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#74 - The Last Battle

Well, it took me a while, but I've finally worked my way through all of the Chronicles of Narnia! On the whole, I enjoyed them very much, although not as much as other comparable series' I've read. The Harry Potter books, for example, are far more interesting to me. I do wonder, though, how the Narnia books would have compared to, say, the Oz books - my childhood favourites - if I'd read them as a child. Perhaps I'd have liked them even better than Oz back then. Overall, "Dawn Treader" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" are my favourites, but all of them were worth reading, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on any of the parts of the story (even though, I know, I KNOW, I read them "out of order" because of the way my set was published).

As for "The Last Battle" specifically, I enjoyed this one, but it was probably my least favourite of the series. The main part of the story was interesting, although I found that it stretched even my great capacity to suspend disbelief. Hmnh. I think from here on out, this will be spoilerish, so consider yourself warned . . .

Would the talking animals *really* have gone along with the "new" Aslan - or the concept of Tashlan - selling them into slavery, etc? My instinct says no - then again, I can look at what people in this country today are buying into from our own corrupt government, and perhaps it's actually NOT outlandish after all. Oh, that's a sad, sad thought, isn't it? I did, however, enjoy what happened in the stable towards the end - how each person who entered saw something different (or one of a range of things) which corresponded to his/her own experience/behaviour and expectation.

Perhaps one of my problems with this book was that I found it the most overtly allegorical of Christianity, in a way that doesn't "speak" to me. Jesus vs. the Devil (Aslan vs. Tash) is not part of my own religious view. That's not necessarily a problem for me when reading fiction, but for some reason, in this particular book it seemed over-the-top and too obvious, and annoyed me just a bit. I got the feeling I was being preached at, something I don't enjoy. I also found the last section of the book overly long and tedious - all the stuff about swimming up the waterfall, etc. Yeah, I GET it, Aslan's country ROX, now can we wrap this up already? :D I couldn't help but thinking that we'd already seen something similar at the end of "Dawn Treader," but it was so much lovelier in that book. (Admittedly, not exactly the same, but I found the two sections very similar). Although I did enjoy seeing Reepicheep again (I <3 that mouse). I do wish Lucy had encountered that mermaid shepherdess again in the "real" Narnia, though. :)

The things mentioned above, though, are of less importance than my feelings about the very ending. Maybe I'll feel differently in time, or after a subsequent reading, but I'm just not sure I found it satisfying. I hadn't guessed about the train wreck (although in looking back, yes, it was most assuredly foreshadowed). But argh! While I love the idea of the Pevensies (especially Lucy) getting to stay with their beloved Aslan, OMG, they were so young, and it just seemed so sudden and violent and somehow gratuitous. It made it a bit easier to know their parents were there with them (not Susan, though, something which I found sad, but not surprising. I had a hard time warming up to her throughout the entire series, although I was surprised to see her slammed quite so hard in the final book - what happened to "Once a Queen in Narnia . . . ? I guess Lewis needed to make the point that not everyone gets to go to the "good" place, but I thought it was pretty harsh). What about Jill's and Eustace's families? And does Lucy, now, never get to grow up? Oh, I guess we're not supposed to think about that, but I found it really shocking, and sort of an uncomfortable way to end what was otherwise a fanciful and very charming series of books.

I guess Lewis wanted to make the point that Heaven is the real destination, and the only one that matters, but yow. I felt a bit battered by it, when all is said and done. Perhaps it's just that his vision doesn't conform to my own, but I found myself feeling sad at the end of things, rather than uplifted.

