I know, I know, you’ve heard it before, but the Last Battle is my current favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia. 🙂 Its very different from the other six books in the series. The story begins with an ape (who is smart and cunning) and a donkey (who is stupid and lazy) discovering a lion’s skin. Shift, the ape, dresses up Puzzle in the skin and they conspire to pretend that he is Aslan. We then move over to the current king of Narnia, a young man named Trinian, and his unicorn, Jewel. They initially are thrilled with the reports that Aslan has come, but then confused and worried when new reports, such as of talking animals being sold into slavery to the Calormen’s -Aslan’s orders – arrive. They conclude that there is nothing else to do but go and discover the truth of the situation for themselves, for they are loyal to Aslan. They know that he is not a “tame lion” and that he need not follow the rules that he has set down for his followers, but they also know his character and are confused by his supposed actions. When they arrive at the place where Shift and Puzzel have set themselves up, they are just in time to witness a Cat convincing the gathered Narnians and Calormens that Aslan and the Calormen god, Tash, are one and the same. Now, Trinian knows this to be a lie, and calls it such, and is then tied up and taken prisoner as a heritic. That night, Trinian is convinced by the ceremonies he sees and the orders he hears given by ‘Aslan’ that he cries out for help to the High King Peter. As a result, Eustace and Jill are sent to Narnia to assist him. They free the King and escape. Eustace and Trinian find some Calormen armor and begin to conspire how they might use it to fool their enemies. While they are doing this, however, Jill sneaks into the stable where they are keeping Puzzel during the day (because otherwise it would have been really obvious that he was not a true Lion) and frees the donkey, bringing him back with her to their hiding place. Trinian wants the donkey killed for his treachery and blasphemy but Jill intervenese, pointing out that the donkey was tricked in the first place by the ape and that he is very sorry for what has happened and wants to help right it. So they execute their plan – Trinian and Eustace, posing as high ranking Calormen officers, go through the camps in search of Narnian slaves who are submitting because they believe themselves to be there on Aslan’s orders, they then bring out Puzzel, dressed in the lion skin.
Of course, now a war breaks out, the Narnian’s who believe Tirian against the Calormens and the Narnian’s that don’t. The dwarves split away on their own (with the exception of one, who chooses to join the Narnian side), chanting that dwarves are for dwarves, and fighting both sides. Its a really horrible time in Narnia and Tirian, Jill, and Eustace are struggling not to loose hope. They receive news then, through an Eagle, that Narnia has fallen, Cair Paravel has been taken by the Calormen army. Jill and Eustace wonder what will happen if (when, as it seems now) they die in Narnia. They journey back to the stable where they were keeping Puzzel and still claim to have Tashlan (their combined name for Aslan and Tash). They are dealing with the rumors that Aslan really isn’t inside and have chosen to deal with it by allowing people to go inside the stable if they choose – one at a time. They can then see for themselves if the god really is inside, if they dare. This causes much disturbance and no one is willing to go inside. Finally, the Cat who was responsible for convincing the Narnians and Calormens that Aslan and Tash were two different names for the same god, volunteers to go inside, as part of the ploy. Everything does not go to plan though, and when he emerges from the stable, he is terrified out of his wits and has forgotten how to talk, completely. He is no longer a talking animal. This settles it for the Narnians, they will not go in to see Aslan. But a young Calormen soldier named Emeth steps forward and volunteers to go in. He loves Tash, and has served him faithfully all his life, and wishes to meet him. His superior officers try to dissuade him of this, subtally, for they know what waits inside the stable, but they can’t make too big a deal of it or risk giving themselves away to the Narnians. So he goes inside and a moment later falls out again, dead. The Calormens then try to force a talking boar inside and when Tirian, Eustace, and Jill see this, they jump out of their hiding place and call all true Narnians to their side to fight this lie. A huge battle begins now and soon the children find themselves fighting with their backs to the stable. Some dwarves are thrown inside by the Calormen army. Finally, they themselves give way before the army and find themselves hurtling backwards into the stable.
