In 1950, fantasy legend C.S. Lewis introduced the world to the land of Narnia. Not only that, but we met the Pevensie children, talking animals, mythical creatures, and many more. When I read the series as a child, these characters were among my favorites, and they quickly climbed to the top of my personal reading list. But when I got to The Last Battle, I realized that I was reading a very different Narnia story, and I wasn’t alone in thinking that. Many people know The Chronicles of Narnia, but do you know what happened after the final battle?
For context, the last novel in the series has a very different vibe compared to the other six. The novels no longer center around the Pevensie’s or their cousin but instead focus on the war on Narnia. Like Tolkien and many writers of their time, Lewis wrote literature that reflected his religion, and this conclusion to the series brought his messages to a head. The final battle involved King Tirian, an ape, and a donkey, in a landscape that was eerily similar to that of biblical “end times.”
As the battle comes to a close, Tirian faces a passageway that leads the group into a beautiful New Narnia, where he is greeted by many beloved characters from across the series. It’s worth noting that Susan is not present here because she is “no longer a friend to Narnia” and is only interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations.” Considering the heavenly atmosphere, one would assume that the characters have entered Narnia after a timely death. But Lewis surprises us all on the last page of the novel by having Aslan tell the Pevensie’s that they actually died in a railway accident.
“Your father and mother and all of you are — as you used to call it in the ShadowLands — dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”Aslan, The Last Battle
When I tell you my eight-year-old jaw dropped after reading that. How could he kill off the fan-favorite protagonists in such a jarring way? They could’ve died in battle, defending the world that they were rulers of and had spent a separate lifetime in. But to the surprise of everyone, they died in an accident, leaving their sister behind. To this day, I can’t help but assume the worst when I get to the last page of a series.
I’m not alone in feeling this way! The Goodreads reviews for the novel provide lists of how drastically different this novel feels compared to the others in the series and how unnecessary the ending proved to be after years of making connections with the characters. Overall, The Chronicles of Narnia will always be one of the most imaginative and groundbreaking fantasy series of all time. Let’s just pretend they lived happily ever after (with Susan).
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