C.S. Lewis’ epic series, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” comes to a conclusion in book seven, “The Last Battle.” Yep, it’s “The Apocalypse” for kids. I can’t say much else, because that’s what it really is. Book seven is the eschatological conclusion of the series. There are a number of significant characters in the book: Shift, Puzzle, King Tirian, Jewel, Jill Pole, and Eustace Scrubb (Aslan, of course, is present in all seven books).
I believe I read once that the book is designed to mirror the book of Revelations, at least, to a certain extent. My own eschatological lore is a bit rusty, but here it goes: Shift is the False Prophet and Puzzle is the antichrist. Shift, a talking ape, decides his little slice of Narnia is not enough. He sets about a sequence of events to put him in control of the whole country. Puzzle is a donkey who, at Shift’s suggestion, goes about wearing a lion skin impersonating Aslan. I am hesitant to call him the antichrist because he’s really not so much a villain, as he is a clueless dupe. Shift is the real source of the problems; he sets things in motion that begin the downfall of Narnia. Still, it is Puzzle who wears the lion skin and so sets himself up as a false Aslan or false Christ. King Tirian is the last king of Narnia. He puts up a valiant fight against the forces of darkness that seem to overwhelm the forces of good in the last battle. Jewel is a Unicorn, and King Tirian’s sidekick. Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb are the two “Friends of Narnia” who show up to help King Tirian and his friends in the Last Battle. The remaining “Friends of Narnia” also show up, excepting Susan, at the end of the novel.
This is a somewhat darker Narnia book than the others as it describes the end of that world. The forces of evil pretty much have the upper hand throughout the book up until the point Aslan intervenes and calls up the giant, Father Time, to bring things to their conclusion. The world is destroyed. All the inhabitants of Narnia approach Aslan, who sits in judgment of them, one at a time. I find it odd that Puzzle manages to get into the afterlife with the good people. As a character, he was a relatively innocent dupe, but he’s still the most obvious candidate for Lewis’ antichrist, and generally, Christians regard the antichrist as very, very bad. Why Lewis’ was not, I don’t know.
Anyway, I found this book a little more interesting than the preceding ones. Maybe I just like darker stories. Overall, it was an engaging little tale, although at one point, there might have been hints of racism. Specifically, some rebel dwarves began calling the dark-skinned Calormenes “Darkies.” However, that only happened after the dwarves pretty much rebelled against everybody (Aslan included) and kept saying “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” So, it certainly is not conclusive. Aside from that, my only other complaint is that (spoiler alert) everybody dies at the end. Diggory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill … all dead. The story ends with a beatific description of the afterlife and what the “Friends of Narnia” and the other creatures of Narnia encounter in Aslan’s country. So, according to C.S. Lewis, it’s really a happily ever after ending. But is it? I’m not sure the very young would appreciate or understand that kind of ending. But who am I to say?
Ultimately, I’ll give this story three and a half stars for an adult, and probably only three and a half for children as well, because of the dark nature.
This review was originally posted on Shelfari on 12/30/12
The sixth book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series is entitled “The Silver Chair.” In this book, the original heroes of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” have all disappeared from the Narnia-scene. The mantle has been passed to Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole. Eustace is a return visitor from book five; Jill is a young girl he befriends on Earth at Experiment House (I gather that Experiment House was an experimental school of Lewis’ time that tried to structure a school around strictly scientific principles; I also gather Lewis did not think much of it). On Earth, they are fleeing from some bullies when they escape into Narnia. They find themselves on top of an enormous cliff (the cliff is actually in Aslan’s Country, which, although on the same world, is not technically Narnia). They have some difficulties and Eustace falls off the cliff; he is rescued just in time by Aslan who appears and blows Eustace on the currents of his breath to Narnia. Then Aslan tells Jill that he is sending them on a quest to rescue Prince Rilian, King Caspian’s son, and that she must learn and memorize four signs they will encounter on their quest. She does so, then Aslan sends her on the currents of his breath across the ocean into Narnia.
