Long Live the Queen! Till We Have Faces Discussion Group Week 8

Today we come to the end of Part I!
With only four chapters remaining in Part II, I’m amazed at how quickly the time for this discussion group has flown!

Plot Summary

Queen Orual has plowed into her new role with gusto, handily defeating Prince Argan with her sword, celebrating her victory as a lone woman in a place of power among men, and then settling into the routines of running a kingdom.  Her identity as the ugly princess is continually being swallowed up into that of the mysterious, veiled warrior Queen who leads her soldiers into battle and implements far-reaching economic and social reforms.  Even so, Orual is there behind the veil, haunted by grief and weighted down with the futility of a life devoted only to a dutiful completion of the day’s round of tasks.

A long recreational journey alleviates Queen Orual’s restlessness and brings something close to joy — until she stumbles into a secluded temple and learns that the story of the goddess who “resides” there is based on the story of Psyche with some important changes in the narrative details that settle once and for all Orual’s conviction that the gods hate her.  She resolves to set the record straight by writing the story from her own perspective and by bringing before the gods her charges against them for their injustice.

Reflection

Orual is a brilliant leader, and part of her brilliance lies in recognizing the importance of tapping into the wisdom of her counselors, Bardia and the Fox.  In her own right, however, she is enthusiastic, progressive, and a lover of justice, so even though there is no joy  or satisfaction in it for herself, Orual rules well. Lewis’s friend Screwtape would grudgingly admit that his Enemy (God) would be pleased with this human who does what is required, day after day, purely from a sense of duty.

Her veil, the “treaty made with her ugliness,” serves her well as a tool of intimidation and also advances Orual’s disappearance into the identity of The Queen.  All the grief, unhappiness, and bitterness can go on behind the veil while The Queen soldiers on, keeping up appearances.  She speaks with strong verbs that unmask her self-hatred, saying that she will kill Orual (225), that she has “locked Orual up” and “laid her asleep as best [she] could” (226).  As Orual’s face is lost to the world, queenship becomes her new face.

As with any addiction meant to deaden and smother pain, Orual’s ceaseless work and her string of accomplishments don’t satisfy her for long.   Her longing for the slaking of thirst and the old memory of satisfaction comes through clearly (and poignantly) with these words:

“Oh, for that bowl of milk, drunk alone in the cool dairy, the first day I ever used a sword.”

Some Issues to Ponder

Desperate to gain some relief from the sound of wind-blown chains that sound like Psyche’s weeping, The Queen builds a formidable stone wall around the well. Later, she refers to this building project in the same breath as triumph in the Battle of Essur (235).

“I heard Psyche weeping no more.  The year after that I defeated Essur.”

The Queen may have succeeded in walling up grieving Orual, and she may have felt powerful in the face of what she perceived to be  a “weakened” version of Ungit who smelled “cleaner and less holy” (234).  She may even have been rich enough and broad-minded enough to contribute silver to the temple for the fashioning of a new replacement for the “old, hungry, faceless” Ungit.  However, it was not long before she discovered that the gods were clearly at work behind the scenes, striving to have the last word.

Remember:  Orual had told NO ONE that she had seen Psyche’s palace.  Imagine her horror when she heard in the sing-songy repetition of the “gods’ version” of her story that it included the detail that the sisters had seen the palace and, yet, still enticed their sister away from her husband.

Orual had learned on the banks of the river near The Tree, when she saw the god’s face and experienced his power:   The god of the Grey Mountain is “no tame lion.”  Moving into Part II in which the Queen plans to argue her case against the gods,  it seems certain that we’re in for some sorting of the truth and revealing of motives:

“Let no one lightly set about such a work.  Memory, once waked, will play the tyrant . . . The past which I wrote down was not the past that I thought I had (all these years) been remembering. (253)

These are cautionary words for us as well, for it is God who writes our story and it is His prerogative alone to “set the record straight.”

 Some Issues to Ponder

If readers in the U.S. are busily completing tax forms, Orual’s attitude about her sacrifices to Ungit may have struck a chord with you.  She considers the task burdensome and the temple requirements to be an odious chasing after the prosperity of others.  Whatever we might think about the demands of the IRS, we know that whatever we give to God is simply a return of what is already His in a glorious affirmation of our free will and of our design for worship.  Sadly, this is not the case in Glome.

