White Witch

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Jadis, the White Witch
Narnia character
Whitewitch.png
Jadis, the White Witch with Maugrim and a black dwarf. Art by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Race Humanoid (Northern Witch)– (rumoured by opponents to be half-Jinn, half Giant)
Nation Charn
Gender Female
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)
Birthplace 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".[1] Beyond characterising the two as "Northern Witches", Lewis's text does not connect them. See Lady of the Green Kirtle for further discussion.

Character history[edit]

Jadis was born on an unknown date long before the creation of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe she is identified as a descendant of Adam's first wife (Lilith) and the giants:

(This reference to Lilith is a tribute to the fantasy novel with this title by George MacDonald, a literary hero of C.S. Lewis.) Jadis died in battle in Narnian year 1000, meaning that she lived for well over 1,000 years.

The Magician's Nephew[edit]

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.

Many years later, a 12-year-old Digory Kirke and his friend Polly Plummer arrive in the ruins of Charn through Digory's uncle's magic. 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 and give her eternal life. 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 (chosen animals are given the ability to speak, and become pillars of society) and is not troubled by the Witch nor any other enemy for many hundreds of years.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[edit]

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, 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." 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 might 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, enchants him with magical Turkish delight, and tempts him to betray his siblings by offering to make him her heir and bring them to Narnia with him, 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. He had realised that the "Queen of Narnia" (as she had introduced herself) and the White Witch were one and the same after a conversation with Lucy, but was still determined to taste more Turkish Delight and remained convinced that the Witch would deliver her promise to make him heir to her throne.

But with the approach of Aslan, her magical winter thaws. He had been greeted with a hostile reception from the White Witch after arriving at her castle alone, and even more so after informing her that Aslan had come to Narnia. The harshness of the Witch's winter had made Edmund realize that he had been wrong in thinking that her side was the right side to be on, and he realized the full extent of her evil when he witnessed her turning a party of creatures into stone after their revelation that Father Christmas had been in Narnia - much to the Witch's horror after she had banished him.

After Edmund's siblings reached Aslan's camp, Jadis was informed by one of the wolves about this and that one of them killed Maugrim as the wolf advises her to fly now that Aslan is onto her. Jadis instead sends the wolf off to rally her army so that they can meet her at her current position as speedily as they can. After the wolf leaves, Aslan's army shows up to rescue Edmund as Jadis uses a spell to conceal herself and her dwarf.

Jadis meets Aslan for a parley and 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. Aslan keeps this pact a secret from his followers. Jadis has her followers bind Aslan at the Stone Table as an ogre shaves his mane. She tells him that his sacrifice won't save Edmund and that he has given him Narnia forever; then she kills him with a stone knife. Susan and Lucy, who have followed Aslan from their encampment, witness the killing from bushes nearby.

Jadis is unaware, however, that due to a deeper magic from before Narnia's founding, that Aslan's life will be restored, as he was a willing innocent victim who had offered his life in a traitor's stead. Aslan then runs to her castle and restores all her statues to life. He brings them as reinforcements to the battle at Beruna against the witch's army. Her army is defeated, and Aslan himself kills Jadis. Most of her followers are killed and the remnants of her army who do not surrender flee and are later killed by Aslan's followers.

References and comparisons in other Narnia books[edit]

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 mythical beings and talking animals, but have actually only driven them into hiding. Under the disinherited Telmarine heir Caspian they rebel, but when their fight to expel the Telmarines goes badly, a black dwarf (Nikabrik), a hag, and a wer-wolf (to use Lewis's spelling) plan to resurrect Jadis to fight for them, as they consider her a lesser evil than the current ruler, King Miraz. They are then killed in a melee which involves Caspian, his tutor Dr Cornelius, and the returning Peter and Edmund, who have been recalled to Narnia after Caspian blows Susan's horn. On the orders of Aslan and the newly-crowned King Caspian, Narnia is now a land in which humans and talking animals are encouraged to integrate and have equal rights – although a small number of Telmarines accept Aslan's offer of building a new life for themselves on Planet Earth, on the Pacific island where their pirate ancestors had entered Narnia through a cave in the past.

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.[2]

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 - a new enemy to the good animals and humans who now inhabit Narnia. 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. The "Green Lady" had first entered Narnia in serpent form and killed the wife of King Caspian, and later re-emerged in human form to lure away Caspian's son Rilian and place him under an enchantment in the underworld, only for Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole to reach the underworld with their guide, Puddleglum the marshwiggle, and rescue Rilian - who kills the Green Lady before they make their return to Narnia.

Characteristics[edit]

An extraordinarily beautiful, tall and imposing woman, Jadis enchants Digory Kirke, Andrew Ketterley and Edmund Pevensie on first encounters. She is seven feet tall, as were all members of the Royal Family of Charn. After eating the fruit of eternal life, her skin becomes as white as paper.

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. 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. 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. For the brief period of time that Jadis is on 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.

Portrayals[edit]

Radio[edit]

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.

Television[edit]

Jadis, the White Witch, portrayed by Barbara Kellerman in the BBC miniseries The Chronicles of Narnia (1988, season 1).
  • 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[edit]

Tilda Swinton as Jadis, the White Witch. Her collar is made from Aslan's mane, taken during his sacrifice.

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:[3]

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 (a hag and werewolf) use the White Witch's retrieved wand and through the use dark magic 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. The apparition disappears screaming in defeat.

Swinton has expressed interest in returning to the role once more in a film adaptation of The Magician's Nephew.

Literature[edit]

Jadis appears in the Neil Gaiman short story "The Problem of Susan" which appeared in the collection "Fragile Things".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter J. Schakel, The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2005, p. 146.
  2. ^ Ford, Paul (2005). Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-079127-6. 
  3. ^ "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)". BBC. 2005-12-09. Retrieved 2006-10-17. 

External links[edit]