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.