A Response to C.S. Lewis' Till we Have Faces
Only now, only now that I am old and no longer care about beauty and no longer fear my own ugliness, only now that I have accepted my fate as the seer and her vision, the lover and her beloved, the heartbroken girl and her ugly despairing reflection in the mirror, only know do I perceive the truth and distortion of that cunning glass in the Pillar Room. I Orual - the wise Queen of Glome, the veiled woman warrior who struck terror in the hearts of those who loved and obeyed but never saw me, now know that I took as perfect and true, one glance into that curved glass. I saw there the magnified reflection of a swollen and bruised tear-streaked face with an eye shut tight by brutality and neglect and assumed the ugliness of the image as my own. That moment when I first gazed at my reflection in the cunning mirror in the Pillar Room, my face distorted and swollen from my father’s beating, that was the moment which determined my fate. I mistook the copy for the original. The ugliness of that reflection, enhanced by the ugliness of my own desperation and despair was my sentence in life. I know now that what I saw in that mirror all those years ago was not the perfect image of my own true physical ugliness. For how can there be in this world, a perfect image of anything? No, the mirror image was the trickery of the gods.
And yet, I am still unsure. Was there something in that reflection more true than I realized? There was something in that image that was itself alive and driven? Did that Orual, ugly and swollen, wild-eyed and beast-like, exist? And, was that Orual separate from this flesh and blood Queen? You Greeks might say that that glance into the mirror was mere appearance, that I did not see deeply enough there to see the essence of Orual. You wise Greeks may tell me that I was fooled by a phantasm and that I mistook that pretender in that glass for the truth of the world. I am not as wise as you Greeks nor am I clever enough to make myself pretty with words, as the Fox did. I sometimes wonder now if his fine Greek words masked a nothingness that I felt inside, a hollow statute that breaks so easily and falls into dust or a mere shadow on the glass, no substance, nothing to grasp and hold onto.
In truth, could I have looked deeper into that glass? Could I have seen through that “perfect” image of Orual and found something more there? Rather than merely glancing into its surface, could I have seen deeper into the meaning of that moment’s reflection? Stood there and starred unafraid to see? Could I have recognized the devouring despair of my life and foretold the hopelessness I was to live. Could I have seen through that glass, the ghosts of images that would chase me night after night in my dreams? If I had changed my seeing, could I have changed my future? Maybe not betrayed Istra and married the prince myself instead of Redival? If I had but seen my own fear and despair in that glass,...