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The Last Battle
TheLastBattle(1stEd).jpg
First edition dustjacket original
Author C. S. Lewis
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Cover artist Pauline Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature
Publisher The Bodley Head
Publication date
4 September 1956
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 184 pp (first edition)
42,854 words (US)
ISBN 978-0-00-671682-2 (full-colour; Collins, 1998)
OCLC 752428300
LC Class PZ8.L48 Las
Preceded by The Magician's Nephew 

The Last Battle is a high fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by The Bodley Head in 1956. It was the seventh and final novel in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Like the other novels in the series, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes and her work has been retained in many later editions.

The Last Battle is set almost entirely in the Narnia world and the English children who participate arrive only in the middle of the narrative. The novel is set some 200 Narnian years after The Silver Chair and about 2500 years (and 49 Earth years) since the creation of the world narrated in The Magician's Nephew. A false Aslan is set up in the north-western borderlands and conflict between true and false Narnians merges with that between Narnia and Calormen, whose people worship Tash. It concludes with termination of the world by Aslan, after a "last battle" that is practically lost.

Macmillan US published an American edition within the calendar year.

Lewis and The Last Battle won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. The author wrote to illustrator Baynes, "is it not rather 'our' medal? I'm sure the illustrations were taken into account as well as the text."

Plot

In the northern regions of Narnia, the clever and greedy ape Shift persuades the naive donkey Puzzle to wear a lion's skin (an echo from Aesop's story of The Ass in the Lion's Skin) and introduces him to the other Narnians as the Great Lion Aslan. Shift, posing as Aslan's spokesman, uses Aslan's name to persuade the Narnians to cut down Talking Trees for lumber. Shift pockets the profits and garners support from the Calormenes – led by Rishda Tarkaan – by claiming that Aslan is another name for Tash, a bloodthirsty deity worshiped by the Calormenes. Those who question Shift's words are invited into a large stable where "Tashlan" is said to reside, only to be stealthily murdered by one of Rishda's men.

King Tirian, a descendant of King Caspian X, is warned by Roonwit the Centaur that strange and evil things are happening to Narnia and that the stars portend ominous developments. Tirian and his friend Jewel the Unicorn hear word of the death of the Talking Trees and rashly set out to confront the danger, instructing Roonwit to gather a small army to join them. Finding two Calormenes abusing a Narnian Talking Horse, Tirian and Jewel kill them both in a blind rage; ashamed, they give themselves up to "Aslan". Awaiting judgement, Tirian recognizes the farce that Shift has fabricated in league with Rishda and the talking cat Ginger. When he accuses Shift of lying, Tirian is tied to a tree for the night to face judgment the following morning. While the woodland creatures are sympathetic to his suffering, they can't bring themselves to go against "Aslan."

Tirian, calling upon Aslan, summons Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb to Narnia from London. They release Tirian and rescue Jewel. In the stable, Jill finds Puzzle, who comes to understand his folly and joins Tirian's side. A band of Dwarfs are also rescued, but their faith in Aslan has been shattered and they refuse to help, proclaiming "the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs". Only one Dwarf named Poggin is still faithful to Aslan and joins the group. Tirian learns that Shift and Rishda have inadvertently summoned the actual Tash to Narnia when he and the others see him traveling north. Farsight the Eagle arrives bearing grim news: Roonwit and the Narnian army have all been killed in battle, and the Calormenes have taken Cair Paravel in Tirian's absence. Tirian and his small force advance on the stable to expose the truth of Shift's deception. Ginger, sent in to aid in the deception, runs out in terror, having lost his ability to speak. Emeth, one of Rishda's men and a devout follower of Tash, insists on seeing his god. Rishda tries to dissuade him, but Emeth enters the empty stable. Angry at the deception in the name of Tash, he kills another soldier who was stationed in the stable to murder the rebellious Narnians, but Emeth then disappears.

Outside the stable, Tirian's group engages Shift and the Calormenes, but most of the remaining Narnians are all either killed or captured and sacrificed to Tash, by being thrown into the stable. Tirian throws Shift into the stable, and Tash devours Shift. The terrified Rishda offers the remaining Narnians as sacrifices to Tash to avoid his wrath. Tirian, left alone and fighting for his life, drags Rishda into the stable and finds himself in a vast and lush plain. Tash seizes Rishda and advances on Tirian, but is stopped by the "Friends of Narnia": Digory Kirke, Polly Plummer, Peter Pevensie and his siblings Edmund and Lucy; Susan is absent as she has ceased to believe in Narnia. Peter orders Tash to return to his realm, and Tash vanishes with Rishda in his clutches.

The real Aslan appears and praises Tirian for his valiant struggle in defense of Narnia. The faithless Dwarfs are present but cannot see they are in Aslan's country; they perceive themselves to be locked in an actual stable. Aslan demonstrates that, without their faith, even he cannot help them. The Friends ask Aslan to heal Narnia, but he admits that even he cannot undo the evil that has been sown, and he brings the world to an end: the vegetation is consumed by dragons and giant lizards, Father Time calls the stars down from the skies into the sea as it rises to cover Narnia, and the land freezes when Father Time puts out the sun and the moon. The inhabitants of Narnia gather outside the barn to be judged by Aslan; the faithful enter Aslan's country while those who have opposed or deserted him become ordinary animals and vanish. At Aslan's command, King Peter shuts the door on Narnia. Aslan leads the faithful to his country, telling them to go further up and further in. Soon they encounter Emeth; Aslan has accepted his faithful service to Tash because it was good and therefore truly done to Aslan, whereas Tash is served only by evil. Aslan takes the Friends to a "true" version of Narnia, the previous Narnia having been an imperfect and corruptible shadow. As they advance, the Friends meet and reunite with characters from previous adventures who have been dead for centuries; Aslan reveals that the Friends may also stay, as they had died in a train accident on Earth. Aslan sheds his lion form, and the series ends with the revelation that this was only the beginning of the true story, "which goes on for ever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before".

Main characters

  • Tirian, the last king of Narnia, who leads the fight of Narnia against the Calormenes.
  • Eustace Scrubb, a friend of Narnia, who fights for the Narnians.
  • Jill Pole, a friend of Narnia, who fights for the Narnians.
  • Jewel the Unicorn, retainer to King Tirian, also his best friend.
  • Shift, an ape who allies with Calormen and creates the "Tashlan" hoax. (The Narnian form of the False Prophet and the Antichrist.)
  • Puzzle, a donkey who is tricked by Shift. (The Narnian form of the Beast and an allusion to "The Ass in the Lion's Skin".)
  • Rishda Tarkaan, Calormene captain leading the battle against Narnia, taken away by Tash during the destruction of Narnia.
  • Ginger, a cat, in league with Rishda Tarkaan.
  • Tash, the patron God of the Calormenes and evil counterpart to Aslan.
  • Griffle, a black Dwarf, leader of a group of Dwarfs who have lost faith in both Aslan and Tash.
  • Emeth, a righteous soldier of Calormene, who discovers his true devotion to Aslan.
  • Aslan, the God of Narnia, son of the Emperor-over-the-Sea, who takes the form of a lion.
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