Orual’s heaviness and gloom reminded me of the writings of Paul the Apostle who did not lose heart — whatever hardships he endured — for he considered every difficulty to be light and momentary when weighed against the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  In Chapters 19-21, The Queen has her own tragic system of measurement.  On one side of the balance scale rest the adulation of the people of Glome, her huge impact for good, and all the daily doings that go into the management of  a kingdom.  They land, in her estimation, like feathers on the scale when weighed against the howling wasteland of a life without Psyche, of a relationship of cool professionalism with Bardia, and the piercing loneliness of an existence in which, in her own words, “one little stairway led me from feast or council, all the bustle and skill and glory of queenship, to my own chamber to be alone with myself — that is with a nothingness.”

We live an a world full of Oruals who keep themselves busy and fill their lives with stuff and accomplishments in order to quiet the questions and mask the ache of longing.  This ending to Part I leaves me feeling sad for our main character and her present-day sisters — and wistful about finding a way to share the hope Paul wrote about, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” which gave him the ability to view this world with its trials as light and momentary, which indeed it is.

Your Turn

I would love to read your thoughts on this section — or on Part I as a whole.  Join the conversation by linking up a blog post or by commenting below.

Next Time

On Thursday, March 2, I’ll be here having read Chapter 1 and 2 from Part II.

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Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

31 thoughts on “Long Live the Queen! Till We Have Faces Discussion Group Week 8”

  1. Michele, I haven’t been commenting, but I’ve continued to read along with you. I find myself sad because Orual and, as you pointed out, so many in our world don’t know the true God. Even their ideas about God are often so distorted. Life truly is vanity without knowing Him and living for something bigger than ourselves. BTW, I like the IRS analogy. Blessings, my friend!

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  2. I am also sad for Orual who has stuffed her real self down into a hidden room while she plays Queen. Of course she discovers it doesn’t stay hidden. “The memory of his voice and face was kept in one of those rooms of my soul that I didn’t lightly unlock”. We all stuff things where we think they may be safe from criticism and try to hide behind our public facade. How very precious that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sees to the depths of our soul, loves us lavishly and completely, knowing what we are yet redeems us and gives us a new heart. Praise and honor to Him!

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    1. And how precious that with Him, there is no risk. We can share our hearts, look fully into the mirror of His Word, become unveiled, and live in Truth.
      Thanks, Linnea, for sharing your thoughts! Hope that you are recovering steadily and will soon be pain free and back to a brand new normal!

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      1. Michele, my recovery is coming along nicely! Have even ditched the cane. Out and about slowly – need now to increase endurance but the hip is healing wonderfully. Pretty good for only 3 weeks from surgery.

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      2. …the mirror of His Word, where we can look, see ourselves as we are and trade that likeness for a better One. (as per James 1:23ff and II Cor.3:14ff) I feel like I am coming to understand this in a deeper way of late. Previously I have acted as though my objections to things I read in Scripture are not seen by any but me. I am learning to admit my struggles in understanding (and living out!) and being reconciled to His words, rather than just creeping away veiled with a hardening heart…His Word either frees us or hardens us depending on our response. But this is perhaps off-topic. Let me get back to the book at hand!

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      3. “Trade that likeness for a better one.”
        Isn’t it miraculous that we can do that, in Christ? I’m afraid that we get stuck sometimes in a mindset that emphasizes acceptance to a point of “this is who I am, and therefore . . .”
        I want to fight this as I grow older (and older) because I see it as being Gospel diminishing. Our veiled and hardened hearts seem to fight harder as we “mature” when it should (truly) be the exact opposite.

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  3. Oooh, Not sure if this is in context or not (b/c I’m reading vicariously through you, so I may not have the context correct), but I love that part about “memory, once walked, will play the tyrant…” — Memories have a way of betraying us sometimes, don’t they? Even the good ones b/c many times we romanticize things in our memories, too. Remember them better than they were. Or worse than they were. 🙂 — Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michele. It’s been fun to read. 🙂 ((Hug))

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    1. It’s great to have you along on the journey, Brenda. And I think sometimes we give ourselves permission to distort things we remember just to re-write history with ourselves in a much better light. Blessings to you!