After saying all that, I suppose it might be surprising that I'm rating the book 7/10 - but I really did enjoy it. Well, most of it, anyway. And I was glad to see the Pevensies in this book - I missed them in the books in which they did not appear at all. Especially my darling Lucy. 7/10.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 16th, 2006 10:20 pm (UTC)
I adored the Oz books when I was a child, but it's been years since I've read any of them (other than the original one, which I've read with C). Hmnh. I actually own most of them (I bought them a few years ago, in anticipation of when C would be old enough). He's definitely old enough now - maybe it's time to pull them out at bedtimes. :)
Aug. 16th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
George and I have been talking about what books to add to the baby's library and we had a debate about this one. I've never read the Oz books (which I totally will now) but I remember hating the end of the Narnia series as a kid. I had the same thoughts about Susan, harsh. I'll probably get this series anyway but I'm glad someone else feels the the same way about this book!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 17th, 2006 05:48 am (UTC)
Literary Debate! *rubs hands together gleefully* :D
Taking things out of order a bit . . .

Ape = Shift. *shudders* He was thoroughly unpleasant, wasn't he?

Susan. Yes, I, too, believe that she is still alive. I'm not so certain, though, that she's Narnia-bound when she eventually does die. She was described as being no longer a "friend of Narnia," and I took that to mean that she wouldn't ever be returning. Ever. I also found this to be amazingly harsh, since she was, what, maybe 20 years old at the time when the series ends for us? And her "crimes" were more frivolous in nature than any real cruelty or evil. But even so, based on Peter's "stern" words, I do not assume that they will ever being seeing her again. Ditto the Scrubbs. From the way they are described early on, it's clear that Lewis does not approve of them much. (And the thing that cracks me up about that is that his description of them fits me perfectly, except for the bit about wearing special underwear. :D Perhaps Lewis wouldn't have approved of me, either. At least I can honestly say, though, that I wouldn't ever send C to a place like Experiment House). ;)

Now, having said all that, I can understand that you choose to intepret things more openly, and assume that they will make it to Narnia eventually. I just didn't see that as a "given" my first time through the series. (Oh, and yes, it did seem to me that a couple of people died without actually dying - but maybe all of them were Narnian to begin with? Or were Diggory and Polly at the train station too, because they were there at the end, right)?

End of Part one - my response was too long to fit in a single comment, so more to follow . . .
Aug. 17th, 2006 05:49 am (UTC)
Literary Debate, Part 2
Continuing . . .

As for Tash being the Devil or not . . . your interpretation is very interesting, and yes, I can see the sense in it. I also find it very offensive (not that you interpret the books this way, or anything else you've said, but what I believe it says about Lewis if you're right). Because if he was, indeed, trying to show us a vengeful vs. a loving god, well, I find it difficult to view Tash as anyone other than Allah. And, OUCH. Now that you've got me thinking along these lines, though, I'm surprised I didn't intepret it this way myself from the start; I always felt the Calormenes were patterned after Islamic peoples. And it's no great stretch, I suppose, to portral Allah as a vengeful god, all things considered - but I still find it offensive. Because my understanding is that Allah is, in reality, anything BUT a vengeful god, in spite of the way some of his followers have behaved. (And surely you'll admit that I could replace "Allah" in that sentence with "the Christian god" or even "Jesus," and it still holds true. Which makes picking on Allah a not-very-nice thing to do, IMO).

It would be somewhat less offensive to me, I suppose, if Lewis was trying to make a comparison between Jesus and the god of the Old Testament. At least then he wasn't slapping another religion in the face. But, I think for now, I'll stick with my Jesus vs. Satan thing. It still works for me with the way I interpret the text . . . and, when it comes right down to it, I honestly don't care what was going on in Lewis' mind when he wrote it. I subscribe to the school of literary criticism which believes that once a work is published, the author's beliefs and intentions no longer matter. Once I have a work in my hands, I am free to interpret the words anyway I want, regardless of what the author might have intended me to "get" from them. Sure, not everyone agrees with this, but it is the way I read.

