Friday, July 4, 2008

A myth retold: Til We Have Faces

Psalm 29 is based on a Canaanite hymn to Baal, a local false god. Baal was considered the god of thunder, so Psalm 29 refers to the “voice of the Lord” seven times, countering the teaching that Baal was the god of seven thunders.

The writer of Psalm 29 intended to show that God, not Baal, was the cause of thunder. He re-wrote the psalm to correct the theology of the Canaanites and to counter their hymn.

You can see, in that re-working of an idolatrous song, how God is able to remake what was lost, to restore what was in error. The form – a recreating of an idolatrous hymn – actually strengthens the point.

C.S. Lewis took the same tack in his novel, Til We Have Faces, where he modified the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche, producing a challenging psychological look at the older sister who intervenes in their romance.

The story is told from Orual’s viewpoint and the reader gets to see what Orual,the ugly and bitter older sister, cannot see. She justifies her decisions and believes her own reasonings.

These are not cardboard characters. In spite of some of her ugly conclusions, I found myself respecting Orual in many ways and wanting to show her the way out of her own rationalizations. She is intelligent, honest, concerned with others – and yet imprisoned by her bitterness. She’s not a black-and-white villain, but a complex woman on a journey to seek truth.

The story is about her moral development, a lifetime spent justifying decisions she finds difficult but necessary to make. The reader can understand what Orual does not about herself and her own perceptions.

Although Lewis seems to spend his time in the world of myths and Greek gods, there’s a deeper current that runs here. Lewis has not written a symbolic book but one of emotion and sincerity. His meaning is solidly planted on the God of love.

Plan to read it twice to capture Lewis’ intent but plan to read it. It’s powerfully written with depth of insight and meaning that will touch your heart.

1 comment:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Fantastic Fan, I found your blog because I've subscribed to a Google alert for the term "Christian fantasy." In looking at your site, I found your review of Til We Have Faces, a book I often call my favorite. It's C. S. Lewis's best, in my opinion.

An organization of Christian speculative writers at the Lost Genre Guild are putting together a list of classics, with a blurb or review. I thought yours would be perfect. If you're interested, I can give you more details.

Also, I see you belong to the book blog tours First and Wild Card. Did you know that there is a tour exclusively for Christian speculative fiction? In fact the CSFF blog tour is featuring DragonLight this month. I hope you consider joining.