C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle includes a scene of what amounts to the Last Judgment (I don't recall the exact chapter, but it's toward the end of the book):

The creatures came rushing on, their eyes brighter and brighter as they drew nearer and nearer to the standing Stars. But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face, I don't think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly - it was fear and hatred: except that, on the faces of Talking Beasts, the fear and hatred only lasted for a fraction of a second. You could see that they had suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts. They were just ordinary animals. And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow, which (as you have heard) streamed away to the left of the doorway. The children never saw them again. I don't know what became of them.

Is C. S. Lewis endorsing annihilationism (i.e. "conditional immortality", where some people become immortal and others either cease to exist or cease to be conscious) here?

His statement that "You could see that they had suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts" and that they "disappeared into his huge black shadow" seems to suggest "yes," but his statement that "I don't know what became of them" seems to suggest that Lewis is deliberately trying to avoid taking a position on exactly what happened to them.

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    I might look into this later. Are you specifically looking for an analysis of this passage, or would you also accept an answer based on what Lewis has said about annihilationism in other writings (and then saying that "he can't mean X here, because elsewhere he posits Y")?
    – Shokhet
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:34
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    @Shokhet Actually, I think both could be interesting, both seem to be valid ways to approach an answer (although I guess there is always the whole discussion about how authorial intent relates to meaning). Apr 20, 2017 at 16:39
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    Okay. I think I might have a better shot at the second one. I'll do some more searching later.
    – Shokhet
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:40
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    @Shokhet Thx, that sounds good - it's an interesting question, actually, I'm not sure exactly what Lewis's actual view on the topic was come to think about it, that could shed some light on what he was trying to say. Apr 20, 2017 at 16:41
  • I think C.S. Lewis's on the afterlife and hell are dealt with quite fully in his popular writing on Christianity, for example, "The Screwtape Letters".
    – mikado
    Apr 24, 2017 at 5:13

1 Answer 1


I don't have the book in front of me right now, but Aslan makes it clear in The Magician's Nephew that animals could go back to being "dumb" beasts. In fact, there are several examples of this in the series (such as the cat when he sees Tash in The Last Battle). Consider the following quote (from chapter 10):

"Creatures, I give you yourselves," said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. "I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself. The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. For out of them you were taken and into them you can return. Do not so."

Prince Caspian also implies that numerous animals had "gone back" to being "dumb" animals again.

That being said, the conditions under which a talking animal can cease to be conscious appear to be very different than the conditions under which humans can cease to be conscious. That being said, the fact that the animals ceased to be conscious doesn't necessarily imply that C. S. Lewis thinks that the same thing will happen to humans (although it's certainly a possible interpretation).

I think that it's likely that C. S. Lewis was trying to avoid that controversy here. Most likely, he didn't think that this was the best place to address that kind of controversy (or to go into details about exactly what happened to them).

TL;DR We don't have to assume that C. S. Lewis was teaching annihilationism here (although it's certainly a possible interpretation). It's more likely that he was dodging the question, leaving it to be addressed in other books.

  • "Of course, The Great Divorce (as well as several other writings on his part) provides us with evidence that C. S. Lewis doesn't actually agree with annihilationism." This entire answer needs elaboration. Good answers don't just give an answer to the question, they explain why and how.
    – user111
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:44
  • @Hamlet I edited out the reference to The Great Divorce - in retrospect, I don't think that it's necessary to the answer. I do agree that this answer would benefit from expansion (I'm not 100% satisfied with it), but I think that it's still an adequate answer. Jul 25, 2017 at 16:03
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    Your first paragraph makes a good point, but it could be greatly improved by actually adding the relevant book quotes. You should be able to find them online, e.g. in lists of Narnia quotes such as this one. (I haven't voted either way on this answer yet, but would upvote if you fleshed it out a bit.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:05
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks, that's a helpful suggestion - I found the quote supporting my point in the first paragraph (which is definitely critical to my main point) and edited to include it. Jul 31, 2017 at 15:10
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    OK, I've now upvoted your answer, but I still think it could do with more fleshing out. For instance, are there other places in the Narnia books where Lewis has deliberately dodged a complex theological issue? Also, though this is perhaps less relevant - re your last clause, "leaving it to be addressed in other books", it might be interesting to add something about Lewis's views on annihilationism as expressed in other texts (The Screwtape Letters?), for context around this question.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 1, 2017 at 14:04

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