If someone came up to you on the street and said "Did you know that the Chronicles of Narnia books end with bloody Armageddon," you'd probably give them a very funny look. That funny look would be unwarranted, however, because that is exactly the subject of "The Last Battle," the eighth and final book in C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" series.
Aslan, the great lion and Christ figure in the "Narnia" series, has returned to Narnia. Or has he? This is the question that King Tirian, the last in the line of kings that began with Prince Caspian many Narnian generations ago, finds himself faced with. The king, along with his faithful unicorn companion Jewel, goes to investigate claims that Aslan has returned to Narnia. He soon discovers that the stories are false, and soon finds himself fighting for his life against the Calormenes -- sworn enemies of Narnia -- even as he tries to rally the confused and disbelieving Narnians to his cause.
King Tirian discovers that it is not Aslan, but a simple donkey named Puzzle dressed in a lion's suit. Puzzle's "friend" -- and that word is used only in the loosest way -- Shift convinced the donkey to dress up, and now proclaims that he -- Shift -- speaks for Aslan. Shift uses his new status to bring riches and power to himself, and also to allow the Calormenes into Narnia to further increase his power base. Soon, Shift claims that Aslan and Tash -- an evil deity worshipped by the Calormenes -- are the same person, further solidifying his power base and confusing the Aslan-following Narnians.
After being captured by Shift and the Calormenes while investigating the false Aslan, King Tirian calls out for aid from the great lion. Aid comes in the form of Eustace and Jill, two human youths who have visited Narnia before. The two rescue King Tirian and Jewel, as well as a band of dwarves and Puzzle -- who is revealed to have been an unwitting and unwilling accomplice to Shift's scheme -- and the party flees the Calormene camp. The dwarves turn against Aslan and the king, except for one: a dwarf named Poggin remains loyal to Aslan and the Narnian lord.
Tirian, Eustace, Jill, Puzzle, Jewel and Poggin all draw up plans to launch a sneak attack on the Calormene camp, which has now become a sort of shrine to "Tashlan," as Shift now calls him. They believe that by revealing the falsity of Shift's claims, they will be able to turn the Narnians to their aid and cast out the invaders. The battle is soon joined; and while the small Narnian force seems to do well in the beginning, things take a turn for the worse. Puzzle and Jewel are both slain -- Jewel by the leader of the band of dwarves, who proclaims upon killing Jewel that "the dwarves are for the dwarves!"
Shift is thrown into the stable where the false Aslan had been kept, and is eaten alive by Tash, who has come down to inhabit the stable himself. Poggin and Jill are thrown in soon after by the Calormenes. Tirian, fearing that Tash has killed the two, grabs the Calormene leader in an act of desperation and drags him inside the stable. Jill and Poggin are shown to be alive, but Tash appears in all his wicked glory and takes the Calormene leader for himself. It is at this point that the other Earthlings of the story appear: Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Polly and Diggory all step into the stable, and Tash flees before Peter's rebuke.
Aslan finally appears at the stable, and every Narnian -- living and dead -- assembles before the great lion to receive final judgment. Those who are deemed worthy -- who have remained loyal to Aslan and/or his code of beliefs -- are taken into Aslan's Country. Those who were unworthy or disloyal, however, are turned into animals and sent into an unknown place for all time. Finally, Narnia itself is consumed in Armageddon as Aslan leads all his faithful into his own country, which he claims is the "real" Narnia, with the previous one being only a copy. Peter and his siblings are revealed to have died in a train crash -- all except Susan, who no longer believes in Narnia -- and are admitted to Aslan's country as well.
- "The Last Battle"; C.S. Lewis; 1956