The Place of the Lion

I finished this fantastic, in the sense of high fantasy, book by Charles Williams a few weeks ago and better put down some thoughts while it’s still relatively fresh in my mind. When I say high fantasy, I mean religious high fantasy because the nine or so Angelicals — a word I’d never heard before — break forth into the real world and cause enormous effects. How does this all start? Well, it seems that a female lion escapes from a zoo and this sets off an explosion of the archetypes! The Angelicals are really Platonic ideals adapted to Christian philosophy, if I have that right, and thus represent the greatest and most perfect versions of the ideals. The lion represents strength, and so the all powerful Lion enters into the human world. But also the Lion is countered by the Lamb and a proper balancing act must occur. People who go for just one archetype without its balancing version get destroyed because, after all, these are perfect versions too great for a mere human to handle. I hope I have this right! But I think that’s the gist.

The book starts simply enough: two friends, Anthony and Quentin, are waiting for a bus on a dusty road and decide instead to walk when the bus doesn’t come. They then discover people trying to locate the escaped lion which is nowhere in sight. But they walk on with no problem. Things rapidly get more complicated, however, and I won’t go into that, only to say it gets mysteriouser and mysteriouser. A coldly intellectual woman, named Damaris, who Anthony is in love with, becomes involved in the story, and a butterfly addict loses it when he, with Anthony, sees a gigantic and beautiful butterfly (obviously an archetype). An enormous snake which can move the earth appears, as well as the most massive lion you’ve ever seen! Rumblings in the distance, ignored by many as thunder, are really roars of the gigantic lion. An enormous and beautiful eagle helps Anthony, and in the end he wins the love of Damaris. Many more complexities weave in and out of the story: Quentin loses it completely and is saved by Damaris, and a woman is unsuccessfully turned into a snake. Great fodder for a fantasy movie.

There are also some pretty deep relgious-philosophical discussions in the book which I found I had to struggle with. There is a reconciliation in the end, primarily caused by Anthony who learns the right balance of the archetypes. All in all, it’s an exciting and completely unusual book which I think could be made into a great movie.

Update:Let me thank Steve Hayes for recommending this book, and for introducing me to Charles Williams, a person associated with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as a member of the Inklings.

  1. GreenAbby’s avatar

    Sounds fascinating!
    I think I would like to read it! :roll:

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Yes, GreenAbby, it is pretty unusual and full of surprises. Better not fool with archetypes unless you know what you are doing is a strong lesson of the book! :roll:

    Probably you could get a paperback edition, as I did, at Amazon, or Amazon (UK) for you, or any other bookstore. Some of his other books are out of print.

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