White Witch

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Bio Info

Titles: Princess of Charn, The White Witch, The White Lady, as well as her self-appointed titles: Empress Jadis, Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands

Age: Unknown. She dwelt in Narnia for a thousand years before the hundred-year winter began. It is unknown how long she lived in Charn before that. It is only certain is that she was over 1,100 years old when she died.

Species: The White Witch’s origin is a topic of some debate, as there are two descriptions for it given in the Chronicles. In LWW (1950), Mr. Beaver tells the Pevensies that she is half-Jinn and half-giantess, and that there is not a drop of real human blood in her. In MN (1955), Jadis is depicted as the last of the humanoid race of Charn, though not a Daughter of Eve. The apparent discrepancy can be reconciled by the idea that Mr. Beaver's story is a Narnian old wives' tale. But it is also possible that Lewis made an error or simply changed his mind. Since Lewis said he did not plan out the series in advance, the most plausible explanation seems to be that Lewis intended Mr. Beaver’s words to be true when he wrote them, but later decided to change Jadis' origin to the royal family of Charn. Whatever her origin, it is clear that Jadis is not a Daughter of Eve, and therefore cannot be the rightful ruler of Narnia.

Home: Charn; Her castle (northeast of Lantern Waste), Narnia

Physical Description: Beautiful, with a red mouth, and skin as white as snow (in LWW) and taller than people in our world. In MN, Digory said that he had never in all his life seen a woman so beautiful — but Polly always said she could never see anything especially beautiful about her.

Tools: Golden wand, stone knife

First Appearance: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Ch. 3 (1950)


Appearances

~ The Magician's Nephew ~ (1955)

Jadis is in an enchanted sleep in Charn until Digory strikes the bell and awakens her. She grabs hold of Polly's hair as the children touch their rings to return to our world, and soon finds herself in London with a very startled Uncle Andrew. She orders him to lead her to where she can find slaves, and causes quite an uproar in London. In the midst of the chaos, Digory manages to pull her out of our world using his magic ring. But instead of landing in Charn, they accidentally go to an empty world. Jadis despairs at the emptiness, but then Aslan's song begins, and they all witness the creation of Narnia. Hating the song the Lion is singing, Jadis throws an iron bar she had broken off a lamppost in London at Aslan, but it falls harmlessly to the ground (and grows into a lamppost). Seeing this, she shrieks and runs away. Digory does not see her again until he goes to the garden to find an apple at Aslan's command. There, Digory sees that Jadis has eaten the forbidden fruit, and her face has turned deadly white. She tries to tempt Digory to keep the fruit to cure his sick mother, but he refuses and brings it back to Narnia as he was bidden by Aslan.

~ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ~ (1950)

The White Witch is riding through Narnia on her sledge when she comes upon a Son of Adam, Edmund, standing in the snow. Fearing the prophecies that predict her overthrow, she uses enchanted Turkish Delight to persuade Edmund to bring his brother and two sisters to her. From Edmund, she learns of Tumnus' involvement and has him arrested, eventually turning him stone. When Edmund returns to the Witch with the news that "Aslan is on the move," she immediately sledges down to the Stone Table, hoping to cut off the other three Pevensies. But along the way, Aslan ends her hundred-year winter and she is unable to travel quickly in the thaw. She has just made the decision to kill Edmund when Narnians (sent by Aslan) arrive in time to rescue him. She escapes by turning herself and her Dwarf into a boulder and a tree-stump. Although Edmund escapes that night, the Witch comes to the Narnian camp and tries to claim him by citing the Deep Magic, which states that all traitors belong to her. In private negotiations Aslan offers His own life in exchange for Edmund's. The Witch agrees, and she kills Him on the Stone Table that very night. After He is dead, she wastes no time in attacking the Narnian army. During the battle, she uses her wand to turn the Narnians to stone and severely wounds Edmund when he breaks it. The Witch is stunned when Aslan appears, leading another army (the stone statues from her castle that He had brought back to life). With a roar that shakes all Narnia, Aslan flings Himself at the White Witch and kills her.


About The White Witch

Jadis, the White Witch, is an iconic villain in the Chronicles. Her origin was largely unknown the publication of The Magician's Nephew, in which Lewis explores her history more fully. Jadis' cruelty and selfishness are shown in the deathly cold winter that she forces upon Narnia. She rules the land by fear, using spies and secret police to enforce her will. She has no regard for the lives of others, as demonstrated by her use of Deplorable Word in Charn while battling her sister for the throne. Jadis is also quite physically strong, as she keeps her seat upon a rearing Strawberry in London and wrenches a lamppost from its setting. As a witch, Jadis possesses the ability to make things appear differently than they are, and uses enchantments that work on the victim's weaknesses. Lewis describes her (and witches in general) as terribly practical, saying, "They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them."


Inspiration

Jadis' ability to turn people to stone may have been inspired by the myth of the Greek gorgon Medusa, who was able to turn people to stone if they looked directly at her. Jadis is also similar in some ways to the character of Circe in The Odyssey; Circe uses magical food to tempt humans, just as Jadis uses Turkish Delight to tempt Edmund. Douglas Gresham writes, "Jadis is the embodiment of all evil. She's the most beautiful woman you'll ever see in your life. The devil dresses up his temptations in beauty, so Jadis also represents that side of Satan's favorite temptations. I think her character is probably an amalgam of various women who passed through Jack's life. There are bits of various people in her."


Quotes

  • "Who has awaked me? Who has broken the spell?" (MN, Ch. 5)
  • "You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny." (MN, Ch. 5)
  • "I see we are in a large city. Procure for me at once a chariot or a flying carpet or a well-trained dragon, or whatever is usual for royal and noble persons in your land." (MN, Ch. 6)
  • "Dog, unhand our royal charger. We are the Empress Jadis." (MN, Ch. 7)
  • "Not know the Queen of Narnia? Ha! You shall know us better hereafter." (LWW, Ch. 3)
  • "I see you are an idiot, whatever else you may be. Answer me, once and for all, or I shall lose my patience. Are you human?" (LWW, Ch. 4)
  • "If either of you mention that name again, he shall instantly be killed." (LWW, Ch. 11)
  • "You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill... And so, that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property." (LWW, Ch. 13)
  • "Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die." (LWW, Ch. 14)


Portrayals

  • Tilda Swinton: Disney/Walden The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005; Prince Caspian, 2008; Fox/Walden The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 2010

Born: 5 November 1960 "The Queen, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, could be played very characterized, very cartoonish if you want. That's not who she is to me, she has to be as powerful and evil as Aslan is powerful and good. One of the challenges with the White Witch that Tilda and I faced was avoiding the cliché. Um, the character of the evil females become somewhat of a cliché. I think was somewhat original when C. S. Lewis wrote this character, but since then we've had the Evil Stepmothers, the Cruella Devilles, the sort of screeching, cackling women, and Tilda and I wanted to be sure the White Witch didn't end up being there. In fact that's one of the reasons I cast Tilda is just that I knew she would never go there. She was a much more sophisticated and complex actor." — Director Andrew Adamson



  • Elizabeth Counsell (voice): Focus on the Family Radio Theater, 1999 – 2002


  • Barbara Kellerman: BBC TV series, 1988 – 1990







  • Rosemary Martin (voice): BBC Radio Tales of Narnia


  • Sheila Hancock/Beth Porter (voice): LWW TV animated film, 1979







  • Elizabeth Wallace: LWW TV series, 1967
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