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A novel by C.S. Lewis
(2005, Harper Collins)
[original copyright 1956])

The Chronicles of Narnia, book 7

When a talking Ape presents a fake Aslan to the Narnian animals, they wonder why their god has changed his ways, while the King fights for the safety of his people.


-- First reading (paperback)
March 31st to April 2nd, 2022


I think this could have been a great story about believing in false gods or being wary of pretenders, but unfortunately it was not the case. Instead, the battle wasn’t much of a battle at all, and while the children from our world helped the King, they didn’t do much else, and Aslan just turned his back on the world as it existed. I assume this is a variation of the Judeo-Christian great flood, and a way to start the world over, but it’s so unoriginal and boring. Narnia seems to have shrunk, as the entire human part is overrun in one place, and no talking animals come to the King’s aid, except those who have come under the Ape’s influence. How does everyone except the King take the Ape’s word that what they are doing is Aslan’s order? We don’t even get a motivation for why the Ape joined forces with the Carolmenes and wants to kill all the others in Narnia. It was nice to see that the descriptions of the new lands were at least very extravagant, even if the tone of the author remains condescending. Having read the entire series, I have to admit that it’s not great, though sometimes it tells a decent story. For the last book in the series, most of the wonder, what little there was, is gone.

Spoiler review:

I’ve read a lot of stories meant for kids, and this series does not appeal to their intelligence, for the most part. The author’s tone throughout is condescending, though I think it’s meant to be grand-mother-ish, but I don’t know a grand-mother who speaks like that… maybe seventy years ago.

In this story, the author also teases us, with many exclamations of how Tirian is the last king of Narnia, and we are in the last days of Narnia. Sure, Narnia seems to end, but Aslan essentially just moves it to another place, as it’s layed out all exactly the same afterwards, even transporting Archenland and Calormene with it. How callous, to destroy the world of those who don’t believe, only to transport it somewhere else for those who do. In the end, it’s heaven, because all of the children (even those who have become adults) from our world have died in the train crash, so their souls will live out the millennia in Narnia, I guess.

While I didn’t like the beginning of the story, with the Ape and the donkey wrapped in the lion skin, I thought it showed some promise. It’s frightening to see how dim-witted the talking animals of Narnia are that they take the Ape at his word. Are there none who doubt? Is this the first time that somebody has ever pretended to do something terrible in Aslan’s name? I understand how a group could be taken in by his duplicity, but there are far too many in this group, and not enough thinkers. Is all of Narnia shrunk so much that this hill now contains all of the creatures? It seems that they have learned nothing from the time when the White Witch took over, or when Caspian's step-father usurped him.

Cair Paravel has been overrun, but is that the only place where people or knights could have come from? Where is the castle that Eustace and Jill were sheltered at in the last book? Narnia has been described as being so vast, but here it seems to be confined to one forest.

It must be nice to be King in peaceful times, where the King and his unicorn can sit by the water, with no guards around, no courtiers –no nothing! So when he hears of a dryad’s forest being destroyed, they take off alone to investigate, without telling anyone- because there is nobody to tell! Running off to correct the problem is typical, and makes sense; I just don’t think the guards that must be ever-present around a King, even on vacation, would allow it, at least not alone.

I also don’t like the so-called honor the King professes, having killed the Calormenes without giving them a chance to defend themselves. This was definitely a defensive move, a clear attack on Narnia, and he had the correct reaction. But then he turns around and gives himself up because he thinks it’s murder.

Enough with the ranting, but it’s frustrating that the author thinks we have to go through that. The King is of course captured and tied to a tree. Fortunately, the mice feed him, but are too afraid of the fake Aslan’s wrath that they won’t help him escape. So the King prays to Aslan, and finds himself a ghost among a gathering of the others who have been to Narnia. And suddenly Eustace and Jill are there, cutting his bonds and helping him escape.

I really enjoyed two parts of this book. The first is how the Ape presented the donkey as Aslan, in the dark, barely visible, never talking, and being his mouthpiece. It’s no wonder those who are too dimwitted to think properly were taken in by the act. The second was the preparation for gathering more information at the storehouse tower nearby. There are some very interesting discussions, both when they get there, and after they rescue Puzzle the donkey and Jewel the unicorn. It was also interesting to note how the Calormene general dealt with the aftermath of Puzzle’s escape. While King Tirian meant to expose the plot by showing Puzzle to the crowd, the Calormenes turned it around, saying that a donkey dressed in a lionskin was pretending to be Aslan, and to beware.

But apparently Aslan was not the only god wandering around these parts, as the Calormene god Tash has also been sighted. And this is what makes the difference in the end, because the Calorment general doesn’t believe in either Tash or Aslan, and apparently others don’t either. The dwarfs were tricked once, and when Tirian frees them, they turn against him, too, not believing he’s a spokesman for Aslan either. At least they are thinking critically, even if they are too stubborn to ask the right questions.

The staged ploy to avoid people seeing “Tashlan”, the new god, was interesting. With a setup in the crowd and a soldier on the inside, things don’t go as planned, as both Tash and Aslan are there, at some point, though not together. The Stable has turned into a much larger arena, with the dwarfs seeing it as a dark stable, the evil Calormene who didn’t believe getting destroyed by Tash, and the children seeing the lush green landscape. Also interesting is Aslan's discussion with the Calormene soldier. Aslan considers loyalty to the evil god to be worship of Aslan, because loyalty is to be valued, even if it is misguided.

Then comes the end of the world, which is perplexing, because while Aslan has been very big on faith, he also values freedom. I guess, like in Noah’s time, it got too much for him, so he separates out those who believe and those who don’t. Then he sends a tidal wave to devour the lands outside the door to the stable, and leads all the believers to a new Narnia. Since Tirian is said to be the last king of Narnia, I guess the new Narnia will not have a King as leader.

The author does a really good job describing the lands, even if he uses that condescending tone that is so frustrating. Aslan reveals the new lands to be just like the old lands, and all the people that the children have ever encountered in Narnia appear, like Caspian did at the end of the last book. He also reveals that he saved their souls, and the souls of their cousins, from the train wreck that occurred in our world. So ends their adventures as they were, but I suppose their blissful time in heaven has just begun.


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