I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?[1]

Orual in C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces

Ancient mythology is back and with a contemporary twist, as modern sensibilities inform the works of classicists-turned novelists Claire Heywood and Madeline Miller. Heywood’s Daughters of Sparta (2021) is a retelling of the story of Helen of Troy and her sister Clytemnestra as they navigate a patriarchal world. Similarly, Madeline Miller’s Circe (2018) is an admittedly feminist reading of Homer’s Odyssey which explores the inner dimension of the goddess-turned-witch who turned unruly sailors into pigs on her island of exile before meeting a worthy, albeit temporary, suitor in Odysseus. Miller’s Circe follows her initial work in translating classics into modern novels, The Song of Achilles (2012) which retells Homer’s Iliad written about the Trojan War, a war fought over Helen though Miller focuses on the close friendship of the half-god Achilles and his close friend, the human Patroclus. The friendship is so close that Miller casts Achilles and Patroclus as male lovers, a practice not unknown in the ancient world. These works are held up against C.S. Lewis’s own ventures into the ancients, primarily that of his retelling of the story of Psyche and Cupid in Till We Have Faces, though his portrayal of Venus (and that most ancient of women, Eve) in Perelandra is particularly relevant. We will see how Lewis portrays how only divinely grounded and redeemed charity can allow us to truly and fully love, then compare this to the contemporary versions of love in the ancient world portrayed by Heywood and Miller.

Till We Have Faces, the last novel written by Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and the one he considered his most important, retells the ancient story of Psyche and Cupid but with a classic Lewis twist, which is to say it becomes a story of not just gods and men but of God and man.[2] Or of God and women, as the relationship between Psyche and her older, jealous, and possessive sister Orual provide Lewis the opportunity to demonstrate the power of divinely redeemed love.  This is accomplished by contrasting Greek philosophy, long considered the pinnacle of ancient wisdom, with the profound holiness of a deity to whom sacrifices become life itself. Lewis’s sci-fi exploration of the genders in The Space Trilogy also bears relevance, as he explores the nature of the genders in each story.  Out of the Silent Planet is set on the very masculine Mars where ‘the very forests are made of stone,” Perelandra on Venus where “the lands swim” and where Eve faces her original temptation to unyielding autonomy all over again, and That Hideous Strength on Earth with the persistent theme of marriage of the two, beginning with its opening word “matrimony.”[3]

Lewis alters the original story of Psyche and Cupid, found in the Latin writer Apuleis’s Metamorphoses in the second century A.D., in profound ways. In the original story, Psyche’s beauty distracts from worship of the goddess Venus who then curses Psyche to fall in love with the basest of men. On the way to enacting the curse, Venus’s son Cupid falls in love with Psyche, and arranges for the West Wind deity to transport Psyche to his own hidden palace.[4] Psyche’s visiting sisters persuade her to disobey Cupid’s condition that she not look at his face, resulting in Psyche’s eviction, wandering, and trials that she must endure to regain Cupid’s love.

Lewis first alters the story by making Cupid’s mountain palace visible only to Psyche, thus making her a figure of faith in contrast to her unbelieving sisters. Lewis’s main innovation, however, is to tell the story from the perspective of Psyche’s oldest sister Orual, who is blessed with neither beauty nor love, and whose face is so unsightly that she wears a veil when she rules as the Queen of Glome. Her possessive love of Psyche, in the guise of sisterly concern, causes Orual to rail against the gods, compiling her complaints in a book she finally presents to them. Lewis also transforms the series of trials that Psyche undertakes to regain Cupid’s love into a spiritually redemptive process, which helps Orual to realize the selfishness of her own loves. But Lewis provides profound insights in his telling of the story, to which we now turn.

Lewis draws a stark contrast between man’s wisdom and God’s in Till We Have Faces. Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is dispensed by the teachings of the Greek tutor (the Fox) of the three daughters of Trom, King of Glome (Orual, Redival, and Psyche). The Fox can do calculations, read and write in many languages, and excel at speech, but his wisdom pales next to that of Ungit, a simple, ancient deity which demands worship and sacrifices. Trom declares that the Fox’s advice “is very subtle,” but “it brings no rain and grows no corn; sacrifice does both. It does not even give them boldness to die.”[5] Not only do the sacrifices made to Ungit give a power unknown to the Greek, but they reveal the mysteries of life, as Trom continues “much less does [the Greeks’ skill at letters] give them understanding of holy things” as “they demand to see such things clearly, as if the gods were no more than letters written in a book . . . nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them.”[6] Instead, Trom declares that

