Till We Have Faces

[Till We Have Faces. A Myth Retold]
Year of publication: 
Moral assessment: 
Type: Literature
Nothing inappropriate.
Some morally inappropriate content.
Contains significant sections contrary to faith or morals.
Contains some lurid passages, or presents a general ideological framework that could confuse those without much Christian formation.
Contains several lurid passages, or presents an ideological framework that is contrary or foreign to Christian values.
Explicitly contradicts Catholic faith or morals, or is directed against the Church and its institutions.
Literary quality: 
Transmits values: 
Sexual content: 
Violent content: 
Vulgar or obscene language: 
Ideas that contradict Church teaching: 
The rating of the different categories comes from the opinion of Delibris' collaborators

C.S. Lewis began this novel early in his life when God was far from his thoughts and he completed it thirty years later, and thus his final fictional work, when Christianity was central to his life. He considered this his favourite work of fiction. He began with the story of Psyche and Cupid from Metamorphosis of the 2nd Century. Set in pre-Christian times, he used it to retell the tale from the older sister’s point of view. It can be read as a well-told and exciting adventure story of barbarian kingdoms and warrior queens, where the gods (i.e. God) are central to their beliefs. Yet this is so much more, as Lewis pits human love, bodily beauty and human ugliness against supernatural love, spiritual beauty and the suffering that leads to final redemption. The title comes from a line in the book where Queen Orual says, ‘How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?’ The work has been somewhat neglected, probably due to the unexpected originality of the subject matter and the complexity of the plot.

On both levels this is a rewarding read. It can be read quickly but does require a second reading to reach the full depth of philosophical and theological thought. Much of Lewis’ work of fiction, especially for children, can be a little too full of Christian moralising, but this book is devoid of any such weightiness. It makes the reader thoughtful and reflective, exactly the sentiments intended by the author. It is rare to start a novel with no idea of what to expect, and then be rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Author: Cliff Cobb, United Kingdom
Update on: Sep 2022

Other review

Moral Assessment: 

This book is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, taken from Metamorphoses, written by Apuleius (about II AD).
This myth reflects a greek worldview, not a Christian one. The story is narrated by Psyche's older sister Orual, and is divided into 2 parts. 
The first part, spawning by 80% of the book, is written in the fictitious kingdom of Glome (an old barbaric city-state), as a bitter accusation against the gods, for taking her most loved Psyche away from her, to unite some invisible god-husband, and later condemned her to life exile for trying to see god's face.
In the second part, the narrator has changed her mindset: she now recognizes her view was dictated by her feelings and shortcomings; as a mortal, she was jealous and ignorant of the divine; but gods are lovingly present in human lives.

Author: Jorge Gaspar, Portugal, 2022