Review: Till We Have Faces

Hello, Hello Hello!!!

Goodness, it has been a long time since my last post, hasn’t it?!

But let me tell you; I have a good excuse (I think). It’s college application time, and I have been drowning in a sea of essays and applications…maybe once it’s all over I’ll the time to write about it in a separate post since my situation in terms of applying to colleges is quite unique.

Despite my packed schedule, I’m taking the time now to sit down and write a post. My apologies for having been gone for such a long time….I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again!

Now for the review!

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Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Greek Cupid and Psyche myth that is packed with Christian theology. C.S. Lewis, after reading the original myth (you can read the English translation of the original Latin here), was curious as to why Psyche’s sisters acted the way the did. So, he set out to rewrite the story, from the sister’s point of view, but he decided to also sneak in some Christian tropes. Since I am not Christian, it took me a while (by ‘while’ I mean a few hours worth of discussion with my English tutor) to really understand the novel. Superficially, Till We Have Faces isn’t at all complicated, but I wanted to understand everything I could about it in order to formulate a more cohesive idea in my mind of what the author was attempting to convey. Here’s what I’ve been able to decipher so far:

  • A major theme in this novel is the idea of Divine love and omnipotence. What I found interesting is that Lewis attempts to convey this through describing a pagan society.
  • Ungit, being the goddess of the earth, is depicted as bloodthirsty and demanding. And at times, Orual feels as though she is Ungit. It took me a while to figure this out, but I think Lewis is trying to talk about the idea of a fallen world and sin through Ungit. Though I don’t believe in the idea of a ‘fallen world’ I do think this combination was quite clever.
  • Orual hates the gods in the beginning of the book – to her, they are petty, so she treats them as petty beings. Psyche, however, has a different relationship with the gods, and she realizes their majesty. Orual gets nothing in life except for misery while Psyche is happy (at least for a while). I assume this is alluding to the idea that God is what you think of Him. If you believe Him to be spiteful, spite is what you will see from Him but if you view him as loving, you will feel His love.
  • Psyche represents the true human – the individual who is not marred by sin. I think this has something to do with her long list of trials – I felt as though it represented self-purification.
  • Orual spends her entire life compiling a list of complaints, and when she finally is able to recite them to the gods, “The complaint was the answer.” This alluded to the idea that as creation, we have no right to question the decisions and plans laid out by the Creator.

Those are the few main points I was able to dig out of the novel. I’m sure there are many more, and if you’ve read this book and found another point I missed, be sure to let me know!

Other than the interesting theological bits, I really didn’t enjoy my reading experience. I felt as though I was stuck in a dim, dingy room while I read this book and it never really piqued my interest. But I’m glad I’ve read it – this was one of Lewis’ most significant works and it was very interesting how he combined ancient Greek culture with Christianity.

If you’ve ever read Till We Have Faces and have anything to add, comment below! And if you haven’t read it, I think you ought to. Just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. Literature like this is crucial in widening your scope of understanding of Western thought and literature.

Happy Day!

Sara👋

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