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Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

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Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

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Feb 14, 2017


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Till We Have Faces is the retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche by C.S. Lewis.
The author brilliantly reimagines the story of Cupid and Psyche, and he tells it from the perspective of Psyche's ugly, bitter sister, Orual, for the first half of the novel. Orual loves Psyche to a harmful and dangerous extent and is deeply jealous that the god of love himself, Cupid, is the target of Psyche's affections. This sets Orual on a deeply troubled and dark path of moral development.The story takes place in the fictitious kingdom of Glome, a primitive city-state where the people have occasional contact with Hellenistic Greece. This novel is a smart examination of envy, betrayal, loss, blame, grief, guilt, and conversion. In this, his final novel, Lewis reminds us of our own failings and the role that a much higher power plays in our lives.
Feb 14, 2017

Sobre el autor

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954 when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement.

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Till We Have Faces - C. S. Lewis




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.

Being, for all these reasons, free from fear, I will write in this book what no one who has happiness would dare to write. I will accuse the gods, especially the god who lives on the Grey Mountain. That is, I will tell all he has done to me from the very beginning, as if I were making my complaint of him before a judge. But there is no judge between gods and men, and the god of the mountain will not answer me. Terrors and plagues are not an answer. I write in Greek as my old master taught it to me. It may some day happen that a traveller from the Greeklands will again lodge in this palace and read the book. Then he will talk of it among the Greeks, where there is great freedom of speech even about the gods themselves. Perhaps their wise men will know whether my complaint is right or whether the god could have defended himself if he had made an answer.

I was Orual the eldest daughter of Trom, King of Glome. The city of Glome stands on the left hand of the river Shennit to a traveller who is coming up from the south-east, not more than a day’s journey above Ringal, which is the last town southward that belongs to the land of Glome. The city is built about as far back from the river as a woman can walk in the third of an hour, for the Shennit overflows her banks in the spring. In summer there was then dry mud on each side of it, and reeds, and plenty of waterfowl. About as far beyond the ford of the Shennit as our city is on this side of it you come to the holy house of Ungit. And beyond the house of Ungit (going all the time east and north) you come quickly to the foothills of the Grey Mountain. The god of the Grey Mountain, who hates me, is the son of Ungit. He does not, however, live in the house of Ungit, but Ungit sits there alone. In the furthest recess of her house where she sits it is so dark that you cannot see her well, but in summer enough light may come down from the smoke-holes in the roof to show her a little. She is a black stone without head or hands or face, and a very strong goddess. My old master, whom we called the Fox, said she was the same whom the Greeks call Aphrodite; but I write all the names of people and places in our own language.

I will begin my writing with the day my mother died and they cut off my hair, as the custom is. The Fox—but he was not with us then—said it is a custom we learned from the Greeks. Batta, the nurse, shore me and my sister Redival outside the palace at the foot of the garden which runs steeply up the hill behind. Redival was my sister, three years younger than I, and we two were still the only children. While Batta was using the shears many other of the slave women were standing round, from time to time wailing for the Queen’s death and beating their breasts; but in between they were eating nuts and joking. As the shears snipped and Redival’s curls fell off, the slaves said, ‘Oh, what a pity! All the gold gone!’ They had not said anything like that while I was being shorn. But what I remember best is the coolness of my head and the hot sun on the back of my neck when we were building mud houses, Redival and I, all that summer afternoon.

Our nurse Batta was a big-boned, fair-haired, hard-handed woman whom my father had bought from traders who got her further north. When we plagued her she would say, ‘Only wait till your father brings home a new queen to be your stepmother. It’ll be changed times for you then. You’ll have hard cheese instead of honey-cakes then and skim milk instead of red wine. Wait and see.’

As things fell out, we got something else before we got a stepmother. There was a bitter frost that day. Redival and I were booted (we mostly went barefoot or sandalled) and trying to slide in the yard which is at the back of the oldest part of the palace, where the walls are wooden. There was ice enough all the way from the byre-door to the big dunghill, what with frozen spills of milk and puddles and the stale of the beasts, but too rough for sliding. And out comes Batta, with the cold reddening her nose, calling out, ‘Quick, quick! Ah, you filthies! Come and be cleaned and then to the King. You’ll see who’s waiting for you there. My word! This’ll be a change for you.’

‘Is it the Stepmother?’ said Redival.

‘Oh, worse than that, worse than that; you’ll see,’ said Batta, polishing Redival’s face with the end of her apron. ‘Lots of whippings for the pair of you, lots of ear-pullings, lots of hard work.’ Then we were led off and over to the new parts of the palace, where it is built of painted brick, and there were guards in their armour, and skins and heads of animals hung up on the walls. In the Pillar Room our father was standing by the hearth, and opposite him there were three men in travelling dress whom we knew well enough—traders who came to Glome three times a year. They were just packing up their scales, so we knew they had been paid for something, and one was putting up a fetter, so we knew they must have sold our father a slave. There was a short, thick-set man standing before them, and we knew this must be the man they had sold, for you could still see the sore places on his legs where the irons had been. But he did not look like any other slave we had ever known. He was very bright-eyed, and whatever of his hair and beard was not grey was reddish.

