Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S. Lewis, 1956.
A Greek verse says that even the gods cannot change the past. But is this true? He made it to be as if, from the beginning, I had known that Psyche’s lover was a god, and as if all my doubtings, fears, guessings, debatings, questionings of Bardia, questionings of Fox, all the rummage and business of it, had been trumped-up foolery, dust blown in my own eyes by myself. You, who read my book, judge. Was it so? Or, at least, had it been so in the very past, before this god changed the past? And if they can indeed change the past, why do they never do so in mercy?
Some of you may know that I have very little interest in ancient history. I don’t particularly care for novels, movies, history that deal with Greek, Roman, etc. historical situations. Some of the mythology is interesting, but I would still rather see a modern retelling of it or a modern interpretation of them. And all of this is probably part of the reason why I have had this book for close to 7-8 years and never once picked it up to read. But I felt like reading some Lewis this week and this was one of the few that I had not read. In the end, this came out to be one of my favorites of Lewis’ catalog of writings. There is enough subtlety to the Christian imagery that he places within the context of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, that it made a deep well of strong interpretation.
The above quote was one of the most thought provoking sections of the story. Lewis takes a note from Romans here as he places it on the character of Orual to recognize that she is basically suppressing the truth of her knowledge of the god who is the lover of Psyche (aka Cupid). She sees evidences of the truth of Psyche’s words throughout the story but, instead, chooses to believe the words of Fox (her Greek caretaker and teacher) and Bardia (a loyal soldier in her Father’s army) instead of listening to Psyche who had never lied to her and ignoring those evidences of the truth of the gods. The whole story is written from the perspective of Orual as she is writing her history down and asking the reader to judge whether she was right or if the gods were right. In the end, she realizes the truth of the matter, she sees her story from the perspective of the gods and sees that she is not, in fact, innocent at all. This was a brilliant device for the telling of the story which just lends to the level of Lewis’ talent as a writer.
Don’t expect a full on one-for-one metaphor for a Christian understanding of the world and of humanity. There are subtle elements that have a definite Christian edge, but it is still strictly a Greek/Roman myth, first, and Christian allegory, second. I truly enjoyed this book and I feel like kicking myself for not reading it sooner, because of the level of enjoyment I did get from it.