A good example of this for me (because I can go on about this stuff endlessly, if you haven't guessed that already, when someone is willing to start a dialogue) comes from the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling has stated in interviews that there are between 700 and 1,000 students at Hogwarts, but this is not internally consistent. In the books, she gives information which indicates far fewer students - probably closer to 300, by my reckoning. So, I choose to believe there are only about 300 students at Hogwarts, no matter what Rowling says. Yes, as cheeky as it may be, I'm saying she is wrong. :D (Now, I wouldn't say this to her face - that would be rude - but since I doubt she'll read this, I'm not going to worry about it). :D

So, my point is that I don't care whether Lewis was a universalist or not (and it's not something I have any knowledge about anyway; all I know about him is that he was Christian), or whether he intended us to see Tash as a vengeful god; the text read to me as though Tash was the equivalent of Satan, and that getting into Narnia was not a given. (After all, we did see scores of talking animals get demoted to "dumb" and then shunted off into the darkness. Not too optimistic that those guys were ever going to make it into the light, same as Susan). It doesn't bother me at all, of course, that others (like yourself) see things differently. And maybe I'll change my mind once I've digested the books for a while, or after a second reading. (Although not the Tash=Allah thing. No no NO! I don't like that at all). :D

In any case, thank you for sharing your views - it's always interesting to consider something from another perspective and try it on for size! :)
Aug. 17th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
I thought this book was very preachy as well, and while I didn't really like that aspect, like you I thought the overall book was enjoyable.

I'll admit I like an author who'll kill off his characters, and so I liked the bit about the train wreck. In fact, I had no interest in Narnia until I happened to read that in the final book all the kids died.

Susan was my favorite of the Pevensies, and since everyone else died, I liked that she survived. Even if she isn't going to the "good place." The only thing I see that she did wrong was to grow up, and Aslan didn't seem to like that.
Aug. 17th, 2006 05:57 am (UTC)
Heh - you know, in reading your comment it strikes me as rather funny that I had the reaction I did.

Because (coming back to the HP books), I've long been of the opinion that I'll have one hell of a lot of respect for Rowling if she kills Harry at the end of the series. I'm not saying I want that to happen, or will enjoy it - but, if that's the story she started out to tell, I hope she goes all the way with it and tells it (even though she's bound to know that millions of people worldwide will HATE her if that's what she does). In any case, we're going to see children we love die in Book 7 (whether it's Harry, or others). Guaranteed. And right now, I'm not particularly bothered by that. I think maybe it's because HP has always seemed darker to me, so I've come to expect tragedy. The Narnia books were more lighthearted, more childlike (not childish, but maybe more of a sense of innocence about them). Does that make sense?

But poor Lewis. Here I am slamming him for something I'll secretly cheer Rowling for doing, if that is, indeed, what she does. *facepalms*

I will admit, though, that I've never liked Susan. She was too "grown-upish" right from the start, reminiscent of Wendy from Peter Pan - another character I've never liked. *insert massive irony here* Even so, I don't think Susan deserved the treatment she got in the last book.* I don't see that the problem was her growing up - it was her losing that sense of wonder that Narnia could/should have endowed her with. After all, if I'd visited a place like that as a child, I like to think the experience would have stayed with me always, and given me a certain type of faith - I think it's that faith that Susan lost, and I do think that's a sad thing for her. (Not evil, though. Just sad).

*I also think she was unfairly treated in the film; it's just about the only thing I disliked about the film, in fact.
Aug. 18th, 2006 05:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, I guess Susan did lose faith in Narnia when she grew up. I think if I had experienced something like that as a kid, it would stick with me for a good long time as well.

I'm so hoping at least one of the big three dies in the last Harry Potter book. I'd like to see not all three, but one or two of them. Whether or not it's Harry, I don't know, but part of me wants to see Hermione killed, just because I like her so much.

I'd rather Luna not die, since she's a secondary character.
Aug. 18th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)
I am sorry you didn't LOVELOVELOVE this series as much as I do. I didn't feel as bothered about the implications of Christianity. I thought the imagery was so lovely, I could very clearly experience what his idea of heaven or another universe outside of this life could possibly be. I was filled with such love and wonder that I couldn't even put it into words. Even now when I re-read the series, the last 2 books really transport me to another universe. A very lovely universe that I would really love to end up in myself one day. So based on all of this, it is easy for me to forgive his obvious preaching and just enjoy the books for their pure aesthetic value. There's my sappy opinion. :)
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