‘Now, Greekling,’ said my father to this man, ‘I trust to beget a prince one of these days and I have a mind to see him brought up in all the wisdom of your people. Meanwhile practise on them.’ (He pointed at us children.) ‘If a man can teach a girl, he can teach anything.’ Then, just before he sent us away, he said, ‘Especially the elder. See if you can make her wise; it’s about all she’ll ever be good for.’ I didn’t understand that, but I knew it was like things I had heard people say of me ever since I could remember.

I loved the Fox, as my father called him, better than anyone I had yet known. You would have thought that a man who had been free in the Greeklands, and then been taken in war and sold far away among the barbarians, would be downcast. And so he was sometimes, possibly more often than I, in my childishness, guessed. But I never heard him complain; and I never heard him boast (as all the other foreign slaves did) about the great man he had been in his own country. He had all sorts of sayings to cheer himself up with: ‘No man can be an exile if he remembers that all the world is one city’, and ‘Everything is as good or bad as our opinion makes it’. But I think what really kept him cheerful was his inquisitiveness. I never knew such a man for questions. He wanted to know everything about our country and language and ancestors and gods, and even our plants and flowers.

That was how I came to tell him all about Ungit, about the girls who are kept in her house, and the presents that brides have to make to her, and how we sometimes, in a bad year, have to cut someone’s throat and pour the blood over her. He shuddered when I said that and muttered something under his breath; but a moment later he said, ‘Yes, she is undoubtedly Aphrodite, though more like the Babylonian than the Greek. But come, I’ll tell you a tale of our Aphrodite.’

Then he deepened and lilted his voice and told how their Aphrodite once fell in love with the prince Anchises while he kept his father’s sheep on the slopes of a mountain called Ida. And as she came down the grassy slopes towards his shepherd’s hut, lions and lynxes and bears and all sorts of beasts came about her fawning like dogs, and all went from her again in pairs to the delights of love. But she dimmed her glory and made herself like a mortal woman and came to Anchises and beguiled him and they went up together into his bed. I think the Fox had meant to end here, but the song now had him in its grip, and he went on to tell what followed; how Anchises woke from sleep and saw Aphrodite standing in the door of the hut, not now like a mortal but with the glory. So he knew he had lain with a goddess, and he covered his eyes and shrieked, ‘Kill me at once.’

‘Not that this ever really happened,’ the Fox said in haste. ‘It’s only lies of poets, lies of poets, child. Not in accordance with nature.’ But he had said enough to let me see that if the goddess was more beautiful in Greece than in Glome she was equally terrible in each.

It was always like that with the Fox; he was ashamed of loving poetry (‘All folly, child’) and I had to work much at my reading and writing and what he called philosophy in order to get a poem out of him. But thus, little by little, he taught me many. Virtue, sought by man with travail and toil was the one he praised most, but I was never deceived by that. The real lilt came into his voice and the real brightness into his eyes when we were off into Take me to the apple-laden land or

The Moon’s gone down, but

Alone I lie.

He always sang that one very tenderly and as if he pitied me for something. He liked me better than Redival, who hated study and mocked and plagued him and set the other slaves on to play tricks on him.

We worked most often (in summer) on the little grass plot behind the pear trees, and it was there one day that the King found us. We all stood up, of course, two children and a slave with our eyes on the ground and our hands crossed on our breasts. The King smacked the Fox heartily on the back and said, ‘Courage, Fox. There’ll be a prince for you to work on yet, please the gods. And thank them too, Fox, for it can’t often have fallen to the lot of a mere Greekling to rule the grandson of so great a king as my father-in-law that is to be. Not that you’ll know or care more about it than an ass. You’re all pedlars and hucksters down in the Greeklands, eh?’

‘Are not all men of one blood, Master?’ said the Fox.

‘Of one blood?’ said the King with a stare and a great bull-laugh. ‘I’d be sorry to think so.’

Thus in the end it was the King himself and not Batta who first told us that the Stepmother was really at hand. My father had made a great match. He was to have the third daughter of the King of Caphad, who is the biggest king in all our part of the world. (I know now why Caphad wanted an alliance with so poor a kingdom as we are, and I have wondered how my father did not see that his father-in-law must already be a sinking man. The marriage itself was a proof of it.)

