BOOK TITLE: Till We Have Faces
BOOK AUTHOR: C. S. Lewis
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Sometimes we have questions; that are beyond what mere mortals can fathom. We feel the gods have not been fair to us, and we desire to know why. So, this great epic story by C. S. Lewis begins with the main character expressing her “controversy with the gods”.
Set around the city of Glome, in the palace of the King of Glome, the story revolves around the chronicle of Orual, the eldest daughter, and princess of the kingdom, her little sisters, Redival and Istra (or Psyche), their slave nurse Batta, and their teacher- The Fox. The strory retells an ancient Greek myth of the goddess Istra, or Psyche, and her too sisters, who got jealous because of the wonderful palace that their sister was living in, and sought to remove her from her place of happiness.
In a normal C. S. Lewis allegorical style, he tells a story with parables which illustrates a lot of realities for the intellectual reader. As usual, the story goes on until it reaches its climax when the one telling the story begins to philosophize.
Like C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia, the meat of the story is set in certain sentences and paragraph which most readers cannot full grasp its import and power till they read the whole story. Some of such sentences that resonate with wisdom are:
“It may well be that by trickery of priests men have sometimes taken a mortal’s voice for a god’s. But it will not work the other way. No one who hears a god’s voice takes it for a mortal’s.”
“The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered. Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” A glib saying. 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 to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word 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? “
Set in terms of ‘gods’, the reader must take note that the writer is not really interested in ‘gods’ per se, but is using the allegory of ‘gods’ to introduce the character of the Almighty God.
The book ends with a note of adoration by Orual, the princess, to the Lord;
“I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words. Long did I hate you, long did I fear you…”