By Alexis Record
“Yay! Our bodies crumpled up and we died! Woohoo! We’re so happy!”
“Yeah, they did have a weird reaction.”
“I hope someone saves them from all this.”
“From all what?”
“This weird place that makes their heads funny.”
“You mean Heaven?”
Aslan calls everyone he hasn’t sentenced to his shadow (Hell) to follow him further into Narnia Heaven. Our party starts walking along while talking fondly about past wars, among other things, because this is how we remember the late, blood-soaked Narnia. All the dogs are there because, obviously, woofies go to Heaven. (Finally! Something Lewis and I agree about!) After a short period of time, arguing breaks out amongst the dogs since they could swear they smelled a Calormene.
In Heaven? What! How is that possible?!
Tirian wonders if they will meet the Calormene “in peace or war.” You’d think war would stay out of Heaven. Not Tirian’s Heaven, and certainly not the biblical one. The dogs are tired and require water after running around so much, so add bodily fatigue and thirst to the list of things Lewis includes in glorified bodies.
The smell does turn out to be a Calormene. (There’s a possible implication here that Calormenes smell more than what Lewis would think of as a “typical” person. Also, this smell is rare here. He may be the only man of color in Heaven.) He turns out to be Emeth from the bonfire scene who went willingly into the stable. If this seems like it happened a million years ago, it might have! Time no longer exists. (*internally screaming*)
Everyone immediately demands an explanation for what the hell (no pun intended) Emeth is doing there. We can’t let him just be without explaining himself. (Like when a person of color is driving through a nice neighborhood and people are compelled to call 911 and make them explain themselves to the cops.)
Emeth greets the men first, calling them “Warlike Kings,” and then next, “Ladies whose beauty illuminates the universe.” (That about sums up men and women. Nothing lazy, missing, or unnecessary about that description in the least.) Then he launches into his tale.
This guy was a true believer in Tash so when he figured out his masters were atheists it created all sorts of rage-y feelings inside him. (Atheists are worse than those who believe in an evil god? M’kay.) He knew they had “called on [Tash] without knowledge or belief” and now Tash was about to get some vengeance on their unbelieving asses. Again, the idea you can call demons without thinking they are real is why my childhood church has its fear-based hatred and mistrust of people like me. (I pretty much summon demons daily with my haircut alone.)
When Emeth went through the stable door he ran into a Calormene guard set there by the evil atheist leaders. Emeth killed that guy and dumped his body outside. (Our first murder-y proof that he’s a good guy!) Afterwards, he goes to explore this sunshine and grass world and runs into Aslan. (Insert a lot of lavish praise here for the terrible lion in his story.) Aslan was particularly pleased with Emeth’s willingness to be happily killed by him: “[B]etter to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.” Ew.
Aslan calls Emeth “Son” and welcomes him to Heaven. When he asks why he gets to be here, Aslan says, “Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”
Have we forgotten that Tash required human sacrifices? Human sacrifices! Better that than being an unbeliever?! (Insert my Marge Simpson-like mMMmm-ing here.)
Aslan then explains how belief is so very important, how even if you believed in the wrong god but did the right things it counted towards doing it for the right one when you found him, and how truly seeking god will be rewarded. Lewis gets these ideas from Hebrews 11:6; James 1:17; and Matthew 7:7 respectively, and before you can say, “Hey, wait a minute, that’s not what my church taught,” just know they are contradicted by Revelation 9:20; Hosea 4:6; and Exodus 4:21 respectively. (It’s almost like the Bible is a mess.)
When I do something good as an atheist I am told by certain believers that it was really God working through me. Everything “good” comes from God because “God is good.” (All the time?) So instead of chance or talent, my accomplishments or windfalls are blessings from God. Okay, well then what is the point of God? I obviously don’t need belief to be good or have good things happen to me. I don’t need a Holy Spirit to help me. I clearly don’t need a church to facilitate my deeds. Adding a deity to the goodness equation is like adding a “plus zero” to a math problem—it’s unnecessary.
I get this tripe the most from those who believe in both Divine Command Theory and objective morality at the same time, which they can somehow do without their brains exploding. In other words, it’s good if God does it (like drowning babies) because God is good, and, also, there are absolute objective moral wrongs (like, um, drowning babies). Pssssshhhh (*brain exploding noise*) So God is good and what I do is good so what I do counts as “from God.” (I’ll get right on drowning those babies.)
Emeth finishes his story with joyful self-abasement, “[Aslan] called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.” (This immediately offends the dogs present. It would offend the other brown people, too, but they’re all in Hell.) Welcome to White Heaven, you poor lonely bastard!
In Matthew 15, when Jesus calls the Canaanite woman a dog (after initially rudely ignoring her) she responds by agreeing with him! She has to mollify him so that he will heal her daughter who was “suffering terribly.” Just try getting Christians to admit this is bad behavior from their favorite biblical character. Good luck. According to Divine Command Theory refusing to alleviate terrible suffering until a woman (whole other issue) agrees she’s a dog (Jesus’ word) must also qualify as “good” if Jesus does it. We’ll add it to the list of “good” things Jesus did, along with dissing his mother, lying about attending a party, inventing the idea of eternal torture, telling his disciples to avoid saving gentiles or Samaritans, not standing up for peace but being against it, taking a whip to his enemies and destroying their property (okay that’s kind of badass), saying believers should not love their own parents or children more than him, teaching that the end times was RIGHT NOW so people shouldn’t save money or make long-term plans for feeding their families, lying about his return being during his disciples’ lifetimes, advocating self-mutilation, and calling people fools and then turning around and claiming that calling someone a fool will land you in Hell! The list goes on!
