In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who posessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love
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Ironically, though Lewis considered this to be his best work, it is not very well known. Even among those who label themselves as Lewis fans, the work is not often read. Few people even know that it exists. Among the few, I would guess that there are a significant number feigning ignorance so as not to delve into the pages. Perhaps it is because the book is so often seen as a philosophical/theological work, something scholarly and dense and difficult to read. The somewhat colorless covers that t
First of all, let me remind readers that Lewis wanted his stories to be, first and foremost, stories. Whatever you may think of his personal beliefs should not affect the reading of the tale, as it was written to BE a tale. Lewis did not set about to write a story based off of a principle. Rather, he set out to write a story, and the principles of the author cannot be separated from the work as the work is a part of the author’s mind. That is why ideas are dubbed “brain children”.
Lewis’s story itself is a masterpiece of imagination, scholarly knowledge, plot and great insight into the human character. It is the tale of Psyche and Cupid. However, rather than star the beautiful heroine of the myth, the main character is Psyche’s older sister, Orual, a strong woman cursed with a hideous face. The story covers her love of Psyche, as well as her overall desire for love and her anger with the gods. This tale is set in a world of myth so well realized that it never once feels artificial. Many myth-inspired works feel unreal, as if the myth was painted on and the author only knew a little of his own world. Such is not the case in Till We Have Faces. It is believable from start to finish. This is strengthened by the tangibility of the characters themselves. No one is painted black or white. All are real human beings with feelings, hopes and reasons for their actions.
Some criticism has been placed on this book concerning its depth. True, this is not light reading. This is not Eragon, after all. The story does have philosophical elements, as well as theological ones. The tale is one of contrasts –between classical and cultic paganism; between beauty and ugliness; between trust and jealousy. Also, the emotional current of the story is certainly passionate and the tone is dark. However, I do not see why any of these traits should prevent a reading. I read this book for the first time when I was twelve. The language may not be incredibly easy, but neither is it too dense nor too difficult to understand.