It cannot have been many weeks before the marriage took place, but in my memory the preparations seem to have lasted for almost a year. All the brick work round the great gate was painted scarlet, and there were new hangings for the Pillar Room, and a great new royal bed which cost the King far more than he was wise to give. It was made of an eastern wood which was said to have such virtue that four of every five children begotten in such a bed would be male. (‘All folly, child,’ said the Fox, ‘these things come about by natural causes.’) And as the day drew nearer there was nothing but driving in of beasts and slaughtering of beasts—the whole courtyard reeked with the skins of them—and baking and brewing. But we children had not much time to wander from room to room and stare and hinder, for the King suddenly took it into his head that Redival and I and twelve other girls, daughters of nobles, were to sing the bridal hymn. And nothing would do him but a Greek hymn, which was a thing no other neighbouring king could have provided. ‘But, Master—’ said the Fox, almost with tears in his eyes. ‘Teach ’em, Fox, teach ’em,’ roared my father. ‘What’s the use of my spending good food and drink on your Greek belly if I’m not to get a Greek song out of you on my wedding night? What’s that? No one’s asking you to teach them Greek. Of course they won’t understand what they’re singing, but they can make the noises. See to it, or your back’ll be redder than ever your beard was.’

It was a crazy scheme, and the Fox said afterwards that the teaching of that hymn to us barbarians was what greyed the last red hair. ‘I was a fox,’ he said, ‘now I am a badger.’

When we had made some progress in our task the King brought the Priest of Ungit in to hear us. I had a fear of that Priest which was quite different from my fear of my father. I think that what frightened me (in those early days) was the holiness of the smell that hung about him—a temple-smell of blood (mostly pigeons’ blood, but he had sacrificed men too) and burnt fat and singed hair and wine and stale incense. It is the Ungit smell. Perhaps I was afraid of his clothes too; all the skins they were made of, and the dried bladders, and the great mask shaped like a bird’s head which hung on his chest. It looked as if there were a bird growing out of his body.

He did not understand a word of the hymn, nor the music either, but he asked, ‘Are the young women to be veiled or unveiled?’

‘Need you ask?’ said the King with one of his great laughs, jerking his thumb in my direction. ‘Do you think I want my queen frightened out of her senses? Veils of course. And good thick veils too.’ One of the other girls tittered, and I think that was the first time I clearly understood that I am ugly.

This made me more afraid of the Stepmother than ever. I thought she would be crueller to me than to Redival because of my ugliness. It wasn’t only what Batta had said that frightened me; I had heard of stepmothers in plenty of stories. And when the night came and we were all in the pillared porch, nearly dazzled with the torches and trying hard to sing our hymn as the Fox had taught us to—and he kept on frowning and smiling and nodding at us while we sang, and once he held up his hands in horror—pictures of things that had been done to girls in the stories were dancing in my mind. Then came the shouts from outside, and more torches, and next moment they were lifting the bride out of the chariot. She was as thickly veiled as we, and all I could see was that she was very small; it was as if they were lifting a child. That didn’t ease my fears; ‘the little are the spiteful,’ our proverb says. Then (still singing) we got her into the bridal chamber and took off her veil.

I know now that the face I saw was beautiful, but I did not think of that then. All I saw was that she was frightened, more frightened than I—indeed terrified. It made me see my father as he must have looked to her, a moment since, when she had her first sight of him standing to greet her in the porch. His was not a brow, a mouth, a girth, a stance, or a voice to quiet a girl’s fear.

We took off layer after layer of her finery, making her yet smaller, and left the shivering, white body with its staring eyes in the King’s bed, and filed out. We had sung very badly.


I can say very little about my father’s second wife, for she did not live till the end of her first year in Glome. She was with child as soon as anyone could reasonably look for it, and the King was in high spirits and hardly ever ran across the Fox without saying something about the prince who was to be born. He made great sacrifices to Ungit every month after that. How it was between him and the Queen I do not know; except that once, after messengers had come from Caphad, I heard the King say to her, ‘It begins to look, girl, as if I had driven my sheep to a bad market. I learn now that your father has lost two towns—no, three, though he tries to mince the matter. I would thank him to have told me he was sinking before he persuaded me to embark in the same bottom.’ (I was leaning my head on my window-sill to dry my hair after the bath, and they were walking in the garden.) However that might be, it is certain that she was very homesick, and I think our winter was too hard for her southern body. She was soon pale and thin. I learned that I had nothing to fear from her. She was at first more afraid of me; after that, very loving in her timid way, and more like a sister than a stepmother.

Of course no one in the house went to bed on the night of the birth, for that, they say, will make the child refuse to wake into the world. We all sat in the great hall between the Pillar Room and the Bedchamber, in a red glare of birth-torches. The flames swayed and guttered terribly, for all doors must be open; the shutting of a door might shut up the mother’s womb. In the middle of the hall burned a great fire. Every hour the Priest of Ungit walked round it nine times and threw in the proper things. The King sat in his chair and never moved all night, not even his head. I was sitting next to the Fox.

‘Grandfather,’ I whispered to him, ‘I am terribly afraid.’

‘We must learn, child, not to fear anything that nature brings,’ he whispered back.

