Discover the fantastic world of C. S. Lewis that conquers the hearts of kids and grown-ups even today (contains spoilers!)
“A World Like No Other” – Sites and Descriptions
- Lantern Waste: One of the biggest icons of Narnia, the Lantern Waste is called so due to the Victorian lamppost whose light never fades, and which is found in a lonely clearing within the region. However, the lamp that names the land is almost as old as Narnia itself; it is introduced in the world during its creation, as The Magician’s Nephew indicates. The Waste is the place where the Narnian adventures begin and end, being the starting point for the Pevensies’ adventures, as well as the location of the Last Battle, which marks the end of Narnia.
- The Wood Between the Worlds: Filled with great puddles of water surrounded by green trees and grass, the Wood Between the Worlds is the cross-section between our universe and all others, including that of Narnia. Andrew Ketterly sends Polly Plummer to the Wood through his magical rings, forcing his nephew Digory Kirke to collaborate in his sinister plans. It is through one of its portals that the first humans (and Jadis) arrive to Narnia.
- Stone Table: The great Stone Table is one of the clearest symbols of C. S. Lewis’ faith in The Chronicles of Narnia. The Table is the place where the White Witch sacrifices Aslan, who gave himself for Edmund. The Table breaks in two when Aslan comes back from the dead to join the Narnians and confront the Witch.
- Jadis’ Castle: The White Witch did not rule Narnia from Cair Paravel, the castle of Narnia’s legitimate kings and queens, but from a somber stronghold with an iron gate and very tall towers and spires. The White Witch kept many of her opponents frozen as statues of stone, in the castle’s courtyard.
- Cair Paravel: The glorious seaside castle of Cair Paravel is the capital of the small kingdom of Narnia. In it lived every legitimate king that descended from Adam and Eve, with the exception of the Telmarine kings, who were not the legitimate rulers, and whose first king left Cair Paravel to crumble and rot after his conquest of Narnia. Caspian X rebuilds Cair Paravel and his bloodline lives in the castle until the Last Battle.
- Tashbaan: The majestic capital of Calormen, Tashbaan is most likely to be the largest city in the world of Narnia. Located on an island at the mouth of the great river separating Calormen from the Great Desert, the city is known for its magnificent gardens and palaces, including the palace of the great Tisroc (may he live forever!) himself. One can also find the Great Temple of Tash at the highest point of Tashbaan.
- Hermitage: The home of the Hermit of the Southern March can be found in Archenland, to the north of the Great Desert. This is a cozy, secluded place, with a thatched cottage and a tall hedge around it. In its courtyard is a pool of stale water that the Hermit uses to see what transpires throughout the world.
- Anvard: The castle of Anvard is the capital of the small yet proud kingdom of Archenland, located south of the kingdom of Narnia. Made up of reddish-brown stone, the castle is easily recognized by its numerous towers and lack of a moat. The castle harbors Archenland’s royal family, including King Lune and his children.
- Aslan’s How: Built after the great Battle of Beruna that saw Narnians clash with the White Witch and her forces, Aslan’s How is a kind of sanctuary, standing on and incorporating the Stone Table. Its walls contain depictions of the most important events in Narnian history, including the Battle of Beruna. The hollowed-out mound becomes the headquarters of the Narnian forces led by Prince Caspian on the Second Battle of Beruna.
- Beruna: The region of Beruna is known for lending its name to two battles that made history, as both were fought on its fords. During the Telmarine period, a settlement was established on the fords’ margin; this settlement is also known as Beruna and is well known for its red roofs.
- Lone Islands: Caspian X arrives to the so-called Lone Islands on his quest for the Telmarine noblemen who were loyal to him. This region seems to bear its name not because it stands isolated from the rest of the world, but because it stands practically independent from its true allegiance, the Kingdom of Narnia (that is, until Caspian arrives). The region comprises three islands: Avra, Doorn, and Felimath, with the island of Doorn being the most important one.
- Silver Sea: One of the most serene and unusual places in the world of Narnia, the Silver Sea is an extension of the Last Sea at the End of the World. The Silver Sea is different from everything else in Narnia, as it is a great surface of clear freshwater completely covered by silver lilies – hence its name.
