|The Last Battle|
The Bodley Head
|First Edition Published||
| "He’s a stranger here, your majesty... he couldn’t possibly know."|
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- "...for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after."
- ―C. S. Lewis[src]
Published in 1956 and awarded the Carnegie Medal, The Last Battle chronicled the end of the world of Narnia. Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb return to Narnia to help save it from treacherous invaders and a False Aslan.
- By Caldron Pool
- The Rashness of the King
- The Ape in its Glory
- What Happened That Night
- How Help Came to the King
- A Good Night's Work
- Mainly About Dwarfs
- What News the Eagle Brought
- The Great Meeting on Stable Hill
- Who Will Go into the Stable?
- The Pace Quickens
- Through the Stable Door
- How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In
- Night Falls on Narnia
- Further Up and Further In
- Farewell to Shadowlands
The story of The Last Battle begins with a donkey, Puzzle, and an old ape, Shift, sitting on the banks of Caldron Pool on the Western Edge of Narnia beyond Lantern Waste. Puzzle has been convinced that he is not a clever donkey and that Shift should make all decisions in every matter of life. As the two sit, a strange object rolls over the falls falling into Caldron Pool. Using guilt tactics, Shift manipulates Puzzle into jumping into the pool and retrieving the item. Puzzles struggles to bring the object back and delivers a lion skin (a remnant from a hunting excursion beyond the edge of Narnia) to Shift. Immediately, Shift states that Aslan has sent this skin and that Puzzle should wear it. Narnians would believe that Puzzle is Aslan and would obey his every command (as Shift gave them). Puzzle does not like the idea but is convinced that he is not clever enough to see the benefit of such an idea. Shift sends Puzzle to town for food and commences working on the skin.
After minor alterations the skin is ready. Shift hides his work from prying eyes (birds overhead) and presents his work to Puzzle when the donkey returns. Again, Puzzle protests, feeling that Aslan would be quite upset to see him dressed in a lion's skin, but he is powerless to deny the ape his will. Puzzle dons the skin and, though not completely convincing in daylight, he does present a satisfactory illusion in dim firelight or moonlight. Suddenly a great thunderclap knocks both animals to the ground. Both agree that it is a sign, but it is Shift who has his way in the end. Puzzle would pretend to be Aslan and Shift would tell him what to say.
Three weeks later the King of Narnia, Tirian, is sitting outside of his hunting lodge to escape the formality of Cair Paravel. His trusted friend, Jewel the unicorn, sits with him as they discuss rumors that Aslan had come to Narnia. Their joy is great at hearing the news, though it is hard to believe that He has finally come. A centaur, Roonwit, approaches and bows to the king. Tirian asks if there is more news of Aslan. Roonwit declares that what he sees in the skies (for centaurs are gifted stargazers) is more terrible than he has ever seen. The coming of Aslan is a lie. This news outrages Tirian.
Much confusion surrounds Roonwit's news. The confusion is fueled by the appearance of a dryad. She pleads with Tirian to save the living trees in Lantern Waste, which are being felled by Narnians for sale to the Calormenes. Tirian begins to question the dryad but is stopped when she cries out and falls over. Her tree far away had been cut down.
Tirian immediately sets off with Jewel toward Lantern Waste. He discharges Roonwit to gather troops and for him to hasten towards battle. As they travel along the river, they sight a rat, riding a raft on the river. He confirms that the logs are being taken to the Calormenes and that "Aslan Himself" ordered the felling of the trees. When Tirian arrives at the scene, he comes into the presence of two Calormenes who are driving a Narnian horse which is dragging a log. When the log became jammed in the mud, the Calormenes began beating the horse, which immediately spoke in its own defense. Outraged at the abuse of a Narnian talking horse, Tirian draws his sword and kills one of the Calormenes while Jewel runs the other through with his horn.
Other Calormenes shortly discovered the slayings of their countrymen and pursue Tirian into the forest. Tirian runs a short distance but stops, feeling guilty of some treachery for killing the two soldiers. He returns to the Calormene camp and gives himself up. He requests an audience with Aslan but was taken before the ape. The ape, Shift, is completely adorned with all sorts of riches and clothing that server to give him a fairly ridiculous air. He commands the squirrels to deliver more nuts (Aslan wants them) and they must do it immediately. The squirrels ask to see Aslan and have Him tell them but the ape rejects them. Aslan may come out this evening, he tells them.
