nearly all those who had travelled to Narnia in previous books have been reunited in Aslan's country where they realise that Narnia and England are linked and that they have in fact died on earth and can enjoy an afterlife in a perfect version of Narnia where they are reunited with characters from previous books, and their deceased relatives.

Commentary

"The Last Battle" is loosely based on the Biblical book of Revelation, and on Christian doctrines of the end of the world, judgement, Heaven, death and afterlife. The exposition of theological points is more laboured than in some of the earlier books, and the overall tone is darker, to the extent that "The Last Battle" is relatively hard to enjoy on a purely superficial level as a fairy story, particularly at the end.

Lewis has been criticised, by Philip Pullman and others, over the values conveyed by "The Last Battle". In particular, that Susan Pevensie, one of the children who appeared in previous stories, is described as no longer a friend of Narnia as she is interested only in "nylons, lipstick and invitations" - as if it is inherently sinful for a woman to become sexually mature. Corresponding criticisms have been levelled at previous Narnia stories for being Anglocentric in that the magical doorways into Narnia always seem to open from England, and that English people are the natural, aristocratic rulers in the Arthurian society of Narnia.

The Calormenes are the enemies of Aslan's followers: their god Tash represents Satan, taking away the souls of the wicked characters, and accepting any evil deed as a service to him (the fate of a Calormene non-believer is presented as a warning to those tempted to dabble in black magic). On the other hand, one of the characters is a good Calormene, Emeth. The protagonist and antagonist groups are both ethnically diverse, and of course, a look at the major villains of the Narnia series shows no correlation between skin color and ethical orientation.

The misogyny allegation is based on a single section describing the fall of Susan. The role of females in the Narnia books tends generally to be very high, and Susan's loss of interest in Narnia is not prefigured in the other books. In this section, she is criticised for being too immature, in trying to race to the silliest part of one's life as quickly as possible, and then stop there as long as possible. The words which have caused debate are "nylons, lipstick and invitations" - with the dispute focusing on whether Lewis means to imply that Susan's adult femininity is at fault in causing her to lose interest in Narnia (and, by implication, faith in God).

The Chronicles of Narnia
C. S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair | The Horse and His Boy | The Magician's Nephew | The Last Battle
Books Characters Places
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