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not thin and clear like water, but thick and dark like blood.”[7]

Thus, the rituals that accompany both births and sacrifices performed in the “dark holiness” of Ungit’s temple show how she “signifies the earth, which is the womb and mother of all living things.”[8] Ungit is considered both the mother and the wife of the father of the sky whose rain fertilizes the earth; Lewis declares through the priest that this strange, sordid parable of life is “wrapped up in a filthy tale . . . to hide [its truth] from the vulgar.”[9]  When a new Ungit is constructed with an aesthetically pleasing Greek design, despite her beauty she is ignored as her appeal is “only for nobles and learned men,” and “there is no comfort in her.”[10] By contrast, the original Ungit, a simple, dark stone thrust up from the bowels of the earth, has broad appeal, as her simple, blank, monolithic face refracts, from all the blood sacrifices made upon it, something more like a thousand different faces. The Fox even comes to admit that all his teachings, except that the poets could not always be trusted, amount to little. The Fox does offer one useful clarification, however, when he declares the gods not to be just, since “what would become of us if they were?”[11] It is the primitive religion of Ungit, and not the platitudes of Greek philosophy, which provide and sustain life.

Orual’s journey consists largely in compiling her complaints against the gods for injustices suffered by herself and by Psyche. Orual’s possessive love translates Psyche’s sufferings into her own, even though it was her own advice which caused Psyche’s wandering. As Orual levies her charges against the gods (who respond only with silence), she comes to realize that even friendship with her advisor Bardia was self-serving, demanding his services at the expense of time with his own wife and family. As she finishes levying her volume of charges against the gods, she realizes that her book amounted to little more than scribbles on a paper, which she had been reading repeatedly. Upon hearing her own whiny, repetitive complaints, she realizes that that was the gods’ answer to her: the ignobility of her own voice made her realize she had not yet found her true voice or, as per the title, her own face.

Psyche’s trials and redemption instead show Orual how to find her true self.  Psyche’s suffering becomes more than a mere trial to earn Cupid’s lost love, but the process of the soul yielding to divine love. In both the original and Lewis’s version, Psyche receives providential luck to complete the various tasks given her: ants help her to sort a floor filled with tiny seeds; she realizes that she can snatch the beautiful, golden fleece of a stampede of rams by picking it from nearby bushes; and an eagle fetches a cup of water from the mountains for her. But Lewis casts her final task, a journey through the underworld to retrieve beauty distilled from the Queen of the Underworld, as a journey into death itself.

Orual imagines herself performing the same trials, and is advised as she begins to “die before you die” as “there is no chance after.”[12] This death is not just the death of the passions and vain pretensions that the Fox taught, echoing Socrates on education of the soul, Orual reasons; instead, it is the death of our inner ugliness and sin that we bring “with us into the world” and “with it our destiny.”[13] This ugliness is personified by Ungit herself, with whom Orual realizes she is identical (“I am Ungit . . . I was as ugly as she; greedy, blood-gorged”); such ugliness was the reason for Ungit’s dispatching of Psyche to steal the beauty of the golden fleece of the rams and of the Queen of the Underworld.[14] But it is by carrying out these tasks that Psyche undergoes her own redemption. Psyche must ignore all who would distract her as she emerges from the underworld with the casket of the Underworld Queen’s distilled beauty; Orual sees herself and others as inflicting wounds on Psyche by their offers to care for her, as Psyche is tasked solely to follow the path to Ungit. As Psyche emerges, Orual is astounded by Psyche’s regaining of her beauty, noticing that she was “a thousand times more her very self than she had been before the Offering;” she had not become a goddess, however, but was in fact (and finally) a “real woman,” the completion and fulfilment of the divine spark enshrouded in once mortal flesh.[15]

Psyche’s obedient submission to her divinely appointed tasks awakens Orual to the selfishness of her own life. Orual had once claimed “we want to be our own. I was my own and Psyche mine and no one else had any right to her.”[16] But Orual finds that she now loves Psyche as she “would once have thought impossible to love, would have died any death for her.”[17]  However, it was not for Psyche’s sake or Orual’s sake or anyone’s own or any other’s sake that anyone existed, rather it was for the gods’ sake that anyone, or anything, existed; “and he was coming . . . the most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is.”[18] Any earthly loves can only exist, truly and properly, after one’s love for the gods.  Upon this transformation (as Orual found herself undergoing the same trials and  redemption as Psyche), the gods declare Orual to be not Ungit in all her ugliness, but instead Psyche in all her beauty, a beauty “beyond all imagining.”[19] Orual has found her true face, and her true voice. Orual’s original charge against the gods for their unfairness had ended with her declaring that the gods had no answer. Now, however, she declares that “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer;” no other answer would suffice but the one meaningful word, “You.”[20]