The ape then goes into a long dissertation that Aslan has been to soft on them and He now is "licking them into shape". Shift also claims to be a very old man, and not an ape, and it is his age (and wisdom) that makes him worthy of being in Aslan's confidence. Additionally, all animals are going to be sent to Calormen where they will work for a living. Their pay will be put into Aslan's treasury and used for the common good. The final, most painful report that he delivers is that Aslan and the Calormene god Tash are one and the same, and henceforth Shift refers to him as 'Tashlan'. Ginger the Cat asks if Aslan is no more than Tash and it is confirmed by the Calormene soldier. Tirian is outraged by Shift's dialogue and calls him a liar. For this Tirian is taken and tied to a tree.
During the night, many small animals come and attend to Tirian, feeding him and giving him water, but not untying him, fearful of Aslan's wrath. They confirm Aslan's presence as they saw him the prior evening. The animals leave him alone. Shortly, Tirian sees a bonfire being lit in the distance near the shack where the ape gave his speech. A creature on four legs came out of the stable and stood before the crowd who cried loudly for Aslan's mercy. Shift leaned toward the mouth of the creature and turned, speaking something to the crowd. They moaned terribly and the creature, which looked somewhat, though awkwardly like a lion, turned and went back into the stable.
Knowing that the creature was not Aslan, Tirian reflects on the times when Aslan appeared to kings in the past - Peter and Caspian X - and begins praying for Narnia. He asks nothing for himself but to let Narnia be saved. He asks for help from the kings of old and help from the outer world. As he begins to cry out to the children, he falls into a deep dreamlike state. In the dream, he sees several people seated around a table preparing for a meal. They can apparently see him as well, as several of them rise from their seats and one of the girls screams. The one man who stood identifies the group as the seven friends of Narnia and himself as Peter the High King. Tirian tries to speak but finds that he cannot. The image of the seven fades and Tirian awakes exhausted in the forest, still tied to the tree.
He is not alone long, however as the woods seem to open and two of the children he had seen in his dream appear before him. They quickly untie him and give him food. The two children turn out to be Jill and Eustace (see The Silver Chair). They are dismayed to find that Tirian is seventh in descent from Rilian, whom the two had saved. When all things are explained to Tirian, the three start toward some battlements that are visible in the distance, which belong to one of many supply towers scattered throughout the northern land. Tirian unlocks the tower and once inside they search the lockers and find assorted supplies, including: oiled bow strings, swords, spears, Narnian mail, and Calormene arms. They also find a bottle containing dark dye, dried biscuits, and firewood. To complete the disguise, Tirian decides that they will dress like Calormenes in order to breach their camp and expose the phony goings-on. This is done with the aid of the Calormene equipment and skin dye.
After some sleep (and brief training with the weapons they had found in the case of Jill and Eustace), the three begin their journey toward the Calormene camp. Their first order of business would be to rescue Jewel, who had been hobbled with the other horses in the stables. They would then retreat to join the army which Roonwit would be bringing from Cair Paravel. Jill leads the party silently and effortlessly (one of her skills from Girl Guides) through the woods until they arrived at the stable. Tirian sneaks forward and grabs the lone Calormene guard who offers Jewel's location and leads Tirian to his old friend. When Jewel is freed, Tirian ties the sentry and leaves him in the stable. Tirian and Jewel return to the place where Jill and Eustace were supposed to be. They find that Jill is not where she should have been. After some brief moments of concern, Jill silently returns to Eustace's side, giggling under her breath. When asked what was funny, she presents the false Aslan to the men. Tirian draws his sword to kill Puzzle, who had been forced to play Aslan by Shift, but is stopped by Jill who defends Puzzle's ignorance of his situation. Puzzle tells Tirian that Shift told him that Aslan wanted him to dress up. Tirian is forgiving and he leads them all to meet a band of dwarfs. They meet the group, led by two Calormenes, and stop the dwarfs' procession.
The Calormenes tell the disguised Tirian that they are leading the dwarfs to Calormene to work in the Tisroc's mines. Tirian adresses the dwarfs and challenges the Tisroc's orders. The soldiers are astounded when Tirian pulls Puzzle into the torch light and reveals the deception to the dwarfs. The dwarfs stare in amazement but the Calormene soldiers challenge Tirian, who attacks them, and, with some help from Eustace, kill the two. The dwarfs settle the remaining Calormenes who were bringing up the rear of the procession. Cheers for Aslan are hailed but are less than accepted by the dwarfs. They are tired of the name Aslan and refuse to be taken in. After much discussion, they proceed on their own away from Tirian and his people.
One dwarf, Poggin, returns to Tirian and announces his loyalty. The party then trooped back to the tower to spend the night. After victuals are done the next morning, Poggin tells of the fanciful tale concocted to cover the disappearance of Tirian. Ginger said he had seen and heard Tirian cursing the name of Aslan when suddenly in a flash, Aslan appeared and swallowed Tirian whole. It is surmised that Ginger and Rishda Tarkaan are actually pulling Shift's strings. Poggin relates an episode in which he overheard the cat and Tarkaan discussing the use of Shift until their victory is complete. They will let some of the Narnians in on the secret as they deem them worthy, but in all the plan is to hand Narnia over to the Tisroc.
