Why Susan Can’t Come Home – A Fan Essay by Lia

Why Susan Can’t Come Home
By Lia Harrison

**Spoilers – LWW and The Last Battle**

Those who have read all of the Chronicles, particularly The Last Battle, know that Narnia as we know it comes to an end and that all of the heroes and heroines from all of the stories unite in the “real Narnia,” which compares to the Narnia of the tales in the way that the real world compares to Aristotle’s cave, with one notable exception. When meeting the children from the other world, Tirian brings Susan’s absence to the high king’s attention. Peter replies simply that “Susan is no longer a friend to Narnia.”

This, obviously, is the reason that Susan is not there. Taking this statement out of context, we wonder what it means. After all, Susan fought in the battle that led to the defeat of the White Witch, the embodiment of evil and Narnia’s greatest foe, and was for a time and thus forever Queen of Narnia (“Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.”). If that’s not enough, what is required to be a friend to Narnia?

We find, though, with some elaboration from Eustace, Jill, and Polly that Susan has changed. Even after they went back to England, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy still remembered as they grew older, as did Eustace and Jill. Even Digory and Polly who were given more time to forget than all of them remembered and waited for the time when they could return to Narnia. Susan, however, overpowered by the world of the “Shadow-Lands” around her, stopped believing. Polly said of this, “She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.” Lewis is commenting on the tendency of people to fix upon the world around us and our time on Earth instead of concentrating on our eternal souls and our time after this life. Susan has become so deeply immersed in her world of “nylons and lipstick and invitations” that she ceases to believe that Narnia and Aslan even exist, just as many people don’t believe that Heaven and Jesus–as he is to the Christian religions–do not exist. Eustace recalls her saying at the mention of Narnia, “What wonderful memories you all have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

Then we wonder how a queen of Narnia could stop believing. If we pay close attention when we read, we find that Susan’s faith is not as strong as that of her siblings nor is her willpower. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she seeks a course of action from the others. When talking with the professor about Lucy’s presumed lies or possible madness and upon first entering Narnia, her question is, “What do we do?” When she does have an opinion, it leans toward caution and safety. She advises against continuing into Narnia when they find the news of Mr. Tumnus’ arrest, and she advises against continuing the hunt of the White Stag–the success of which being rewards limited only by the borders of the imagination–upon encountering the lamp-post and the strange feeling of what lies beyond it. In Prince Caspian, she advises against the exploration of the unfamiliar land and against clearing out and exploring the building they find even in the face of the realization that it is the ruins of their own Cair Paravel. She tends to follow the others because her preference for the safety of numbers overrides her preference for the safety of the known. In The Horse and His Boy, she does not even go to fight the invading Calormenes. By this time, she is “not like Lucy, you know, who’s as good as a man, or at any rate as good as a boy. Queen Susan is more like any ordinary grown-up lady. She doesn’t ride to the wars, though she is an excellent archer.” Not only does this preface what we learn later about Susan concerning herself more with clothes and boys than Narnia, but it calls into question the depth of her devotion for Narnia. We know that it’s possible for all of the kings and queens to leave the castle at one time because they all go to hunt the White Stag at the end of LWW, but Susan will not even go to defend a country against a warring party that is advancing toward her own Narnia. Even her gift from Father Christmas in LWW is a distance weapon. Both Peter and Edmund wield swords, requiring them to be in the midst of any battle. Lucy carries her vial of healing potion that requires her to tend the victims. Susan, however, receives a horn and a bow and arrows. Both allow her quite a bit of distance from the events that affect the future of a country she is to rule. Therefore, it’s not terribly surprising that, of the four, she is the one who stops believing.

Still, though, she had done much for Narnia. This then begs the question, what makes this crime so awful that she cannot join the others in their final and greatest adventure? It’s considerably more passive than Eustace’s selfish and dishonest behavior upon his arrival in this world in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and, as a crime against Narnia, is not even in the same league as Edmund’s outright betrayal in LWW or Emeth the Calormene fighting against Narnia in the name of Tash (the antichrist) in LB. The difference is that each of these characters realizes the error of his ways and allows Aslan to fix them. After trying unsuccessfully to do it himself, Eustace allows Aslan to peel off his dragon skin. When Edmund joins his siblings on Aslan’s side, Aslan dies for Edmund’s sins. When the Calormene soldier recognizes the dishonesty that goes with serving Tash and the goodness that goes with serving Aslan, Aslan counts all the good deeds he’d done in the name of Tash as good deeds done in the name of Aslan. They realize the error of their ways, but Susan persists in her belief that Narnia is just make-believe. How can Aslan fix that?

