Till We Have Faces

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Themes and Colors
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Till We Have Faces, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Jealousy Theme Icon

For Orual, love doesn’t come without jealousy. Her jealousy stems in large part from her ugliness, which makes her very insecure about the affection that anyone shows her, because characters such as the King, Redival, and Batta have always shown their disgust at her appearance and made it clear that she will never be able to marry. Essentially, she has been taught that she is unlovable, so she more easily recognizes the ways in which people don’t love her than the ways in which they do. Due to her appearance, Orual does not receive the sort of automatic love that the beautiful Psyche does. She has to work to gain the love and respect of those around her, and when she does, she doesn’t want to share it with anyone else. Both of her two great loves, Psyche and Bardia, have commitments to love their partners, which to Orual means only that they can’t love her.

Orual often remains blind to the love of those around her, instead telling herself that the people she loves will never love her as she loves them. Orual spends much of her adult life secretly loving Bardia and feeling jealous of his wife. No matter how much time Bardia spends serving Orual, he always goes home to his wife and children at night, and Orual sees this as proof that his family has more of his devotion than she does, that she is simply his job. However, when Bardia dies and Orual goes to visit his wife, Ansit, she discovers that Ansit has been jealous of her the whole time. Ansit believes that Orual and Bardia had a special bond due to their long hours spent in companionship on the battlefield and in the council room. For both women, their love of Bardia was marred by their jealousy of the other, each believing that the other had Bardia’s true devotion, when in fact he was devoted to each of them in different ways.

Furthermore, Orual finds out that her sister Redival, who she believed hated her and Psyche, has long craved Orual’s love, which she lost when Psyche was born and Orual turned her attention away from Redival. Redival’s cruelty to Psyche, which led in part to her being chosen as the sacrifice to the Shadowbrute, came from her jealousy of Psyche as Orual’s most beloved sister.

By the end of the book, it becomes evident that Orual’s complaint against the gods comes from her jealousy of them more than anything. The god of the Mountain has taken Psyche from Orual and given her a perfect life in a divine palace. The beauty and power of the gods means they can acquire the love and devotion of any humans they want, and Orual believes she can never hope to compete with them for the love of her sister. In fact, in Orual’s final vision, the Fox prophesies that as the gods become more beautiful, humans will become more and more jealous of them and do all they can to keep their loved ones from giving themselves up to the divine as they should.

Although many characters are consumed by jealousy, their jealousy only ever leads them into self-torment. Rather than recognizing others’ love for them, they instead convince themselves that their beloveds save their purest love for someone else. It is only ever too late that the characters come to a more accurate understanding of the fact that they were, in fact, loved. Finally, Lewis seems to argue that jealousy keeps people like Orual from loving God and becoming united with the divine.

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Jealousy Quotes in Till We Have Faces

Below you will find the important quotes in Till We Have Faces related to the theme of Jealousy.
Part 1: Chapter 2 Quotes

The Fox clapped his hands and sang, “Prettier than Andromeda, prettier than Helen, prettier than Aphrodite herself.”

“Speak words of better omen, Grandfather,” I said, though I knew he would scold and mock me for saying it. For at his words, though on that summer day the rocks were too hot to touch, it was as if a soft, cold hand had been laid on my left side, and I shivered.... I knew it is not good to talk that way about Ungit.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), The Fox (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Psyche is still a child, and she, Orual, and the Fox are looking towards the Grey Mountain, where Psyche imagines having a palace. The Fox exclaims over Psyche’s beauty. This passage presents the main conflict that leads to Psyche’s sacrifice: Ungit doesn’t like mortals to be considered more beautiful than she is.