Tirian sees this happen and is sad for his friends that have died. Suddenly, an idea occurs to him, and he grabs the head Calormen soldier, who has been in league with the ape since the beginning, and jumps into the stable with him. There, they are greated by the god Tash, who is very displeased with his servent and kills him. When he turns on Trinian, however, he is banished by seven beautiful kings and queens, all obviously of Narnia. They order him back to his own lands and never to come to Aslan’s land again. Tash obeys. Trinian then recognizes the youngest king and queen as Eustace and Jill and is introduced to the rest as the High King Peter, King Edmund, Queen Lucy, Lord Diggory, and Lady Polly. Queen Susan has evidentally turned away from Aslan, and forgotten Narnia and is caught up in the distractions of her world. They are all in a meadow and none of them know how they got there. They go exploring and a little ways away, they discover the group of dwarves that had been thrown in earlier. However, they do not see that they are in the beautiful meadow. They believe themselves to be in the dark, smelly stable surrounded by filth. When the kings and queens try to offer them some fruit they have picked, they react as though they had been given animal waste. The kings and queens leave them and soon meet the real Aslan. He commends Tirian, Eustace, and Jill for doing well in Narnia’s last hours. He then calls for Time and the children find that Narnia has come to an end. They watch through the stable door, which is standing alone without walls, floors, or ceiling, in the middle of the meadow, as Narnia disappears and becomes a barren world. All of those who were still alive in the battle outside the stable suddenly came streaming through the door towards Aslan. As each creature passed, it looked Aslan full in the face. Those that saw Aslan and loved him, although some were still afraid, passed through. Those that saw Aslan and felt only terror and hatred ceased to be talking animals immediately. Eustace witnessed that some of the dwarves who helped murder true Narnians only a few hours earlier were among some of those that loved Aslan. When the work was complete, and nothing alive was left in what used to be Narnia, Aslan ordered the High King Peter to shut the door. Aslan then begins to laugh, a happy and joyous sound and bounds away, shouting further up! further in! None could keep up with him, so the kings and queens set off in the direction he went, walking and talking. Lucy is crying over the passing of Narnia, and Diggory is solemn, remembering Narnia’s birth. Soon the group runs into Emeth, the young Calormen soldier who went into the stable to see his god, Tash, and was killed. They are surprised to see a Calormen, especially one who displayed such love and devotion for his god up through the moment of his death, in the place they were now at (none of them are really sure where that is now, but they do know that only true Narnias who loved Aslan are alive in it). They ask him for his story and he gives it. He tells how he found himself in the meadow, and how he met Aslan shortly there after and was terrified of him, for he served the god Tash and knew that Aslan would know that. However, Aslan said to him “all the service thou hast done Tash, I account as service done to me.” Aslan then goes on to explain that any good thing done in service to Tash is given over as service to Aslan. And any terrible thing done as service to Aslan is given over as service to Tash. Therefore, since Emeth had speant his life living as Aslan requried his servents to live, he was accepted into the place he know was. After hearing his story, the kings and queens journey further into the meadow. They soon realize that they are in Narnia, only not the old Narnia that they know, but a different, newer, and bigger Narnia. Here everything was perfect and beautiful. They rejoice in their finding and begin to run, discovering that they can now run without tiring. They come to a pool, which is kept full by a waterfall falling into it, and swim up the waterfall to get to the top, and run some more. Along the way the encounter many people whom they have known or have heard. Diggory and Polly meet the first talking horse of Narnia, the horse they brought over from England. Eustace and Jill meet Puddleglum and Rillian, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy see Reepicheep. Trinian meets his father. Shasta and Aravis, Caspian, Trumpkin, Trufflehunter, the Beavers, and Tumnus, everyone is present. Lucy then spots a great cloud, but as she looks at it, she sees that it is not a cloud, but another land, England, in fact. As they look, they can make out people there, standing and waving at them, and they recognize Peter, Edmund, and Lucy’s parents. They are told that they may journey over to see their parents, but before they can Aslan calls them all to himself. He tells them that they are no longer ‘alive’ as they would call it, that the children from Earth have all been in a railway accident and that they others died in the battle at the end of Narnia. They are now is Aslan’s land, forever.
Okay, so this is already ridiculously long, but I really wanted to summarize the parts I wanted to talk about. First, obviously, in this book Lewis comes out with some of his incorrect theological beliefs. If your kids are reading these books, I think its important to talk to them about the truth, that even if they serve Allah their whole lives in the same way that God commands us to obey, they will not find salvation anyway. Its also a good opportunity to talk about how only Scripture is free of error, and that they should always be watchful for things that go against what the Bible teaches. It also provides an opportunity to talk about hell. The Bible does not teach the same view of hell as is portrayed in the book by the dwarves’ view of themselves in the meadow.
However, I think this book does a great job conveying the absolute joy we will have when we finally go to be with our Lord. Everyone there is joy and it is all because of Aslan and for Aslan. They love him and now must never be parted from him.
The book also does a good job reminding us that even though it is hard for us to grasp, this world will one day come to an end. We do not know when this will happen. Certainly Trinian was not expecting it to happen during his reign. We should, then, remember our goal and always be looking for ways to glorify God, preach His Word through evangelism, and live in a manner that pleases him.