I must have slept after that, for the next thing I knew was the sound of women wailing and beating the breast as I had heard them do it the day my mother died. Everything had changed while I slept. I was shivering with cold. The fire had sunk low, the King’s chair was empty, the door of the Bedchamber was at last shut, and the terrible sounds from within it had stopped. There must have been some sacrifice too, for there was a smell of slaughtering, and blood on the floor, and the Priest was cleaning his holy knife. I was all in a daze from my sleep, for I started up with the wildest idea; I would go and see the Queen. The Fox was after me long before I reached the door of the Bedchamber. ‘Daughter, daughter,’ he was saying. ‘Not now. Are you mad? The King—’

At that moment the door was flung open and out came my father. His face shocked me full awake, for he was in his pale rage. I knew that in his red rage he would storm and threaten, and little might come of it, but when he was pale he was deadly. ‘Wine,’ he said, not very loud; and that too was a bad sign. The other slaves pushed forward a boy who was rather a favourite, as slaves do when they are afraid. The child, white as his master and in all his finery (my father dressed the younger slaves very fine) came running with the flagon and the royal cup, slipped in the blood, reeled, and dropped both. Quick as thought, my father whipped out his dagger and stabbed him in the side. The boy dropped dead in the blood and wine, and the fall of his body sent the flagon rolling over and over. It made a great noise in that silence; I hadn’t thought till then that the floor of the hall was so uneven. (I have re-paved it since.)

My father stared for a moment at his own dagger; stupidly, it seemed. Then he went very gently up to the Priest.

‘What have you to say for Ungit now?’ he asked, still in that low voice. ‘You had better recover what she owes me. When are you going to pay me for my good cattle?’ Then, after a pause, ‘Tell me, prophet, what would happen if I hammered Ungit into powder and tied you between the hammers and the stone?’

But the Priest was not in the least afraid of the King.

‘Ungit hears, King, even at this moment,’ he said. ‘And Ungit will remember. You have already said enough to call down doom upon all your descendants.’

‘Descendants,’ said the King. ‘You talk of descendants,’ still very quiet, but now he was shaking. The ice of his rage would break any moment. The body of the dead boy caught his eye. ‘Who did that?’ he asked. Then he saw the Fox and me. All the blood rushed into his face, and now at last the voice came roaring out of his chest loud enough to lift the roof.

‘Girls, girls, girls!’ he bellowed. ‘And now one girl more. Is there no end to it? Is there a plague of girls in heaven that the gods send me this flood of them? You—you—’ He caught me by the hair, shook me to and fro, and flung me from him so that I fell in a heap. There are times when even a child knows better than to cry. When the blackness passed and I could see again, he was shaking the Fox by his throat.

‘Here’s an old babbler who has eaten my bread long enough,’ he said. ‘It would have paid me better to buy a dog as things turn out. But I’ll feed you in idleness no longer. Some of you take him to the mines tomorrow. There might be a week’s work in his old bones even now.’

Again there was dead silence in the hall. Suddenly the King flung up his hands, stamped, and cried, ‘Faces, faces, faces! What are you all gaping at? It’d make a man mad. Be off! Away! Out of my sight, the whole pack of you!’

We were out of the hall as quick as the doorways would let us.

The Fox and I went out of the little door by the herb-garden on the east. It was nearly daylight now and there was a small rain beginning.

‘Grandfather,’ said I, sobbing, ‘you must fly at once. This moment, before they come to take you to the mines.’

He shook his head. ‘I’m too old to run far,’ he said. ‘And you know what the King does to runaway slaves.’

‘But the mines, the mines! Look, I’ll come with you. If we’re caught I’ll say I made you come. We shall be almost out of Glome once we’re over that.’ I pointed to the ridge of the Grey Mountain, now dark with a white daybreak behind it, seen through the slanting rain.

‘That is foolishness, daughter,’ said he, petting me like a small child. ‘They would think I was stealing you to sell. No;

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  • Having read this book over and over again, this might actually be the book I have reread more than any other. Yes, it's that good. When I first read it, I didn't really understand it at all, but after reflecting on it and learning of all its minor nuances and careful details, I love it! After reading it a second time, I felt that I really did become Orual, so full of hatred and ignorance and self-deception, or maybe I should say that I recognized myself in her more clearly. Ouch. This book certainly gets 5 stars for making me come to terms with my own identity. Lewis is still my favorite author and probably my favorite person in general. The way he writes this book is like he is my best friend. How can it be that I've never sat down and talked with him, yet after reading this it feels like I have.

    Scribd Editors
  • Lewis does a great job of recreating the myth of Cupid and Psyche, telling it from the perspective of the older sister who tricks Psyche into disobeying her divine husband. It's a great metaphor about the effects of sin and the lengths that will be gone to in order to draw humans into a loving relationship. Orual's downfall is certainly painful to read, but it's masterfully written by Lewis, done though the subtle clues throughout the book that are beautifully sewn together starting right from Orual's bitterness at the beginning. The second half of the book was not quite as good as the first in my opinion, although the resolution of Psyche and Orual's relationship is wonderfully portrayed and provides a fitting ending. Needless to say, Lewis' final work is truly a well-written masterpiece that I think everyone should read.

