Laurie Welch goes on a ‘classic literature journey’ on her insightful blog Relevant Obscurity, and we’re so lucky that she here shares her thoughts on a memorable Narnian figure — one who’s cold as ice — in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as helpfully listing four classic villainous traits for us.
Jadis, The White Witch of Narnia:
The Most High Villain
The White Witch of The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis, is the perfect villain of childhood nightmares. Her wickedness goes to the top of evil antagonists in fairy tales and books of fantasy. She is not even human, but the daughter of Lilith, Adam’s first wife and on the other side, of giants. She is physically large and powerful, cold-blooded and incredibly beautiful. Using all this to her favor as supreme ruler of Narnia, she is also known as The Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands, etc …
Jadis is the ultimate manipulator of youthful weakness and vulnerability and delights in fear tactics, humiliation and physical punishment. She is the consummate lurer of sensitive, curious children with promises of power over others and worldly possessions. Her force is felt not only over the inhabitants of her realm, but the very environment in which they live. She is the White Witch of a hundred years of winter, “and never Christmas,” who keeps every animal, tree and fantastic beast in an iron grip of fear and submission. And would happily turn them into statues for her castle courtyard with her dreaded magic wand.
Jadis fears the prophecy that states when two Sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve find their way into Narnia and are crowned Kings and Queens, her rule will end and she will die. To prevent this her kingdom is full of spies instructed to turn them over to her immediately.
Why does Jadis have the whole of the Kingdom of Narnia in her thrall? What keeps the majority of creatures from banding together to fight against her rule? Why is it only when Aslan comes on the scene are the inhabitants of the land empowered to stop her?
It is because, as with any evil ruler, she understands people and how to use their fears to her advantage. Through chaos creation and a cruel perversion of justice, her subjects are so afraid of her wrath she only need speak a word or toss a glance and they scramble to do her will. Disobedience is not an option, and those who do might be transformed into decorative ornaments at her castle, or killed.
Jadis has turned the traits of an absolutely evil ruler into an art form. Here are four in which she excels:
Evil Rulers Come to Power Illegally or Take it by Force
- Jadis fights her own sister in a war to rule their kingdom of Charn. So desperate is she to win, she speaks the Deplorable Word knowing it will end all of Creation.
- Jadis has no rules and kills without conscience. She turns her opposition into statues as a threat to others. The foundation of her kingdom is violence and she must continue to hold her power with the same force.
Evil Rulers have Accomplices that are Forced into Servitude
- As illustrated by Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, who is tasked as lookout for humans and to bring them to Jadis. Although once he meets Lucy he cannot do it, which puts his life in danger.
- Many of the animals, ghouls, dwarves and other beasts work for Jadis. Under the threat of excruciating punishment they do her bidding.
Evil Rulers Make Pacts with their Accomplices and Play on their Weaknesses
- Edmund is at first a most willing accomplice when promised the kingship of Narnia. His feelings of inferiority to his older brother control his desire to be somebody of importance. He feels respected when Jadis tells him to keep their plan (to get his siblings into Narnia and to her castle) a secret between them. Back home he denies to Peter and Susan he’d ever been to Narnia. Since Lucy knows how wicked the White Witch is, he doesn’t want to risk her telling their older brother and sister, which may put them off going to Narnia, so he questions her sanity over making up Narnia.
- When Peter and Susan find their way to Narnia Lucy tells them about Tumnus who saved her from the White Witch’s clutches; they set off to find him. Not sure where to start they see a robin who looks like it wants them to follow him. Edmund questions the robin’s motive, “How do we know which side that bird is on? Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?”
- And, he asks, “How do we know the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we have been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong.” Peter: “The Faun saved Lucy.” Edmund: “He said he did.” Edmund is, at this point, fully in Jadis’s grasp.
- Edmund is desperate to get more Turkish Delight, which compels him to get his siblings to the White Witch, even after he begins to admit she is evil. Edmund doesn’t know Jadis has enchanted the Turkish Delight with addictive influences as a lure.
Evil Rulers are Surrounded in Myths, Suspicion and Sometimes Necromancy
- Jadis’s ancestry is steeped in the ancient mythologies of Lilith, Jinns and Giants. And as a being without human blood.
- The old hag in Prince Caspian casts suspicion on the belief that the White Witch is dead, ”…who ever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back.”
- The old hag also challenges the notion that the White Witch is really evil. “White Lady, that’s what we call her.” By changing her name they control the memory of her.
Jadis’s iron-fisted rule comes to an end in the great war against Aslan’s army. The hundred years of winter end and Narnia literally blooms with the zest of life. This villainous ruler, who commanded the allegiance of a multitude through intimidation, bribery, dark magic and death, is dead.
What a fantastic start to this year’s Witch Week! Thanks, Laurie, this has been a most enlightening post.