Though the Fox insists that the Divine Nature isn’t jealous, Andromeda, one of the mythical figures to whom he compares Psyche, suffered due to the gods’ jealousy of her beauty, which bodes ill for Psyche’s future. When Andromeda’s mother boasted that her daughter was prettier than certain sea nymphs, the god of the ocean sent a sea monster to the coast of their country. Similarly, Ungit will send lions to terrorize Glome. An oracle tells Andromeda’s father, the king, that he must sacrifice her to appease the gods, which is exactly what Psyche’s father will also do. Since the Fox says Psyche is prettier than Aphrodite (the Greek form of Ungit), he essentially makes the exact fatal mistake that Andromeda’s mother did in the same breath that he summons up her story.

Orual, who doesn’t shun belief in the gods the way the Fox does, seems to sense Ungit’s displeasure. As it later becomes evident that Orual is closely connected to Ungit; perhaps she is more sensitive to Ungit’s jealousy than others would be. This scene marks only the beginning of Ungit’s anger, which will tear apart all of their lives.

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Part 1: Chapter 3 Quotes

Her beauty, which most of them had never seen, worked on them as a terror might work. Then a low murmur, almost a sob, began; swelled, broke into the gasping cry, “A goddess, a goddess.” One woman’s voice rang out clear. “It is Ungit herself in mortal shape.”

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

When the people of Glome come to the palace gates, demanding that Psyche heal them of the fever because they have heard that she healed the Fox, many of them have never seen her before. When she comes out of the palace, they are struck dumb by her beauty and hail her as a goddess. Their worship of her eventually brings Ungit’s wrath down upon Psyche, as Orual fears it will.

Psyche’s beauty initially affects the people in a way similar to how Orual imagines her own ugliness works, making them terrified. Furthermore, though they hail Psyche as the goddess Ungit, Orual is the one who will eventually become Ungit. Ironically, the people believe Ungit is distinguished by her beauty, but, in fact, the ugliest woman in the kingdom more truly represents her. The fact that people see in Psyche the goddess who eventually possesses Orual also connects Psyche and Orual through this divine presence, acting as an early indication of the link between the sisters that will allow them to complete Psyche’s tasks together later on. As seen here, the gods flow through humans, connecting humans to one another and to the gods.

Part 1: Chapter 7 Quotes

Since I write this book against the gods, it is just that I should put into it whatever can be said against myself. So let me set this down: as she spoke I felt, amid all my love, a bitterness. Though the things she was saying gave her (that was plain enough) courage and comfort, I grudged her that courage and comfort. It was as if someone or something else had come in between us. If this grudging is the sin for which the gods hate me, it is one I have committed.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 74-75
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual goes to visit Psyche where she has been imprisoned until her sacrifice, Psyche seems quite undisturbed by her impending doom. She even points out that she’s always longed to go to the Grey Mountain and suggests that this is her fate. Orual, who by the time of writing her account is a just Queen, knows that she must be as honest as possible in telling her story in order to receive a fair judgment from her reader. She admits that, in this situation, she doesn’t want Psyche to be happy.

Orual’s love always includes jealousy, and this passage shows her jealousy of the gods, who she feels have “come in between” her and Psyche. Psyche essentially expresses her willingness to go to the gods, which Orual sees as a diminishment of Psyche’s love for her, simply because Psyche doesn’t rage against anything that separates her from Orual. This scene marks only the beginning of Orual’s resentment of Psyche’s happiness. Though she won’t acknowledge her own jealousy until the end of the book, she will eventually realize that reactions such as this one come from her jealousy of the gods’ ability to have whatever mortals they want for themselves.

Part 1: Chapter 9 Quotes

While I was in there, one of the other soldiers... came into the passage and said something to Bardia. Bardia replied, I couldn’t hear what. Then he spoke louder: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter, she’d make him a good wife.” And that is the nearest thing to a love-speech that was ever made me.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Bardia
Related Symbols: Faces
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

After Bardia gives Orual her first lesson in swordsmanship, she goes into the dairy to get a drink of milk and overhears this conversation. This is a painful moment for Orual. She has known from a young age that everyone agrees that she is ugly. Her father, in particular, has often insulted her appearance, making her believe that she is unlovable. Orual never actively pursues romantic love because it seems absurd to her to think anyone would give it to her. She does eventually come to love Bardia and wish she could marry him, but this is the closest she comes (not very close at all) to hearing him echo the sentiment.

