|Jadis, the White Witch|
Jadis, the White Witch. Art by Leo and Diane Dillon.
|Race||Humanoid (Northern Witch)– (rumoured by opponents to be half Jinn, half Giant)|
|Title||Her Imperial Majesty, Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands (Former: Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Empress of Charn)|
|Family||Unnamed sister (deceased; killed by Jadis)|
|Major character in|
|Portrayals in adaptations|
|1988 BBC miniseries: Barbara Kellerman|
|2005 Walden/Disney film: Tilda Swinton|
|2008 Walden/Disney film: Tilda Swinton|
|2010 Walden/Fox film: Tilda Swinton|
Jadis is the main antagonist of The Magician's Nephew and of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in C.S. Lewis's series, The Chronicles of Narnia. She is commonly referred to as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as she is the Witch who froze Narnia in the Hundred Years Winter.
Some recent editions of the books include brief notes, added by later editors, that describe the cast of characters. As Lewis scholar Peter Schakel points out, the description there of Jadis and the Queen of Underland (the main antagonist of The Silver Chair) "states incorrectly that the Queen of Underland is an embodiment of Jadis". Beyond characterising the two as "Northern Witches", Lewis's text does not connect them. (See Lady of the Green Kirtle for further discussion.)
The White Witch was born before the creation of Narnia and died in battle in Narnian year 1000.
The Magician's Nephew
In The Magician's Nephew, Jadis is introduced as the Queen of Charn, a city in an entirely different world from Narnia. She was the last of a long line of kings and queens, who began well but grew evil over many generations and conquered the entire world of Charn. Jadis, a powerful sorceress, fought a bloody war of rebellion against her sister. On the point of defeat, Jadis chose not to submit, but spoke instead the Deplorable Word that destroyed all life on Charn except her own. She then cast a spell of enchanted sleep upon herself, to await someone who could rescue her from Charn.
Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer arrive in Charn through Digory's uncle's magic, and find the bell that Jadis left to break the spell. Despite Polly's warning not to ring the bell, Digory does so. Jadis is awakened and by holding on to them is transported with them back to Edwardian London. She initially aims to conquer the world to which she is transported, but finds that her magic does not work in Edwardian London. Digory, seeking to correct his mistake, attempts to transport her back to Charn, but they end up instead in the world of Narnia at the moment of its creation by the lion Aslan. As Aslan approaches, she attacks him with the rod of iron she has torn by main strength from a London lamp post; but when this has no effect, she flees.
Jadis makes her way to the garden on a mountain west of Narnia, where she eats an apple that makes her immortal. However, immortality comes at a cost: her skin is bleached white, and the evil in her heart causes her eternal misery. She cannot stand the sight of the tree that Aslan has Digory plant in Narnia from the fruit of the garden, and she thus stays to the north of Narnia, working to develop her magic anew.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, set 1,000 Narnian years after the events of The Magician's Nephew, Jadis has usurped power over Narnia after the tree that kept her at bay had died. Now known as the White Witch, she is served by various races, including wolves, Black Dwarves, Giants, Werewolves, Tree Spirits that are on her side, Ghouls, Boggles, Ogres, Minotaurs, Cruels, Hags, Spectres, People of the Toadstools, Incubi, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Orknies, Sprites, Wooses, Ettins, Poisonous Plant Spirits, Evil Apes, Giant Bats, Vultures, and creatures that according to C.S. Lewis are "so horrible that if I told you, your parents probably wouldn't let you read this book." Jadis also obtained a wand that has the power to turn living creatures to stone upon touch.
She is styled "Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands", and she casts Narnia into an endless winter with no Christmas for a century. She fears a prophecy that four humans, two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve, will cause of her downfall, and orders all Narnians to bring any human they come across to her.
Tumnus tells Lucy Pevensie of the evil reign of the White Witch. Jadis herself encounters Edmund Pevensie in the Lantern Waste, and introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia. She ensnares him with hot drink and enchanted Turkish delight, and promises to make him Prince and eventually King of Narnia if he will bring his siblings to visit her. When Lucy finds Edmund and recounts her visit with Tumnus, Edmund realizes that the Queen and the Witch are one and the same, but for the chance of becoming King (and also for the promise of more Turkish Delight), he is still determined to bring his siblings to her. He keeps his meeting with the Witch a secret.
