Hello Friends! A few months ago I finished reading C.S. Lewis’s retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and it truly blew me away. Despite its Greek origins, its content is rich with Theological juiciness, and I am super excited to share it with you! I know that I said I would posting on Attack of the Clones this week, but I decided to post this long delayed book review instead, but that post is coming soon!
I am going to take a bit of a different approach with this review, so that I cover all the main aspects. First, I would like to give a short summary of the book, then, discuss the main point that I found profound.
However, as always, I must give my disclaimer. This review will have spoilers for the book, Till We Have Faces if you would like all of the general book review information, kid readability, foul language, sensual themes, and my rating, just skip down to the end.
Now, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Let’s get right into it! Allons-y!
The story is told from the perspective of Psyche’s sister, Orual, who is the oldest daughter to the King of Glome. She is considered the ugliest out of her two sisters, Redival (the second oldest) and Psyche (the youngest). Also apart of their family is the Fox, who is a “greekling” taken from Greece as a slave. He works for the King and educates the princesses.
The book begins with Orual and Redival as children after the death of the Queen, their mother. During this portion of the book, we are introduced to Orual’s hatred of the goddess that they serve, Ungit, which in the original myth is the goddess Venus the mother of Cupid. If you have read the myth then you know where this is going…
Hastily, the King picks another wife, who dies in childbirth with Psyche. Of course Psyche survives, and is so beautiful, she is considered to be a Divine goddess.
As Psyche grows older and grows closer to Orual, whom she calls Maia, and the Fox, destruction hits Glome. Crops begin to die and a terrible pestilence hits that seems to never end.
The priest of Glome attributes the destruction to Ungit. He believes that she is angry and demands a sacrifice. Ungit demands the “Great Offering.”
Now, only the purest in the land, the one of purest heart, is to be given to the “Shadow Brute,” which is thought to Ungit herself or her son.
Psyche is chosen as the purest, loveliest, and divine-like of all the King’s daughters. Orual is heartbroken and doesn’t not go up the mountain with Psyche because of her ailments.
(By the way because this is just the summary, I am skipping a few minor details, but all the important content that I want to discuss in this post, I am covering.)
Any who, eventually Orual decides to head up the mountain to collect Psyche remains and give her a proper funeral in Glome; however, what she finds is shocking. Psyche is alive and is living peacefully in a valley. She recants to Orual how she escaped her bonds, and how she is now the wife of a god.
Orual returns back down the mountain. Deeply disturbed by this news, for she feels that her sister is being deceived.
After this point in the book, things began to go very fast, and this myth becomes a page turner.
Orual, blinded by her love for Psyche, is deceived herself and causes Psyche to fall from grace.
Soon after this the King passes, and Orual becomes Queen of Glome, brining peace and prosperity to her new kingdom, but as she gets older after hearing the tale of the “Goddess Istra (another name for Psyche),” she begins to write her complaint against the gods.
As Orual approaches death, she finishes her book and part two of the story begins, which is my favorite part. She begins to have visions of the gods and after re-uniting with Psyche she dies, her head fallen onto the last page of her book…
Now, that was a very fast summary of the book, of course, to get the full wow factor, you need to read it for yourself, but for the sake of this blog post, I choose analysis over storytelling. I want to now back track and go over a few things in this book that I found fascinating.
The God of the Mountain and Psyche’s Journey:
“Orual…I am going, you see, to the Mountain…my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed now it feels not like going, but like going back. All my life the god of the Mountain has been wooing me. Oh, look up once at least before the end and wish me joy. I am going to my lover…”Psyche – Till We Have Faces
Psyche’s internally longing for the Mountain, for the god of the Mountain certainly does sound like the human’s internal desire to be with their Creator. We all long for something more than earth, simply because are hearts are not of earth but were created for a higher cause. This reminds me of something the great C.S. Lewis said:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
Psyche also claims to be wooed by this god…hmm sound familiar, again C.S. Lewis provides great insight:
“Merely to override a human will…would be useless to Him. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.”Senior Demon Screwtape – The Screwtape Letters
Psyche’s journey in this story is a picture of God’s love for his people. He will not stop until his beloved reaches his home, heaven. He longs to be with us, and he desires that we long to be with him, yet he never uses his power on us, but instead bestows upon us free will, the will to choose.
