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Aesop and The Last Battle

Col Klink
NarniaWeb Junkie

Here's a fun trivia bit. How many of you knew that there is a fable by Aesop that likely provided some of the inspiration for The Last Battle's story.

A donkey once found a Lion’s skin which the hunters had left out in the sun to dry. He put it on and went towards his native village. All fled at his approach, both men and animals, and he was a proud Donkey that day. In his delight he lifted up his voice and brayed, but then every one knew him, and his owner came up and gave him a sound cudgelling for the fright he had caused. And shortly afterwards a Fox came up to him and said: “Ah, I knew you by your voice.”

Fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

Topic starter Posted : November 14, 2023 10:26 am
NarniaWeb Guru

CS Lewis was known to be a literary scholar, so he would have been familiar with Aesop's fables.

Although I think Puzzled was manipulate into wearing the lion skin by Shift (a really shifty ape) and the donkey in the Aesop's fables did not. Plus, Puzzle was not as proud.

Though I could see the resemblance.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

Posted : November 14, 2023 10:41 am
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee

@col-klink I don't think I'd heard that particular one, but as Aesop's fables and similar stories (often they're so old we don't know their real origin) have been part of so many cultures for something like 2,500 years, I wouldn't be surprised if Lewis knew that story, widely read as he was! He may have been drawing on it consciously, or he may not have been — I doubt we can prove anything, unless there's a statement from him somewhere that that's one thing that inspired him. But I don't know if he ever commented on it. 

Of course, what happens in The Last Battle is different from what happens in that fable, as Jasmine has noticed — Puzzle didn't dress up in the lion's skin willingly, and he wasn't at all proud to be wearing it. But then, Lewis's point in having a donkey dressed in a lion's skin was nothing like the moral point that the fable is making. It's just a trope, if you like, that Lewis may originally have encountered in this fable and adapted for his own use in the final story of Narnia. Again, we don't know, but it's an interesting speculation and certainly not impossible.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

Posted : November 14, 2023 1:09 pm
NarniaWeb Guru

That is interesting and certainly a possibility.

Whether related or not, I do think its worth noting that there is a certain ubiquity in the trope of directly contrasting a Lion with a Donkey, presented as two opposing ends of a spectrum, such as in the phrase "Lions Led By Donkeys"

Posted : November 14, 2023 3:41 pm