Once in Narnia, the two children flub the first sign and let King Caspian set off on his journey without ever speaking to him. They learn that Prince Rilian disappeared ten years ago searching for the great green serpent that bit and killed his mother. No one knows what became of him. Shortly thereafter, with the blessings of an Owl Parliament, the children set off on their journey to find the prince. They encounter a marsh-wiggle—which is kind of a long, thin, man with a few frog-like features (webbing on the feet, etc…)—named Puddleglum who joins them on their mission. After several adventures involving giants, gnomes, and other unusual creatures, they find Prince Rilian being held under the enchantment of a witch. They manage to break the enchantment and then confront the witch.
And here’s where I have a difficulty with the story. Perhaps I’ve played too many D&D games and I just know you don’t let the spell-caster cast a spell on your party! But, while Eustace, Jill, Puddleglum, and Prince Rilian look on, the witch takes some powder, throws it into the fireplace, and then begins to play a musical instrument (I’m not sure which one, it may have been a lyre), and they do nothing! I mean, oh wow, what is this evil witch who uses MAGIC doing!? She threw some sweet smelling powder into the fire. Hmm, now she’s picking up a musical instrument. Hmmm. Should we try to stop her? Nah. Anyway, I’ll let you read the story to figure out what happens next.
Overall, I found book six in “The Chronicles of Narnia” to be at about the same level as the other books in the series: most likely a good read for young children, but lacking a little too much in substance for adults. Again, I’ll give it four stars out of five for children, and two and a half, or maybe three for adults.
This post originally appeared on Shelfari on 12/30/12.
Book Five of “The Chronicles of Narnia” is entitled “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Like book four this book features the young King Caspian, but also two of the four original children from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” namely, Edmund and Lucy. It also features a new child, Eustace, the Pevensey’s cousin, who, in the beginning of the book, is a bit of an ill-mannered youngster always belittling his cousins and everything they talk about. He thinks Narnia is some fanciful yarn the other children tell, and not a real place… until he finds himself in it, as well.
The story begins with the children in our world. They are fascinated by a painting of a Narnian-style ship. There is a bit of a tussle between Edmund and Lucy on one side, and Eustace on the other—Eustace excels at making things difficult. They see the painting changing before their very eyes. The waves it depicts begin to move, as does the ship; the painting grows in size, and before you know it, the young children find themselves deposited in the sea. They are, of course, pulled aboard by the crew of the ship. There they find King Caspian, only a couple years older from when they left him in “Prince Caspian,” and they learn that the name of the ship is “The Dawn Treader.” And, I have to admit, that’s a pretty cool name for a ship in a magical land.
The children learn that King Caspian is on a quest to find the seven lords who King Miraz sent away during his reign because they might have supported Caspian during the troubles in “Prince Caspian.” Likewise, their old friend, the mouse, Reepicheep, is on a quest to sail into the uttermost East in search of the land of Aslan beyond the edge of the world. Edmund and Lucy happily join in the quest; Eustace is more interested in making trouble and complaining, and badmouthing everyone and everything.
So, they head out and have several interesting adventures along the way. They encounter slavers, an island that changes Eustace into a dragon—which in the long run, is actually good, because it teaches him what a pest he has been, although he still must grow a lot to overcome his own shortcomings—an island with a wizard who has one-legged dwarves for servants, a sea serpent, an island where dreams (particularly nightmares) are made real, and an island where two “retired” stars live. There is more, of course, but I will let you find it out for yourself when you read it.
One shortcoming of the book was the nautical terminology. Maybe (okay, probably) it was my fault and I was lazy and I didn’t look anything up in the dictionary, but there were a number of nautical terms regarding a ship that I did not know off the top of my head. I’m sure most of them would be confusing for a young child reading them for the first time. I could keep port and starboard straight, but that was about it. Other than that, the book suffers the same weaknesses as the other Narnia books… it isn’t detailed enough for an adult reader. It’s fine for kids, of course, but I find the Narnia books somewhat tiresome, although, this one was less so than the others. I managed to read this one in just a few days.
Overall, I’ll give the book four stars out of five for a child audience, and three stars out of five for an adult.
This review was originally posted on Shelfari.com on 12/30/12.