Aslan shows us the answer to this question with the dwarfs in LB, who fight against everyone because they cannot see what is right in front of them. As a demonstration of what he can and cannot do, Aslan presents them with a “glorious feast” and “goblets of good wine,” and they only taste rotten vegetables and dirty water. He cannot fight free will, and the dwarfs, as well as Susan, have made their choice.

The Bible states in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” All that is required to be a “friend to Narnia” is belief, and, though she never opposes Aslan, Susan denies him, commiting the same betrayal Judas did.

Like the second coming of Jesus, Aslan comes to the “Shadow-lands” one final time to take the true believers to live happily in the “real Narnia” for eternity. Lewis is pointing out the falsehood in the commonly held belief that God is all-forgiving or that all sins are automatically forgiven because Jesus died. Realization of the wrong done and repentance for it are required before forgiveness can be given. No matter what kind and good things Susan has done or how good a person she may have been, she is left behind to face judgment because does not believe.

At this point, Susan cannot be redeemed. The way to the “real Narnia” is through the Narnia that we know of through the stories, and that Narnia is ended. If there were another way, Lewis would have mentioned it as he mentioned that the end of LWW was the end of the wardrobe but the beginning of Narnia. It could be said that Susan’s siblings along with Eustace, Jill, Digory, and Polly had to go to fight that last battle of Narnia, but why the Pevensie parents, as well? They all had to go because it was their last chance. Aslan gave Peter the order to shut the Door. Then Peter “took out a golden key and locked it.”

36 Responses to “Why Susan Can’t Come Home – A Fan Essay by Lia”

  1. Ariah says:

    I’m not so sure Susan doesn’t have a shot at getting to Aslan’s country, which is what the real Narnia is (or what it leads to). After all, she can’t go in The Last Battle mainly because she hasn’t died yet. She doesn’t go with the others because they were getting together to discuss Narnia when they died.

    Keep in mind that Aslan let all creatures through the door from the shadow-Narnia into his country who were lovingly delighted to see him, even a dwarf who had killed talking horses. Susan hasn’t done anything so horrible, so when she is “judged,” she may very well remember her love for Aslan and get in to Aslan’s country. Naturally, she won’t get in through the stable door, but just as Aslan has a name in our world, his country is accessible from our world, which is shows in the scene in which the Pevensies (minus Susan) see the “real” England and Professor Kirke’s house.

  2. sara says:

    I almost agree completey, except for that last part. I do believe Susan eventually made it to the real Narnia, although obviously not through the stable door. After all, Aslan has another name in our world, too, and their parents died and went to the real England, which was connected to the real Narnia. Besides, He promised all four of them in LWW, “Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.”

  3. Chris Strasser says:

    I agree with the article completely, and am not surprised that the two responses acquiesce to the popular wisdom that people go to Heaven for doing good deeds. We are saved by grace, but that requires us to believe. No matter what we have done, we can stop believing, then only grace can save us again…until judgement day. The only way for Susan is to believe and accept that grace before the final judgement.

    • Back to the Books says:

      I agree completely. Except, of course, the idea that, once a person is saved, they can lose their salvation–if that is what you meant.

      • narnian says:

        I agree completly. you can’t lose your salvation ouce you are saved and I think that’s what would happen in narnia as well.

  4. Randall Matke says:

    I started to write a sequel to the Narnia series on this very theme of the
    redemption of Susan. I wrote the CSL Company in England asking for their approval, and was denied.
    Would it be acceptable to this forum if I were to share my story with its
    readers, for free, without financial gain?

  5. narnian says:

    i believe that susan will eventaully make it to narnia, simply because she’s human that makes mistakes, just like edmund. susan fought for the good of narnia and if she will be judged then i believe aslan will let her in. if i was aslan i would.

    • mukuro says:

      i believe too because its hard to see a character that helped so much to die and not be able to get to the ‘new narnia’. Maybe shell find her own way to Narnia and I beleive that she will.

  6. Necter says:

    I am new here and I wanted to write what i feel about Susan. Susan’s turning back on Narnia might have something to do in her time period. In the 1940s and 1950s, girls were expected to act womanly, like housewives and mothers, Etc. Though I must admit she was keen on growing up, but I also have noticed that she is very pliable (meaning easily influenced). This concludes that her faith alone is not strong like her siblings. Susan was living in a time period where adolescent girls do not talk about talking animals and magic countries, if they did they would be considered childish and immature, she was probobly introduced to ladies of society and was expected to wear ‘womanly’ fashions and find husbands to secure them. There were not that many feminists at those decades. Susan was probably afraid that if she doesn’t fit in, the people at her time wouldn’t accept her. Society is unfair.