Though Bardia compliments her, he also insults her very casually, saying that he would only marry her if he never had to look at her. This is the sort of sentiment that convinces Orual she will never be loved and makes her cling so jealously to anyone who does love her. His attitude here also explains why he so often expresses a wish that she were a man: he values her character, but not her appearance. If she were a man, her appearance would matter much less, while her character would get her farther.

Part 1: Chapter 11 Quotes

For the world had broken in pieces and Psyche and I were not in the same piece. Seas, mountains, madness, death itself, could not have removed her from me to such a hopeless distance as this. Gods, and again gods, always gods... they had stolen her. They would leave us nothing. A thought pierced up through the crust of my mind like a crocus coming up in the early year. Was she not worthy of the gods? Ought they not to have her? But instantly great, choking, blinding waves of sorrow swept it away....

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 120-21
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs after Orual realizes that Psyche lives in a divine palace that Orual cannot see or feel. It seems worse to her that they should be in the same physical place but living apparently on different planes—mortal and divine—as opposed to being separated only by distance. Orual exhibits her jealousy of the gods, choosing to believe that they kidnapped Psyche rather than acknowledging that Psyche went to them more or less readily. She seems to imagine a struggle of mortals versus gods in which the gods take everything wonderful from the humans, and she hates them for their ability to draw the best people willingly to their realms.

For a moment, Orual does find herself wondering whether she’s being unfair. She considers Psyche’s rightful place, which, by implication, would be the one in which Psyche would be most happy. However, Orual’s way of loving doesn’t allow her to put her beloved’s happiness before her own. Her grief at the thought of entirely losing Psyche to the gods overpowers any consideration of what would be best for Psyche.

“Get up, girl,” I said. “Do you hear me? Do as you’re told. Psyche, you’ve never disobeyed me before.”

She looked up (wetter every moment) and said, very tender in voice but hard as stone in her determination, “Dear Maia, I am a wife now. It’s no longer you that I must obey.”

I learned then how one can hate those one loves. My fingers were round her wrist in an instant, my other hand on her upper arm. We were struggling.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral) (speaker), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Page Number: 126-27
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual meets Psyche in the valley, they argue about whether the palace really does exist and whether Psyche should stay there or come home with Orual. When it begins to rain, the fact that Psyche gets wet seems to Orual to prove that the palace is a figment of Psyche’s imagination, since Psyche insists that they’re inside, sheltered from the rain. Orual commands her to come under her cloak to stay dry, but Psyche refuses.

Though Orual technically only commands Psyche in reference to their immediate situation in the rain, her sentiment applies to their entire situation. Orual, in her position as an older sister and mother figure, believes Psyche should obey Oural’s will and abandon this imagined palace. The fact that Orual becomes so enraged when Psyche declares that her allegiance has shifted to her husband, the god of the Mountain, proves the existence of the jealousy that Orual denies she feels. Orual can’t stand the idea that Psyche might belong to someone else, as Orual’s love makes her want to possess and control Psyche. Furthermore, Orual’s love mixes dangerously with hatred, meaning that no matter how much she insists that she acts for Psyche’s own good, hatred motivates her actions just as much as the love she claims to work for.

Part 1: Chapter 15 Quotes

He made it to be as if, from the beginning, I had known that Psyche’s lover was a god, and as if all my doubtings, fears, guessings, debatings, questionings of Bardia, questionings of the Fox, all the rummage and business of it, had been trumped-up foolery, dust blown in my own eyes by myself. You, who read my book, judge. Was it so?

