You Know, it Occurred to Me

C.S. Lewis is probably my favorite author. I can’t think of any I like more. Whenever I finish one of his works of fiction I always feel as if I experienced something profound, and “Mere Christianity” is a work of singular genius and perhaps the best summary of the basics of Christian faith ever written. I went to a Catholic High School and we used it as a textbook in a college level Apologetics class. It was that good.

And so, I read “Till We Have Faces”. Naturally, it was a brilliant book, but I don’t think it’s his best. I still prefer “The Great Divorce”, perhaps my favorite book ever. And I’m starting to really fall in love in particular with “The Last Battle”. My favorite line in all of fiction comes from that book. After the slaughter of the talking horses, King Tirian (my favorite Narnian King) says this to Jill, a child from our world:

If you must weep, sweetheart (this was to Jill), turn your face aside and see you wet not your bow-string.

Nothing else I’ve read has ever inspired me or made me feel ashamed quite like this line. How can anybody not love King Tirian? And how can one not fail admire Jill after this line, from after Eustace is captured by the Calormenes:

Even then Jill remembered to keep her face turned aside, well away from her bow. “Even if I can’t stop blubbing, I won’t get my string wet,” she said.

Lewis is the master at communicating great meaning in brief lines of prose and dialogue.

I also love this line, the climax from “Till We Have Faces”: From after Orual puts the gods on trial:

The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered. Lightly men talk of saying what they mean […] When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that need can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Brilliant.

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5 Responses to You Know, it Occurred to Me

  1. Crude says:

    Your high school had an apologetics class?

  2. Janet says:

    Hi Malcolm, I found this post when I was searching for that quote about the bow-string for something I’m writing, and it just so happens that I finished “Til We Have Faces” for the third time at about 1:00 AM this morning. I have been reading Lewis for about 40 years, and have been a member of the Memphis C. S. Lewis Society since its inception about 19 years ago. I’ve read a lot of Lewis!

    Anyway, when I first read TWHF in my 30s, I really liked it, but I would have said, like you, that it wasn’t his best. When I read it maybe 15 years ago, I still liked it, but found it very different than the book I remembered. When I read it this time, I started to think it just might be the best. Probably it is because I have discovered at 65 that I am probably Orual, not Lucy, who I would like to be. 😉

    So, I’m a bit jealous because you have so many years of reading Lewis ahead of your and it will be different every time you read it.

    This is a nice blog.

    AMDG,
    Janet

    • Thank you for the kind words, and welcome!

      If you want to see some more of my writing on Lewis, check out the eighth issue of the Sci Phi Journal. My article “The Problem With the Problem of Susan” will be appearing in it. It’s a defense against the most common attacks of Lewis’s decision not to include Susan in the new Narnia.

  3. Janet says:

    Oh darn. I bet I posted twice. Sorry.

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