  7. Maggie says:

    I would just like to point out that C.S. Lewis himself believed that Susan would eventually make her way to Aslan’s country. He wrote to a young man about it after The Last Battle was published. This child, like many others, was very concerned with Susan’s fate and in his reply, Lewis stated that Susan may yet find her way into Aslan’s country and that he believed she eventually would make it their on her own. That’s really the end of the controversy right there. Susan eventually does find her way to heaven, Lewis said so himself,and don’t you all think that he really is the final authority when it comes to Narnia?

    • Back to the Books says:

      This is true, though he only said that she MIGHT enter the “heaven”–he never said she definately did.

  8. Abby says:

    that’s a relief, because i always did like Susan and wished she could get into Narnia.

  9. BookWorm says:

    I agree.Abby, can get into Narnia, but choses not to.
    Great essay, Lia. Very Long, but VERY good.

    “Dan,you’re such a dweeb!”
    -Amy Cahill;from “The 39 Clues”

  10. BookWorm says:

    Correction,I meant to say. Abbey,Susan can…

    “Dan,you are such a dweeb!”
    -Amy Cahill from The 39 Clues

  11. Julie says:

    I agree with Abby. Susan was one of my fav characters and it was sad when they said she was not a friends of Narnia. And I do hope that Susan will find her way to Aslan’s Country.

  12. Zoulvisia says:

    Wow a very in dept essay. Very good! I can tell alot of effort has been put into this and I enjoyed reading it. Its kinda sad though that Susan cant go home despite her disbeleving. And also at the end of LB it says that there journeys go on forever but it never mentions Susan joining them.

  13. Ibelieve says:

    The only thing I saw that was an oops was that it was Shift who represented the antichrist. Tash represented Satan.

  14. Carrie says:

    I agree that Susan never embraced Narnia the way the others did, but I disagree that she is unable to redeem herself. Above all else, the CoN are Christian books with Aslan/Narnia being a clear analogy to God/Heaven. That alone makes it impossible that Susan would never be able to redeem herself. You can always redeem yourself and once again become a “friend of Narnia.”

    I think it’s important to consider the author here. C.S. Lewis was an avowed atheist who himself converted back to Christianity as an adult after abandoning his childhood faith. I cannot imagine Lewis of all people closing the door on Susan.

    One of my favorite Lewis quotes on the topic suits Susan perfectly, I think:

    You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The hardness of God is softer than the softness of men.

    This is not a man who would create a Narnia that could never accept Susan. Now whether or not Susan ever actually drops to her knees, reluctant or otherwise, is up in the air.

  15. Shy Galadriel says:

    Excellent, in-depth look at the character of Susan in CoN! I believe that you miss the mark, however. Lewis states very clearly, “Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen.” And as another pointed out in another response, he did hint that Susan eventually makes it to Aslan’s Country. The reason Susan falls away, I believe, is that she wishes to take the path of least resistance. In Narnia, she was a Narnian, but when she got back to England she embraced that, to the exclusion of Narnia. Her path of least resistance turned out to be the harder path to take. But I also believe that in the end, Susan’s crown was the most glorious of the four. (“crown” meaning her heavenly reward.)

  16. Breeanna says:

    i agree with lia and peter because i mean susan is not really friend to narnia but when i was younger susan was 1 of my favorite people in narnia i mean she was smart intelegent and there was times were she could of been a smart alac that rests my case.

  17. Battle Maiden says:

    There are a lot of interesting comments here…

    I think Lia is right on except for one thing — redemption is always available for those who repent and turn to God. As long as Susan was alive, she had a chance to turn from her disbelief and embrace Aslan and Narnia. However, it’s important to note that she couldn’t save herself. Aslan was the one who saved her. She simply had to believe in him before he could open the door. Make sense? The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of disbelief, because God can’t force you to accept Him against your will. It’s not the way He works. Grace is a gift, and you have to accept it.

  18. Jullyo Lima says:

    I read somewhere that she stopped believing in Narnia as she grew older.

