Six Degrees: From Cliff Benson to Lysias “The Fox”
Last week Jenelle took us to Hyde River and the sinister, keep-the-light-on-at-night tale of The Oath by Frank Peretti. One of the characters she mentioned from that book was Cliff Benson. She described him as “a decent, stand-up guy, who believes in his wits and his own prowess, and is serious about getting to the bottom of things. He doesn’t believe much in religion and is skeptical of anything that smacks of the supernatural.” This sort of no-nonsense, rationalistic approach reminded me of Lysias from C.S. Lewis’ excellent novel, Till We Have Faces.
Nicknamed, “The Fox”, Lysias is so committed to logic and reason that he is blind to anything even remotely supernatural. He labels all such things as mere superstition and while he may be right about a great deal of it, in the novel, he turns out to have been wrong about some very important realities. Lysias’ skepticism is passed down to his pupil, Orual who is a princess of Glome and later its queen. Born with a face so ugly she always wears a veil, Orual is in all other ways incredibly gifted. Intelligent, courageous, and a warrior, she is everything her younger sister, Istra is not.
Istra is startlingly beautiful, but also trusting, and innocent. The two sisters have a wonderful relationship until Istra is taken away. While Istra is able to accept her fate, Orual is not. Orual enlists the aid of one of the royal guard Bardia to bring her sister back. Bardia, though loyal to Orual has more respect for the supernatural forces which have sequestered Istra than the princess. His devotion to Orual keeps him ever at her side, but later in the novel we see that his steadfastness has caused great strain on his marriage so Bardia is a tragic figure in a certain sense.
Not everyone in Orual’s family is so loving towards Istra. Orual’s other sister, Redival is a wanton princess who is envious of her sister’s greater beauty and ultimately her plotting plays a part in bringing about her removal from the court. In her spite, Redival even turns to the shrewish, gossiping nursemaid Batta for companionship. Batta, a relatively minor character, causes trouble for Orual in her younger days, but Orual enacts her vengeance upon the old servant later in life.
Till We Have Faces is a unique, memorable tale. I believe it is also C.S. Lewis’ finest work of fiction and am glad that it finally made its way into the annals of the Six Degrees milieu. To see a list of all of those great tales as well as instructions as to how you can take part in this Six Degrees mischief, be sure to check out the Six Degrees main page. But even if you don’t choose to contribute, be sure to check back next week and see what wonderful book has made it onto the list.