The fourth book of “The Chronicles of Narnia” is entitled “Prince Caspian.” In this book, C. S. Lewis builds on the story of the four youngsters who played such an important role in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” namely: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. The four children are pulled out of our world and sent to Narnia by the power of a magical horn that a certain Prince Caspian blows in desperation to summon aid.
The children arrive on the scene in Narnia literally thousands of years after they originally reigned in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The castle that was the seat of their power is now a ruin. The landscape has altered: rivers are not where they are expected to be. The magical powers of the land are weakened: forests lie dormant, and many of the animals of that world no longer speak. It is, indeed, a dark time.
With the help of a dwarf guide they set out to render assistance to Prince Caspian. Prince Caspian, the rightful ruler of Narnia, has been usurped by his uncle Miraz, the ruthless Telmarine King who seeks Caspian’s death. Caspian, once in Miraz’s care, has fled the Telmarine castle and taken up with those few of the old Narnians—the talking animals, the wood spirits, and what-have-you—who are willing to fight for their old land and for this new promising king who is not afraid of them and will cherish their magical ways. As a result, the armies of King Miraz and the armies of King Caspian are destined to clash at Aslan’s How, the location where the great Lion, Aslan, came back from the dead in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
Aslan, of course, does make an appearance in the book. First, he is seen by Lucy, but not the others; however, shortly, beginning with Edmund, the others start to see him. I won’t dwell anymore on the plot elements of the book; if you are further interested, you should read it. Like the other Narnia books, it is an excellent fantasy novel that espouses much of the Christian ethics that has so influenced so much of the world. But, like the others, I must emphasize it is a children’s book. Although it was not as tiresome as some of the others, I still had to struggle to finish it—but that’s because I’m an adult, I think. I do believe young children would enjoy it immensely.
Overall, I would give this book four stars out of five for a young children audience, but only two and half or so for an adult audience. The writing style is just too simplistic and quick. I just never felt like I could quite immerse myself in the world created or anything like that.
This review was originally posted on Shelfari on 12/30/12.
“The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis is probably the most famous of the books of the Chronicles of Narnia. Although it is listed as book two in the series because the events that take place within it follow the events that take place in “The Magician’s Nephew” it was actually written first (I believe “The Magician’s Nephew” came out chronologically as around book six or so, and was written as a prequel). Anyway, because of the break in the timeline, there is some discontinuity between this book and the first; specifically with reference to the character of the White Witch.
As noted in my prior review, the Chronicles of Narnia are intended to be a metaphorical story used to introduce young children to Christianity. The Lion, Aslan, is analogous to Jesus Christ. Opposed to him is the White Witch, a.k.a. Satan. In this book, the relationship between Satan and the White Witch is a little clearer. In this book, there is a reference to the White Witch previously being in the service of The Emperor Across the Sea (God) as his sort of enforcer. That is analogous to the role Satan has in some Judea-Christian traditions where he played the role of an accuser of a man for his sins before the throne of God. I just wanted to note that because that is a change from “The Magician’s Nephew” in which the White Witch is described as coming to Narnia from a completely different world (a world she destroyed); there is no reference to her ever being in service to The Emperor Across the Sea.
Anyway, the main characters of the story are four children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. They discover a wardrobe in their uncle’s (I think it’s uncle) house, that leads them to the magical land of Narnia. There, they find the whole land in the grip of a never-ending winter brought on by the power of the White Witch. And to make matters worse, the White Witch is even preventing Christmas from coming (oh, no!). But with the arrival of the four children—the two Sons of Adam, and the two Daughters of Eve—things start to turn around. Soon, the Great Lion, Aslan is on the move to help the children bring about the ruin of the White Witch.
The most important metaphor in this book is the death of Aslan at the hands of the White Witch and his subsequent resurrection by the power of the Deeper Magic. Obviously, this is supposed to serve as a metaphor for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And there’s not too much to be added to that.
Overall, this is a good children’s book incorporating the strong moral traditions of Christianity in it. As an adult, I found it entertaining, but of a somewhat light fare. And, after a certain point, because it is geared towards children, it started to get a little tedious; I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish the series.
Anyway, as far as a children’s book goes, I’ll give it four out of five stars.