Case Studies in Greatness: Jadis

Saturday, July 18th, 2009 at 11:29 am

“And you could see at once, not only from her crown and robes, but from the flash of her eyes and the curve of her lips, that she was a great queen.”

Thus we are introduced to the woman who would haunt the remainder of the Chronicles. Jadis, the last queen of Charn. The White Witch of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, who styles herself Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands, who know the deep magic from the dawn of time. The specter whom Nikabrik’s foul companions would seek to conjure up in Prince Caspian. Her later companion, the Lady of the Green Kirtle, would wreak havok on Caspian’s heir in The Silver Chair.

Jadis is great because she is quite literally larger-than-life. She towers over the children, over normal people, and even over the usually-quite-tall Uncle Andrew. She is great because she is powerful–able to demolish huge gates with the force of her will and to cause all living things to die with the Deplorable Word.

But ultimately, Jadis’s greatness is cruelty and destruction. In a power struggle with her sister, she considers it nothing to “[pour] out the blood of [her] armies like water” to meet her ends. And when even the death of her subjects was not enough to stop the sister, Jadis speaks the deplorable word to kill every living thing except herself. When the children protest of her killing so many innocents, Jadis proclaims: “Don’t you understand?…I was the Queen. They were my people. What else were they there for but to do my will?”

Like Uncle Andrew, Jadis feels that consideration for others and adherence to moral law are beneath her. “You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I.” Once in this world, she uses her power to manipulate Uncle Andrew, to throw Aunt Letty across the room, and to plunder the city of London. Yet she justified all this, for she “[was] the Empress Jadis.”

In Narnia, Jadis meets a being larger than her, with a power much greater. Her every word and action was destruction, but now she meets a lion who sings a world into existence. HE is huge, magical, and HE creates rather than destroying. “This is a terrible world,” she declares. “We must leave at once.”

When she is unable to escape to another world, she boldly throws a lamppost at the lion. It causes him no harm, which terrifies her. She has met a greatness that she has no power to harm. She cannot create–what’s more, she cannot destroy THIS power. Jadis’s greatness is exposed as a sham in the light of Aslan’s power.

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