(Oh no, she didn’t just go after our Jesus, y’all. But he had a mysterious plan! And the culture was different! And women liked being called dogs back then! And that’s not what he really meant! And I’m sure somehow you’re taking this all out of context!!!)
After Emeth finished justifying his presence in Heaven, a fat donkey approached timidly. It was Puzzle! I like the idea of fat heavenly bodies. Fat isn’t bad, doesn’t make him run slower (says the text), and is just another beautiful difference. (I don’t want to know Lewis’ motivation for making him fat since it might be a punishment for his deeds when alive. I’d love to pretend Lewis is fat-friendly, but even if he was it’s only when the guy is fat. Women aren’t allowed to be fat as we saw with the giants’ queen in The Silver Chair.)
Let’s recall that Puzzle had a direct hand in bringing about the fall of Narnia which lead to the suffering and death of many creatures. But it’s okay BECAUSE HE’S NOT A SILLY GIRL. (One ticket to heaven please!)
Puzzle was suffering from extreme shame over his part in the end of the world. (Shame in Heaven?) They reassured him it would be okay. (He is humble and has a penis after all.) Later when our group meets up with Aslan again, Puzzle will be the first called before him. It’s a great honor. Puzzle has the most tragic of self-views and often calls himself stupid. Aslan eats that shit up.
At some point they all start running together towards Aslan. Emeth isn’t mentioned again so he’s either silent after this or left behind. (Hey, we don’t socialize with the Calormene just ‘cause he’s here!) They realize they do not get “hot or tired or out of breath.” Are they still thirsty like the dogs? I’m not sure. (WHAT ARE THE RULES?) They must still have had to breathe as evidenced by the dogs getting water in their noses that caused them to start “spluttering and sneezing.”
It’s during this run (and swim up a waterfall) that Lucy realizes she is incapable of feeling afraid. “Try it,” she dares the others. Eustace takes her up on the challenge and he finds he cannot achieve that emotion. What they could feel, however, was some sort of hesitation or worry (and shame if you’re Puzzle). When they arrived at the garden where Digory first took the magic fruit from the magic tree, they dared not enter as “none of them was bold enough.” Reepicheep, who is wearing a sword (for swording stuff), will personally welcome them inside before they’ll go.
Yes, our favorite murderous mouse is here! So is everyone else! (Minus silly girls and most women of childbearing age and people of color and foreigners and…) Tirian’s father is the first to greet our party. He’s no longer weak from the battle he died in, but young and healthy. Fledge (formerly Strawberry) is also there, as well as every main character: Rilian, “and his mother, the Star’s daughter” (who even in death has no name and is solely defined by her relationship to men), Caspian, our unusually silent Puddleglum, Trumpkin, Trufflehunter, Bree, Hwin, Cor, Aravis (referred to as Cor’s wife even though no man is listed as someone’s husband and Aravis was a hero in her own right), the Beavers, Tumnus, King Frank, Queen Helen (not her original name), etc. The brutal Corin even gets a place in Heaven, valued far and above the gentle Susan.
Lewis explains that this world is like the real Narnia, but better in some indescribable way. Lewis tries his best to explain what he means by “better” and compares it to seeing a beautiful bit of nature reflected in a mirror. The reflection is mysteriously “deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story.” That mirror world is Narnia Heaven.
Little Bit says she would have reversed that analogy and made the mirror reflection the poorer one, and the real thing the better one. It reminds me of what Neil Gaiman once said: “As a kid, you edit out The Last Battle in a way because it’s not true.”
Our friends find there’s an entire other Narnia inside of the garden they were initially worried about entering. The gate of the garden is similar to the stable door as it’s also bigger on the inside. Somewhere inside this garden is another entire version of Narnia. There may be countless Narnias resting inside each other, “like an onion: except that as you go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”
Across some distant divide of cloud and country, England is there, and with it, the Pevensie parents. They had also died in the train crash and were waiting for their children (who are no longer children). They are happy, smiling, and waving. No one misses the child who is not there—the one left home to identify the bodies.
I really enjoyed this version of heaven with each new world—Narnia, Earth, and I assume every other destination the pools in the Wood Between the Worlds may have led to—available as multilayered playgrounds with endless secrets, connected to Aslan’s country like spokes to a wheel. Little Bit found herself uncomfortable as this world was so different from everything she liked about Narnia. She was also left feeling disconnected from the characters who felt strange now. She wanted to save them from this bizarre paradise and return them to the one they left behind. She expected they’d thank her when they were themselves again.
After everyone realizes the depth and breadth of Heaven, Aslan says, “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy responds, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.”
(Flashback to Lucy daring anyone to be afraid. “Try it,” she had once said.)
Here, at the very end, Aslan reveals they are all dead—brutally killed in the railway accident along with their parents who were in a different train.
(Surprise! I orchestrated your deaths!)
At hearing this, “Their hearts leapt, and a wild hope rose within them.” Then the book ends with everyone thrilled they don’t ever have to go home to real life again. Little Bit rolled her eyes.
I agreed with her that it wasn’t a normal reaction, but it is the Christian expectation.
Honestly, it’s all very, dreadfully Christian.
Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at the Chronicles of Narnia