Recursive calls between Lua and Swift

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A common method of simplification is to divide a problem into subproblems of the same type. – Wikipedia: recursive

In this third blog post (see also blog post 1, blog post 2) we will register a Swift function within Lua so that it can be called from Lua. The Swift function can basically call anything. This allows Lua to execute certain things or access values that the embedded Lua can’t, like the gyroscope of the smartphone. But we will just call the Lua factorial function again.

There are a some more steps necessary, because we add an additional wrapper:

  • registerFunction
  • FactorialWrapper
  • Factorial Swift Class
  • Lua Code

You can find the Source Code on Github.


We define the registerFunction method within the LuaWrapper files. The method calls the lua_register method and passes the function which should be called and the name under which the function is registered.

This allows Objective-C functions to be used within Lua and Lua to access information that is otherwise only available 🔒 within a native iOS. Swift is accessible from the Objective-C function.


Add the following code to the LuaWrapper.h file before @end:

- (void) registerFunction: (lua_CFunction)function
                 withName: (const char *)name;

The first parameter is the C function, the second is the name of the function that Lua registers the function with.


Add the implementation of the registerFunction to the LuaWrapper.m file before the @end:

- (void) registerFunction: (lua_CFunction)function
                 withName: (const char *)name {
    lua_register(luaState, name, function);

The registerFunction only calls the lua_register function with the luaState and passes the parameters.


The factorialExternal function within the wrapper file has two tasks:

  • It creates a (singleton) instance of the Swift Factorial class (we will implement the class below).
  • It calls the callFactorial method of the Factorial class.


Create the FactorialWrapper.h file with following steps:

  • File / New / File …
  • Header File
  • Dialog
    • FactorialWrapper.h
    • select Targets checkbox
    • Create

Add the following code after #define:

#include "lua.h"

int factorialExternal(lua_State *luaState);


For the implementation of the factorialExternal function create the FactorialWrapper.m file with following steps:

  • File / New / File …
  • Objective-C
  • Dialog
    • File: FactorialWrapper.m
    • File Type: Empty File

Add the following code to the FactorialWrapper.m file and customize the second import. Xcode generates an .h file that gives Objective-C access to Swift classes and functions. Therefore, you must adjust the import according to the project name: project-name-Swift.h

#import "FactorialWrapper.h"
#import "LuaSwiftRecursiveSwiftLua-Swift.h" // << ADJUST ME

Factorial * factorial;

int factorialExternal(lua_State *luaState) {
    if (factorial == Nil) {
        factorial = [[Factorial alloc] initWithScript: @""];

    UInt64 n = lua_tointeger(luaState, -1L);
    lua_pop(luaState, 1);

    lua_Number res = [factorial
    lua_pushnumber(luaState, res);

    return 1;

The Factorial alloc calls the function initWithScript. This function is the init(script: String) function in the Swift Factorial class. For the Objective-C and Swift bridging the Swift function names are translated into ‘function-name With first-parameter’.

The same pattern is used for the callFactorialWithState function name which calls the Swift function callFactorial(state: ....

The factorialExternal function

  • creates a Factorial instance (as singleton)
  • reads the value from the stack
  • calls the Swift callFactorial function
  • push the result on the stack


The FactorialWrapper.h file must be added to the project-name-Bridging.h file. This allows Swift to access the function ‘factorialExternal’ to register the function within Lua:

#import "FactorialWrapper.h"

Factorial Class

I moved the initialization and also the call of the Lua function to a separate class. So this functionality is encapsulated and can be used from Objective-C.


The Factorial class has an init and a callFactorial method. The init method gets the Lua script during initialization. This script is loaded when Lua is initialized. Additionally, the init method registers the factorialExternal method in Lua. The factorialExternal method is implemented in the FactorialWrapper files.

The callFactorial method calls the Lua function factorial. The ViewController and the factorialExternal method call the callFactorial method.

For the Objective-C Swift bridging the Swift functions init and callFactorial are named initWithScript and callFactorialWithState within Objective-C.

class Factorial : NSObject {

    var lua : Lua
    let ptrFname = strdup("factorial")

    init(script: String) { // Objective-C: initWithScript
        lua = Lua()

        let ptrScript = strdup(script)

        let funcName = strdup("factorialExternal")
        lua.register(factorialExternal, withName: funcName)

    func callFactorial(state: OpaquePointer? = nil,
                       value: lua_Number) -> lua_Number {
        // Objective-C: callFactorialWithState
                        methode: ptrFname,
                        value: value)

    deinit {


This changes the ViewController.swift file. Replace the existing code for the Lua call with this one:

let filename = Bundle.main.path(forResource: "script",
                                     ofType: "lua")!

do {
    let luaScript = try String(contentsOfFile: filename)

    let fac = Factorial(script: luaScript)
    let result = fac.callFactorial(value: lua_Number(100))
} catch let error {
    print("can not read file", filename, error)

As before, the script.lua file is read in. The file content is passed to the factorial instance when it is created. Afterwards the function callFactorial is called and the result is printed. Therefore this process has not changed.


Last but not least you have to change the script.lua file so that the call can be done via Objective-C and Swift:

-- factorial
function factorial(n)
    if (n == 0) then
        return 1
        return n * factorialExternal(n - 1)

There is no change in the overall result. The 100! gives the same result as in the previous blog post. But the execution is done by an Objective-C function, which again calls a Swift function. Up to this point it is a normal scenario to access external functionalities from the embedded Lua code.

The direct call of the Lua function factorial is experimental. However, it might be possible to call a Swift function from within Lua, which then executes other Lua functions depending on a state.


In these three blog posts you have seen how to embed Lua within Swift and how to call a Lua function. You also saw how to register a Swift function with Objective-C in Lua.