Susan Pevensie

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Susan Pevensie
Narnia character
Susanpevensie.jpg
Race Human
Nation England
Gender Female
Title Susan the Gentle, Queen of Narnia
Marksman Queen
Queen Susan of the Horn
Birthplace England, Earth
Family
Parents Mr. & Mrs. Pevensie
Siblings Peter, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie
Family Eustace Scrubb (cousin)
Major character in
Portrayals in adaptations
1988
The Chronicles of Narnia: Sophie Cook
Suzanne Debney (older)
2005
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Anna Popplewell
Sophie Winkleman (older)
2008
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: Anna Popplewell[1]
2010
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Anna Popplewell

Susan Pevensie is a fictional character in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series. Susan is the elder sister and the second eldest Pevensie child. She appears in three of the seven books—as a child in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, and as an adult in The Horse and His Boy. She is also mentioned in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle. During her reign at the Narnian capital of Cair Paravel, she is known as Queen Susan the Gentle or Queen Susan of the Horn. She was the only Pevensie that survived the train wreck (because she was not on the train or at the station) on Earth which sent the others to Narnia after The Last Battle.[2]

In Disney's live-action films, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian (2008), Susan is portrayed by actress Anna Popplewell. Actress Sophie Winkleman portrays an older Susan at the end of the first film.[1] In the book Susan is described as having black hair: "And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet and the kings of the countries beyond the sea began to send ambassadors asking for her hand in marriage. And she was called Susan the Gentle."[3]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Prior story[edit]

Susan was born in 1928 and is 12 years old when she appears in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. By The Last Battle, she is 21 years old, as the final novel takes place in 1949.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[edit]

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Susan is given a bow and arrows by Father Christmas, together with a magical horn which, when blown, brings aid. Susan shows her excellence at archery.

She and her brother Peter only discovered Narnia by chance when they stumbled into the wardrobe while trying to avoid Mrs Macready (the housekeeper of the house they were staying). However, Lucy had been there twice (she told Peter and Susan but neither of them believed her) and Edmund had also been there at the same time Lucy was making her second visit (which he denied had ever happened).

In the original novel, she is advised to stay out of the battle, however in the 2005 movie, she saves Edmund from being hacked by the White Witch's dwarf. Together with her sister Lucy, she witnesses Aslan's death and resurrection on the Stone Table. After the battle, she is crowned to the Radiant Southern Sun as Queen of Narnia by Aslan, and shares the monarchy with her brothers Peter and Edmund and her sister Lucy. She later becomes known as Queen Susan the Gentle. The period of their reign is considered the Golden Age of Narnia.

Throughout the book, Susan is the voice of caution and common sense, but is often too concerned with physical comfort. At the end, after a number of years in Narnia, she counsels against pursuing the White Stag, fearing the unknown transition she and her siblings all sense the pursuit might bring. Of all the Pevensies, Susan is the most content in positions of ease and comfort, and tends to advise the others to avoid anything unpleasant.

Prince Caspian[edit]

Susan's magical horn plays an important part in the adventures of Prince Caspian. The horn is an ancient relic given to Prince Caspian by his tutor, the half-dwarf magician Doctor Cornelius. When the Prince's life is threatened by King Miraz the Usurper, Caspian blows the horn and the Pevensies are magically transferred to Narnia from a railway station in England. Using the bow and arrows she has retrieved from the ruin of Cair Paravel, Susan proves her legendary prowess at archery by defeating Trumpkin the dwarf in a friendly competition. She is described as being enormously gentle and tender-hearted, being embarrassed to defeat the dwarf. Edmund, however, later describes her as "a wet blanket". She denounces Lucy's belief in Aslan's presence although she later admits to having known deep down that it was true. Aslan tells Susan that she has "listened to fears", but his breath soon restores her faith and she immerses herself in their adventures as deeply as in the first book. She later accompanies Lucy as Aslan revives the forest and river spirits of Narnia. By the conclusion of Prince Caspian, Aslan says that she and Peter will never enter Narnia again because they have accomplished what they needed to there.

In the 2008 film adaptation, Susan is seen in a brief scene (newly added for the film). Set in front of the Strand London train station before the children are drawn into Narnia by magic, Susan has an encounter with a boy who recognizes her and tries to chat her up. He comments on how he's seen her before and how she often sits alone. She replies that she likes being alone and gives the fake name "Phyllis" when the boy asks for it. Upon entering Narnia and meeting Prince Caspian, there is an obvious attraction to the prince and mutual flirtation ensues throughout the film, ending bittersweetly as Susan must leave Caspian and Narnia to return to Earth, but not before giving him a kiss and an embrace. Additionally, Susan has a more active role during the battle scene at the end of the story, being much more involved in the actual battle and is in charge of her own corps of archers. She demonstrates herself to be a capable combatant, slashing Telmarines with her arrows in between shooting them, as well as clubbing the Telmarines with her bow.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader[edit]

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Susan accompanies her parents on a trip to America, while Peter is being tutored by Professor Digory Kirke, and Edmund and Lucy have to stay with their relatives, the Scrubbs. Susan is considered "the pretty one of the family", which makes Lucy insecure. Lucy is strongly tempted to recite a spell which she finds in Coriakin's magic book, which will make her beautiful "beyond the lot of mortals", and she pictures a plain-looking Susan jealous of her beauty - clearly hinting at a sibling rivalry not evident before. It is also mentioned that Susan is not very good at school work and acts old for her age (14 at the time).