During the discussion, the sky clouds over and a great darkness falls upon Tirian's group. A great cloudy figure shaped like a man with a bird's head and huge curved beak soars overhead and northwards, toward Shift and his band. The grass withered beneath it, its claws outstretched, appearing to take all of Narnia into its grasp. When the thing is gone, Poggin suggests that demons should not be summoned unless one wants to see them. The thing was Tash.
The group continues their discussion, gaining whatever information possible from Jewel during his imprisonment. Though the Calormenes tried to force him to admit that the false Aslan is real, which Jewel refused to do, he really learned very little about the enemy's plans. The companions are faced with a choice to either to go back to Stable Hill and reveal the false Aslan to the Narnians, or to join Roonwit and the army coming from Cair Paravel. They decide to meet Roonwit.
Tirian and the children remove the Calormene disguises and pack some biscuits before locking the tower and leaving. All felt lighter knowing that war was about to be waged against Shift and the Calormenes. The conversation is lighthearted, Jill talking about how she wished Narnia could go on forever, the history of Narnia, and various other topics. The mood changes when Tirian stops and greets Farsight the Eagle who brings news. Cair Paravel has fallen to the Calormenes. Worse yet, Roonwit is dead from a Calormene arrow and the army they seek does not exist. Narnia is no more.
It is decided that they will fall upon the ape and expose his deception to the Narnians. Tirian begs the children to return to their own world rather than meet death in battle. The children refuse to go, pointing out that even if they wanted to they didn't know the way. Tirian thought of sending them to Archenland, but Calormen would almost certainly take it next and presumably the rest of her empire afterwards. They proceed towards Stable Hill together.
Jill and Eustace chat on the way, trying to decide what would happen if they died in Narnia. Would they be dead in their own world, too? Eustace surmised that it would be better than getting bashed up in a British Railways accident. Jill finds this a rather odd statement. Eustace describes the sudden jerking movement that pulled them into Narnia as being in an accident. While the children discuss trains, the others discuss the future. Several options were discussed, including living in solitude.
Once they reach the stable, they watch while Ginger the cat passes through the doorway. After a few moments pass Ginger, now rendered a dumb beast, shoots out in a fit of terror. He climbs up a tree and is never seen again. A Calormene solider, Emeth, passes in next and after a pause, a figure in Calormene armour falls out, clearly dead.
At this point, Tirian and the children move into the firelight and attempt to rally the Narnians to them. Shift is caught and hurled through the doorway, at which point a "blinding greenish-blue light shone out from the inside of the stable, the earth shook, and there was a strange noise."
Many creatures rally to the defence of Narnia, including all the Talking Dogs, many smaller creatures including mice, moles and squirrels, and finally a large boar and the bear. However, very few of the beasts have moved - most are petrified by the wrath of 'Tashlan' within the stable - and so the Calormene soldiers force the loyal Narnians step by step closer to the stable. As Tirian siezes Rishda Tarkaan, he cries in desperation to Tash and Tash appears. Tash pounces on Rishda and is about to murder the remaining Narnians when Peter appears and banishes him. Peter is just one of the Seven Kings and Queens who came to aid them, including: Lord Digory, Lady Polly, High King Peter, King Edmund, Queen Lucy, Eustace, and Jill.
They discover that they are in a wide green field, with a grove of trees close by. Peter suggests that they eat of the fruit of the trees and Tirian realizes at last where he is.
After eating as much as they wanted, Tirian asks how the others came to Narnia, then asks why Susan is not present. Each one of the seven explains that Susan had lost her belief in Narnia. Then Peter and Edmund explain that they had been standing on the railway platform when the train came around the bend a bit too fast. There was a loud roar and something had hit them hard but it didn't hurt and they found themselves in Narnia. Old aches had disappeared. Digory tells about being on the train with Polly and not feeling old and stiff any more. Peter says that they just stood there until the door opened. Tirian turned and saw a door just standing in the middle of a field. He looks through a crack in the door to see the glow of the fire, stars, and sky. The inside of the stable is bigger than the outside. Lucy tells how in our world once a stable held something that was bigger than the stable.
