The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis
Everybody dies in the end. But heaven, in its indescribable beauty, awaits us. This book is about the fall of Narnia and the admittance of the Pevensies into Aslan’s country. It’s about the death of the Pevensies, Jesus’s return to earth, and the marriage between Narnia and Aslan’s kingdom. It’s an exploration of what happens after death and the building of Jesus’s kingdom. All of the events lead up to the Pevensies’ admittance into heaven. There is a wonderful connection between Narnia’s end times and earth’s end times. But what is the parallel? That’s the question that I wanted to answer. To do that, I needed to review this book and then review the book of Revelation. In many ways, I think this book is Lewis’s vision of how the earth will be renewed and what heaven will look like. It is primarily Lewis’s interpretation of the end times. Reading this book made me wish that I had more knowledge about the Bible so that I could more quickly recall relevant Biblical details and readily construct an interpretation with it. Here is my summary and analysis.
This story opens with a clever ape disguising his donkey as the Great Lion, Aslan, by covering the donkey in a lion’s skin. Again, here is the theme where evil can disguise itself in forms that we do not recognize. The White Witch and her Dwarf in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” disguised themselves as a stump and a boulder. Evil can take many forms. Here, evil purposefully puts on a deceitful mask, so that it appears as something good. As soon as we remove the outer skin, the true beast is revealed. Be careful of outward appearances. Be wary of the deceitful. Under the direction of the Ape, Shift, and his fake Aslan, the inhabitants of Narnia are instructed to do many terrible acts, such as cut down the forest, saddle Talking Horses, and dig in the mines.
The King of Narnia during this time period is King Tirian. After receiving word about Aslan’s return, the King confronts the Ape. He calls the Ape a liar, and as a result of the king’s outspoken rebellion, he is tied and bound to a tree. I like this part, because it highlights a key characteristic that separates a King from the masses. All of the beasts in Narnia agree with the Ape’s words. They do not question his motives or dig beyond the surface level appearance. They blindly follow Shift’s lead. However, King Tirian recognizes the Ape’s lies and he is not hesitant about speaking out. This is the character of a true leader. He is willing to speak up and act against false gods. He can think independently, he is not going to follow the crowd, and he is willing to question and contend with authority. Leaders, such as Tirian, are willing to question authority and the rules that authoritative figures have constructed. People in authority are only human, and consequently, they are imperfect and the decisions they make are not perfect. Because of our imperfections, we should question the decisions made by human minds. I think that questioning certain actions is wisdom. I think this is what separates a King from a follower: the wisdom about when it is appropriate to contest a figure of authority and the strength to do so.
While in the Ape’s captivity, King Tirian cries to Aslan for help. Although Tirian never met Aslan, and it has been generations since the Great Kings and Queens, Tirian is desperate. In times of desperation, we cry out to God. And God answers, just like Tirian’s cry was answered. In response to Tirian’s request for help, Eustace and Jill arrive in Narnia. Isn’t it awesome when God responds and we can identify a clear answer to prayer? Yes! However, I think that sometimes we get skeptical about God’s promises and we question if he really hears our prayers. Sometimes, we get tired of waiting. But waiting and patience is part of God’s design. In Narnia, there are very long periods of waiting between deliverance by the children from Earth. Generations of kings pass between times of deliverance. In the same way that long periods of quiet inactivity pass in Narnia’s history, there are also periods of extended waiting in our lives. Be confident that God hears and will act in his time. I think that time is a major theme of all the Chronicles of Narnia novels.
Eustace, Jill, King Tirian, and the Narnians develop a plan to reveal the Ape’s deception. They try to persuade the Dwarfs to join their side; however, the Dwarfs stubbornly refuse. Another theme of this story is the blindness of the Dwarfs. They become trapped by their own stubbornness, and consequently they never see the true beauty of Aslan’s kingdom. The Dwarfs become trapped in their own minds, relying only on their own independence. When Aslan, near the end of the story, tries to show them good food and drink, the Dwarfs misinterpret the vittles as manure. They simply refuse to believe. Because of their unbelief, there is nothing that Aslan can do for them. He cannot force people to believe in him. In the same way, when Jesus returns, there will be a group of people who refuse to believe him even after laying their eyes on him.
