I remember a fair bit about this book since I last read it. Digory and Polly wake up the evil witch Jadis, and they inadvertently take her to the new world of Narnia. I remember that it was Jadis’s spell that put everyone to sleep, and left Charn in ruins.
What I didn’t remember was how scary Jadis actually was before Digory and Polly found her. This chapter is dedicated to her backstory, and elucidates how Charn became frozen as it is now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us an explanation as to why the people sitting outside her chamber start out looking kind and end up looking cruel. I suppose it was just used as a build-up to end in Jadis. That’s understandable, because this is a children’s book. I’m a little disappointed that there’s no (apparent) deeper meaning behind this, because I’m an adult reading a children’s book and expecting more depth than the author provides.
Jadis tells us that she and her sister were feuding for the throne, giving us images that are a bit…graphic for a children’s novel.
‘I have stood here (but that was near the very end) when the roar of battle went up from every street and the river of Charn ran red.’
Holy hell. I know that children’s literature isn’t sunshine and roses all the time, but that’s pretty dark.
Like Uncle Andrew, Jadis’s backstory has a backstory, and holes that I desperately want filled in. It also shows us that she’s completely evil. I’ve been reading Clash of Kings, and some of the dialogue she has sounds like it would fit perfectly into the Game of Thrones series.
‘Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing under the sun.’
‘But the people?’ gasped Digory.
‘What people, boy?’ asked the Queen.
‘All the ordinary people,’ said Polly, ‘who’d never done you any harm. And the women, and the children, and the animals.’
‘Do you understand?’ said the Queen (still speaking to Digory). ‘I was the Queen. They were all my people. What else were they there for but to do my will? [. . .] You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules.’
It’s probably not fair to compare the two, but that mentality is basically the reason everyone in A Song of Ice and Fire gets screwed over.
Jadis tells the children that there is a word–a “Deplorable Word”– that is so powerful it would end Charn. The Word itself is a deep, dark secret that only the most powerful magicians in Charn ever knew it. And while we’re comparing Narnia to things that Narnia shouldn’t be compared to, it reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about the funniest joke in the world, which is so funny, you’ll die when you hear it.
Most of Charn’s magicians refused to learn the Word, and it was forbidden to ever use. Jadis didn’t share their reluctance, and set out on an epic quest to learn the Word, and…
‘It was the secret of secrets,’ said the Queen Jadis. ‘It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word, which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and soft-hearted and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never even to seek after the knowledge of that word. But I learned it in a secret place and paid a terrible price to learn it.’
…Really? That’s it?
This entire chapter is the story of how Charn ended up in this state, and we don’t get to see the most interesting and intriguing part. Hell, we’re not even told why Jadis was fighting her sister. I would probably read a whole book on Jadis’s rise into power, her learning the Word, and killing Charn with it. That sounds like an awesome story. Or maybe a terribly generic one, but at least I’d get some of my questions answered.
Excuse me, I need to go and write a fanfiction now about Jadis’s backstory.