Later in the story we see Psyche choose her sister over the god. The god who saved her from her bonds and loves her ever so much. How many times do we choose people, things, and people’s opinions over the God who loves us.
The god has no choice but to send Psyche away, and away she tearfully goes. He is angry, but I don’t think he is necessarily angry at Psyche, which he is to some extent because she disobeyed him, but I think he is more angry at Orual.
Although the book is written from the perspective of Orual, I would like to focus on Psyche mainly in this post, but perhaps, later on I will write a character spotlight post on Orual. She really does deserve her own post.
Towards the end of the story, Psyche is put through numerous trying and dangerous tasks so that she can be worthy of the god and gain immortality, so that she can be with him. She is put to these tasks by Cupid’s mother, the jealous Ungit or Venus. These tasks make up Psyche’s journey.
Of course, we do not have to earn God’s love nor can we ever be worthy enough to be with him. We will never be worthy of this love, which is what makes His love for us so beautiful, but this picture of Psyche being put on trial by Venus to get to Cupid is a rather clear symbol for what goes on in our lives each day.
“Then there is a real Ungit?”
“All, even Psyche, are born into the house of Ungit. And all must get free from her. Or say that Ungit in each must bear Ungit’s son and die in childbed—or change.”Orual and the Fox – Till We Have Faces – Pg. 343
We are all born into a world that at the moment is undoubtedly under the influence of Satan because of our choice of our own free will that God granted upon us. God certainly has not left us nor ever will, but we are nonetheless born into the house of Satan, the house of Ungit. Our journey begins when we accept Christ. We must be free of evil (Ungit), or we conform to the evil that lives inside us as fallen human beings. Now, of course, we are saved by grace not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but our acceptance of salvation only begins the journey. It does not end the journey.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:10 (ESV)
Just like Psyche, who was persecuted by Venus for righteousness’ sake, we will be persecuted in this life, but that is still not the end of the journey. Christ is a God who saves. He laid down his life for us, so that we may be with him in eternity.
“So Talapal (Venus) torments Istra and sets her to all manner of hard labours, things that seem impossible. But when Istra has done them all, then at last Talapal releases her, and she is reunited with Ialim (Cupid) and becomes a goddess.”Till We Have Faces – Pg. 280
We may be persecuted in this life, but because of Christ’s great love for us, we are saved and live with him forever in eternity in a place that He has gone and prepared for us like a groom awaiting his bride. There are many scriptures I could site that back this up, John 3:16 being the big one, but there are two that stick out to me.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?John 14:2 (ESV)
Indeed, friends, he has gone before us, our real God of the Mountain. He woos us with his love and wipes away our tears, so that one day we will be with him forever in eternity. Amen…
Thus, as it happens, this Greek myth may have not been so Greek after, holding in its grasp many truths that we can learn from. Let us be like Psyche and persevere with the great, holy, almighty, and loving God of the Mountain guiding us step by step, wiping away our tears and wooing us with his love. Our hearts were made by Him, for Him, and for an eternity with Him. Here is my rating of this book:
Kid Readability: Ages 15+
Foul Language: B**ch is used a few times to describe Redival (Orual’s sister) and female dogs.
Sensual Themes: There are some hints at sex between Cupid and Psyche and the shadow brute and its prey. Orual’s virginity is referenced here and there.
Well, there is all for today, friends! I hope that you enjoyed this book review, and please stay tuned for my next review, which will be on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Until next time,
Time Lady of Coruscant 😁
2 thoughts on “Book Review: C.S. Lewis’s – Till We Have Faces”
“Till We Have Faces” is one of my favorite books of all time; in fact, the tale of Cupid and Psyche is one of the inspirations for the novel I’m currently writing! I re-read TWHF just a couple of months ago, and there are so many scenes where I relate, DEEPLY, to Orual…but oh, my heart’s desire is to have Psyche’s faith in and passionate love for “the God of the Mountain.” Wonderful review!!
Thank you! I absolutely fell in love with this book when I read it, and it was one amongst other things that inspired my writing style. Psyche and her “God of the Mountain” really captivated my heart, and there were so many areas that I too could relate to Orual. She is such a deep character that she really does deserve her own separate post! I am so glad that you enjoyed the review! 😁