The Last Battle

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This article is about the novel by C. S. Lewis. For other meanings, see Last Battle (disambiguation).
The Last Battle
TheLastBattle(1stEd).jpg
First edition dustjacket
Author C. S. Lewis
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Cover artist Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature
Publisher The Bodley Head
Publication date
4 September 1956
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 184 pp (first edition)[1]
42,854 words (US)[2]
ISBN ISBN 978-0-00-671682-2
(full-colour; Collins, 1998)
OCLC 752428300
LC Class PZ8.L48 Las[3]
Preceded by The Magician's Nephew

The Last Battle is a high fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by The Bodley Head in 1956. It was the seventh and final novel in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Like the others it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes and her work has been retained in many later editions.[1][3]

The Last Battle is set almost entirely in the Narnia world and the English children who participate arrive only in the middle of the narrative. The novel is set some 200 Narnian years after previous novel The Silver Chair and about 2500 years since the creation of the world narrated in The Magician's Nephew.[a] A false Aslan is set up in the north-western borderlands and conflict between true and false Narnians merges with that between Narnia and Calormen, whose people worship Tash. It concludes with termination of the world by Aslan, after a "last battle" that is practically lost.

Macmillan US published an American edition within the calendar year.[3]

Lewis and The Last Battle won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[4] The author wrote to illustrator Baynes, "is it not rather 'our' medal? I'm sure the illustrations were taken into account as well as the text."[5]

Plot[edit]

Narnia has had peace and prosperity since the reign of King Caspian X, but Roonwit the Centaur warns Tirian, the latest king of Narnia, that strange and evil things are happening to Narnia and that the stars portend ominous developments.

An ape named Shift has persuaded a well-meaning but simple-minded donkey called Puzzle to dress in a lion's skin and pretend to be the Great Lion Aslan. Using Puzzle as his pawn, Shift convinces the Narnians that he speaks for Aslan. Once the Narnians are convinced that Aslan has returned, Shift orders the Narnians to work for the Calormenes, and to cut down Talking Trees for lumber. The money will be paid into "Aslan's" treasury, held by Shift, on the pretext that it will be used for the good of the Narnians.

King Tirian and his friend Jewel the Unicorn at first believe the rumours of Aslan's return, but realize the lie when they hear Shift telling the Narnians that Aslan and the Calormene god Tash are one and the same. When Tirian accuses the ape of lying, the Calormenes overpower the king and bind him to a tree. He calls on Aslan for help and receives a vision of Digory Kirke, Polly Plummer, Peter Pevensie, Edmund Pevensie, Eustace Scrubb, Lucy Pevensie, and Jill Pole, though he does not know who they are. (Susan does not appear because she has stopped believing in Narnia, thinking of it only as some silly childhood game she had played when she was younger and immature.) The people in the vision also see Tirian and, though Tirian can't speak to them, they guess he is a messenger from Narnia. A few minutes later by Narnian time – although a week later from their perspective – Jill and Eustace arrive in Narnia. They release the King and rescue Jewel and Puzzle. A band of dwarfs are also rescued, but because their faith in Aslan has been shattered, they refuse to help, claiming "the dwarfs are for the dwarfs". Only one dwarf, Poggin, is faithful to Tirian, Aslan, and Narnia.

Tirian and his small force advance on the stable where the false Aslan is kept, and engage Shift and the Calormenes in battle. All the animals are killed – many by the dwarfs, who attack both sides. Tirian throws Shift into the stable, and Tash, who now haunts the stable, swallows the ape whole. In the last desperate struggle, Eustace, Jill, and Poggin are thrown into the stable. Tirian, left alone and fighting for his life, drags Rishda Tarkaan, the leader of the Calormenes, into the stable.

On the other side of the stable door lies a vast and beautiful land. Much to the Calormen leader's surprise and terror, Tash appears, and snatches him up under an arm. Tirian finds Peter, Edmund, Eustace, Lucy, Jill, Polly, and Digory all standing before him, and Peter orders Tash to leave. Aslan appears, and as they watch at the stable door, all of the people and animals, including those who had previously died, gather outside the barn and are judged by Aslan. Those who have been loyal to Aslan or the morality upheld by Narnians join Aslan in Aslan's Country. Those who have opposed or deserted him become ordinary animals and vanish to an unmentioned place.

The vegetation is eaten by dragons and giant lizards. Father Time calls the stars down from the skies into the sea, which rises to cover Narnia. The Sun expands and draws in the moon. Father Time then puts it out, freezing Narnia. Peter closes the door, and Aslan leads them to his country, telling them to go further in to Real Narnia. (Digory alludes to Plato whose Allegory of the Cave describes multiple levels of reality.) They move up a waterfall to some gates and are greeted by Reepicheep as well as meeting other good characters from the earlier novels. They find they can see a real England. Aslan tells them that the English friends of Narnia and the Pevensies' parents have died in a train crash. (Susan, who was not on the train, is the only surviving member of the family, and Lewis does not say whether she eventually comes to Aslan's country.) The series ends with the revelation that it was only the beginning of the true story, "which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before."

Characters[edit]

  • Tirian, the last king of Narnia, who leads the fight of Narnia against the Calormenes.
  • Eustace Clarence Scrubb, a friend of Narnia, who fights for the Narnians.
  • Jill Pole, friend of Eustace.
  • Shift, an ape who allies with Calormen and creates the "Tashlan" hoax. The Narnian version of Antichrist.
  • Puzzle, a donkey who is tricked by Shift, later fights for Narnia.
  • Ginger, a cat, who sees Tash in the stable and is so terrified he loses his power of speech.
  • Rishda Tarkaan, Calormene captain leading the battle against Narnia, swallowed by Tash during the destruction of Narnia.
  • Emeth, a righteous soldier of Calormene, who discovers his true devotion to Aslan.
  • Tash, an evil god of Calormen, who haunts the stable, opposes Aslan, and swallows Rishda and Shift.
  • Aslan, the god of Narnia, son of the Emperor-over-the-Sea, who takes form of a lion.
  • Lucy Pevensie, a friend of Narnia, called "the Valiant" during the Golden Age.
  • Edmund Pevensie, brother of Lucy and Peter, called "the Just".
  • Peter Pevensie, the oldest of the Pevensies, called "the Magnificent."
  • Digory Kirke, one of the first friends of Narnia, who witnessed the creation of Narnia. Called "Lord Digory."
  • Polly Plummer, friend of Digory, called "Lady Polly."

Reception[edit]

Floyd C. Gale wrote in Galaxy Science Fiction that the book "is a delightful fantastic fable of the type which the English have excelled since—or perhaps because of—Lewis Carroll".[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In England it is 1949, seven years after The Silver Chair and 49 years after The Magician's Nephew.
    • A manuscript by Lewis, the "Outline of Narnian History", dates major events in the Narnia world and simultaneous events in England. Since his death it has been published in books about Narnia and it is generally considered valid.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Bibliography: The Last Battle". ISFDB. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  2. ^ "Scholastic Catalog - Book Information". Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "The last battle, a story for children" (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record.
    "The last battle" (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  4. ^ (Carnegie Winner 1956). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  5. ^ Schakel, Peter J. (2002). Imagination and the arts in C. S. Lewis: journeying to Narnia and other worlds. University of Missouri Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-8262-1407-X. 
  6. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (1957-06). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 107–110. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
Citations
  • Caughey, Shanna (2004), Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles, Benbella Books, ISBN 978-1-932100-63-1 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
The Little Bookroom
Carnegie Medal recipient
1956
Succeeded by
A Grass Rope