Although Miller’s The Song of Achilles (2012) initiated the run of novels based on  ancient classics, examining first Heywood’s recent Daughters of Sparta (2021) then Miller’s Circe (2018) highlights the way in which our modern awareness of gender can cause us to view  such ancient stories in a different light.  Daughters of Sparta focuses on the sisters Helen and Clytemnestra navigating the ancient world of patriarchal monarchy, while in Circe the goddess known primarily as an erstwhile companion of Odysseus is the central character as she is shown struggling to carve out her own niche in a dysfunctional family of deities. A return to the The Song of Achilles will then highlight how both the ancients and moderns handle issues of same sex friendships and the temptation to romance.

Helen of Troy (nee Sparta) and her legendary, mythical beauty (as one would expect of a daughter of Zeus) has inspired artwork and literature in both ancient and modern Western civilization for three thousand years. Her story of forsaking a loveless marriage to Menelaus, King of Sparta, at the wooing of Prince Paris of Troy, thereby launching a thousand ships and the legendary ten year Trojan War, has served as inspiration to under-appreciated women for generations.

Heywood explores the lives of both Helen and her sister Clytemnestra, princess sisters in Sparta, as Clytemnestra is first married off to King Agamemnon of Mycenae upon her father’s decision, then the younger Helen is betrothed to his brother Menelaus, who becomes King of Sparta. Clytemnestra is dutiful yet frustrated at the subservient role for which she is groomed; likewise, as is Helen. Clytemnestra gives birth to two daughters, Iphigenia and Elektra, but Agamemnon grows distant and has an affair with a young temple girl; Clytemnestra does next produce the desired male heir, Orestes. Helen’s marriage with Menelaus is similarly disappointing, as her near death at the birth of their daughter Hermione leads her to finds experts in contraceptives to foil her husband’s plans for another (and male heir) child; their marriage grows more than literally sterile, as Menelaus produces a son with the house slave Agatha. The distance between the sisters and their husbands grows until Helen abandons her marriage and sails to Troy with the extravagant Prince Paris. Agamemnon and Menelaus use the opportunity to rally the Greek city-states into a nation as they sail to make war on Troy; a final dagger in Clytemnestra’s marriage is unsheathed when Agamemnon sacrifices their daughter Iphigenia to the gods to obtain the winds needed for his army to set sail to Troy.

Throughout Heywood’s rendition of Clytemnestra and Helen, there is a tension between hope and reality, as the sisters’ efforts to find significance and love crash against the reality of an age run by kings and by men. Even twentieth century Lewis admitted an essential difference, as he recognized the essential differences between the genders, as in Perelandra Ransom declares “My eyes have seen Mars and Venus” “I have seen Ares and Aphrodite . . . Ares was a man of war and that Aphrodite rose from the sea foam.”[21]  The sexes merely scratch the surface of gender, Lewis claimed, noting that the sexes are “rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine” with his male Malacandra possessed with “the look of one standing armed . . . in ceaseless vigilance” while Perelandra’s eyes

opened, as it were, inward, as if they were the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in thin-spun delicacy of mist.[22]

His description of the Earthen Jane in That Hideous Strength (the finale of his Space Trilogy) matches the fears of the Spartan sisters, as to her

“Religion” ought to mean a realm in which her haunting female fear of being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession, would be set permanently at rest and what she called her “true self” would soar upwards and expand in some freer and purer world.[23]

Instead, she is advised by the Christ-like figure of the Director of the deeper significance of gender, that “the male [sex] you could have escaped . . . but the masculine none of us can escape” as “what is above and beyond is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”[24] The gender-laden image of God as husband and church as bride (recalling not just Song of Solomon but Eph. 5, Revelations 19) echoes as Lewis endows God with “strong, skillful hands thrust down to make, and mend, perhaps even to destroy.”[25]

The dreaded “S” word –- submission –- is not so toxic for the Lewis of the Ransom Trilogy as it is today. “Equality is not the deepest thing, you know . . . no one has ever told you that obedience –- humility –- is an erotic necessity” the Director instructs Jane, continuing “you are putting equality just where it ought not to be,” thus indicting the current gender-cancel culture to boot.[26] Nevertheless, the Director qualifies the bold claim, citing the subtleties and richness of the sexes with “obedience and rule are more like a dance than a drill –- specially between man and woman where the roles are always changing.”[27]

