The last story in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is called The Last Battle. It starts out with a talking ape named Shift, and a talking donkey named Puzzle. Shift is very clever and Puzzle is not so clever and he is pretty much the ape’s slave, doing everything he tells him to. They find a dead lion, and Shift takes the skin of it and puts it on Puzzle to make him look like Aslan from a distance. Shift acts as Aslan’s mouthpiece and starts ordering the talking beasts to clear the forests alongside Calormen solders that have been sneaking to the north a few at a time. When the last king on Narnia, Tirian, and his best friend, Jewel the unicorn, find out that the nyads and dryads (the living souls of the trees) are being murdered, they fly out in a hastened rage to find out who is to blame. When they hear that Aslan is the one ordering such terrible acts, they find themselves at a loss as to what to do.
Of course, help comes from our world, but this time it is more than just the younger children who come to the rescue (Eustace and Jill). The older Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, but also Professor Digory Kirk and Lady Polly who were the ones to witness Aslan creating Narnia in the beginning. One of the Pevensies, Susan, did not return because she sort of stopped believing in Aslan and Narnia, and their adventures there to be real. She cared more about being popular with the men, and what was the latest fashion.
This story reminds me of the book of Revelation, where it describes the Antichrist who will come and the tribulation before the Judgment. It’s really interesting how the beasts on Narnia are swayed to follow orders in the name of Aslan that were unlike anything the real Aslan would ever ask of them. And it is interesting how their logic gets twisted so that they don’t know who to believe. I was surprised that the Calormen god, Tash, was actually real in this story. I thought it was something non-existent that the Calormens worshipped and sacrificed their babies to in order to appease his supposed anger. Shift became a slave to the captain of the Calormen solders and told lies to the Narnian beasts about Alsan and Tash being one and the same, and how they would work for him down in Calormen for wages to be put into the treasury for Tashlan’s use. (They combined the names of Aslan and Tash to enforce their idea of them being the same god.)
By now, the many of the beasts are disillusioned about Alsan and don’t wish to believe in him anymore if he is like the one they have been taking orders from. Things become worse when King Tirian learns of the castle of Cair Paravel being overtaken by Calormenes by ship, and his reinforcement army all dead enroot to Lantern Waste where Shift and Puzzle are. The King and Eustance and Jill capture Puzzle and want to show the beasts he’s a fake, but the plot twists again as the ape tells the beasts that Tashlan is very angry to find out a beast has “dressed itself up in a lion-skin and is wandering about in these very woods pretending to be Aslan.”
One part of the story is comical where one good Calormen soldier describes his encounter with the true Aslan:
“Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
“And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog-”
“Eh? What’s that?” said one of the Dogs.
“Sir,” said Emeth. “It is but a fashion of speech which we have in Calormen.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s one I like very much,” said the Dog.
“He doesn’t mean any harm,” said an older Dog. “After all, we call our puppies Boys when they don’t behave properly.”
“So we do,” said the first Dog. “Or girls.”
“S-s-sh!” said the Old Dog. “That’s not a nice word to use. Remember where you are.”
I didn’t realize, at first, how funny this was until my friend told me she had to explain to her young boys about the word for female dog.
This book was a fun read; definitely bizarre at points, but great material for growth of the imagination.