- Harfang: In the lands of the Ettin giants lies an stately castle inhabited by another kind giants, who are apparently civilized – Harfang. The castle stands atop of a hill, not far from the ruins that once were the great city of the giants. Despite them being intelligent, the Harfangers feed on anything – including human beings and Talking Beasts, which in Narnia is considered cannibalism.
- Aslan’s Country: This is the Paradise for all those who stepped on the world of Narnia. Made up of absurdly tall mountains and warm green lands, Aslan’s Country is the end of the line for every good being in the fantastic world before Aslan brings about its destruction.
Charn: The Desolate World
Much of The Chronicles of Narnia take place in two worlds: our world, which is planet Earth (duh…) and the world of Aslan, which is Narnia (with his Country being something of a “New Jerusalem” to Narnians). There is a third world, however; a desolate world from an obsolete universe – Charn, the birthplace of the White Witch. After their discovery of the Wood Between the Worlds, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer arrive haphazardly to Charn’s ruins and quickly realize they are in a world quite different from their own, a world without life and joy. Later they learn Charn was destroyed by the pride and greed of its inhabitants, who chose to condemn the world to devastation that to share it with goodness and ethics. Charn is a vivid example of what may happen to a civilization, or even an entire planet, that yields to iniquity and selfishness; it is also a dire warning as to what our world may become if we do not take care to preserve the love, the hope and the faith it so much needs.
“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – The Characters that Made History
- Aslan: The Great Lion, Lord of Narnia by his right. C. S. Lewis affirms Aslan represents Jesus Christ as he would look and be like in a fantasy world. Aslan is typically presented in the form of a talking lion, at the same time magnificent and terrifying, though he also appears as a lamb at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Lion is rarely present in Narnia even when this one is in grave danger, emphasizing the idea that he is not a “tame lion.” His arrival to the world, however, is always welcome throughout most of Narnia, and almost always brings about a change for the better.
- Digory Kirke: Digory, also known as Prof. Kirke and “The Magician’s Nephew, is one of the first human beings to step on the world of Narnia. A stubborn yet good-hearted boy, Digory’s actions have a huge impact in The Chronicles, although such impact is not always positive. Even so, Digory continues to be a relevant character even after his adventure in Narnia, since it’s through his wardrobe that Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edmund first enter this fantastic world.
- Polly Plummer: Digory’s best friend, Polly is a caring girl and the first person to use the rings of Digory’s uncle to travel through worlds – though she does so involuntarily. Polly is oftentimes the voice of reason in her adventure with Digory, especially when it comes to Jadis, as she does not understand what Digory and Uncle Andrew see in her (besides her evil, which is more than evident).
- Jadis, the White Witch: A woman whose beauty is only surpassed by her own cruelty and coldness, Jadis is the most popular antagonist in The Chronicles of Narnia. The White Witch used to be an extremely powerful being in her homeworld, which she destroyed so it wouldn’t fall in her rival’s hands. On her arrival to Narnia, Jadis lost her powers, but eventually regained enough abilities to usurp the throne and title herself as Queen. Her reign comes to a brutal end through Aslan and the Pevensies.
- The Pevensies: The Pevensies are the four children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie – that star in the books The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Prince Caspian as their protagonists. Sent to Prof. Kirke during WWII, the children find the wardrobe that takes them to the world of Narnia and to an unforgettable adventure.
- Cor (Shasta): Prince Cor is one of the protagonists in The Horse and His Boy (as he is said “Boy”). Cor lived in Calormen under the name “Shasta” all his childhood, up to the moment when Bree convinces him to leave the harsh climate and servitude of that region to venture onto a free, temperate Narnia.
- Aravis: The young Aravis Tarkheena joins Shasta in his journey to Narnia, as she also wants to leave Calormen, albeit for different reasons. The two fight a lot at first because of their origins: Aravis is the daughter of Calormene nobility while Shasta is the son of a simple fisherman. However, both become loyal travel partners with a genuine care for each other.
