Monday, September 21, 2009

"I was Orual"

In C.S. Lewis' masterpiece "Till We Have Faces", Orual makes the statement early in her first book, "I was Orual (emphasis mine), the eldest daughter of Trom, King of Glome." She hated her father. He called her curd face and unworthy, stated he was barren when indeed, he had three daughters, dared the tutor to teach her and her sisters, punched and kicked her, ridiculed her. The father/daughter relationship in the story is painful and completely dysfunctional. In truth, it is non existent. Or was it? How did this relationship influence/affect her?


I was Orual.....

A careful reading lets us discover that she tries very hard to eradicate Orual and become someone/something else. While this is a fascinating psychological study, it is not my primary interest, nor am I qualified to make observations and conclusions in the matter. Rather, I am interested in who or what she became once she decided "I was Orual..."

There are several incarnations along the way. She very nearly becomes a man. Her voice deepens, she takes up the sword and horseback riding. She fights in many battles with her soldiers and one in particular on her own. She eats and drinks with them.

She states near the end of the book, "I am Ungit", the black stone goddess (p. 279). Here she understands her propensity to confuse being loved with using/consuming people for her own stoney-hearted "blood gorged" purposes (p. 281, 282), calling that "love". She admits to being ugly in soul.

What I didn't see until today was this:

She became her father. How so?

When it is determined that Psyche must be sacrificed, the King is questioned as to how he could allow it to occur. He answers, "No one seems to remember whose girl she is. She's mine, fruit of my own body." (p. 60) Here he reminds me of Ungit!! Blood gorged. A user-up of people.

Toward the end of the book, Orual is called before the gods to read her complaint. She has already admitted to Shadowbrute and her father that she is Ungit - the goddess who represents the human condition. But there is a fascinating passage that until now I didn't connect to anything.

"The girl was mine. What right had you to steal her away into your dreadful heights?...There's no room for you and us in the same world. You're a tree in whose shadow we can't thrive. We want to be our own. I was my own and Psyche was mine and no one else had any right to her. ... What should I care for some horrible, new happiness which I hadn't given her and which separated her from me?.... Did you ever remember whose the girl was? She was MINE! Do you not know what the word means? MINE! You're thieves, seducers (p. 291, 292).

Not only had she become the faceless goddess she didn't understand, wouldn't worship, ridiculed. She had become the father she viscerally hated. She had no compassion for him at any stage of life. And now, because she had killed off Orual, the void left behind had been filled. She had allowed voracious hate, bitterness, envy to fill her. She had become her father.

Instead of spending her life working at forgiveness, instead of rejecting the lies about her unworthiness, she put all her energy into eradicating the very person she was made to be - Orual. She concentrated on hating, consuming, devouring herself and others. Conscious of what she was doing to herself, she was unconscious of what she was doing to others. Consider her relationship with Psyche, Redival, Bardia, even the Fox.

Ungit is religion's expression of the human condition.
The King is the human manifestation of the human condition.
Orual is proof that there is hope for the otherwise hopeless human condition.

There is a regenerative moment for us.
There is forgiveness extended to us.
There is forgiveness we can extend to others.
First, however, we must be face to face, barefaced with God.

She enters judgment as Ungit. But, in the end, Orual becomes Psyche! No, not a physical Psyche. But just as she embodied the awful nature of Ungit, the mind of her father and all her other incarnations, she DOES become Psyche. "(She) became unmade." "(She) became no one."
(p. 307) "Joy at last silenced (her)." (p.306). She, like Psyche, came to know that "You (the gods) are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?...." (p.308)


  1. This is a great article! I just read the book and am giving a report on it. I would have never thought of it like this. Now it makes much more sense!

  2. I hope you find other blogs I wrote helpful, as well. I love this book; Lewis put so much humanity into Orual. One can't help seeing self in her. We are all in the same dilemma and need to find the same way out - being unmasked and naked before God. Then He will meet us face to face.
    Link to Till We Have Faces on my side bar and see if there are other thoughts that spur you on in your thoughts.