Lewis’s own personal encounter with gender –- his marriage to Joy Gresham –- shows a similar balance, yet demonstrates the moral of Till We Have Faces, that any love besides that with divine origins falls selfishly short. Admitting his own self-interested love of Joy, Lewis asks, “What sort of a lover am I to think so much about my own affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake.”[28]  Instead, Lewis comes to realize the good of it all for his departed lover, envisioning her as having become a sword in God’s hand: “He grasps the hilt; weighs the new weapon; makes lightnings with it in the air. ‘A right Jerusalem blade.’”[29]

Even that is too masculine a description, however, so Lewis likens her to a garden, a Venusian source of life as it were, and “Like a nest of gardens, wall within wall, hedge within hedge, more secret, more full of fragrant and fertile life, the further you entered.”[30] As powerful as these images are, Lewis nearly outdoes himself in describing the union of the sexes during his grief:

There is, hidden or flaunted, a sword between the sexes till an entire marriage reconciles them. It is arrogance in us to call frankness, fairness, and chivalry ‘masculine’ when we see them in a woman; it is arrogance in them, to describe a man’s sensitiveness or tact or tenderness as ‘feminine.’ But also what poor, warped fragments of humanity most mere men and mere women must be to make the implications of that arrogance plausible. Marriage heals this. Jointly the two become fully human. ‘In the image of God created He them.’ Thus, by a paradox, this carnival of sexuality leads us out beyond our sexes.[31]

The final chapters of Helen and Clytemnestra can be found in Heywood’s book as well as in the classics; suffice it to say that they remain engaged in the game of love, though with deities and royalty one might expect some twists and turns.

Miller’s Circe offers a more direct look at the struggles of women as individuals, as the goddess discovers within her the skills to become the first witch in literature and thereby claim a life independent of her squabbling family of deities. Just as Helen has served as inspiration throughout history, Miller claims that Circe, the Titan daughter of Helios (god of the sun), “has had a long literary life, inspiring such writers as Ovid, James Joyce, Eudora Welty and Margaret Atwood.”[32]  Exiled to the island of Aeaea upon turning her naughty cousin Scylla into a sea monster (this is Miller’s version), Circe makes an honest job of her craft, collecting herbs and roots to produce various spells. The spell for which she is most famous is that of turning Odysseus’s men into pigs, a rhetorical opportunity that a femininity-empowering novel could not refuse, observing that “they never listened. The truth is, men make terrible pigs” and how “the anticipation [of waiting to turn them into pigs] was part of the pleasure.”[33]  She encounters a plethora of mythological deities (an instructive pleasure for the reader), including the artful Daedalus and the shifty Hermes the Lord of Meaning, among others.

Circe’s opportunity for love comes when Odysseus and his crew land on her island on their return from the Trojan War. She finds in Odysseus a humility she did not expect to find in a sailor (if not in a man), as he declares of his wife Penelope (sister of Helen and Clytemnestra) “I cannot account for the fact that she married me, but since it is to my benefit, I try not to bring it to her attention.”[34]  Odysseus is not just patriarchal but paternal, concerned with the character and good of his men, many of whom were boys when they first left for the war. Odysseus is cunning in his own ways and not entirely a saint, and does father a son, Telegonus, with Circe in his stay on her island.

Circe learns the joys and trials of motherhood, and the fulfilling yet bittersweet moment when she must give up her child to the world. Without spoiling the reading of the Odyssey for the reader, Circe does manage to find her own love in Miller’s ending, in which Odysseus’s wife Penelope ends up on Aeaea after her husband’s eventual demise. Circe’s Telegonus finds his way finally off the island and into the world, and Circe takes up with Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope. Telemachus is not the crafty warrior like his father, “fair-minded and warm . . . not consumed like his father was” and “he has never been hungry for glory, only for life.”[35]  Circe and Telemachus have two daughters; though she still practices her craft, it is in the service of mending the world, and she summarizes the life chosen by she and her husband in terms otherwise considered feminine and Venusian: “this is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive.”[36]

Miller offers thoughtful insights about her tales of men and gods in essays and interviews included with her first novel, The Song of Achilles. Of the gods, it is their hubris that typically gets them in trouble; they lack self-restraint, and expect that the world was made for their own sake. Men are much the same, and Miller likens Homer to Shakespeare, whose fictional Hamlet is “a creation of the deepest emotional resonance,” just as Homer’s “self-serving Agamemnons” and “double-speaking Odysseuses” exhibit “the same greed, grace, courage and cowardice” as can be seen today; “Homer holds the mirror up to all our nature, if only we will look.”[37]