    Scribd Editors

Reseñas de lectores

  • (4/5)
    This is the story of Cupid and Psyche, told from the viewpoint of Psyche's sister, one of the villains. Every so often on rec.arts.sf.written, someone complains that Lewis didn't like women, didn't understand women, couldn't write women, and generally there's an enthusiastic chorus of agreement. They stopped reading Lewis's work too early in his career; this is a beautifully complex and sympathetic portrayal.
  • (5/5)
    This is possibly my favorite book of all time (definitely top five). I'm not generally one for re-reading books, but every time I read this book, I feel like I find another layer of meaning or something to think about that I've never thought about before. Put simply, I love this book -- it's a fairly simple story, but there's so much complexity to be found!
  • (5/5)
    This book is magic. Mind you, not at all what I expected it to be, but still very captivating and powerful.
  • (3/5)
    I thought it was pretty good, but I couldn't really get into it as much as I had hoped. To be fair, it's worth noting that I am a huge mythology fanatic, so I tend to have far higher standards than most when it comes to novelizations of the existing stories. That said, part one was quite good, with a bit of a different twist on things than the norm, but still aligning enough so as to be engaging and intriguing. I didn't love it, but it was very interesting. Then, part two kinda put a wrench in things, becoming way too philosophical and such to allow me to remain nearly so engaged in the narrative.All that being said, this is still very much a C. S. Lewis work, complete with the turns of phrase and descriptive fashion that only he could really do in that way. In addition to that, while I was never as into his philosophical or apologetics works as I was his fiction, you can definitely detect strong traces of both here, despite it being part of his fiction repertoire. This augments the particular nature of the book in a way, since it is very much his least remembered publication, even though it is often considered his best, and part of me tends to think that this is because it really doesn't fit neatly into any one category. This makes it easy to dismiss, even though it shouldn't be. Indeed, while I didn't personally enjoy it as much as, say, the Chronicles of Narnia series, I think I will still recommend this first from now on for newcomers to his writing, because it is so accessible and diverse while being inherently familiar.
  • (5/5)
    Yet another classic book from THE classic Christian author. A beautifully told story with a beautiful, and eternally timely, moral.
  • (4/5)
    Amazing. This book was truly a priority until I finished it. I read this book during a hectic time in my life (work related), but I made sure to spend time during my day to be taken away while reading. It was beautifully written and has become one of my favorite.
  • (4/5)
    I read this for the first time back in high school, and loved it. I didn't know much of Greek mythology back then, and now having improved my knowledge of the subject, can really appreciate the beauty of this book.
  • (5/5)
    Wow. My favorite Lewis book, along with 'Perelandra'! Wow. In this book he comes closest to his "master", George MacDonald.
  • (4/5)
    This retelling of the myth of Pschye is from a different point of view than the original myth, which adds tremendous insight into the meaning behind the myth. This is particularly true from a Christian perspective. As always with C.S. Lewis an excellent piece of work!
  • (3/5)
    I gave this three stars, which is actually an evaluation re my brain when it comes to following this.I have heard on good authority that this is Lewis' masterwork. I really wanted to like it. However, I found parts of it obtuse. This from someone who used to know both Greek and Roman mythology very well--including Cupid and Psyche.Perhaps, I should class "Till We Have Faces" as to-be-read, and just start over again?
  • (5/5)
    This, the only work of fiction C.S. Lewis wrote after he met his wife, just happens to contain the only allusion to menstruation in his works that I am aware of (when the tutor brainstorms a list of excuses that the king might offer the priest if he wishes to delay the sacrifice of his only daughter to the goddess). Many of our reviewers have noted that this is a first-person narrative with a female narrator, saying e.g. "Who would have thought he had such sensitivity, to write from the perspective of a female character with almost frightening insight?" Not just any woman, though: the narrator is one of the bad sisters in a fairy tale. Jane Smiley in A Thousand Acres retold King Lear from the point of view of Goneril, but in order to make Goneril sympathetic, she has to turn Lear into a wicked monster. No wicked monsters in this story. The narrator pays lip service to her Greek tutor's Stoic teaching that people are not wicked, and their conflicts arise only from weakness and ignorance; and that includes her difference of opinion with her sister Psyche over whether she ought to shine a light on her mysterious bridegroom. Readers who come to this story from the Chronicles of Narnia or Out of the Silent Planet will notice a new diffidence in Lewis. No longer does he have an explanation for everything.But enough talk of doubts and mysteries and ambiguities. The surface story is a gripping yarn, set in a convincingly imagined barbarian kingdom, with never a dull moment. Before I quote the opening paragraph, let me promise you that the whole story lives up to the promise of its opening.I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband or 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.Being, for all these reasons, free from fear, I will write in this book what no one who has happiness would dare to write.
  • (5/5)
    In short, I loved this book. It is probably my favourite book altogether, and definitely my favourite by Lewis. Now, let me tell you why.Myth, originality, spirituality, personality, humanity - they all come together flawlessly in this book. The characters are deep, each having layers of identity that make them believable, relatable, and altogether captivating. And, on top of this, the main character is a somehow loveable antihero, Orual, whose imperfections make the story both tragic and beautiful. She is the ugly daughter of an angry king, the older sister of the beautiful, goddess-like, Psyche, and the sad victim of so many heartaches that have truly made her stronger - but, perhaps a little calloused.This story uses the symbol of faces to evoke identity and self-awareness. It shows the long and dwindling path that Orual takes to find her face - and see herself for the first time.Absolutely breath taking. The creativity and originality of Lewis poured into the powerful archetype of Myth, this rendition of Cupid and Psyche's story is a recipe for a classic, however obscure it may be!
  • (5/5)
    I didn't love the Narnia books as a kid (always more a L'Engle girl) but on the recommendation of a friend I decided to pick this book up. I'm so glad I did. I loved the depth he gave to the old Cupid and Psyche myth. More importantly, I loved his ruminations on the nature of love and how fine the line between selfless and destructive love can be. Orual is a compelling tragic heroine--you can see how monstrous her "love" for Istra can be but at the same time your heart breaks because however capable and strong and loving she is, she is doomed to fall.