The story’s heroes discover Shift’s donkey, who is disguised as Aslan using a lion’s skin. They plan to reveal the fake Aslan to Shift’s followers, but the clever Ape beats them to the punch. The Ape assembles his followers and warns them about a fake Aslan disguised as a donkey who is wandering the woods. During this assembly, the Ape provides the opportunity for anybody who wants to enter the stable and meet Aslan. Only one person at a time though. And, he warns that Aslan is the same person as Tash, and that the Lion/god is angry and terrible. The Ape warns that he cannot guarantee that whoever enters the stable will leave with his life. This builds suspense and terrifies the assembly, but it also makes us wonder what is hiding in the stable. After a Calmorene soldier enters the stable, his dead body is quickly thrown out the entrance, and King Tirian seizes this opportunity to attack Shift. The Last Battle begins. During the fight, Tirian, Tash, and others are thrown through the stable door.
On the other side of the door, Tirian meets reincarnations of the Great Queens and Kings of Narnia. It is significant that Susan is missing, and there are seven people:
Tirian also meets Aslan. On this side of the door, Aslan banishes the beast/demon, Tash, by simply speaking. Tash was summoned by the Ape and caused much distress in the old Narnia. In the old Narnia, the demon was powerful. But compared to Aslan, the demon was nothing. Compared to Christ, our spiritual enemies are nothing.
Standing in the new Narnia, Tirian observes the desolation of the old Narnia and the judgement of Narnia’s people. He looks through the doorway, and this is what he observes.
He sees Father Time blow a horn.
Then, he sees shooting stars, and the stars were returning home to Narnia. Where the stars left the sky, only blackness/emptiness remained. Aslan was calling the stars home. Remember from “The Dawn Treader” that stars are really just people. These people appeared with silver hair and glittering bodies.
Aslan’s body emitted a great shadow to his left. He stood in front of the door.
Creatures of all kinds approached the door where Aslan stood: massive lizards, dragons, featherless birds, Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, Satyrs, Fauns, Giants, men, Calormenes, Archenlanders, Monopods, and more. There were so many creatures that they could not possibly have all fit through the door. But they do.
One by one, all the creatures looked directly into Aslan’s eyes and were judged. Some creatures were directed to Aslan’s left, into his great shadow. The creatures who went this direction disappeared into the darkness and were never seen again. Other creatures passed to Aslan’s right and joined King Peter and the other Kings and Queens. Among those who passed to Aslan’s right were Tirian’s companions, Jewel the Unicorn, Roonwit the Centaur, and Farsight the Eagle.
Only the Dragons and Great Lizards remained in Narnia. Through the doorway, they could be seen tearing up the trees and destroying the entire landscape.
The land died. Then, the Dragons and Giant Lizards grew old, and they also died. Their flesh and bones decayed until only emptiness could be seen through the doorway.
Next, a massive wave consumed all of Narnia such that water covered the whole expanse from the ground to the sky. In the sky, they could see a dying sun and a dying moon.
Father Time throws his horn into the sea and squeezed the sun in his hand. Instantly, ice-cold air blasted through the doorway. Narnia ended. Only total darkness remained.
King Peter closed the door.
With the destruction of old Narnia, Tirian and company are directed to travel further into Aslan’s country, towards the West. They discovered that the land was lush, full of flowers and grass, with a blue sky and fresh air. It was ineffably beautiful. It eventually became evident to the Kings and Queens that they were in the real Narnia. The old Narnia, which was destroyed behind the doorway, was only a reflection, only a mere shadow, of the real Narnia, which existed in Aslan’s country and which the Kings and Queens were now standing in. New Narnia is the true Narnia. In it, the grass was more green, the air was more fresh, the flowers were more beautiful, and the landscape more stunning. The new Narnia is Aslan’s country. It has no beginning and no end. It cannot be destroyed like the old Narnia. The description of new Narnia is best summarized by the Unicorn, “I have come home at last!” When we reach heaven one day, we will proclaim, “I have come home at last!” Heaven will more beautiful than anything on Earth, and we can only imagine what it will look like. You should be excited for that. I am.
Lastly, the Kings and Queens meet all of the historical Narnia heroes from the previous stories, such as Glimfeather the Owl, Puddlegum the Marsh-Wiggle, Tumnus the Faun, and Caspian. All of these characters have passed away and ascended to Aslan’s kingdom. The old Narnia and old England (also known as the Shadowlands, because they are only shadows of Aslan’s real countries) are no longer relevant. The real stories happen in heaven, and while we are alive on earth, we will never know what happens in heaven. We can only strive to glorify Christ daily and await the day that God calls us home.
