Many authors have taken old stories and retold them from another character's point-of-view in order to change the theme and lesson portrayed in it. C.S. Lewis did just that in his Till We Have Faces, a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche from the perspective of one of Psyche's treacherous sisters. In doing so, Lewis adds depth to a superficial story and makes his readers question the motive of their love.
Orual, the eldest sister of Psyche, doesn't love anyone more than she loves her youngest sister. In turning the story in this direction, Lewis shifts the conflict from one between the sisters to one at first between Orual and the supposed gods who were the cause of Psyche's sacrifice and then, after Orual realizes her fault in her loss of Psyche, a conflict between Orual and herself. Orual's haunting self-examination and the revelation that she has loved Psyche so much that she pulled her away from happiness, and that she also has done so with everyone she has ever loved is a stirring wake-up call to all of us. The lesson that love is not a selfish action, but one in which, if you act with pure intent, your most important wish is for the one you love to be happy, is one which we all need to learn, as it will bring about greater happiness both in our lives and the lives of those we love.
The title of the novel is the source of another important lesson. Throughout her life, Orual lives with the fact that her looks are anything but attractive. To make things worse, her sister Redival, whom she absolutely detests, is considered somewhat of a beauty. Her father tells her she looks like a man, and that her looks could knock down a horse, and the like, and she becomes embarrassed to show her face to anyone. She puts on a veil, and decides never to take it off. When she does so, people stop noticing her ugly looks and begin to focus on who she is. As queen she becomes famous for her generosity, courage, and wisdom. She is remembered as the bravest, most valiant queen who ever lived. Her fame spreads, and so do tales that she wears the veil to cover a beautiful face, because certainly no one whose acts are so lovely can be ugly. Thus, through her actions, Orual receives a new face, a beautiful one, one which fits her personality and love for others. In doing so she conquers the goddess, who has no face, and achieves her victory over the gods.
Lewis' portrayal of love as the only thing to brighten an otherwise bleak and desolate world is fitting in this day. At a time when selfishness and greed are prevalent, the world needs a lesson in the value of devotion to others. Till We Have Faces is just that lesson. It provides a great example of love to all who are willing to learn from it.