Titles: Lord Shift, Shift the Ape
Age: Unknown, but very old
Species: Talking Ape
Home: Near the great waterfall, west of Lantern Waste
Physical Description: The most wrinkled and ugly ape you can imagine — and when dressed in human clothes, ten times uglier
Tools: His cleverness
First Appearance: The Last Battle, Ch. 1 (1956)
~ The Last Battle ~ (1956)Puzzle the Donkey are friends in name, but Shift treats Puzzle as his personal slave. One day while walking by the Cauldron Pool, Shift spots a yellow thing caught under the waterfall and makes Puzzle jump in to retrieve it. After Puzzle drags it out of the pool, they discover it is a lion's skin. Shift sews it up and makes Puzzle wear it, parading him around as Aslan returned to Narnia. Though Puzzle believes this is wrong, Shift manages to convince him that this is what the true Aslan wants. Shift then locks Puzzle in a stable and begins his false reign as the "Mouthpiece of Aslan." He makes an alliance with the Calormenes and forces the Narnians to do horrible things like cutting down the trees the dryads dwell in, enslaving the Talking Beasts, and requisitioning the food the Talking Squirrels had foraged for the winter. As his deceptions continue, Shift tries to convince the Narnians that he is not an ape, but a man (and attempts to dress as such, but only succeeds in looking like a fool). In addition to promoting the alliance with the Calormenes, Shift claims that Aslan and Tash (the god of the Calormenes) are the same: Tashlan. Every night Shift lets Puzzle out of the stable (dressed in the lion skin) for a brief time to keep the Narnians believing that it is Aslan's will he is doing. When Puzzle is freed by Jill, Shift has no Tashlan to produce every night and is at the mercy of Rishda Tarkaan, the Calormene commander. During Shift's final night in Narnia, he tries to force Narnians into the stable to view Tashlan in all his wrath, but when Tirian and his company attack, Shift is seized and hurled into the stable by Tirian. There Shift is destroyed by Tash, whom the ape had caused to be brought into Narnia.
Shift is a devious and conniving character who sees every situation as an opportunity to further his own selfish interests. When the story opens, Shift has already been using his "friend" Puzzle to do all the work to make Shift more comfortable. Shift is good with words and often uses his superior intellect to convince others that his self-serving plans are really for the greater good. For Shift, everything revolves around his desires; he is even willing to make alliances with traditionally hostile countries such as Calormen in order to open up more trade and bring Shift the delicacies he craves. Even darker than that is Shift's spiritual apostasy in equating Aslan with the demonic god of the Calormenes, Tash. As all his plans fall to ruin, Shift selfishly tries to sacrifice everyone else before himself. His demise — at the beak and claws of Tash — is soberly fitting.
There is no known direct inspiration for the character of Shift, but his role in the story almost certainly sprang from Lewis' reaction to certain groups that were attempting to equate the God of Christianity with the deities of other world religions. To Lewis, such a claim was a shameful deception. Shift may also be based partly on the Beast from the Bible's book of Revelation, especially given the apocalyptic, almost allegorical nature of this story.
- "You know you're no good at thinking, Puzzle, so why don't you let me do your thinking for you?" (LB, Ch. 1)
- "Wanting me to go into the water. As if you didn't know perfectly well what weak chests Apes always have and how easily they catch cold! Very well. I will go in. I'm feeling cold enough already in this cruel wind. But I'll go in. I shall probably die. Then you'll be sorry." (LB, Ch. 1)
- "Now attend to me. I want—I mean, Aslan wants—some more nuts." (LB, Ch. 3)
- "I hear some of you are saying I'm an Ape. Well, I'm not. I'm a Man. If I look like an Ape, that's because I'm so very old: hundreds and hundreds of years old. And it's because I'm so old that I'm so wise. And it's because I'm so wise that I'm the only one Aslan is ever going to speak to." (LB, Ch. 3)
- "You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you're wrong. That isn't true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you." (LB, Ch. 3)
- "You thought! As if anyone could call what goes on in your head thinking." (LB, Ch. 10)
- Victor Spinetti: Focus on the Family Radio Theater, 1999 – 2002
- John Sessions: BBC Radio Tales of Narnia