[[caption-width-right:269:[-''"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? [[TitleDrop How can they meet us face to face till we have faces]]?"''-] ]]
->''"Are the gods not just?"''\\
''"Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?"''

''Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold'' (1956) is Creator/CSLewis's last novel, and the one he considered his best and most mature. It relates the myth of Cupid and Psyche (found in Apuleius' Latin novel ''The Golden Ass'') from a very different perspective than the original.

It is presented as the record -- and the formal complaint against the gods -- of Orual, daughter of the King of Glome, a pagan kingdom to the north of ancient Greece. Her father, hot-tempered and prone to violence, has little love for his three daughters, least of all for ugly Orual. Her only friends in the palace are her beautiful half-sister Istra and her tutor, a Greek slave who she only knows as "the Fox".

Her happiness, such as it is, ends abruptly: after the people of Glome begin worshiping Istra's beauty, Glome is stricken by famine and plague. The high priest of the goddess Ungit declares that these calamities are divine punishment for blasphemy, and that they will end when Istra is sacrificed to Ungit's son, the god of the mountain, the Shadowbrute. The King agrees, over Orual and the Fox's objections (Istra herself is at peace with this decision). Orual falls sick from despair on the night of the sacrifice, so she is unconscious while Istra is chained to a tree at the edge of the god's country and left for the Shadowbrute.

As soon as she is back on her feet, Orual steals away with the soldier Bardia to give her sister a proper burial. Instead, they find Istra herself, alive and well in the valley of the gods. Orual's joy turns to consternation, however, when she realizes Istra has gone mad, believing that she is the bride of a god and that her forest home is actually a divine palace. Orual takes steps to disabuse her sister of her illusions; these end in a disaster that permanently separates the two sisters.

Distraught, Orual returns to Glome, where she begins wearing a mask-like veil. She then takes the throne when her father falls ill, and with help from the Fox and Bardia, she rules Glome shrewdly for many years.

One day, by chance, Orual hears a myth from a priest in a foreign land; to her surprise, it is her and Istra's story. But the priest's version gets many details wrong; in fact, it makes Orual out to be the villain of the story. Angered, Orual decides to set the record straight: to tell her story, and to make it her accusation against the gods. However, in the process of writing her story down, she is confronted with divine visions and hidden truths about herself, and ultimately she is forced to reinterpret everything she knew.

!!''Till We Have Faces'' includes the following tropes:

* AbusiveParent: The King, particularly to Orual. He has no problem calling her ugly to her face and beats her several times.
* AllTakeAndNoGive: Orual is the Giver. [[spoiler:Or so she claims herself to be.]]
* AlwaysSecondBest: Redival is beautiful, but not nearly as beautiful as Istra, which is a major source of bitterness for her. Towards the end, [[spoiler: it's revealed that Redival felt abandoned by Orual and the Fox after Istra was born. Orual realizes it's a valid grievance, even if Redival was bratty about it]].
* ApocalypticLog: At the beginning Orual comments that she knows the gods may strike her down at any moment for her accusations against them. At the beginning of the second part, she notes that she must hurry in her writing, because she knows she will die soon. The narrative ends [[spoiler:mid-sentence, with a comment by Arnom that he found the queen dead, her head resting on the book]].
* BecomingTheMask: Orual.
* BlasphemousPraise: It's not made a large plot point in-story, but those familiar with the original myth will know it might not have been the smartest move for the Fox to say Istra is "prettier than Aphrodite herself."
* BodyMotifs: Faces and masks are a recurring theme.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness, [[SubvertedTrope subverted]]
* CelibateHero: Orual, appropriately enough, given her antagonism to the local love deities.
* CloserToEarth: Bardia, as opposed to the Fox.
* CombatByChampion: Argan, prince of Phars, versus Orual, over the freedom of Argan's brother and rival, Trunia.
* CrossoverCosmology: Implied in the final chapters. (Not to the characters themselves, it should be noted. Modern readers, however, may be able to discern the connections.)
* CunningLikeAFox: The Fox is so called for his knowledge. (Well, and his red hair.)
* CutLexLuthorACheck: The King of Glome often sentences people who particularly displease him to hard labor in his silver mines. As Orual notes, his tendency to have them worked to death is incredibly inefficient for the purpose of actually mining silver. Even as be bewails Glome's ill fortunes, he never considers any kind of labor reform. When Orual becomes queen, she takes special care to make sure the slaves in the mines are well-treated and healthy, and in a few years the silver output skyrockets, becoming a pillar of Glome's prosperity.
* DeathByChildbirth: Istra/Psyche's mother.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Omnipresent.
** In the early part of the book, between the Fox's Greek philosophy and the beliefs of Glome, which sanction the occasional human sacrifice and castration of a man who flirts with the King's daughter, among other things.
** The civilised Greek, the Fox, thinks it "barbarous and scandalous that women in our land [primitive Glome] go about bareface."
** Istra's acceptance that she should be sacrificed.
** Orual's behaviour once she becomes queen. All agree - including Orual herself - that she is the most merciful ruler in that part of the world. Yet she quite casually recalls, in among a list of her sensible and humane reforms such as freeing deserving slaves, that she [[spoiler: had her old nurse Batta hanged for being a tale-bearer and bully. OK, Batta was a nasty old drunk, but ''still'']].
** Then subverted in the second part of the book when she looks back on her own actions and comes to see (among more dramatic revelations) that although she generally meant well as a ruler, and did truly love as a friend and sister, that is not enough.
* {{Demythification}}: [[spoiler:initially.]]
* TheDitz: Orual's other sister, Redival.
* DueToTheDead: Orual goes to the mountain with Bardia to find Istra's body and give it a proper burial. [[spoiler:Turns out she's not really dead.]]
* EmotionsVsStoicism: The Fox's character arc, to an extent. He gets bonus points for being a literal Stoic[[note]] or possibly Cynic[[/note]] philosopher.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: The king of Glome is, perhaps understandably, simply the King to everyone, save for at the very beginning when he is introduced by his given name, Trom. Similarly, the elder priest of Ungit is simply the Priest.
* ExternalRetcon: Orual writes her book to set the record straight after hearing a priest's false story about Psyche. Eventually, [[spoiler: Orual retcons her own story when she comes to realize her true motivations were selfish.]] (Of course, ''Till We Have Faces'' functions as this in real life as well.)
* TheFaceless: Orual in her mask.
* FairestOfThemAll: Aphrodite's jealousy of Psyche.
* FlyingDutchman: [[spoiler: Istra, after disobeying her husband, is exiled to wander the earth until she can be reunited with the God of the Mountain.]]
* TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry: Redival is the pretty but ditzy one; Orual is the clever but unattractive one. Orual's feelings for Istra are more complicated.
* GreenEyedMonster: Ungit demands Istra be sacrificed for being more beautiful than her. [[spoiler:Also, Orual herself, as she realizes at the end]].
* HealingHands: The people of Glome believe that Istra's touch can cure a plague; it's not made clear how true this belief is.
* HeirClubForMen: The King's anger at having no male heirs is a source of much tension.
* HonoraryUncle: Orual calls the Fox "Grandfather."
* HumanSacrifice: Istra, for drawing worship away from Ungit/Aphrodite. [[spoiler:Turns out she's not really dead, and married to the god of the Gray Mountain, Eros/Cupid]].
* IJustWantToBeLoved: Arguably Redival; almost all named characters hold her in contempt, and her flirtatiousness could be seen as a desperate attempt to find ''somebody'' who likes her. Hammered home close to the end.
* InnocentlyInsensitive: Bardia is genuinely fond of Orual, and very impressed with her proficiency at swordplay. Unfortunately, he expresses the latter to her by saying "It's a thousand pities [the gods] didn't make [Orual] a man."
-->Orual: He spoke it as kindly and heartily as could be; as if a man dashed a gallon of cold water in your broth and never doubted you'd like it all the better.
* InsaneTrollLogic: The gods, according to Orual.
* ItGetsEasier: Bardia has Orual slaughter a pig in order to prepare her for killing Argan.
* ItsAllAboutMe: The king.
* JerkassGods: Most of the people of Glome see their gods as petty, self-serving forces of nature and try to avoid attracting their attention as much as possible. Orual ''wishes'' the gods were just mindless brutes. The truth is...complicated.
* JustSoStory: Orual mentions there is a story that explains why pigs are not suitable as sacrifices to Ungit, but does not tell it. Later, she discovers that [[spoiler:Istra's rejection by, and eventual reunion with, the God of the Grey Mountain]] has become one for the seasons changing, which inspires her to write the novel.
