Summer of Narnia

There’s a lot of upsetting stuff going on in the world right now. COVID-19. Racism. Unemployment.

So, to preserve my own sanity, this summer I’m going to go back to where it all began for me, as a writer and a fantasy fan — Narnia.

There will be posts on the books, my opinions of them, naming conventions, and art, and what they meant to me and still do. Let the Narnia trumpets sound! Begin the feast at fair Cair Paravel! Let the revels begin!

Worldbuilding Wednesday 7/8/20: Narnia VI

A maenad and her leopards.

As I mentioned in last week’s Worldbuilding Wednesday, almost none of Lewis’s female Narnian creatures received a name, whether they were Talking Beasts or mythological beings. I’ve attempted to rectify that here. Naiads and maenads have Greek-type names, and dryads and hamadryads those relating to trees. As Hamadryads are bonded only to a particular kind of tree, that type became part of their name. For fun, I added in river-gods (the male equivalent of a naiad) and star people.

It’s also worth reflecting on that there was plenty of miscegnation going on between Narnian natives and human beings from our world. In The Magician’s Nephew, the children of King Frank and Queen Helen are described as marrying naiads and river-gods and thus founding the human population of Narnia-the-world (as opposed to Narnia the country.) In Prince Caspian, dwarves have intermarried with humans, producing human-dwarf hybrids. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian marries the daughter of a star person. Her mother is not mentioned, but since she’s living on the earth, mom was probably human as well. Star blood thus passed into Prince Rilian and down through the last kings who likely already carried naiad and dwarf blood.

This puts Aslan’s prophecy that the throne of Narnia shall only be occupied by sons and daughters of Adam and Eve into a new light. As they were from this world, they did not have the taint of dwarf or naiad or river-god; and presumably, neither did Caspian, being of a Telmarine noble family descended from South Sea pirates.

 

More Mythological Creatures of Narnia

Living Stars

Beteldu

Zularea

Marethyn

Saphomon

Demisda

Sabelin

River-gods

Videas

Atphos

Barathus

Vinderus

Valeropus

Ganthus

Naiads

Sayra

Villsa

Shirna

Issenta

Elspa

Persa

 Maenads

Ternia

Nephera

Uvala

Orpha

Mirlana

Fonara

Dryads

Brightwood

Darkdew

Greenbraid

Silverjade

Feathertwig

Bluemoth

Hamadryads

Applejoy

Starplum

Yewgrass

Snowbeech

Mosswillow

Hazelbrook

Narnia Boxed Set

This boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia was my Holy Grail for a few years. Released in 1970, it was the first time all the books were offered together in a decorated cardboard slipcase. The original Baynes drawings were used on the inside, but the covers, with their vague art deco leanings and childlike, airbrushed figures, were very much of the 1970s, and still remind me of embroidered denim, platform shoes, and cheap dangle earrings decades later. In high school I finally bought a used set at a yard sale that served me as reference and inspiration when I began writing myself.

The covers of the books all together. Each one is surreal enough to be a Magritte painting. There’s an echo in them of Rousseau as well. The scenes are caught in mid-action, yet the result is flat, frozen.  There is no affect, no irony. I wonder if it’s because some editorial decision was made not to depict the stories literally. They are Christian allegories, after all. They are mostly true to the books, except Jadis did not have red hair as depicted on The Magician’s Nephew, and the dragon head bow of the Dawn Treader is greatly oversized.


The same fantastical aesthetics are visible in the interior illustration above, for a cardboard toy, which appeared in Scholastic’s Dynamite magazine. Scholastic put out the Narnia boxed set as well. Dynamite was aimed at junior high kids and also appeared in the1970s.

From whence came the artist’s original  inspiration? More than likely Peter Max, who did this notable poster for Earth Day in 1970.

 

 

 

 

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday 7/1/20: Narnia V

There were female centaurs in the Narnia movies, but not in the books.

In addition to Talking Beasts, Narnia was home to many other beings from Western mythology, as well as a few Lewis created himself. Some were referenced often, like centaurs and dwarves. Others received just one mention, like the laundry list of baddies under the White Witch’s command who bind Aslan to the Stone Table. I’ve attempted here to separate them all out.