The rich texture of humanity shown by both Homer and the stories told by Heywood and Miller still qualify for enlightenment from Lewis. The divine origin of full and empowering human love was the entire point of Lewis’s The Four Loves.  Beyond cases of affection (such as between parents and children, Need-Love meets Gift-Love), friendship (heralded as the glue of societies since Aristotle and Cicero), and eros (an “altruistic appetite,” and “foretaste of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival,” as Christ gave Himself for the church) lies the love achieved only by divine means, that of charity.[38] This Gift-Love is beyond the natural affections, yet it completes them. “Divine Gift-love -– Love Himself working in a man –- is wholly disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved” Lewis explains. Even though both Gift-love and Need-love can become inspired by such Divine Charity, its highest form is what Lewis terms Appreciative love, “of all gifts the most desired,” as God “can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love.” As Orual realized, the one meaningful word is “You:” “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer.”[39]

As Psyche is the first witch in literature, it only seems appropriate to quickly turn to Lewis’s appraisal of the first known woman in history, Eve. The temptation of Eve is portrayed in Lewis’s Perelandra, as attempts are made to lure her to sleep on the fixed land rather than her floating island, a rule given to her for no reason other than to require her obedience. Words like “Creative” and “Intuition” and “Spiritual” and the prospects of significance beyond mere obedience offered to lure her away, though when she sees such words for the disobedience to which they amount, she “laugh[s] for a whole minute on end.”[40]  The fixed land symbolizes her autonomy, which she dispatches with the reply

“And why should I desire the Fixed except to make sure –- to be able on one day to command where I should be the next and what should happen to me? It was to reject the wave –- to draw my hands out of Maleldil’s to Him, ‘Not thus, but thus’  that would have been cold love and feeble trust. And out of it how could we ever have climbed back into love and trust again.”[41]

The obedience required of the Perelendrian Eve (Tinadril is the name given her by Lewis) is exactly the same which Jane realizes in That Hideous Strength, of which Lewis states is a demand “not, even by an analogy, like any other demand” as “it was the origin of all right demands and contained them.”[42]  Circe’s autonomy, of itself, made a more fulfilled life for her; but while she sought much needed independence from her family of gods, it is only by submitting in obedience to the one God that we can find harmony or a true family.

Finally, The Song of Achilles with which Miller inspired this recent spate of Homer adaptations, explores the friendship between the half-divine and legendary warrior Achilles and his fighting companion, Patroclus, at whose death in the Iliad Achilles mourns deeply. Homer writes that Achilles

wept still as he remembered his beloved companion, nor did sleep . . . but he tossed from one side to the other in longing for Patroclus, for all his manhood and his great strength and all the actions he had seen to the end with him.[43]

Miller considers that Achilles’s strong grief has been unexplored, and proposes (as had Aeschylus and Socrates’s Phaedrus among others) that their friendship might have spilled over into a romantic relationship. Patroclus was a young prince exiled for his accidental killing of another youth, and becomes an advisor to the young Achilles (though Miller’s Patroclus is the same, early teens age as Achilles when they meet, and is awkward and tutored by the confident and able half-god Achilles). Achilles must deal with his intrusive mother, the nymph who mated with King Peleus of Phthia, while Patroclus grows in confidence. Achilles is commandeered into the Trojan War, despite prophecies concerning his fate in battle (to kill Hector, son of Trojan King Priam, then to die himself). Patroclus shows Achilles how to behave humanely in his compassion for prisoners of war, but when Achilles sits out the fighting over an honor-squabble with Agamemnon leading the war, Patroclus bravely volunteers to appear in Achilles’s armor to inspire the disheartened troops. The ploy works until Hector manages to kill Patroclus, inspiring Achilles back into battle and ensuring that various prophetic fates ensue.

Miller’s writing is once again riveting and entertaining, and she highlights the natural friendship between Patroclus and Achilles nearly as much as the romantic nudge she gives it. Lewis made little mention of same sex attraction issues, though he did illustrate gender confusion (and a remedy of sorts) in The Great Divorce. As he waits in line for the bus ride (from Hell to Heaven), the protagonist runs across a young couple, “arm in arm” who “were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither.”[44] As if by designed contrast, Lewis subsequently describes the angelic Ghosts in terms that do justice to both sexes, though contained in a singular being:

Because they were bright I saw them while they were still very distant . . . the earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf. A tiny haze and sweet smell went up from where they had crushed the grass. Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh. (italics added) [45]

Sweet smell and strong feet, massive grandeur of muscle and radiant smoothness of flesh: this is no falsetto androgyne, this is the embodiment of both the masculine and the feminine.

