The Empty Face Of Evil

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis’s powerful retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, focuses on the face of evil—its definition and habitation. Orual, the selfish Queen of Glome and sister of Psyche, narrates the tale. She meets the gods face to face and must cope with the inevitable result. The queen’s mentality is a mixed one. She has all the dark fear of the gods that so pervades her tale, but she also has a Grecian logic instilled by her beloved schoolmaster the Fox, a slave from Greece.

Queen Orual tries to make the gods the villains of the tale, to put them “in the dock,” as modern man has done with God (see Lewis’s essay “God in the Dock,” in the collection of essays under that title published by Eerdmans).

Although Orual always speaks as if there were several gods, her tale revolves around two, the dark, bloody Ungit of the temple of Glome and the son of Ungit, the Shadowbrute or Beast of the Grey Mountain. These two are the barbaric versions of the Greek Aphrodite and Cupid. The tale, too, is the same. The beautiful Psyche is sacrificed to appease the gods, who are thought to be jealous of her beauty.

From Orual’s point of view, the gods are dark and malicious creatures, allowing men little moments of pleasure only to dash the poor creatures down again. She complains:

The gods never send us this invitation to delight so readily or so strongly as when they are preparing some new agony. We are their bubbles; they blow us big before they prick us [Till We Have Faces, A Myth Retold, Time Incorporated, 1966, p. 86; succeeding references are to this edition].

Worse yet, the gods do not allow men to plan their own little idiocies and blasphemies; they increase the pain by diverse cruelties:

It is, in its ...
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