Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Rich, Multi-Layered Tale from a Master Storyteller

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis (1956; Harcourt Brace & Company, 1980, 324pp.)

Cupid and Psyche. In the classic myth, a beautiful princess becomes the bride of an mysterious, nocturnal suitor who forbids her to see his face. Goaded by her two ugly, jealous sisters, Psyche disobeys her husband and lights a lamp to look at his face while he sleeps. As luck would have it, her husband, the god Cupid, awakens and abandons her. Heartbroken, Psyche wanders the land looking for him until they are at last reunited, and she is made a goddess. Lewis tweaks the myth in his retelling, choosing one of the “ugly” sisters--here named Orual--to tell a different version of the tale. In Till We Have Faces, Orual is the doting older sister who adores and cares for her much younger half-sister, Psyche, after her stepmother dies in childbirth. But when Psyche finds love in the arms of a enigmatic lover, Orual feels betrayed. She tries to sabotage the relationship not from jealousy of her sister’s good fortune, as the myth claims, but out of jealousy for Psyche. Lewis’s novel is rich and multi-layered, interweaving themes of unconditional love, death, and adversity to create a truly compelling tale. While the pace is rather slow, patient readers are sure to be rewarded by the story’s end.

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