Other classically trained Christian authors such as Anthony Esolen (who, among his many works, has translated Dante) have pointed out the threat to same sex friendships when such sexuality is introduced. Citing examples for friendship from those of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, Sam and Frodo of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and David who laments Jonathan’s death with “your love to me was finer than the love of women,” Esolen declares that the gay upshot of the sexual revolution has jeopardized the normal bonding friendships particularly of young men.[46] Esolen states that “our jaded dalliance with androgyny [risks] friendships and stunts the boys intellectually . . . depriving everybody of the benefits that such intellectual development used to provide . . . They might do a thousand things fascinatingly creative and dangerously destructive, but one thing they would not do, as our boys do now, stagnate. They would be alive.”[47]

Another handling of the deep bond of friendship between Patroclus and Achilles is offered by Louis Markos in From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics, in which he explores the nature of grief and friendship. To Markos, Achilles’s grief displays the depths of his humanity; his restlessness echoes that of Augustine who declared upon the death of his close friend, “My eyes sought him everywhere, but he was missing.”[48] Achilles tries lying in bed and pacing the beach, and his madness leads him even to dragging the corpse of defeated Hector behind his chariot. “Indeed,” Markos observes, “inasmuch as Achilles is a god-man who foreshadows the God-Man, his depth of grief offers us a possible glimpse of the agonies of Gethsemane.”[49] Achilles subsequently shares a moment of grief with Hector’s father King Priam of Troy, highlighting the humanity of Homer’s epic.

While other tales and studies of the significance of the ancients await the inspired student, holding these modern perspectives on ancient works up to Lewis’s own novels in ancient settings only further illustrates the depth and range of his insights. There really is one central insight, however, and that is futility of natural love and its only hope of redemption in Divine Love.

Citation Information

Seth Myers, “Till We Have Faces: Greek Philosophy Not Bloody Enough,” An Unexpected Journal: The Ancients 4, no. 3. (Fall 2021), 187-214.

Direct Link: https://anunexpectedjournal.com///till-they-have-faces-lewiss-psyche-meets-the-modern-helen-of-troy-and-circe/


[1] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), 294.

[2] Walter Hooper, The Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis. Interview with Eric Metaxas, Socrates in the City. Online http://socratesinthecity.com/watch/the-life-and-writing-of-c-s-lewis-part-one/.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (New York: Scribner, 2003), 172.

[4] In the original Greek story, Aphrodite and her son Eros appear, in the later Latin version the names become Venus and Cupid.

[5] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 50.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 269, 270.

[9] Ibid., 271.

[10] Ibid., 272.

[11] Ibid., 297.

[12] Ibid., 279.

[13] Ibid., 282.

[14] Ibid., 279 – 282.

[15] Ibid., 306.

[16] Ibid., 292.

[17] Ibid., 307.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., 308.

[20] Ibid.

[21] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, 172.

[22] Ibid.

[23] C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Scribner, 2003), 315.

[24] Ibid., 313.

[25] Ibid., 315.

[26] Ibid., 146.

[27] Ibid., 146.

[28] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam Books, 1973), 47.

[29] Ibid., 73.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 57-58.

[32] Madeline Miller, Circe, Digital edition (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018), 407.

[33] Ibid., 203, 204.

[34] Ibid., 206.

[35] Ibid., 372.

[36] Ibid., 404.

[37] Madeline Miller, “Stealing Hercules’s Club” in The Song of Achilles: Appendix, 30.

[38] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harvest, 1991), 114.

[39] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 308.

[40] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, 113.

[41] Ibid., 179.

[42] C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 315.

[43] Iliad, XXIV.4-9.

[44] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: HarperOne, 2000), 3.

[45] Ibid., 23.

[46] 2 Samuel 1:26.

[47] Anthony Esolen, Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity (Charlotte: Saint Benedict’s Press, 2014), 71.

[48] Augustine, Confessions Book IV.9, trans. Maria Boulding (New York: Vintage Books, 1998),  p. 58.

[49]  Louis Markos, From Achilles to Christ, (Downers’ Grove: IVP Academic, 2007), 75.