By Alexis Record
“Mom? Where is Aslan sending the people he doesn’t like?”
“Are you familiar with what the New Testament says happens to unbelievers after they die?”
“Oooooooh. Um, Mom? Do all Christians think something like that will happen to me when I die?”
“No, not all of them.”
“But isn’t that why I got pulled aside at [family event] and [extended family member] wouldn’t let me go until I believed in Jesus?”
“She thought she was ‘saving you from Hell.’ That shouldn’t have happened to you. I’m sorry.”
“I still don’t feel good about that. I wish I had said something different. Instead I lied to make her let go.”
“It’s too late now, you’re a Christian forever.”
“I’m joking! In all seriousness, I might have done the exact same thing in your shoes.”
“Yeah. In fact, I didn’t have a choice about becoming a believer. The difference being I got indoctrinated and you got pounced. Maybe you could come up with some things you could say if something like that happens again.”
“Okay. How about, ‘I’d love to talk about God but, oh no! I have to go! THERE ARE BEES IN MY MOUTH! BEES!!!’”
“Hey, whatever works.”
Aslan starts to destroy Narnia by waking up Father Time. He was mentioned briefly and randomly in The Silver Chair when Jill and Eustace saw him sleeping under the earth. Well, he’s up now and he blows a horn full of “deadly beauty.” Then all the stars crash down. This causes a “spreading blackness” that creates “some terror” in the children’s minds. (Deadly, blackness, and terror! Better than harps!)
Aslan says that while Father Time was sleeping his name was “Time” but now he needs a new name. This is another hint that this new life will be lived in eternity, and that time will cease to exist. (More white torture nightmares for me.)
The stars that fall to the ground turn out to be people—people with spears for, er, spearing stuff, I guess. (Of course we would have battles in Heaven; Tirian is there after all.) Those stars that fell had been trapped in the sky. What a wonderful imagination Lewis has… oh wait, this is all taken directly from Revelation 12:4.
In a 2014 interview with Moyers & Company, Neil DeGrasse Tyson said, “You know, one of the signs of the Second Coming is that the stars will fall out of the sky and land on earth. To even write that means you don’t know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the answer wrong.”
While I can no longer base my astronomy (or eschatology) on the Bible, I still get a chill when I read Lewis’ words about the sky being “starless for ever.” It really does feel like an ending of everything.
The star people land next to Aslan and create an “enormous and very terrible” shadow. (Spoiler: Aslan’s shadow is the entrance to Hell.)
For whatever reason these glorified bodies our characters now have only seem to erase sweat and blood and project beautiful clothing, but they don’t protect them physically as we’ll see later when Peter’s hand goes numb. The new glorified minds are also unpredictable. They keep our saints from experiencing the horror of watching people snatched by terrifying demons or sentenced to shadow hell in the next scene, but they can still experience terror when watching the sky fall. The happy happy here is not super consistent.
Aslan sends dragons, giant lizards, and featherless birds (impossible, but okay) that have bat wings (why not just say giant bats then?) to literally eat Narnia’s landscapes. (Revelation 6:14 has this same removing of mountains and islands, but without the dragons. Lewis’ version is officially superior.) Without land masses, the oceans flood all of Narnia. When the destruction is done, all the dragons and lizards and giant bats shrivel up and become bones before the children’s eyes like Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade after drinking from the wrong grail.
What happens to the people living on the planet getting eaten, you might ask? They die. If not by a dragon’s mouth, then in the ensuing flood. Wait, drowning babies in a flood? What kind of deity would do that? What a monster! (*cough* Genesis 6 *cough*)
Then sounds of wailing are heard and millions and millions of (probably newly drowned) people and creatures of Narnia are forced before Aslan while our (also dead) heroes watch from behind the stable door.
It’s Judgement Day, bitches!
Each person (or creature) is made to look Aslan/Jesus in the eye. Lewis, in his narrator hat, says, “I don’t think they had any choice about that.” He’s unusually passive in these pages. As if saying, “The children never saw them again.” or “I don’t know what became of them.” distances himself in the least from the words he’s actively writing about their demise. It’s clear that the ones Aslan didn’t like (so the unbelievers and black people) are sent into Aslan’s “huge black shadow.” Since Lewis publicly believed in eternal torture in Hell, it’s no secret where the shadow leads.
Are we still smiling? Yes! There was “laughter in Aslan’s eyes” right after this. (Psycho!) Last chapter we mentioned Eustace’s thoughts about all this being interrupted by “a great joy” that “put everything else out of his head.” Again, more (inconsistent) emotional lobotomies!
What did people have to do to be spared from Aslan’s shadow? They had to love him.
“But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right.”
(Being frightened of someone you love is super healthy. That way they don’t hurt you. Ask any abuser.)
Little Bit listened to this whole scene silently without any of her usual interruptions. She kept waiting to hear if all this madness was some kind of dream sequence or if there’d be a better explanation. Without a Sunday School background, this section doesn’t make a lot of sense. Honestly, it’s all truly ugly without religious whitewashing.
After Judgement Day is over, Aslan orders what’s left of Narnia to die. The sun starts to swell and causes a deep red glow to reflect upon the moon and on the now-flooded Narnian waters. This red reflection looked “like blood.” There is a familiar prophecy out of Joel, an Old Testament book of the Bible, which says that the “Day of the Lord” (the end of the world) will have a darkened sun and a moon that turns into blood. Growing up in a Baptist church during the End Times craze (back when the Left Behind series was selling wildly) I heard many Sunday morning interpretations on the “moon turning into blood” prophecy. The literalists said God would make it physically turn into blood. My childhood pastor said it was a total lunar eclipse combined with pollution. My family had one foot in the literalists’ camp, and another foot in the “botched scientific explanations to achieve magic blood” camp. Lewis simply has the moon reflecting a dying sun.
