The Last Battle
First edition dustjacket
|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Cover artist||Pauline Baynes|
|Series||The Chronicles of Narnia|
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature|
|Publisher||The Bodley Head|
|4 September 1956|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Pages||184 pp (first edition)
42,854 words (US)
|ISBN||978-0-00-671682-2 (full-colour; Collins, 1998)|
|LC Class||PZ8.L48 Las|
|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.
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 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.
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. 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."
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. In the north of Narnia, an ape named Shift had persuaded a well-meaning but simple-minded donkey called Puzzle to dress in a lion's skin (an echo from Aesop's story of The Ass in the 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 and deceives a majority of them into serving 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.
Tirian and his friend Jewel the Unicorn hear word of "Aslan's return", but recognize the farce that Shift has fabricated in league with the talking cat Ginger and the Calormene warlord Rishda Tarkaan: the lie that Aslan and the Calormene god Tash are one and the same. When he accuses the ape of lying, Tirian is tied to a tree far from the stable where Puzzle is being held. Tirian 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 it only some silly childhood game she played when 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 – but 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 itself. Tirian learns that Shift and Rishda have unintentionally summoned the actual Tash to Narnia and that Roonwit and the Narnian army have all been killed in battle.
Tirian and his small force advance on the stable to expose the truth of Shift's deception. However, after covering his tracks by demonizing Puzzle, Shift and Rishda weed out the trouble makers among the surviving Narnians by having them venture into the stable to "meet Tashlan". But Ginger, sent in to aid in the deception, runs out in terror, having lost his ability to speak. Emeth, one of Rishda's men and a devout follower of Tash, insists on seeing his god. Rishda tries to dissuade him, but Emeth enters the stable, and the dead body of another soldier, who was stationed in the stable to murder the rebellious Narnians, is thrown out instead. Tirian's group engages Shift and the Calormenes, but most of the remaining Narnians are slaughtered.
Tirian throws Shift into the stable, and Tash, revealed to have been haunting the stable since Ginger briefly entered it, swallows the ape whole. This event frightens Rishda, who offers Eustace, Jill, Poggin, and the dwarves as sacrifices to Tash to avoid his god's wrath. But Tirian, left alone and fighting for his life, drags Rishda into the stable and finds himself in a vast and beautiful land. Peter, Edmund, Eustace, Lucy, Jill, Polly, and Digory appear. Peter orders Tash to return to his realm, and Tash vanishes with Rishda in his clutches.
The kings and queens bear witness to the end of the Narnian world. All the inhabitants, including those who have died, gather outside the barn to be judged by Aslan; the faithful enter Aslan's Country while those who have opposed or deserted him become ordinary animals and vanish. The vegetation is eaten by dragons and giant lizards before Father Time calls the stars down from the skies into the sea as it rises to cover Narnia. The land freezes when Father Time puts out the sun and the moon. Peter closes the door, and Aslan leads them to his country, telling them to go further into the one true Narnia. (Digory alludes to Plato whose Allegory of the Cave describes multiple levels of reality.) They move up a waterfall to gates where they are greeted by Reepicheep and meet other 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 all 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 later in life.) 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."
- Tirian, the last king of Narnia, who leads the fight of Narnia against the Calormenes.
- Jewel, unicorn, retainer to King Tirian, also his best friend.
- 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 form of the False Prophet and the Antichrist.)
- Puzzle, a donkey who is tricked by Shift. (The Narnian form of the Beast and an allusion to "The Ass in the Lion's Skin".)
- Ginger, a cat, in league with Shift
- 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.
- Peter Pevensie, the oldest of the Pevensies, High King Peter "the Magnificent" of Narnia.
- Lucy Pevensie, sister of Peter, Queen Lucy "the Valiant" of Narnia.
- Edmund Pevensie, brother of Lucy and Peter, King Edmund "the Just" of Narnia.
- Digory Kirke, first friend of Narnia, who witnessed its creation, Lord Digory in Narnia.
- Polly Plummer, friend of Digory, Lady Polly in Narnia.
- 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.
- "Bibliography: The Last Battle". ISFDB. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- "Scholastic Catalog - Book Information". Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- "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.
- (Carnegie Winner 1956). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- 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.
- p. 359, fn. Paul Ford. 1986. Companion to Narnia. New York: Collier Books.
- p. 55. David Downing. 2005. Into the Wardrobe. Jossey-Bass
- Gale, Floyd C. (June 1957). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 107–110. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- Caughey, Shanna (2004), Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles, Benbella Books, ISBN 978-1-932100-63-1
- Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-7879-7890-7.
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- The Last Battle in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, the full-colour C. S. Lewis centenary edition
- C. S. Lewis at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB)
- Project Gutenberg Canada ebook (works of C.S. Lewis are public domain in Canada as of 2014)
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