- Bree & Hwin: Bree is the signature horse of The Horse and His Boy, a talking destrier who wishes to return to Narnia but cannot let go of his old habits. Hwin is a talking mare that helps Aravis run away from her home. The two horses are not very fond of each other at first, though they’re a quite more agreeable duo than their riders, Cor and Aravis. As the journey progresses, Bree and Hwin become good friends. Hwin often acts as Bree’s support, as the destrier fears being ostracized by Narnia’s horses.
- Rabadash the Ridiculous: Son of the Tisroc (may he live forever!), Rabadash is an ambitious, impatient man who is eager to take Calormen’s throne and expand the Empire beyond the Great Desert. After Queen Susan (Pevensie) rejects his marriage proposal, the Calormene prince decides to cross the Desert and conquer the kingdoms of Narnia and Archenland, pursuing Shasta and his entourage unknowingly.
- Caspian X: Prince Caspian, later King Caspian X the Navigator, is a noble Telmarine who opposes the depredations undertaken by his uncle, the usurper Miraz. Despite his good intentions, not all Narnians accept Caspian until the arrival of the Four High Kings of Cair Paravel – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie. Caspian distinguishes himself from the rest of the Telmarines for his loyalty, goodness and courage. He is an exemplar leader, as he shows in his quest for the noble Telmarines who were loyal to his father.
- Miraz: The Machiavellian usurper Miraz is the Regent of Narnia during the Pevensie’s second adventure in Aslan’s world. Over his tyrannical reign, Miraz and his Telmarines persecuted the Narnians until their supposed extinction, erasing nearly all evidence of their existence. However, the Narnians survive and fight back, spearheaded by Prince Caspian. Miraz is the favorite against the outnumbered Narnians who dare to stand up to him – as long as he doesn’t get carried away with his pride.
- Dr. Cornelius, Trumpkin & Reepicheep: These are three of the Narnians who contributed the most for Telmar’s fall. Cornelius is half-dwarf, half human and serves as mentor to Prince Caspian. Trumpkin, the Red Dwarf, is responsible for saving Caspian and for guiding the Pevensies to him. Later, Trumpkin is appointed as regent of Narnia while Caspian sails the seas. Reepicheep is a talking rat as noble as he is fearless, always willing to face danger and prove his honor. Reepicheep fights for Narnia in the Second Battle of Beruna and joins Caspian on his journey aboard the Dawn Treader.
- Lord Drinian: Beside the young King Caspian in the famous voyage of the Dawn Treader is Lord Drinian, the vessel’s captain and a skilled sailor who advises Caspian on the best route to take. Despite being a brave man, as is shown in the Isle of Doorn, Lord Drinian usually remains on board with Master Rhince and the rest of his crew while Caspian and his loyal friends disembark on the islands looking for the Telmarine noblemen.
- Eustace Scrubb: Not all human beings who arrive to Narnia seem worthy of such honor; Eustace Scrubb, however, lives up to his last name. Eustace is cousin to the Pevensies, but received a different kind of education – very uncommon and “modern” at that time – that turned the poor kid into an annoying and bothersome child. His adventure with Edmund and Lucy turn Eustace into a courageous and wise boy, though the process is a painful one. His new attitude is proved in his adventures with Jill Pole – and reproached by his parents, who blame the Pevensies influence.
- Jill Pole: Jill is Eustace’s friend from school and takes part in the Narnian adventures. She’s the one Aslan tasks with saving Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair. Despite her stubbornness, Jill learns to value her friends and their opinions, becoming an affable and inspiring company. Her horseback riding and archery skills make Jill an excellent scout, crucial for the unfolding of the Last Battle.
- Puddleglum: Up to Jill and Eustace’s arrival, Puddleglum had a cozy life in the Marshlands north of Narnia; upon their arrival, Puddleglum joins the adventure of a lifetime. This pessimistic, morose creature becomes the two children’s guide to Ettinsmoor.