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  4. At every turn I am seeing references to hard hearts. (I’m reading the gospel of Mark these days) and realizing this is not a good state to be in! With each successive chapter Orual’s life becomes sadder even as she walls up her feelings with greater and greater willpower. While she intends this to relieve her of pain in reality it walls her off from the source of relief. I came across this verse this morning that describes her situation I think (though in its context it is describing Gentiles who have not yet embraced the Gospel of reconciliation to a good God).
    “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, DUE TO THEIR HARDNESS OF HEART.”(Eph.4:18) Orual has cut herself off from the joy of life itself because she has wrongly judged the gods.

    Furthermore, her perception of things is not in line with reality. I love the way she is brought to face this in the temple and the variant rendering of her own story. I think this will be what it’s like on Judgment Day. Suddenly all one’s excuses and explanation for not pursuing God’s ways will look like the foolish reasonings that they are, all false. Her story makes me want to be more mindful of the ‘truths’ I hold to and let my heart follow, and to ‘take them captive to make them obedient to Christ’.

    This book has been such a helpful read for me, Michele. I wouldn’t have done it without you! Thank-you for all your time and dedication to the excellent presentation you do week by week!

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    1. Amazing how our ability to perceive truth with our minds is impacted by the condition of the heart. These observations are so helpful in thinking about Orual’s plight. I’m also reminded of the poor dwarves in Lewis’s last battle who have been mistrusting everyone and imagine that they are in a stable when truly they are in a lovely field under an open sky. Like Orual, they “chose cunning instead of belief.” “Their prison is only in their own minds.”
      Thanks, Linda, for persevering with us in this project. Your input is always so helpful.

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  5. Dear Michele, Thank you so much for leading us on this study! God has used this book immensely in my own life these past weeks. I love how you ended today’s post with these words of Paul: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” especially as it is in the unveiling and the reflecting of HIS face that we are transformed! The sad state of Orual’s hard heart and looking within led to my own reflections this week:

    http://raseasons.blogspot.com/2017/02/unlocking-heart.html

    Many Blessings to you!

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    1. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts today, Bettie, and am amazed at how you have managed to crank out a response each week! We are certainly going to miss our friend Orual when this journey ends.
      Happy Friday to you!

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  6. I found this so profound: “We live an a world full of Oruals who keep themselves busy and fill their lives with stuff and accomplishments in order to quiet the questions and mask the ache of longing.”
    How easy it is to slip into these patterns! I know them and recognize them, but our society creates such slippery slopes I find myself climbing out of many a hole of busy and stuff and accomplishment seeking.

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    1. I’m uncomfortably aware that I have a lot in common with Orual, so I appreciate your sharing the fact that you also struggle with that slippery slope. So grateful for grace that keeps us on track!

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  7. Hi, thank you for contributing to our link-up at The Blended Blog. Tell me, how often do you guys start a new book? Are the books you read of a similar genre? I am a retired librarian looking to fill my empty hours. We are doing a virtual book club on TBB. Wonder if you have joined? We will begin a new selection of books with the new month. Would love to have you join us for that. Read more here: http://www.theblendedblog.com/2017/02/the-blended-blog-reads.html

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    1. Smiling because this is the first time I’ve EVER led this kind of a discussion on my blog, so . . . I guess that makes once in a row. It’s been wonderful, so I may lead another in the future, but definitely need a bit of a break. I’ll head over and check out your site. SheLoves Magazine has a book club called The Red Couch, and I always benefit from reading a book in community – even if it’s an online community!
      Thanks for the heads up!

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  8. Wow Michele, this sounds like such an interesting book! There is always so much we can take away from the incredible works of C.S Lewis. What powerful lessons we learn from Orual’s hiding behind the veil of her own self-hatred and self-condemnation. But praise God that Jesus came and “tore the veil” to set us free! (Your neighbor at #FreshMarketFriday!)

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  9. I am catching up on your posts after a trip to Indy for a grandson’s basketball regional tourney. I feel a sadness for Orual’s condition as we come to the end of this and aware that I need to be sensitive to sisters around me who may not know His hope and grace, His love and mercy.

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    1. Yes, Pam, I’m getting ready to write my last post on the book for March 9th, and I’m finding myself procrastinating about it. Orual chose a hard road, and even though “the gods” finally got her attention, it’s hard to read about.

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