|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 television: 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 the ruins of Charn through Digory's uncle's magic, at a time when the planet's parent star has aged and become a dismal red giant, suggesting that as many as several million of years have passed. The children 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 London in the year 1900. She initially aims to conquer the world to which she is transported, but finds that her magic does not work there. 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 she believes will make her immortal. However, this supposed 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.
Meanwhile, the land of Narnia remains the domain of animals (mostly talking ones) and is not troubled by the Witch nor any other enemy for many hundred years.
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 (who make up her secret police), Black Dwarves, 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." Her magic is now powerful, and she has acquired a wand with which she can turn enemies to stone if they displease or attempt to challenge her in any way.
She styles herself "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. She fears a prophecy that four humans, two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve, will cause her downfall, and orders all Narnians - including those who oppose her - to bring any human they come across to her.
By the time the Pevensie children arrive in Narnia, Jadis has ruled for 100 years. She first meets Edmund Pevensie and enchants with magical Turkish delight and tempts him to betray his siblings by offering to make him her heir, although at this stage only Edmund and his sister Lucy have been in Narnia. The four Pevensie children all arrive in Narnia together soon afterwards, and Edmund strays to the Witch after he and the other children are taken in by Mr and Mrs Beaver. But with the approach of Aslan, her magical winter thaws, and Edmund is rescued after his treason. Jadis insists on her right as the first to rebel against Aslan to take the life of Edmund as a traitor. She accepts Aslan's offer of his own life as substitute, knowing that without him the Pevensies cannot stand against her - even with the support of Aslan's army. At the Stone Table she and her followers bind Aslan and humiliate him, and Jadis kills him with a stone knife. She is unaware, however, that due to a deeper magic, as he was a willing, innocent victim, Aslan's life will be restored. Aslan then reaches her castle and restores all her statues to life, and brings them as reinforcements to the battle at Beruna against the witch's army. Her army is defeated, and Aslan himself kills Jadis.
References in other Narnia books
In Prince Caspian, 1,300 years after her death, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines, a human race who believe they have wiped out Narnia's population of talking animals. Since the fight to expel the Telmarines is going badly, a black dwarf (Nikabrik), 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 than the current ruler, King Miraz. But these three are killed by Prince Caspian and his allies before they can conjure her up from the dead.
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 has 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 extremely powerful; 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. Her other powers, which she immediately loses after entering another world, include the ability to disintegrate objects and individuals, read minds, control the minds of animals (She does possibly retain or regain this power in Narnia) and the terrifying power of the Deplorable Word - the latter of which wipes out every living thing on a planet except for the speaker.
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.
For the brief period of time that Jadis is in our world (Earth), she is shown to have no magical power, but to retain her phenomenal strength. This is demonstrated when she battles with Metropolitan Police in London, wielding the cross-bar she wrenched from a lamp post. The same cross-bar was taken into the new world that would become Narnia, and grew into the full lamp post encountered by Lucy Pevensie many years later.
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. Counsell also made a cameo appearance as a lamb in The Last Battle.
In the BBC Radio productions of The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[clarification needed] Jadis was played by Rosemary Martin.
- The White Witch was played by Elizabeth Wallace in the 1967 British TV series The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- In the sixth episode of The Young Ones, during a game of hide-and-seek, Vyvyan attempts to hide in a wardrobe. He ends up in Narnia, and meets the White Witch, portrayed by actress Justine Lord. She approaches him much the same way as with Edmund in the book, but Vyvyan is uninterested, and tries to hide in an empty tree that leads back to the apartment, against her protests.
- 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 upon her defeat.
- English actress Barbara Kellerman played the White Witch in the 1988 BBC miniseries The Chronicles of Narnia season 1, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.(Kellerman was retained as the hag in season 2 and the Lady of the Green Kirtle in season 3, characters from the second and fourth Narnia novels). After her wand is broken, she runs up the ravine, only for Aslan to arrive with reinforcements and roar enough for the ground to shake and the White Witch to lose her balance and fall to her death. In the original novel 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.||”|
Jadis is viewed as significantly more psychopathic and malevolent, possessing an instinctively violent streak and the expressed disregard for the lives of others - during the Battle of Beruna, she declares that no prisoners are to be taken simply since she has no interest in taking any. She is also hinted to have a cynical, dry sense of humour.
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 Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)". BBC. 2005-12-09. Retrieved 2006-10-17.