Tirian, very much thrilled at the sound of Lucy's voice, asks her to tell how she came into Narnia. She tells of the shock and the noise and just showing up. She told how a Calormene had come through the door and stood with his sword upraised as if waiting for someone to come in. He appeared not to notice the blue sky and trees all around. She tells how Ginger came in then dashed off at the sudden appearance of Tash, and the first Calormene kneels to Tash. When the second Calormene entered, the first seemed very surprised but the second killed the first and threw him out of the door. Then she mentions Shift's fate, but Edmund finishes explaining it. They tell one by one of those who were tossed in and Tash's dealing with them. The dwarfs are there and are as unfriendly as ever, as Lucy points out. However, they acted strangely, sitting in a tight circle, not looking around or noticing anyone around them. As it turns out, they believe they are in a dark stable and act accordingly. After many attempts to show the dwarfs that they were, in fact, in the great outdoors with flowers and grass and birds had failed. Without warning, Aslan suddenly appears before them. Lucy begs Aslan to do something about the dwarfs, but even Aslan is unable to bring their vision to them. He says that their prison is in their own minds and that their fear of being "taken in" keeps them from being taken out.
Aslan walks to the door leading to "nowhere" and shouts thrice with a great voice, "TIME!"
Aslan wakes Father Time, who rises into the sky like a giant among giants. Father Time raises a great horn to his mouth and sounds the call. The sky immediately fills with shooting stars and a great starless patch forms as the stars fall to the ground around them. The stars in Narnia are people and they land, falling behind Aslan and the humans. Their light shines into the darkness, enabling the onlookers to see all of what was happening. As the children watch, all the vegetations are eaten by the lizards, dragons, and salamanders. (Jill and Eustace had previously seen them sleeping in The Silver Chair and were told they would awaken at the end of the world, which is now.) Then all the people and animals (including those who had previously died) gather outside the door, either to join Aslan or not join him (talking beasts became ordinary animals if they do not join). The ones who do not join fade into Aslan's shadow, never to be seen again, to fate unknown even to C.S. Lewis (but it may be Tash's realm). Then the great dragons, salamanders and giant lizards grow old, die and rot into skeleton structures. Then the whole world (presumably as far as Bism) is consumed by a great flood from the Utter East, to the Utter West. Then the mountains in every location, crumble and fall into the new body of water. The water then reaches and hits the stable door, but does not pass. The sun rises, and it has become a dying red giant like the sun in the World of Charn. The moon rises and is consumed by the sun. Aslan orders Father Time to crush the sun like an orange, and almost immediately, the great body of water starts to become solid ice. Peter closes the freezing door and locks it, thus bringing an end to the World of Narnia.
However, Aslan leads them away from their dead world and into his own country. As Aslan leads the humans into the Garden within the Western Wild of the true Narnia, he explains to them the jolt they felt upon entering Narnia. He tells them that there was a railway accident and that they died in the accident. Susan Pevensie, however, did not die because she did not go on the train with the others. Her final fate remains a mystery.
- Focus on the Family Radio Theater produced a dramatised audio version.
- "It is as if the sun rose one day and were a black sun."
"Or if you drank water and it was dry water."
- ―Tirian and Jewel, on disappointment
Controversy has arisen over the fact that in the final book, Susan Pevensie does not get to re-enter Narnia or the Narnian version of paradise, because she now loves many things of the world--such as dating and clothes--and has come to believe that Narnia was just a child's game that she once played with her siblings.
Some feel that Lewis was too harsh with one of the main characters in the stories, particularly condemning of her for liking worldly things. Some fans went as far as expressing their strong opinion in fan-written stories and plays to attempt to "correct" this "issue" and allow Susan to rejoin her siblings. Others, however, believe that Lewis realistically portrayed the "falling away" from their faith that many people experience. They also feel that Susan was not condemned for liking clothes and boys, only putting emphasis on these things above all else.
Another controversy arises over the character of Emeth, a character from Calormen who worships Tash (Aslan's opposite), but nonetheless gets to enter Aslan's country because he lived a good and noble life, and Aslan counted that as work done unto him and not Tash.
Some Christians feel that this scene undermines the Christian correlation to Narnia, as it seems to be Emeth's works and not true faith in Aslan (read: Christ) that gets him into heaven. Others, though, feel that this scene attests to Aslan's goodness, as Emeth never got a chance to know Aslan and simply did the best with the knowledge that he had. Also, some would say that this scene effectively argues against charges of racism in the Narnian books, as the "whitebread" Susan does not get into Aslan's country while the outsider Emeth does.
It is also important to note that Emeth, while clearly not a servant of Aslan, does not claim to have been satisfied with what he knew of Tash. Aslan tells him that all the good he did for Tash was impossible for Tash to accept because Tash cannot receive good service. He goes on to tell him that if he had truly been serving Tash, he would have not continued to be seeking for Tash. Since his service is of nobility and undying faith and Tash is of evilness and deceit, Tash cannot be the one who receives it.