  • (4/5)
    A not-quite-classic psyche and eros story...the writing was stellar, as can be expected from CS Lewis, and the changes weren't so much in the storyline itself as they were in the nature of the story. Essentially, it delivers on all of its promises, although the description paints Orual in a certain light which doesn't exactly correspond to the book while you're reading it. Orual deserves and gets a great deal of sympathy, and the story is more likely to break your heart than stir you in anger over her misdeeds.
  • (5/5)
    Till We Have Faces is a heart-warming book about love and passion in a retold version of the Greek myth, Cupid and Psyche. C.S. Lewis did a wonderful job writing the book from Psyche's sister's perspective, opening readers' minds to a new light of the old myth. My favorite reason of loving this book is because you learn to think of stories in other perspectives while still knowing that the story you are reading is from a myth you already have read.
  • (4/5)
    I read "The Chronicles of Narnia" when a child, which I believe was a statutory requirement for American children born between 1958 and 1970. I went on to read Lewis's Martian books, eg "Perelandra", and suddenly *smack* the Jesus factor hit me and I lost my taste for Lewis. No chance of that here, since this is a retelling of the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche.Aphrodite, for reasons of her own, gets wildly jealous of a mortal beauty, and demands of her local enforcer/priest that he sacrifice Psyche to appease her wrath; her son goes to collect the sacrifice, and instead falls in love with her; he spirits (pardon pun) Psyche off to his Palace of Luuuv; and then all Hades breaks loose.In Lewis's skillful hands, the retelling of the tale becomes a cautionary tale of political/religious power concentrating in one set of hands and the cruelties and idiocies that follow inevitably therefrom; and the horrid cruelty of the beautiful to each other, the nature of sibling rivalry, and why sisters should always be kept apart, preferably in tiger cages, until breeding age is attained. (Okay, I added that last part.)It's a marvelous story, fraught with conflicts among a powerful family of women, and almost unbearably sad in many places. It speaks loudly of Lewis's undeniable abilities as a storyteller. It makes all the sense in the world that this should rank in his canon with "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", and yet somehow it doesn't. I suspect the lack of Christian symbolism hurts the book in his fans' eyes. But I am here to say that, for the non-Christian looking for an entree into world of Lewis, this is the place to go. What a delight to discover this book at last!Recommended, with a shooing motion towards the bookery of your choice and a firm admonishment to buy it soon.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant writing consists of taking something that is either complex or very difficult to understand and make it accessible to anyone. Greek mythologies can be quite intricate and difficult to penetrate. C.S. Lewis has, with this book 'Till We Have Faces', not only made the complex myth of Psyche and Cupid accessibly, he has updated it for contemporary understandings of social roles and most of all he has taken the gods down to our level so we can converse with them on an equal footing. As a side note, I can't vouch for the accuracy but I get the impression C.S. Lewis gave a very appropriate portrayal of woman's inner turmoil and reasoning, very impressive for a man. Till We Have Faces revolves around three sisters with very different personalities and outward appearances. Although It is the physical appearance around which the story appears to resolve. Ironically, and purposefully it is the sister's characters which are the lynch point of the unfolding events, something they can only realize after they have faces.The old king of Glome had two daughters, one plain and one ugly. Unfortunately for the king there were no male members to inherit the crown and a hasty search began in neighboring kingdoms for a suitable wife to provide the desired offspring. Orual, the oldest and in her own eyes, the physically revolting one, tells this story. We follow her struggle with her father and learn about his views on how a kingdom should be run. Compounding these problem is the birth of the third sister who from the very first day is clearly the God's perfection. Istra, or rather Psyche as the third sister will be known, is the main object of Orual's affection. Orual's love goes beyond a mere mortal's devotion to one's sibling. It is her personal sacrifices which ultimately come to nothing that set her on a different path, a path through which she discovers that the love of another sometimes destroys the understanding of the self. After Orual becomes queen, through inner strength and a show of intelligence and wisdom, she slowly starts to take steps to create her own identity based on her own deeds and decisions, rather than the unquestioned love and devotion to her sisters and her father. Eventually the ugly sister, who for the remained of her life walked her kingdom veiled, understood what it is to have a face.
  • (5/5)
    I feel like no words I write will do justice to the beauty and depth of Till We Have Faces. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, a woman who has never seen her husband's face since he only visits her in the dark of night. Yet the novel is actually about a third character: Orual, the loving but jealous older sister of Psyche, concerned and put out by this matrimony. Her intentions aren't good, however, and she and Psyche become estranged as they live out their respective ideas of what it means to love.It seems an unbreachable chasm between them, the way Orual and Psyche understand her marriage. Orual is well-trained in Greek philosophy, pleading with Psyche that her marriage can't be good, for "nothing that's beautiful hides its face. Nothing that's honest hides its name." In her skepticism she can't even see Cupid's palace, but only a dense and rainy forest. Psyche seems to be living not just with a different perspective, but on another plane of existence altogether. And despite Psyche's insistence that she loves Orual just as much, if not more, because of her marriage, Orual can only interpret Psyche's newfound life without her in jealousy. As she grows old, she rages against the gods for "stealing her love from me." It is a twisted application of "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Orual loves Psyche, undoubtedly, but not enough to be able to let her go. But divine love is transcendent and redefines every other love consequently. If I may quote more of 1 Corinthians 13: "love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth." And as Orual confronts the love of the gods, she must learn to parse the paradox of loving the divine with one's whole heart and exclusively and also loving all of humanity as a means for divine love.
  • (3/5)
    This book was okay but not what I expected. I thought it would go more on the myth but it went more on ourals life. The first 150 were great but then it started on a slow decline to boredom. I didn;t even understand any of part 2 i'm sure i was supposed to analyze it to figure out its a greter picture but i didn;t really want to! Still the begininng was a good take on the myth!
  • (5/5)
    Pure love and Selfish love

