Narniathon: The Last Battle

There are spoilers for THE LAST BATTLE in this post.

Narniathon: The Last Battle

THE LAST BATTLE is the final book in the Narniad (in both published and chronological order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE LAST BATTLE back in 2007, I hated it. I gave it only one star. I’ve stated in previous discussion posts that the main reason I decided to participate in the Narniathon was because I wanted to see if my feelings for THE LAST BATTLE changed upon rereading it.

As I reread THE LAST BATTLE, I tried to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it much more this time around. I do still have a couple of problems with it, though. The first problem is with some of the allegory and the second is the same problematic language regarding the Calormenes that I noticed in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.

I didn’t have a problem with all of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, I truly enjoyed the allusion to Moses and the staff with the serpent on it as the characters saw or didn’t see what was really past the door in the stable. I also loved the allusions to the second coming of Christ and what’s written in Revelations regarding the wars, false Christs, and the coming of the Beast. The way Lewis tied them all together as a coherent story was phenomenal.

The part of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE I had a problem with is regarding Susan and Puzzle. I still don’t agree with how Lewis treated Susan nor do I think that she shouldn’t be “redeemed” when Puzzle, who imitated Aslan, was. I know Puzzle was tricked by Shift. However, before Puzzle agreed to go along with Shift, Puzzle actually said that he knew it was wrong to impersonate Aslan. To me, this means he went along willingly. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Puzzle was “redeemed;” I just think if he was, then Susan should’ve been as well as she only liked nylons, lipstick, and invitations more than Narnia.

By mixing a little truth with it they made their lie far stronger.

I thought the problematic language of the Calormenes in THE LAST BATTLE was far worse than what I read in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Every time the dwarfs called a Calormene “Darkie,” I cringed. As I stated in my discussion post for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, I try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. I also think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. Because of this language, though, I didn’t enjoy THE LAST BATTLE nearly as much as I could have.

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the Narniathon. I’m glad I decided to participate in it. I have a new found appreciation for the Narniad. Thanks, Chris, for hosting!

Have you read THE LAST BATTLE? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

About Jenni Elyse

Hi, I'm Jenni. I’m an eclectic reader. I mostly read fiction and I favor fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, mystery, thrillers, and romance. The more kissing in a book the better!
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12 replies
  1. Chris Lovegrove
    Chris Lovegrove says:

    I’m pleased you got more out of this on your reread, Jenni, though with the usual caveats about reprehensible social attitudes and language – it’s not just that the dwarfs call the Calormenes ‘darkies’ (from which one might argue it reflected badly on them as fictional characters) but that Lewis himself refers to the Calormenes’ dark faces and the whites of their eyes showing.

    You know my views on the allegorical aspects so I won’t repeat them, but I appreciate that you spotted a parallel with Moses which didn’t occur to me before.

    Anyway, thanks for joining in – especially as you welcomed the opportunity to revisit the series – and for your responses on my posts. I have a post on Susan coming up soon and further questions on Katherine Langrish’s study which you may find interesting.

    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      I look forward to reading your thoughts on Susan and your read of Katherine Langrish’s book. 😀

      I agree that it’s not just that the dwarves use the language, but that CS Lewis describes them as such. I found the troublesome language in The Horse and His Boy when we really first get a closer look at the Calormenes. I just thought the “Darkie” term in The Last Battle was the worst of it.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    It sounds like you got a lot out of it and part of that was your awareness of the language and its negative implications.

    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      I did. 😀 I’m really glad I reread the series. I’m also glad I’m much more “woke” during this read so that I was aware of the harmful language.

  3. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Congratulations on finishing the Narniathon! I’m glad you enjoyed The Last Battle a bit more than the last time you read it.

  4. claire @ clairefy
    claire @ clairefy says:

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this on your second go-around with it! I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was very young, but I haven’t read any of Lewis’s other books. Your post makes me want to!

    It can be difficult to weigh how much to apply modern perspectives and standards to older works of literature. On the one hand, seeing language like what you described demonstrates the reprehensible attitudes that the creators of those works held at the time. Still, I think it is better to read these sources with a critical eye and acknowledge the biases that exist within them rather than avoiding the sources entirely or pretending that the biases do not exist.
    claire @ clairefy

    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      I agree with you. I don’t think we should avoid reading books written in the past that contain problematic/racist language. Like you said, it’s better to read these with a critical eye and acknowledge the biases that existed. Otherwise, society won’t change for the better.

  5. Louise Hallett
    Louise Hallett says:

    I don’t think I ever got this far in the series – it’s so many years ago I can’t remember either way! I’m glad it worked better for you this time. Sometimes once we are aware of issues within a book it is easier to manage them. Whilst we can’t condone the language (and attitudes) used, I agree that we do need to understand how different things were when these books were written.

    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      Thanks, Louise! 😀 I’m glad it worked better for me too. It was definitely worth reading the whole series again just for that.

      Yes, I agree that if we’re aware of issues in a book, then we can manage them better. It’s how I feel about DUNE. The book is definitely cultural misappropriation of Muslim culture. Because I know that, I can be dialectic about the book. I can acknowledge its faults and still enjoy it for what it is.

  6. chelsea @ your bookish friend
    chelsea @ your bookish friend says:

    as much as i love being critical about the language used in books, i agree that it’s unfair to completely erase old books based on our modern outlooks on life. obviously, we can name them as problematic and warn others about the harmful nature of the content, but we also need to be aware that it was socially acceptable at the time to write like this.

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