When the four Pevensie children arrive in Narnia, they find that Tumnus has been taken by the witch's agents. The Pevensie children are taken under the protection of Mr and Mrs Beaver, who tell them more about the witch and how her reign is certain to be nearing its end, now that Aslan is on the move. They also tell the children that the witch's castle is full of statues of Narnians that she has turned into stone for betraying her, and that few Narnians taken there have ever come out again. Edmund sneaks out to witch's castle; but she is furious that he has come alone, and even angrier when he tells her that Aslan is in Narnia. She sends Maugrim the wolf, chief of her secret police, to catch the children and the beavers, but they have already left to find Aslan at the Stone Table
Jadis makes Edmund come with her to the Stone Table, but after many miles of travelling her sleigh eventually becomes immovable as the snow melts; it becomes apparent that Aslan has destroyed her magical winter. The witch decides to kill Edmund, but he is saved just in time by Aslan's creatures, who return him to his siblings at the Stone Table. Edmund is repentant and grateful, having come to regret joining the Witch's cause: he realizes just how evil she when she turns a group of animals into stone for telling her that Father Christmas had come to Narnia.
Since Jadis was the first to rebel in Narnia, the Deep Magic allows her ownership of all traitors and the right to kill them on the Stone Table. Jadis intended to execute Edmund by that right, but she accepts Aslan's offer of himself as a sacrifice in the boy's stead. With Aslan out the way, the witch's army seems certain to defeat the Narnian army. Jadis, however, fails to understand the Deeper Magic, which allows Aslan, as a willing victim without sin, to be resurrected. Aslan runs to the witch's castle and restores the stone statues to life. He returns with them as reinforcements to turn the tide against the witch's forces at the First Battle of Beruna: Jadis is defeated, and she is killed by Aslan himself.
In Prince Caspian, 1,300 years after her death, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines. Since the fight to expel the Telmarines is going badly, a dwarf, a hag, and a wer-wolf (to use Lewis's spelling) plan to resurrect Jadis to fight against the Telmarines, as they consider her a lesser evil. But these three are killed by Prince Caspian and his allies before they can conjure her up from the dead.
References in other Narnia books
Jadis does not appear in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though the stone knife she used to kill Aslan at the Stone Table is found on Ramandu's island by three of the Seven Great Lords of Narnia. Disagreeing on what course to take, one of them takes up the knife to use against the other two, whereupon all three fall into an enchanted sleep. The knife may be intended as an analogy to the Holy Lance, the spear used to pierce Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of John.
In The Silver Chair, 1,356 years after her death, Jadis is called one of the "Northern Witches", along with the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Glimfeather the Owl speculates that the Green Lady may be "of the same crew" as the White Witch. This had led to speculation by some readers that Jadis and the Lady of the Green Kirtle may be the same person. Lewis's text does not support this (See Lady of the Green Kirtle for further discussion). Lewis never clarifies the Green Lady's origins, or what connection she has to the White Witch.
In her own dominion, Charn, Jadis is formidable; but she finds her magic largely useless in other worlds. She eventually strengthens her powers and usurps the throne of Narnia, using her magic to cast the land into perpetual winter. Her most feared weapon is her wand, whose magic is capable of turning people into stone. The petrified remains of her enemies decorate the halls of her castle.
An extraordinarily beautiful, tall and imposing woman, Jadis enchants Digory Kirke, Andrew Ketterley and Edmund Pevensie on first encounters. She is also physically powerful and amazonian, capable of breaking iron with her bare hands and lifting human beings off their feet. She retains her superhuman strength in other worlds (except in the Wood between the Worlds), but must re-learn magic. She is seven feet tall, as were all members of the Royal Family of Charn. A natural-born sorceress and a cunning strategist, Jadis is arrogant and cruel, considering herself above all rules and viewing others as tools to be used or obstacles to be demolished. After she eats the Fruit of Everlasting Life, selfishly and against the written admonition on the gate, she discovers that her sense of inner power and life is amplified. However her skin becomes as white as paper, symbolizing a kind of living death and the despair-to-come that is predicted in the text she deems she is above. Her callousness and sense of entitlement is most clearly demonstrated when she uses the Deplorable Word in Charn to vanquish her sister, even though the Word would eradicate all life in that world but her own. She prefers to destroy that entire world than submit to her sister's authority, and shows afterward a remorseless pride in her actions. Though her magic disappears when she leaves Charn, she manages to build it up again in Narnia's world, exercising both her previous experience and her privilege to witness a new world's dawning, to become again a sorceress of formidable power.