    I think that's how I would describe the theme of this story. The narrator, Orual, writes her story as an accusation to the gods, describing her life from girlhood to womanhood, living life behind a veil that hides the ugliness of her face. The story is beautiful and devastating, and the reader will find that justice is served.
  • (4/5)
    I mostly loved the book for the excellent characters, which are all real and beautifully developed. Some of the lines were pure masterpieces of literary craft. (Esp. where Orual accuses the Gods). I am afraid I could not appreciate part 2 of the book. I guess that is because my own beliefs in these matters are very "un-christian". I would like to read the book again from a more unbiased point of view.
  • (5/5)
    I love love love C. S. Lewis. And not just for the Narnia Chronicles, I love almost all his books, especially The Great Divorce and Mere Christianity. So when I first heard of this book on IntoTheBook, I knew that I had to read it. And when I saw this at the Christian Bookstore at Ochanomizu, the price tag wasn't even a consideration (but for the record, it's the most expensive book I've bought, and the only one I paid full price for, since coming to Japan).Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. In the original story, the two sisters of Psyche are evil and jealous. But like Wicked, C. S. Lewis shines a different light on one of the oldest sisters - Orual (or so he calls her).Orual grew up ugly and unloved. But when Psyche is born (and her mother dies as a result), Orual transfers all her love to the beautiful Psyche. Eventually, this love is twisted into hate after Psyche's "sacrifice" to the Shadowbrute. Bred on a mixture of Glom (the country where Till We Have Faces is set) superstition and Greek logic (courtesy of the Greek Slave The Fox/Grandfather), Orual is conflicted inside. Indeed, after she becomes Queen of Glom (a very capable queen I might add), she's still tormented by what she did to Psyche by convincing her to betray her husband. So what she does is to push Orual inside her and let the Queen take her place. In this way, she becomes numb.It is only after she hears the twisted version of Cupid and Psyche (or to the reader, the conventional version), is she inspired to pen her version (or the 'true' version) of the story as a complaint to the gods. But when she is truly heard, she sees that her complaint was very different from the tale she told. Her complaint is one of bitterness, that she could not wholly possess the love of her sister. The writing in this book is marvellous. I really do wonder why it's not more popular. C. S. Lewis has spun a marvellous story and got me to look at the original myth in a whole new light. It felt as though it was an ancient myth, but it also felt modern at the same time. The language is easy to understand and very absorbing.In short, this is an excellent book (I love how I've been finding a lot of excellent books since coming to Japan). It's not only an entertaining tale, it's also a story about love, what it is, and what it is not.
  • (4/5)
    Myths are impersonal. They are told by an anonymous, omniscient narrator from somewhere well outside the action and motivations of the characters involved. No judgments are made; the only lessons are those we choose to infer from the action of the story. Till We Have Faces doesn't follow this traditional formula as it retells the story of Cupid and Psyche. With Orual as our first-person narrator, we see the story with less breadth but greater depth. Lewis puts us inside the struggle of one individual as she tries to understand her role in the world, her isolation, her failure to live up to her expectations and the expectations of the gods she's not even sure she believes in. Ultimately she struggles to understand the difference between possession and love, and we travel this path alongside her.