In the 2010 film adaptation, Susan is seen in a few brief scenes (newly added for the film). She is first seen at the beginning of the film writing a letter to Edmund and Lucy. Later on in the film, Lucy steals from Coriakin's book the page containing the beauty spell, and one night recites the spell. Looking in the cabin's full-length mirror, she sees her self grown-up and beautiful, in effect becoming Susan. The mirror swings aside to reveal a society lawn party back in Lucy's world, and she steps through into the party to be joined by both Peter and Edmund, both of whom address her as "Susan". When she tries to remind them about Narnia, to her growing horror, neither of them seem to know what she's talking about or know anything about a younger sister named Lucy. Lucy then wakes up back in the ship's cabin and is confronted by Aslan about what she has done, Aslan instructing her not to judge herself by the standards of others, and reminding her that it was only her actions that resulted in her siblings becoming aware of Narnia in the first place.

The Horse and His Boy[edit]

In The Horse and His Boy, set during the Pevensie siblings' rulership of Narnia, Susan plays a minor part. She is described as a gentle lady with black hair falling to her feet. Shasta finds her to be the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. It is implied that Susan is quite close to Prince Corin of Archenland following the death of his mother, being a motherly or sisterly figure to him. As Queen Susan, she is asked to marry the Calormene Prince Rabadash. She finds him gallant when participating at tournaments in Narnia, but tyrannical and repelling in his own country. The prince intends to take her also by force; her rejection and subsequent escape from Calormen would lead the Prince to seek the secret approval of his father, the Tisroc, for his plan to attack Archenland, as a means of capturing Susan, and in the hope of conquering Narnia at a later date. Interestingly, in "Wardrobe" it is Lucy who is mentioned as being constantly courted by foreign princes.

The Last Battle[edit]

In The Last Battle, Susan is conspicuous by her absence. Peter says that she is "no longer a friend of Narnia", and (in Jill Pole's words) "she's interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations." Similarly, Eustace Scrubb quotes her as saying, "What wonderful memories you have! Fancy you still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children," and Polly Plummer adds, "She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she'll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one's life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can." Thus, Susan does not enter the real Narnia with the others at the end of the series. It is left ambiguous, however, whether or not Susan's absence is permanent, especially since Lewis stated elsewhere that:

The books don't tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there's plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan's country in the end... in her own way.[4]

In his Companion to Narnia, Paul F. Ford writes at the end of the entry for Susan Pevensie that "Susan's is one of the most important Unfinished Tales of The Chronicles of Narnia", but adds in Footnote 1 for that entry:

This is not to say, as some critics have maintained, that she is lost forever ... It is a mistake to think that Susan was killed in the railway accident at the end of The Last Battle and that she has forever fallen from grace. It is to be assumed, rather, that as a woman of twenty-one who has just lost her entire family in a terrible crash, she will have much to work through; in the process, she might change to become truly the gentle person she has the potential for being.

Criticism[edit]

Fantasy author Neil Gaiman's 2004 short story "The Problem of Susan" depicts its protagonist, Professor Hastings (who strongly resembles an adult version of Susan), dealing with the grief and trauma of her entire family's death in a train crash, as she is interviewed by a college literature student regarding her opinion on Susan's place in the Narnia books.[5] Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has also commented on the same issue:[6]

There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She's become irreligious basically because she found sex. I have a big problem with that.

J. K. Rowling

Since the publication of Gaiman's story, "the problem of Susan" has become used more widely as a catchphrase for the literary and feminist investigation into Susan's treatment.[7][8]

Other appearances[edit]

In the 2005–2006 comic book series The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, Susan is portrayed as sharing an apartment with Alice from Alice In Wonderland, Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Wendy Darling from Peter Pan.

Susan and her siblings are spoofed in the 2007 film Epic Movie.

Portrayals[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Caspian to be second Narnia movie". BBC. 2006-01-18. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  2. ^ Ford, Paul (2005), Susan Pevensie (in The Companion to Narnia: A Complete Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, HarperSanFrancisco, ISBN 0-06-079127-6 
  3. ^ Lewis, C.S. "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", p. 201
  4. ^ From Lewis’ Letters to Children, 22 January 1957, to Martin
  5. ^ Gaiman, Neil (2004), The Problem of Susan (in Flights Vol. II edited by Al Sarrantonio, New York: New American Library, ISBN 0-451-46099-5 . Also collected in the Gaiman anthology Fragile Things. For background concerning copyright issues and their effect on the publication history of this story, see Goodman, Jessica Dickinson (2011), Historical Understandings of Derivative Works and Modern Copyright Policy, Dietrich College Honors Theses 119, Carnegie Mellon University Research Showcase 
  6. ^ Grossman, Lev (July 17, 2005), "J.K. Rowling Hogwarts And All", Time Magazine 
  7. ^ Bartels, Gretchen, "Of Men and Mice: C. S. Lewis on Male–Female Interaction", Literature and Theology 22 (3): 324–338, doi:10.1093/litthe/frn026, "This interpretation has become known amongst Lewis scholars and enthusiasts as the Problem of Susan, which was first coined by the writer Neil Gaiman in his short story by the same name." 
  8. ^ Abate, Michelle Ann; Weldy, Lance, eds. (2012), C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 4, "Both [J. K.] Rowling and [Neil] Gaiman are concerned with the manner in which Susan Pevensie’s character becomes represented ... [Gaiman's story] has become eponymous with the issue"" 

External links[edit]