- Prince Rilian: Prince Rillian is the son of Caspian X and his wife, the daughter of Ramandu. His mother’s death from the bite of a venomous serpent fills Rilian with a thirst for revenge. He searches over and over again for that accursed snake, but always comes back to Cair Paravel empty-handed – that is, until the day he does not return at all. (Maybe the fact he finds a stunning woman who wears a green dress has something to do with his vanishing…) Ten years later, Jill and Eustace arrive to Narnia with the mission of finding and rescuing Rilian.
- The Lady of the Green Kirtle: The mysterious Underland is ruled by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, otherwise known as the Green Witch, who intends to bend all of Narnia to her will. Her diabolic plan led to the death of Ramandu’s daughter and the abduction of Prince Rilian, whom she intends to use in order to usurp the throne of Cair Paravel. A beautiful and cruel sorceress, the Green Witch can hypnotize people to submit to her will and transform into a giant venomous serpent.
- Shift & Puzzle: Shift and Puzzle are Talking Beasts quite different from each other. The ape Shift is a lazy, conniving animal that constantly belittles and manipulates poor Puzzle, a very insecure and humble donkey. It is one of Shift’s schemes that gives way to the Last Battle.
- Tirian & Jewel: Tirian, son of Erlian, is the king of Narnia throughout the events of The Last Battle, while the unicorn Jewel is his mount and best friend. Together, Tirian and Jewel try desperately to call Narnians to reason and stop the Last Battle from destroying the kingdom. Tirian and Jewel are great examples of true honor and chivalry, characteristics harder and harder to find in our days.
The Last Battle is brought about from one of Shift’s ingenious plans: pretending to be Aslan’s spokesperson and take advantage of the faith other Narnians have in the Lion. Eventually, Shift (who does not believe in beings like Aslan and Tash) combines the Great Lion with the Calormene chief deity, in an attempt to please all parties and secure his ruse. Thus “Tashlan” is born, the fusion of two beings who Aslan later reveals to be irreconcilable. As Aslan explains, the two are exactly opposed, since Aslan represents all that is good and Tash represents all that is bad. As such, it is impossible for something such as “Tashlan” to even exist, much less to be honored and served.
“Kingdoms Large and Small” – Factions of a Magical Land
- Narnia: The small Kingdom of Narnia is the country of Talking Beasts, Dwarves, Fauns, Nymphs, and many other fantastic creatures that abide by Aslan’s decrees. Narnia is a marvelous place, where nature flourishes on its many hills and valleys. Narnians are warm and welcoming folk, but their goodwill attracts great enemies as the story goes, such as Jadis, the Kingdom of Telmar and the Calormene Empire. It’s in Narnia’s darkest hour that Aslan and his chosen appear in Narnia to defeat its enemies and restore peace to the kingdom.
- Archenland: The humble Kingdom of Archenland rises to the south of Narnia, known for its many species of trees, some of them belonging exclusively to this small territory. Archenland and Narnia are old allies; the royal lineage of Archenland can be traced back to the descendants of the first kings and queens of Narnia, a lineage that supposedly remains on the throne even after Narnia is conquered by Jadis and by the Telmarines.
- Calormen: The vast Empire of Calormen stretches to the south of Narnia and Archenland, to hot, arid lands beyond the Great Desert. Its people worship Tash as well as other minor deities, although Aslan means nothing to them. A nation founded upon commerce and conquest, Calormen maintains a distant and fragile relationship with its northern neightbors. The empire’s capital, Tashbaan, is a magnificent symbol of power and oppression.
- Telmar: It was half a dozen pirates and their wives that gave birth to the fearsome Kingdom of Telmar beyond the Western Wild. A nation of fierce and intelligent people, Telmar is able to expand and eventually conquer the Kingdom of Narnia, at a time where Narnians were weakened and caught off-guard. The Telmarine hegemony comes to an end with Caspian X, who rightfully sits at the throne of a Narnia free from the pirates’ progeny.
- Ettinsmoor: The territory of Ettin giants, Ettinsmoor is a mountainous range with several water courses. Its “Ettins,” mostly violent and simple-minded, are old enemies of Narnia.
- Underland: Well below the surface lies Underland, a monotonous and inert place whose inhabitants are just as generic and apathetic. This gloomy realm is governed by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, who seeks to invade Narnia through Underland’s underground passages.