    I've felt possessive of the myth of Cupid and Psyche ever since I first heard it. It feels like my story, not in the sense of it being the story of me but in the sense of it belonging to me. In reality it's neither, but for Orual, Psyche's unattractive sister, the story is hers in both senses. Telling the story from Orual's point of view allows Lewis to explore from the inside out the destructive nature of a love steeped in jealousy and possessiveness. "Some say the loving and the devouring are all the same," says the Priest early in the book. We see this thread run throughout the story along with the related question, "Is it possible to love without devouring?"

    What's interesting---but not surprising given Lewis's other writings about his own conversion experience---is that while the characters have doubts about the motives and very existence of the gods, Lewis doesn't allow them to have the last word. Criticism of the gods is the result of misunderstanding their nature. It's an argument that I usually find really annoying in its oversimplified version ("The Lord works in mysterious ways..."), but in Lewis's telling, it feels more natural, more like the only reasonable explanation for why we very small mortal beings cannot comprehend the vastness of space and time. We can only see the daily toil in our little corner of things; the big picture is lost on us. If we are to see a significance in our lives and our suffering, it will be a matter of faith rather than a matter of proof.

    Lewis suggests that this leap of faith is commonplace and something we do every time we choose to see one experience as "reality" and another as "dream."

    "Of the things that followed, I cannot at all say whether they were what men call real or what men call dream. And for all I can tell, the only difference is that what many see we call a real thing, and what only one sees we call a dream. But things that many see may have no taste or moment in them at all, and things that are shown only to one may be spears and water-spouts of truth from the very depth of truth."

    The suggestion seems to be that the distinction becomes difficult when we try to over-analyze it. This doesn't mean that Lewis dismisses the value of intellect. Through the relationship between Bardia, who immerses himself in that feeling-for-the-truth faith, and the Fox, who relies primarily on intellect to reveal truth, Lewis demonstrates that one path by itself is incomplete. The two halves are always butting heads, but they are yet integral to attaining the complete picture.

    There's a lot packed into this relatively small book. It's a pleasurable read and a compelling story that leaves the reader with a great deal to mull over. It's something of a mystery to me why it's in the YA section of my library, although I'm comforted to see something substantive in that area.
  • (5/5)
    This is my favorite book. It follows the story of two seemingly different sisters and their relationships with the Gods. One sister is sacrificed to the Gods while the other must toil away on earth. It has a great twisted ending compared to the original myth.
  • (4/5)
    Read Lewis' afterword first, as it explains the myth of Psyche and Cupid that this is a retelling of. It helps in that you'll appreciate how he has changed the story, and know what the original story was. True, that will give the plot away, in a sense, but this book is more philosophical and character-driven than plot-driven. Written in 1956, the last of his adult fantasy novels.
  • (5/5)
    "How can they (the gods) meet us face to face till we have faces?" I love the title line in the book. After reading the bulk of the book and then reading that line I was deeply inspired to work harder as a Christian. CS Lewis has a way of getting the best out of his readers which for an author is an incredible feat.
  • (5/5)
    This is one of C.S. Lewis' lesser known books...While I had seen it, I had not heard much about it. A friend lent it to me and so I read it. Took me a long time to finish, but that was b/c it was so rich, complex and full of meaning and metaphor. I will definitely re-read this one.
  • (5/5)
    I came across this one at my local library. It is Lewis' reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.I have to say, the book was quite different than the Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength)--for starters, it wasn't science fiction. Event still, I found it very enjoyable. It was difficult to put down.Reading Till We Have Faces was, in part, a pleasant revisiting in my enjoyment of Greek Mythology from middle school. Many-a-time I have been very thankful for my own interest in Greek Mythology. My schooling failed to bring me deep information on the subject, yet, I can not tell you how much I have encountered references to such mythology in all genres of writing and in popular culture.At first you do not see it, but Orual, the narrator and heroine in this story, is quite tragic and full of a jealous, ugly love which she thinks beautiful--much like the needy, demanding matron to which C.S. Lewis makes reference to in other works. If you have read The Four Loves or The Great Divorce by Lewis you will be familiar with this reference. In Orual's love for her sister Psyche, we see the appalling ugliness of the jealous love.The term "till we have faces" is a brilliant twisiting of the phrase "dying to self." Lewis has asserted in Mere Chrisianity that you will not be truly "you" until you completely die to self and allow Christ to live. For fear of ruining the adventure and discovery that we each get in reading, I won't describe this further.Till We Have Faces is not a difficult read, but it is full of symbolism and meaning that avid readers of Lewis will be sure to pick up.
  • (5/5)
    Rich in language and wisdom, C.S. Lewis's retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche weaves a complex and amazing story of love, jealousy, selfishness and the struggle for wholeness and knowing oneself. Till We Have Faces is a biblical allusion to I Corinthians 13:2 "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I am fully known." One of my favorite books!
  • (5/5)
    I remember sitting at the beach and reading the end of this book. It is a re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.