Lady of the Green Kirtle
|Lady of the Green Kirtle|
|Race||Unknown (Northern Witch)|
|Title||Queen of Underland|
|Major character in|
|Portrayals in adaptations|
|1990 BBC miniseries: Barbara Kellerman|
The Lady of the Green Kirtle, also called Queen of Underland and Queen of the Deep Realm, is the main antagonist in The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis. She is sometimes called briefly the Green Lady (on analogy with Jadis, the White Lady), and she is known also as the Emerald Witch; neither name, however, appears in Lewis's text. She enslaved Prince Rilian of Narnia and a horde of gnomes by her witchcraft, and planned to use them to take over Narnia. She is foiled by three friends of Aslan: Eustace Scrubb, Jill Pole, and Puddleglum.
The Green Lady has kidnapped Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian X, and has fatally poisoned his mother, Ramandu's daughter. The Lady plans to conquer Narnia from underground, using the enslaved prince as her general.
She understands that Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum have been sent to rescue Rilian, and meets them as they head north from Narnia. She slyly directs them to the giants' castle Harfang for the Autumn Feast, and bids them explain that she salutes the giants by them; for she knows that "man-pies" are a traditional dish for this feast and that this is an easy way to get rid of her adversaries.
When the three unexpectedly turn up instead in her own domain, she attempts to dull their senses and critical thinking through hypnotic magic. She very nearly convinces them that neither Narnia nor the Earth truly exist, but Puddleglum successfully counters the illusion.
She finally uses her shapeshifting skill to transform into a gigantic green serpent, but the Prince recognizes her serpent form as the same one that killed his mother ten years earlier, and after a brief struggle, he strikes off her head.
The Green Lady and the White Witch
The story never makes clear who the Green Lady really is or where she comes from. The Silver Chair includes her among several "Northern Witches", a group that evidently also includes Jadis, the White Witch. Some readers believe that Jadis and the Lady of The Green Kirtle are the same person. Jadis, however, is slain by Aslan several hundred years earlier in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Lewis never describes her being brought back to life.
The speculation is probably reinforced by the set of character sketches included in some later editions of the books. One sketch describes Jadis as "completely evil, even in The Silver Chair." Since it is the Lady of the Green Kirtle who appears in The Silver Chair, some conclude that this must refer to the Green Lady. The character sketches, however, are recent additions to the books; they were not written by Lewis, and, in this regard, are not supported by Lewis's text. Lewis scholar Peter Schakel even writes that the character sketch "states incorrectly that the Queen of Underland is an embodiment of Jadis".
The BBC cast the same actress (Barbara Kellerman) for both roles in the TV adaptations, which may have added to the perception that they were the same person or at least connected. This choice was due at least in part to the limited budget of the TV productions; several other actors were also cast in multiple roles to save money (Kellerman was also cast as a hag in Prince Caspian).
The mechanics of how Jadis could return are never made clear, since she is killed at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, her last chronological appearance in the books. In Prince Caspian, Nikabrik and his companions suggest that the White Witch could be resurrected — "who ever heard of a witch that really died?" In Lewis's text this plan is never put to the test, though the Walden Media film adaptation introduces a ritual that begins to pull Jadis back to life before the spell is broken.
Carina Rumberger-Yanda suggests that the Lady of the Green Kirtle may be associated with the eponymous character of John Keats's Lamia. Like Lamia, the Lady is sometimes a snake, and sometimes "a maid / More beautiful than ever... Spread a green kirtle."
Her transformation into a serpent:
Her arms appeared to be fastened to her sides. Her legs were intertwined with each other, and her feet had disappeared. The long green train of her skirt thickened and grew solid, and seemed to be all one piece with the writhing green pillar of her interlocked legs.
His Armes clung to his Ribs, his Leggs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous Serpent on his Belly prone...
In the 2010 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the DVD commentary states that the power behind the Green Mist was the Lady of the Green Kirtle, even though she is not shown in the film.
In July 2014, the official Narnia website allowed fans the opportunity to name the Lady of the Green Kirtle. The winning name is to be selected by Mark Gordon and David Magee for use in the final script of the new film version of The Silver Chair.
- Peter J. Schakel, The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2005, p. 146.
- Carina Rumberger-Yanda, "Nothing Yet in Its True Form: Shifting Portrayals of Female Villains in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia." In Pursuit of Truth.
- John Keats, "Lamia," lines 185-188.
- John Milton. "Paradise Lost, Book 10". lines 512–514.
- Lewis, C.S. (1953), The Silver Chair, London: Geoffrey Bles
- Sammons, Martha (1979), A Guide Through Narnia, Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw, ISBN 0-87788-325-4
- Lovell, Steven (2005), "Breaking the Spell of Skepticism: Puddleglum versus the Green Witch", in Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls, The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview, Chicago: Open Court, ISBN 0-8126-9588-7