Narnia and Our World
An (Almost) Eternal Conflict
The Chronicles of Narnia reflect moral conflict akin to the spiritual conflict that Christians experience on Earth. Aslan, creator of Narnia, is called several times to protect his creation from the many dark forces that threaten it. Through his marvelous deeds, the Lion implies that Good can and must triumph over Evil, but also that such victory comes at a price. Humans that come to Aslan’s world are almost always confronted with the responsibility of defeating the evil forces (Jadis, the Telmarines, the Green Witch, etc.) that seek to corrupt the happy and peaceful Kingdom of Narnia. Such responsibility forces characters to make choices and sacrifices, which in turn change the characters themselves. This is what makes Narnia such a dynamic world, one where the good guys do not always make the right choice and the bad guys do not always regret their wrongdoings.
Cause and Effect
The world of Narnia is made up of cause-and-effect situations, and even the most irrelevant event may produce a devastating impact. Ever since its creation that Narnia experiences the effects of poor decisions, such as the arrival of Jadis to the world, which would have never happened if Digory hadn’t given in to his curiosity in Charn. Other examples are Edmund’s betrayal, which nearly took the lives of his siblings, or the plot undertaken by Shift and Puzzle that brings about the Last Battle. There are no coincidences in the world of Narnia; everything has its purpose. Narnia would not have been the same if Caspian had never ran away from the castle of his uncle Miraz, or if Cor had never warned the castle of Anvard. It’s these “little big actions” that, as on Earth, give shape and meaning to the world and to the story of Narnia.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Decisions like those the protagonists of The Chronicles must take are not easy ones. These can be decisions that endanger the character’s life, or that hinder the character from obtaining an immediate reward. C. S. Lewis highlights the heroes’ courage in doing the right thing, even when the wisest course of action would be to flee from the problem. The way in which humans who come to Narnia are faced with a fantastic and terrifying world much different from theirs quickly leads them to seek discernment and courage to deal with such a reality. Mythical creatures, magic, treason and tyranny are quite real in Narnia; its mixture creates several perilous situations where the character is summoned to defend interests bigger than his own – interests that look after Narnia’s good. It is up to each character to choose between selflessness and pride, and the former is not always the safest choice.
Lunatic, Liar or Lord – Lewis’ Trilemma
The Chronicles of Narnia contain a strong Christian element derived from C. S. Lewis’ faith, although this element is not always evident to the reader. However, Lewis does employ one of his most popular theological ideas in a very clear way, in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
After Lucy explains to her siblings that she had been in Narnia with Edmund and he denies it, Peter and Susan decide to tell Prof. Kirke about what happened, worried about Lucy’s wellbeing. Digory Kirke remains unfazed by Lucy’s story and takes her side: since Lucy was not a liar nor a crazy little girl, Digory concludes she could only be telling the truth.
This passage is deeply connected to what is known as “Lewis’ Trilemma”: the idea that Jesus was whom He affirmed to be through his example and his message – the Son of God. There was only three ways to face the Jesus of the Gospels, according to Lewis: either He lied, or He was no more than a crazed man, or He really was who He affirmed to be. Lewis formulated this concept in response to those who believed Jesus was simply a good teacher with valuable insights, but that in no way whatsoever could be the Messiah and the Son of God.
It’s almost impossible to remain indifferent to such a stunning, exciting, magical world as that of Narnia. Its iconic characters and its profound message remain up-to-date almost seventy years after they first come to life. Through The Chronicles of Narnia, we can be like children (again). We can discover a world as fertile as our imagination, as eerie as our darkest fears, and as impacting as our curiosity will allow it to be. We can enter the mind of C. S. Lewis and understand more about the way he embraced life and the faith by which we lived – and we don’t even need to get in a wardrobe to do so.
About the Author:
Daniel T. Gomes is a graphic designer and content writer from Lisbon, Portugal. He currently serves as Biblion’s Assistant Editor, having played a crucial role in the magazine since its inception. He is also a self-published author and one of the hosts of the biweekly Broklahomies Podcast.