This “bloody moon” thing was such a big part of End Times lore back then that we did not often leave it out. You either found a way to make the moon bloody, or you didn’t have a decent apocalypse! It would be like lemon bars without the powdered sugar!
Father Time (or whatever his name is now) is ordered by Aslan to smash the sun into the moon. With this act, the world dies in an icy blast. I assume, but it’s not clear, that this action also kills Father Time in a Sampson-murders-a-temple-full-of-people-for-God-and-also-gets-crushed-to-death way via Judges 16:28-31. If not, he’s stuck for all eternity on a cold, dead planet. (*shudders*)
And that’s it for Narnia.
“I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die.”
With nothing more than death on the other side, Aslan has Peter close the stable door. This physically hurts Peter to do it since the bitter cold makes his hands numb. Getting hurt for in God’s service (I mean Aslan’s service) is a repeated theme throughout these books so of course it would be included in Heaven. (Recap: Pain receptors are officially part of glorified bodies. In the next section we’ll also have exhaustion, thirst, and the ability to engage in war, or at least contemplate it, when Tirian runs into the singular Calormene in all of Heaven.)
While no one mourns for the people eaten by Aslan’s shadow (to be eternally tortured according to Lewis’ belief) they do mourn for Narnia. For those curious about how this works with the whole “no tears in Heaven” thing, Lucy informs our readers that she’s sure Aslan would not stop their mourning. Tirian even says it would be discourteous not to cry for “mother,” as he calls Narnia. There is no virtue in withholding tears.
He’s not wrong. Lewis departs from Scripture here for the best of reasons. He stops just short of making his beloved characters total and complete zombies. Well, all except for Peter.
Peter chides Lucy by saying, “What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?”
First off, crying is not a bad thing. It’s actually super weird that our boy Peter is not grieving the death of all those people and his whole beloved world. The implication is that “with Aslan ahead” they should not be sad. Ever. No matter what Aslan has allowed or is doing to other people. (Similar to how my mother once counseled me.)
Second, all of them are there? Aren’t we forgetting someone? YOUR OWN SISTER, YOU HEARTLESS MORON! Screw Susan, right? Out of sight out of mind. (This is your brain on Aslan.)
This is the third disturbing thing Peter has recently said. To recap: “For a long time . . . nothing happened,” “five minutes ago,” (don’t forget the smiling bit), and now, “[you shouldn’t be crying since] all of us [are] here.” Just like the biblical Peter, our Narnian version has thrice opened his mouth when he shouldn’t have.
Peter is supposed to be our role model to immolate. I’m sure Lewis doesn’t see anything wrong with grinning your way through the kidnapping of others by a monster (they had it coming due to being born in the wrong country), not caring about your sister, not caring about being stuck somewhere for all eternity when your deity orders it, and not caring about eternal torment of whole entire species and races (save a token one or two from each). No, not when we’re thrilled to be with Aslan, who, let’s repeat, is allowing and ordering all these horrors. To Lewis, Peter is the mature one handling things correctly, controlling his emotions like a man should, and who is exactly in the right headspace. In other words, he’s the worst kind of apathetic, emotionally stunted brute.
For a writer with such a wonderful eye for detail, Lewis’ faith really blinds him to just how awful all this would be for anyone actually experiencing it. Sadly, this leaves us with characters divorced from typical human reactions. We hardly recognize them now. It’s only when Lewis returns occasionally to reality do our children have any sort of humanity left.
I keep calling them children, as they technically are, but I’m not sure I can use that label and remain true to the text. Heaven has robbed them of childhood, just as it has taken the physical years from the bodies of Digory and Polly. Each character is in a state of in-between—their bodies maturing or reversing to that same developmental age Susan is condemned for desiring.
So far, Heaven has been incredibly underwhelming or downright disturbing. Yet it’s these aspects that make it truly a real adventure. Narnia was only as good as its imperfect anchor to the corporeal. What is the richest fruit, but one that alleviates hunger? How is the sweetest drink satisfying if all our drinks are sweet? What is a good rest without its connection to a stressful reprieve? Laura Miller sums this disconnect up perfectly, “Lewis, reaching for celestial beauty, attains only a hallucinatory hyperrealism that unstitches Narnia from the humble, medieval details that made it live.”
Miller found The Last Battle to be the least favorite of every single author and expert she interviewed for her compendium on Narnia. It left Miller, as it left me, empty and gloomy. It’s no doubt as to why. Lewis killed off a beloved world only to attempt to upsell us on some heavenly one. I couldn’t help but notice the analogy between this and the trade-in Christianity offers: give up your life for a heaven no one has seen or touch or tasted or known. Seek ye it first. Take our word, nay, God’s word, for its existence. Cram this idea into your kids’ heads. Pull children (who aren’t yours) aside at parks (this happened to both my kids recently) or living rooms (this happened to my daughter) and force it on them. Work hard and long to shape your brain into believing enough to earn a ticket there. What could go wrong?
The only thing left for our group to do is turn their backs on the Narnia they have known, believing the lie that it was somehow inferior to where they find themselves now, and head into this blindingly new necro country before them.
Further up, and further in.
Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at the Chronicles of Narnia
October 13, 2018