In the first chapter of this book we meet Shift the Ape and Puzzle the Donkey. We get the idea that the Ape is a mischievous thing, but after all the build up over reading this title, Bookworm1 declared the story "boring." We moved along to chapter 2 and things got dicey when a couple of Calormene heads rolled. From that moment on, Bookworm1 was riveted as was Bookworm2 who loves reading about a good battle every now and again. If battles were what Bookworm2 wanted, battles were definitely what he was going to get. I can't believe Hollywood hasn't dipped their toes into this one! It has everything the modern audience wants: good guys, bad guys, not-so-sure guys, heads being lopped off and fantastic battle scenes between fantastic creatures. While it is perfect food for Hollywood though, I'm not so sure I would necessarily trust them to this!
The Last Battle has a lot of battles in it, as the title might suggest to you. It tells us of the last king of Narnia - King Tirian - who discovers the talking beast and earth men falling for a false Aslan. All of Narnia lives in fear and confusion as Shift the Ape spreads lies about Who Aslan is and what His demands are for His creatures. Shift teaches fear apart from love and places the Narnians under the heavy yoke of Calermene slavery. It is too much to bear and King Tirian is hopelessly - but bravely - fighting back with a little help from some old friends of Narnia.
Throughout this book, hope is battling against despair and I have to tell you that I was becoming extremely emotional as I waded through the chapters. When Narnians began fighting Narnians my day was just about ruined. Jonathan came home from work and I told him I was really quite upset due to the fact that the Narnian dwarfs had turned against Aslan in a very violent way. The kids were wondering why I was crying. (Yes. I was pathetic. But it was really horrible and all my dread of the book was staring me straight in the face. Oh, I hated it.) I told Bookworm1 that we were going to have to speed through to the end of the book so that I could just get the inevitable over with. The kids looked at me completely mystified displaying lopsided grins of curiosity as we read on.
Then. THEN! Narnia fell. Oh, friends. It was a dark day . . . but for Aslan! Somehow, someway Lewis wrote me into the depths of despair and then wrote me out of it with hope, delight and joy. Narnia came to a close but the kings and queens of Narnia then entered Aslan's country. I turned the pages (having forgotten myself how this all played out because I avoid this book as a general rule, not caring to feel it) and was greeted by my old friend Reepicheep. I paused to cry again. This time the kids were snickering at me as I wiped tears away telling them how happy this story was. Reep! He was alive and well and whole and so were all of our friends: the Beavers, Mr. Tumnus, Puddleglum and every Narnian character that we have ever known and loved (minus one, of course).
My heart could barely contain the joy. Why? Why was this story so impacting? Because since I first read this book I have tasted the bitterness of death in losing several beloved family members. The feelings of darkness, despair and loneliness can weight so heavily on one's heart and Lewis's writing brought the pain back up to the surface where I could feel and taste it again. Oh, how I hate sin and death. The darkness of death has to be walked through, yes, but not without a promise -
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25:8
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Death is a villain, but Christ is the Victor. The pain of losing those we love is so very great as to be overwhelming at times. The pain makes you short of breath and has you grasping for any signs of hope. Of course, there is hope in Christ. And the picture Lewis paints of death defeated - for me - is tremendously moving. Reepicheep stood at the gate welcoming everyone in. The Old friends and warriors of Narnia ran up to greet the kings and queens newly arrived. I wept thinking about how joyful a moment it will be when I see my loved ones once again. And though I love my life here on earth very well, Lewis made me feel and begin to know that this all pales in comparison to "Aslan's country." I wept for joy; I wept for hope restored; I wept for things I haven't previously understood and still do not fully understand. I wept because death really does lose its sting and Christ really does reign victorious.
The kids, of course, didn't see this as clearly as I did. However, I had them in rapt attention as I struggled to keep my voice steady while reading the last two chapters. At the end, Bookworm2 declared that we should "read it again!" as a "Bible story book!" and Lewis' plan to write a "great supposal" which would introduce children to concepts in Christianity met with instant success in our household. I smiled some more as I wiped away a few additional tears, unashamedly. I think it is important to let your kids see you weep in despair and also for joy. Tears are just another way of sharing truth with others if we'll consent to let them fall without trying to hide or wipe them away. Life is a battle but the victory is already won. I hope my kids know this every day that they are alive. I pray they will always be moving further up and further in alongside me. This life - as depicted in part in a magical world called Narnia - is the greatest adventure.
"But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."