* LadyOfWar: Orual, as queen, becomes a successful commander of Glome's armies and is also skilled in single combat.
* LegendFadesToMyth: Orual lives long enough to see her sister's life become the Eros and Psyche myth.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: The book is supposed to have been written by Orual and preserved in the temple of Glome to be taken by a traveler to Greece.
* LoveAtFirstNote: Downplayed -- but at one point, the beauty of Orual's voice persuades a man she's beautiful. (Not much annoyed at being rebuffed, though.)
* LoveGoddess: Glome's two main gods, Ungit and the god of the Grey Mountain, are identified with Aphrodite (Venus) and Eros (Cupid), respectively. At the end of the novel the priest of Ungit even calls himself the priest of Aphrodite.
* LoveMakesYouEvil: Lewis believed that human love -- absent divine grace -- is selfishness in a pretty mask, which ultimately destroys the object of affection. (He says elsewhere, "[Love] is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.")
* LowFantasy / DarkFantasy: This book is definitely much darker than Lewis's [[Literature/TheChroniclesOfNarnia more famous fantasy novels.]]
* MarriageToAGod: Istra is offered to the god of the Grey Mountain/the Shadowbrute as a bride. [[spoiler:Turns out he really ''does'' marry her]].
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: It's kept ambiguous whether the mysterious events attributed to the Gods actually ''are'' divine in nature. [[spoiler: Up until the moment that Orual sees the God of the Mountain with her own eyes.]] This is one of Orual's chief complaints throughout the narrative: the gods expect us to believe in them but refuse to provide any clear evidence.
* MidBattleTeaBreak: Orual comments how occasionally, in the heat of battle, she would share a few brief seconds of friendship with an enemy soldier if something such as a gust of wind happened to distract them both as they fought, before killing him.
* MindScrew
* MyBelovedSmother: Orual, to Istra.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Orual, after [[spoiler: Istra is exiled from the Mountain.]]
* MysteriousVeil: Orual's most noticeable wardrobe piece is a veil that covers her entire face, starting a number of rumors as to what she looks like underneath.
* OneOfTheBoys: Orual becomes this. She's not ''trying'' to appear more masculine, but her ugliness makes it hard for Glomish men to perceive her as a woman, and so they treat her more like a man. When she takes her veil people at least start to acknowledge her as a queen, but old acquaintances like Bardia still treat her more like they would a younger male relative than a woman. Orual has... mixed feelings about all this.
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: The Fox is simply the Fox for nearly the entire novel, and is only once referred to by his real name, Lysias.
* OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions: The Fox paints Greek society as the Classical Era equivalent, and makes it a point that the Greek philosophers of his time have a much less mystical understanding of the gods than the people of Glome. He doesn't exactly disbelieve, but he equates the gods with natural forces, and discourages Orual from anthropomorphizing them. [[spoiler: Subverted in the end.]]
* OverlyNarrowSuperlative: When listing her achievements as queen, Orual takes pride in having built the library of Glome, "what was, for a barbarous land, a noble library-- eighteen works in all."
* PaintingTheMedium: The last paragraph of the book is in italics, signifying that it's in a different handwriting from the rest of the book, namely that of [[spoiler:Arnom, who found Orual dead, her head resting on the scroll she was writing the story on]].
* PerspectiveFlip: The book is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, but with Psyche's older sister as the "hero." [[spoiler:However, the book ends up inverting this trope.]]
* ThePhilosopher: The Fox, literally.
* PluckyGirl: Istra.
* PromotionToParent: Istra's mother died in childbirth, and their father does not care for any of his daughters, so Orual comes to see herself as Istra's mother.
* RageAgainstTheHeavens: Orual's intent in writing the book.
* ReleaseYourSlaves: Orual did quite a bit, starting with the Fox. [[DeliberateValuesDissonance Appropriately]] for [[ValuesDissonance her time]], she never regards slavery as a bad thing; rather, she thinks it's just (and prudent) for a good mistress to give freedom as a reward to faithful and hard-working slaves, and she expects (and receives) gratitude in return.
* ScaryAmoralReligion: The cult of Ungit.
* SelfServingMemory: Pretty much the entire first part of the book.
* SmiteMeOhMightySmiter: Ditto.
* StarCrossedLovers: Orual and the married Bardia, though Bardia only really sees Orual as a comrade-in-arms.
* TheStoic: The Fox, being a philosophic Stoic, aspires to this.
* TitleDrop: "How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"
* TheUnFavourite: Redival. Both the Fox and Orual are content to ignore her in favor of Istra. Even the King, who has no love for any of his daughters, seems to like her the least after she is caught with a young soldier. Orual's realization of this serves as the first chink in her SelfServingMemory.
* TragicMistake: [[spoiler: Convincing Istra to disobey her husband.]]
* UnreliableNarrator: Orual realizes she is one after finishing the first half of the book.
* VirginSacrifice: Istra.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Orual comes to realize that the Fox and Bardia are actually this.
* WhatTheHellHero: Orual is called out by the Fox for [[spoiler:persuading Istra to look at her husband. The Fox had theorized that the husband was actually a thieving mountain man and Istra could have been killed for disobeying, which Orual had never really thought about. To make matters worse, Orual left out the part where she forced Istra into an unbreakable oath to disobey her husband because ''she knew the Fox would disapprove''.]]
* WhiteMaskOfDoom: Orual's veil is described as white, and the illustrations portray it as a white mask, featureless save for two eye holes. Both her enemies and her subjects find it creepy.
* WickedStepmother: Discussed and subverted with Istra's mother. Batta, the nurse, claims she will be this to Orual and Redival, but the stepmother is quite pleasant for the short time they know her.
* TheWomanWearingTheQueenlyMask: Orual.
* WorldsMostBeautifulWoman: Istra. In keeping with the ClassicalMythology tradition, this causes problems when she receives BlasphemousPraise as "prettier than Aphrodite herself."