Origins of conception
Lewis almost certainly based Jadis on H. Rider Haggard's She: in a review of that novel Lewis simultaneously expresses his fascination with the story and his dislike of the character. Like Jadis, "She" is compellingly beautiful, is initiated in occult knowledge, seeks immortal life through unlawful means and claims absolute superiority to the demands of morality. Haggard's later book She and Allan sometimes calls her "the white witch".
For the name Jadis, Lewis may have taken the French word jadis (pronounced [ʒaˈdis]), which means "of old" or "once upon a time" — a customary opening in French fairy tales. The word would have been familiar to him, occurring in the title of François Villon's best known work "Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis" - Lewis wrote a spoof of this poem entitled "Ballade of Dead Gentlemen".
Thematic elements from Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen are also prevalent in her incarnation in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The trapping of Edmund by the White Witch is reminiscent of the seduction and imprisonment of Kay by The Snow Queen in Hans Christian Andersen's novella of that name.
The voice of Jadis was provided by Elizabeth Counsell in Focus on the Family's radio drama versions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew. She later made a cameo as a lamb in The Last Battle.
- American actress Beth Porter provided the voice of the White Witch for the 1979 animated television adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (for the British release, Sheila Hancock's voice was dubbed in). In that version, Aslan lunges towards the White Witch and she disappears in a cloud of smoke
- In the 1988 BBC miniseries The Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch was played by Barbara Kellerman (who was later cast in the role of a hag in "Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and the Lady of the Green Kirtle in "The Silver Chair"). However, this was never explicitly supported in Lewis's writings. After her wand was broken, she ran up the ravine only for Aslan to arrive and roar enough for the ground to shake and the White Witch to lose her balance and fall. In "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", it is stated that Jadis is half Djinn and half giant.
Theatrical film series
In the 2005 Walt Disney Pictures feature film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she was portrayed by British actress Tilda Swinton. Swinton's performance won particular acclaim among fans and critics. BBC film critic Stella Papamichael wrote:
|“||As the cold hearted White Witch, Tilda Swinton sets the tempo for this bracing adventure. She is a pristine picture of evil, like the spectre of Nazism that forces the children out of London to the sanctuary of a country manor.||”|
Tilda Swinton was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain for her performance as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but lost to Hayden Christensen for his performance as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Swinton reprised her role as the White Witch in the 2008 Disney Movie sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. In a departure from the novel, Nikabrik and his fellow conspirators manage to conjure an apparition of Jadis within a mystical wall of ice and attempt to offer her Caspian X as she needs a drop of blood from a son of Adam to fully resurrect herself. She tries to coax Caspian into offering her his blood and then from Peter, promising to lend her powers to their fight against King Miraz once she is made whole. However, Edmund shatters the ice before the Witch can obtain a drop of blood, and the apparition vanishes.
Swinton reprised White Witch again in the 20th Century Fox film adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, only as a manifestation of Dark Island preying on Edmund's insecurities, a mental test that Edmund overcomes as he manages to kill the Dark Island's sea serpent, a manifestation of his fear.
- Peter J. Schakel, The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2005, p. 146.
- Ford, Paul (2005). Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-079127-6.
- "The Mythopoeic Gift of H. Rider Haggard", in: Of This and Other Worlds.
- Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. Jossey-Bass. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-7879-7890-7.
- Gross, John (1994). The Oxford Book of Comic Verse. Oxford University Press. pp. 302–303. ISBN 978-0-19-214207-8.
- "No sex in Narnia? How Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen" problematizes C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. – Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
- "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)". BBC. 2005-12-09. Retrieved 2006-10-17.