  19. Daughter of the Lion says:

    I think that your essay is extremeley well done, but there is one point that I disagree on: You say that Susan has no chance of returning to Narnia. I do not believe this. My reason is not because I think that she has done enough good things that Aslan will let her come, but because of what the author C.S Lewis told a young fan who wrote to him concerning this. He assured the young boy that “Susan’s story was not yet over” that she may “still have a chance.” In light of what Lewis said, I believe that Susan can still find her way back to Narnia. The real world isn’t over, just because the Old Narnia ended. She is still alive and has a chance to ask for forgiveness, and Aslan would grant it. If we believe that Jesus Christ grants salvation to those who repent and believe, then Lewis would base Aslan like that.

  20. Daughter of the Lion says:

    Also, like many other comments have put in, when Aslan said, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen,” it clearly states that once you have accepted Narnia, you can never really throw it completely away. Like, once you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you may one day turn your back, but Christ can still call you back. Susan at one point in her life was a part of Narnia, so she still has a chance. But it’s only Aslan who can redeem her. She can’t perform good works and make it. She does need to ask for forgiveness and repent. I’m positive that C.S Lewis would keep her story open for a chance of forgiveness. Christ’s forgiveness is offered to everyone, not that we all take it. I’m sure that Lewis would have Susan get a second chance.

  21. Back to the Books says:

    Okay after reading this essay and all the comments, I believe I’ve figured this part of the book out completely according to what I believe to be true in real life. So, here’s my theory:

    When Aslan says, “Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia” (pardon any quotation errors–I don’t have the book at the moment), he is, in other words (comparing it to real life), saying that they are saved/going to heaven, and that they will always be that way. If this is the case, then when Peter says that Susan is “no longer a friend of Narnia”, he can’t be meaning that Susan is no longer “saved/going to heaven”.

    What does he mean, then? The elaborations by the other characters say that all she cares about are “nylons and lipsticks and invitations [to parties]”. Here, I believe that, by “Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia”, Peter doesn’t mean that she is no longer a queen of Narnia (saved/going to heaven), but that she is no longer a FRIEND–you don’t necessarily have to be an enemy of something, against something, etc. to not be a friend of it. Rather, I think that this is a picture of the backslidden Christian–though someone may be saved, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that person always follows what God wants; Christians may even involuntarily/unawaredly (if that’s a word) aid the Devil/Satan–in this way, they are not necessarily enemies of God or no longer saved, or, in Susan’s case in the books, a king/queen of Narnia, but they are certainly not “friends” of God at that time.

    I hope that made sense. Reply & tell me what you think.

  22. Jo says:

    Hi guys,
    I think it’s sad that Susan doesn’t believe in Narnia anymore because she was so funny and smart especially when she says, “I am 1,300 years older than you” to Caspian in PC movie. I mean, Caspian wanted to make her his queen and I wouldn’t have skipped up that opportunity, plus she can’t really have stopped believing in Narnia because “once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen”. Also Susan was a good big sister to Lucy and seemed to come up with good plans for battle, and also really beautiful. But I do admit Susan was a little bossy especially in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But she was a really good archer and, like I already said, funny and smart.

  23. allaineSPQR says:

    i am not yet finished with all the books. while reading some important details about it in wikipedia and other websites and blogs, i was shocked about what will happened to susan pevensie. i like her character as a great archer and as a queen.
    in our family, we are 4 children too. i’m the second child and first girl. i am the susan in our family and i really, REALLY like her.
    CS lewis make it hard for me to continue read it. i felt that when i continued, i will come to the point that i should hate the character of susan.
    IF i am cs lewis (if only), i will still give susan another chance to live in narnia and to believe in its existence. it will be a “happy ever after”. but i think it will never come. :(

  24. PoorKnightforChrist says:

    I agree with someone who said that Lewis said that Susan’s story is not written yet.

    However, I have to disagree that Susan was somehow still ‘saved’ because of the non-Biblical proposition of “Once Saved Always Saved”. Lewis was High-Anglican and not Reformed. He believed, as the Bible states, that if you do not continue to obey and stop trusting, you will be cut off (Rom 11:22) as well as MANY other places.

    At the end of The Last Battle, if Susan were to die, Lewis heavily hints that Susan would not go to Aslan’s Country. However, as Lewis stated, her story is not finished, she is not dead. As long as we are not dead, we always have a chance to accept Christ’s plea for our continued repentence.

    God Bless

  25. Ali B. says:

    I recently picked up at random a CD in my car. When I put it in it was Focus on the Family’s The Last Battle. Maybe it’s because Susanna is my middle name but since then I keep thinking of Susan. So I’m writing a fanfiction about her entitled Susan’s Story.

    If one can dedicate a fanfiction I dedicate to all the Susans who have lost their way and are trying to get back. And to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who never gives up on me.

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