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral), Bardia, The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

When Psyche looks at her lover’s face, he destroys the valley and appears to Orual. He seems to know everything about her, and he makes it seem that she knew the truth all along and willfully denied it. As Orual is writing her complaint against the gods, the god’s apparent changing of the past forms one of her accusations of wrongdoing. At the same time, the fact that she asks for the reader’s judgment should make the reader really consider this question. Although she seems to expect the reader to side with her, once the god raises the question, one can see the truth in his interpretation of events.

Orual never wanted Psyche’s lover to be a god, because she didn’t want to give Psyche up to anyone else, much less to someone so clearly superior to Orual herself and someone who is likely, in Orual’s eyes, to take up all of Psyche’s love and leave Orual nothing. But Psyche would never lie to Orual, and she seemed perfectly sane. Furthermore, Orual did see the palace for a moment. This evidence probably made Orual know the truth on some level, but she made the situation seem much more complicated in her own mind so that she could find reasons to tear Psyche from her lover and have her all to herself again.

Here, the god causes Orual to come close to self-understanding, but she’s so deep in denial that even when he describes her character to her, she cannot recognize the truth of the portrait. Later, Orual will realize that this is exactly why the gods don’t speak to humans—even when they do, humans can’t listen properly until they can see themselves truly.

Part 1: Chapter 21 Quotes

For if the true story had been like their story, no riddle would have been set me; there would have been no guessing and no guessing wrong. More than that, it’s a story belonging to a different world, a world in which the gods show themselves clearly and don’t torment men with glimpses, nor unveil to one what they hide from another, nor ask you to believe what contradicts your eyes and ears and nose and tongue and fingers.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), The priest of Istra, Daaran
Related Symbols: The Palace on the Mountain
Page Number: 243-44
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Queen comes upon a temple to the goddess Istra, the priest there tells her a story that almost exactly parallels her own life, with a few essential changes that anger her. In particular, Istra’s sister in the story is able to see the god’s palace, so when she forces Istra to betray her lover, it comes entirely from jealousy. Orual has always justified her actions with the fact that she couldn’t be sure whether Psyche’s story was true or whether she was under a delusion, so she objects to the priest’s interpretation that Psyche’s exile was due to Orual’s desire to make her sister miserable.

The Queen believes that the gods have started this false version of the story to spite her. In this version, her main complaint against them, that they refuse to guide humans clearly, doesn’t hold. In the story, all of the gods’ mysteries that so frustrate Orual vanish. Her sense of injustice at their twisting of the truth leads her to write down her own version of the story. However, it eventually becomes clear to her that the priest’s tale has a lot more truth in it than she wants to admit, as she denied what she saw in order to convince herself of a reality in which her actions were acceptable.

Part 2: Chapter 3 Quotes

But to steal her love from me! ...Do you think that we mortals will find you gods easier to bear if you’re beautiful? I tell you that if that’s true we’ll find you a thousand times worse. For then (I know what beauty does) you’ll lure and entice. You’ll leave us nothing; nothing that’s worth our keeping or your taking. Those we love best—whoever’s most worth loving—those are the very ones you’ll pick out.... It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We’d rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We’d rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual comes in a vision to the divine court in the mountains, she reads her complaint against the gods before a judge. However, she finds that what she reads isn’t what she wrote; in fact, she reads the truth of her motivations that she has concealed from herself for her entire life.

Orual’s speech here explains her jealousy and resentment of the gods when they took Psyche from her. She knows that as a mortal, she can hardly hope to compete with the gods for Psyche’s love. In fact, the more beautiful the gods are, the more mortals will hate them. Orual can’t stand the fact that Psyche was happy to go to the gods and that she was happier with her divine lover than she was with Orual. Orual would rather have retained complete possession of Psyche than have Psyche become loyal to someone else, but the gods’ beauty made this entirely impossible.

This passage also seems to have echoes of Lewis’s own conversion to Christianity. He converted reluctantly, only when he could see no other truth. Here, he suggests that people resent their loved ones’ faith because God is far better and more fulfilling than any human can ever be.