Most people, even those familiar with Lewis’ works, have never heard of this book, the retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. And perhaps that is because it is very philosophical, however, I think that this adds to its merits. Lewis considered it his greatest work: I do not disagree! I love it, here’s why.
In the myth, there is a beautiful princess who is worshipped and praised among her people, so much so that Aphrodite is jealous of her attention. She strikes the land with poverty, sickness, and misfortune, forcing the people to leave Psyche in the wilderness as a sacrifice. Aphrodite has instructed her son, Cupid, to strike Psyche through the heart and make her fall passionately in love with a beast. Upon going to fulfill this request Cupid falls in love with Psyche and marries her, but he refuses to show her his face. When her sisters visit, seeing the great palaces and riches, grow jealous and tell their sister to light a candle and see her husband’s face.
What follows for Psyche is a world of trouble and hurt as she is cast out from her palace and forced into exile, then into the hands of Aphrodite’s cruel menace, so legend says.
But Lewis tells a different story, painting with a finer brush to create the story Psyche’s sister, Orual, who has her own story of tragedy and hardship to share in her charge against the gods. In a masterpiece of emotion and heartache and, ultimately, hope, we are given our own character to empathize and identify ourselves in.
What impressed me the most was how well Lewis wove the interpretations of love, in one moment there is a Christ-like love coming from Psyche for her people, willing to sacrifice herself for them, the next, the vile desire of the gods for such a sacrifice. Even through a pagan story at a pagan time with pagan gods, what amazed me was how such Christ-like love shown through. This story left me with a feeling of gratitude for the God that I worship, not a god who is vain and asking for us to sacrifice ourselves to satisfy such a desire, but a God who sacrificed himself for his people. Not a god who taunts us maliciously for his own sport, but a God who tenderly nurtures us through hardship to become beautiful.
We all start out like Orual, ugly, proud, and bitter and laying our charges at the feet of God (though in our case, we lay them at the feet of a righteous God), and in the end, through God’s love and patience, we are made beautiful in spirit because of the one-day full reflection of his love in us.
If, in your reading, you value deep characters, thought-provoking human struggles, and, in the end, happiness (and perhaps a slightly mad love of lore and myth) Till We Have Faces will be a treasure on your shelf. However, it is really deep, and has been criticized as such, but I argue that it is certainly worth it.
Originally, I didn’t think I would really like this book, assuming it would be a little over my head as well as dry. I can’t believe I thought such a thing, this book is one I look forward to revisiting. I would definitely recommend it, probably for teenagers and up, simply because younger children would not understand it. But take it slow, sometimes it could be a little dry, and seemingly pointless, it’s at these moments that Lewis slips in something important.
Until next post,