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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dwarves of The Last Battle and unbelief in The Princess and the Goblin

In The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis, some dwarves have an interesting role. They refuse to believe in a false Aslan, and also refuse to believe in a real one. When the Calormenes throw them into a dark stable, they refuse to see anything but what you would expect to find in such a building, even though other characters in the book can see that the stable, in reality, is not dark, and has no walls -- just a door.

Lucy Pevensie, who has a soft heart, tries to get the Lion, Aslan, to make things better for the dwarves, Aslan produces a banquet for them. They eat, but they think they are eating old cattle food, or drinking from a trough for animals. When a dwarf is picked up and carried toward the outside, he experiences being slammed into the wall, even though there is no wall. Aslan says that they have chosen not to believe, and there is nothing he can do for them.

I have found, not surprisingly, since Lewis is known to have been influenced a great deal by the writing of George MacDonald, that there are similar ideas in MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin. That book was originally published in 1872, hence is public domain (available from Project Gutenberg):

But you would have found me sooner if you hadn't come to think I was a dream. I will give you one reason though why you couldn't find me. I didn't want you to find me.'

'Why, please?'

'Because I did not want Lootie to know I was here.'

'But you told me to tell Lootie.'

'Yes. But I knew Lootie would not believe you. If she were to see me sitting spinning here, she wouldn't believe me, either.'


'Because she couldn't. She would rub her eyes, and go away and say she felt queer, and forget half of it and more, and then say it had been all a dream.'

'Just like me,' said Irene, feeling very much ashamed of herself.

'Yes, a good deal like you, but not just like you; for you've come again; and Lootie wouldn't have come again. She would have said, No, no - she had had enough of such nonsense.'

'Is it naughty of Lootie, then?'

'It would be naughty of you. I've never done anything for Lootie.'

. . .

' . . . Besides, again - I will tell you a secret - if that light were to go out you would fancy yourself lying in a bare garret, on a heap of old straw, and would not see one of the pleasant things round about you all the time.'

(from Chapter Eleven) Irene is an eight-year-old princess. The other speaker is her father's mother's father's mother, who lives in a nice suite of rooms on the top floor of the house where Irene lives, and has some marvelous powers. Irene is the only person who knows that she is there. Lootie is Irene's nurse.

How much that God sees is real do I not see, or do I see as trash, because I don't believe in Him?

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

The dwarves in The Last Battle remind me of creationists, and other ilks of science deniers.

Martin LaBar said...

Well, maybe that's a fair comparison.

A lot of people, no doubt including me, deny a lot of things that are really there, but we just don't want to see them. Lewis's point, and MacDonald's, was that there are God-deniers, who refuse to see Him when the evidence is all around them.

Thanks for the comment.