Notes on Revelation
Lewis’s story, “The Last Battle,” is clearly based on many events found in the book of Revelation. This seems appropriate to me. The first Chronicles of Narnia book, “The Magician’s Nephew,” is based on events in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Similarly, the last Chronicles of Narnia book, “The Last Battle,” is based on events in the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
To begin with, Revelation is John’s vision. John describes what he sees. Similarly, the conclusion of the “The Last Battle” is King Tirian’s observation. We rely on Tirian’s eyes to see the fall of old Narnia, and we rely on John’s eyes to see the Earth’s last days. In Revelation, there is a theme of Babylon. Babylon is used to describe the sinful condition of humanity. Throughout history, there will be many Babylons, but all of them will ultimately be replaced by Jesus’s kingdom. Lewis makes it clear that there are many worlds in his stories beyond England and Narnia. Each of these worlds is a Babylon and will be replaced by Aslan’s kingdom. The lands of England and Narnia are mere shadows, they are Babylons, that will eventually crumble. Greece, Rome, and the United States are also Babylons that will eventually be replaced by Jesus’s kingdom. In Jesus’s kingdom, we will see new creations, such as a new Garden and a new Jerusalem, and these new lands will be more real and more breath-taking than anything we have seen or experienced on earth.
In Revelation, John describes Jesus’s return as a “final battle” between Christ and the beast. It is only appropriate that Lewis titled his book, “The Last Battle,” referring to the final battle between God and Satan. During Narnia’s final days, it is ruled by Shift, the Ape, and his beast, Tash. Shift and Tash are parallels to John’s vision of the beast and the false prophet. During the end times, the beast and false prophet will rule the earth, and they will perform miraculous signs on behalf of Satan, just like Shift and Tash ruled Narnia, performing signs in the name of a false Aslan. Anybody who worships the beast will experience God’s fury, and I cannot imagine that this will be pleasant. God will cast those who worship the false prophet and the beast into a fiery lake. In Narnia, the beast’s worshippers are simply and gracefully directed into Aslan’s shadow, where they are never seen again. Lewis avoids any references to fire or punishment, but the theme is clear. The creatures who passed to Aslan’s left and through the Lion’s shadow were not permitted to enter Aslan’s kingdom, and it can be assumed that they were directed to someplace unpleasant. When Jesus returns, the dead will be judged. Those whose names are not in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire and not received into God’s kingdom. God is the ultimate judge.
The number 7 (seven) is paramount to the book of Revelation. It is a wholesome number and used repeatedly to represent completion and perfection. The return of Jesus will complete God’s plan for humanity, so it is appropriately marked with the number that symbolizes completion. For example, John writes to 7 churches and sees visions of 7 lampstands, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 angels, 7 plagues, and 7 bowls. It would be incongruous, and not a true interpretation of Revelation, if Lewis did not utilize the number 7 in his story. When Tirian passes through the doorway between the old Narnia and new Narnia, he meets the seven Kings and Queens of Narnia (  Peter  Edmund  Lucy  Polly  Digory  Jill and  Eustace). To achieve 7, Lewis needs to explain away one of the Pevensies. Unfortunately, Susan leaves the faith, does not believe in Aslan, and therefore is not permitted into Aslan’s country. It is interesting to note that Lewis constructs this explanation in order to achieve 7 Kings and Queens. He could have easily permitted Susan to enter Aslan’s kingdom and have 8 kings and queens to meet Tirian, but instead Lewis chooses to expel Susan in order to embrace the number of perfection. I think this was intentional.
Narnia’s final days are marked by Father Time’s trumpet. When Father Time begins to blast his horn, the stars begin to fall from Narnia’s sky and Narnia’s fall begins. Throughout all the events that Tirian witnesses through the doorway, Father Time’s horn is singing. When the trumpet stops, Narnia ceases to exist. In a similar fashion, the final moments of earth will be marked by the 7 trumpets of the 7 angels. When angel number 7 blows the seventh horn, God’s judgement of humanity will be completed. The fall of the old Narnia is described with much of the same descriptors as the fall of the earth is described in Revelation. For example, Revelation 6:12-14 says that on the day of God’s judgement, the sun will turn black, the moon will turn blood red, the sky will recede like a scroll, and the stars in the sky will fall to earth. These are exactly the events that King Tirian sees happen in old Narnia!
Lewis also speaks about shutting out the Dragons from new Narnia. Dragons are classic representations of evil, and as such were not permitted to enter the new Narnia. Dragons represent all of the souls that are not permitted to enter God’s kingdom because of their unbelief. To the unbeliever, Jesus’s kingdom is closed just like the door to the new Narnia gets closed on the Dragons. The Dragons are quarantined from ever corrupting God’s kingdom. Therefore, the Dragons will die with their beloved Babylon. When Jesus returns, he will conquer the Dragons and vindicate Christ’s followers. I look forward to the day that Jesus completes the marriage between heaven and earth, and that I get to lay eyes on heaven. That will be a glorious day! No more Dragons. “I have come home at last!”