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Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956)

af C. S. Lewis

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8,723152931 (4.22)3 / 249
This tale of two princesses - one beautiful and one unattractive - and of the struggle between sacred and profane love is Lewis's reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and one of his most enduring work
  1. 40
    Phantastes / Lilith af George MacDonald (charlie68)
  2. 30
    Penelopiaden : myten om Penelope og Odysseus af Margaret Atwood (AnnaClaire)
    AnnaClaire: A different author retelling a different myth, but they still seem to fit together nicely.
  3. 20
    Mythology af Edith Hamilton (sibyllacumaea)
  4. 20
    Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire af Julius Lester (raizel)
    raizel: A retelling of the Psyche and Cupid myth; Lester's version is for a younger (teen
  5. 20
    Circe af Madeline Miller (bjappleg8)
  6. 10
    Lavinia af Ursula K. Le Guin (casvelyn)
    casvelyn: Both are stories of strong, motherless women with dysfunctional families who play a part in a mythical tale
  7. 10
    The Golden Ass af Apuleius (TheLittlePhrase)
Indlæser...

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First alerted to the charm of this work after reading Apuleius' GOLDEN ASS in Theology School, and reading that Lewis was "haunted" for years by the the story of Psyche.

Lewis provides his version of the often retold story of Cupid and Psyche. The Narrator is Psyche's older uglier sister Orual, who begins by having bones to pick with the gods. She discovers that her first-hand accusations are tainted by her own shortcomings. It appears that Lewis echoes Book of Job, in which the God of Levins and Wind asks those who challenge him, by questioning them, "Who are you to ask me?"

In this work, Orual herself explains: "it’s a story belonging to a different world, a world in which the gods show themselves clearly and don’t torment men with glimpses, nor unveil to one what they hide from another, nor ask you to believe what contradicts your eyes and ears and nose and tongue and fingers. In such a world (is there such? it’s not ours, for certain) I would have walked aright. The gods themselves would have been able to find no fault in me. And now to tell my story as if I had had the very sight they had denied me . . . is it not as if you told a cripple’s story and never said he was lame, or told how a man betrayed a secret but never said it was after twenty hours of torture? And I saw all in a moment how the false story would grow and spread and be told all over the earth; and I wondered how many of the other sacred stories are just such twisted falsities as this."

Once Orual realizes that the gods have lied to her--the sacred stories that spread through worlds are no better than the tales invented by commoners--she resolved to write out her accusations: "I could never be at peace again till I had written my charge against the gods. It burned me from within. It quickened; I was with book, as a woman is with child."

Why must holy places be dark places? The gods set Orual up for torture. Orual loved her dear little sister Psyche and then separated them, and then drove jealousy between them. Orual realizes, far too late, and so perduring and sharply, that "there is no creature (toad, scorpion, or serpent) so noxious to man as the gods." And they never have to answer.

After the death of the man she loved, at trial, Orual reads her complaint aloud. "Perhaps a dozen times", each time certain it was her own, in experience and voice. Then the judge stopped her, and in the silence asked "Are you answered?" Yes.

The complaint was the answer. "To have heard myself making it was to be answered." And "When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"

In the second process of the trial--all trials and all Greek myths are process theology--a grandfather Fox shows her the pictures of what she just endured, but as Psyche, beautiful beloved Psyche, is enduring it. How? "That was one of the true things I used to say to you. Don't you remember? We're all limbs and parts of one Whole. Hence of each other. And "Another bore nearly all the anguish".

Through all the enemies and wailing Psyche endures, and we say we love her, "She had no more dangerous enemies than us." And in that old terrible time when she appears cruel, perhaps she suffers. "This age of ours will one day be the distant past. And the Divine Nature can change the past. Nothing is yet in its true form." Clearly, our Author is a Process Theologian. We are silenced with joy.

In a kind of postscript, CS Lewis writes: "This re-interpretation of an old story has lived in the author’s mind, thickening and hardening with the years, ever since he was an undergraduate. That way, he could be said to have worked at it most of his life. Recently, what seemed to be the right form presented itself and themes suddenly interlocked: the straight tale of barbarism, the mind of an ugly woman, dark idolatry and pale enlightenment at war with each other and with vision, and the havoc which a vocation, or even a faith, works on human life." ( )
  keylawk | Jul 16, 2023 |
I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me. My body, this lean carrion that still has to be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so many changes, they may kill as soon as they please. The succession is provided for. My crown passes to my nephew.
  taurus27 | Apr 25, 2023 |
i'll succumb to the hackish: Jack Lewis Catradora Novel Real. bittersweet to know and love this sweet bit of him. astonishing, really, not that it exists but that he loved it best; even more so that he published such an (against its will?) cracked-open work the same year as the last battle. you may seal it up with gold, but you cannot stop the split from coming: love keeps pushing her over the borderline. ( )
  aleph-beth-null | Mar 2, 2023 |
A masterpiece. ( )
  eringill | Dec 25, 2022 |
Lewis' writings are splendid as usual but this book stood out with its dark and chilling prose. I grew up familiar with the tale of Cupid and Psyche, as I'm sure the person reading this is as well, and I'd always simply assumed that the sisters who'd betrayed Psyche and basically ruined her life were like unto Cinderella's step-sisters: evil, hateful, and full of jealousy. But the angle at which Lewis took his retelling was quite interesting and admittedly, it did make more sense than the original tale. There's a lot of underlying messages and themes in Till We Have Faces, which may be confusing to some, but I think that the book was a great read, for sure! ( )
1 stem BooksbyStarlight | Oct 25, 2022 |
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"Love is too young to know what conscience is"
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(Food for the gods must always be found somehow, even when the land starves.)
Now mark yet again the cruelty of the gods. There is no escape from them into sleep or madness, for they can pursue you into them with dreams. Indeed you are then most at their mercy. The nearest thing we have to a defence against them (but there is no real defence) is to be very wide awake and sober and hard at work, to hear no music, never to look at earth or sky, and (above all) to love no one.
Weakness, and work, are two comforts the gods have not taken from us.
To love, and to lose what we love, are equally things appointed for our nature. If we cannot bear the second well, that evil is ours.
The sight of the huge world put mad ideas into me; as if I could wander away, wander for ever, see strange and beautiful things, one after the other to the world's end.
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This tale of two princesses - one beautiful and one unattractive - and of the struggle between sacred and profane love is Lewis's reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and one of his most enduring work

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