From Grecian and Roman myth:
Fauns
Satyrs
Centaurs
“Man-headed bull” (Minotaur?)
Dryads
Naiads and River-gods
Maenads
Merpeople
Sea People
Winged Horse (Pegasus)
Unicorns
Phoenixes
Griffons
Monopods (Dufflepuds)
Incubi
Salamander

From European Myth and Folklore:
Dwarves
Giants
Ettins
Boogles
Ghouls
Horrors
Grues
Hags
Werewolves
Ogres
Orknies
Spectres
Woses
Wraiths
Dragons
Sea Serpents
Toadstool people

From Arabic Myth and Folklore:
Jinn
Efreet

Lewis’s Own Creations:
Marsh-wiggles
Earthmen
Black Dwarves and Red Dwarves (Lewis separated them into races)
Living Stars (Ramandu and Coriakin)
White Birds of the Sun

Various media adaptations added many more creatures that were not included in the books, like cyclopses, minoboars, polar bears, gorillas, gryphons, tigers, and jaguars, presumably for visual effect. Pauline Baynes, the original illustrator, also took the liberty of adding creatures not mentioned in the books.

The size of Narnia-the-country, and the larger world that was built around it in the later books, was never explicitly stated, but to accommodate this mythological ecosystem logic dictates it would have been quite large.  The problem is the distances given in canon seem quite small. For example, at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the Pevensies reach Lantern Waste within an afternoon’s ride from Cair Paravel. As Lantern Waste marks one of the borders of that land (most commonly the northwest on maps) it implies Narnia proper reaches no more than 10 – 15 miles inland from the coast, at least in that direction. This is very small. But that’s all for another post, since Worldbuilding Wednesday is all about the names.

In making up the list I was surprised to find that most of the named Narnian creatures are male. In the books, there are no mentions of female centaurs, dwarves, satyrs/fauns, earthmen, or marshwiggles, and of all the others, only a female monopod (Clipsie in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) is mentioned by name, and rather offhandedly at that. Even Caspian’s eventual wife and Queen, Ramandu the Star’s Daughter, goes unnamed. (In the movie, though, she’s called Lilliandil.) Even the creatures that are traditionally female, like maenads, dryads, naiads, and mermaids, don’t get names. They’re referred to in clumps, as a group rather than individuals. Though the books have a balance of both male and female protagonists, with perhaps the meatier arcs going to females, the same was not true of the minor characters. Very odd.

Like the Talking Beasts, many creatures have names that refer to their characteristics or what they do. But an equal amount have a made-up name. Most of the time, given than many are of Greek origin, it’s something like Tumnus or Oreius, or rural Medieval English like Poggin or Puddleglum. I kept to those styles here.

 

Mythological Creatures of Narnia

Giants

Bramblehead

Troughgird

Bumblebrave

Wanderworth

Nubbinnoodle

Beltblister

Centaurs

Moravias

Malthier

Runekeeper

Sunstream

Archdrake

Gandalfor

Fauns

Verius

Raphincus

Falgus

Phoedus

Androcus

Saphus

Dwarves

Gibblenik

Flintfinder

Girdlepop

Ruggle

Maffin

Niknas

Earthmen

Nugg

Muthgram

Gorm

Grimfor

Wigand

Storg

Marshwiggles

Purseplum

Smagglemor

Drabseed

Toadtooth

Mudrumple

Mudbanks

Louis Wain’s Aslan

This artist’s depiction of Aslan, with its eerie staring eyes, shares a disturbing similarity to the cat pictures of popular Victorian English artist Louis Wain. Wain is often cited in psychology textbooks as a classic case of how schizophrenia alters the afflicted’s sense of reality.

 

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday 6/24/20: Narnia IV

narnia talking fox

A charming anthropomorphized fox from the first movie.

As written by Lewis, the Talking Beasts of Narnia cover a wide range of species. The Magician’s Nephew, which was the third book Lewis wrote (but the 6th published) gives a good depiction of their genesis: they bubble up from the earth itself like bubbles of gas through hot lava. There’s an elephant, big cats, deer. Yet, there are gaps in the worldbuilding. Mice, according to Aslan in Prince Caspian, were created later, after Aslan’s ordeal on the stone table. And the more exotic species don’t enter the story at all, as characters that is. There’s a Talking Lion who plays a bit part in the first book, and an elephant in Nephew, but that’s it. Where did they all reside? How did warm climate creatures like elephants and cheetahs withstand Narnia’s winters? And speaking of those elephants, there’s a Hall of Ivory in Cair Paravel. Did they donate their tusks? Were they killed for them?

The animals that do get the most screen time are the ones Lewis would have been the most familiar with as denizens of the British countryside: foxes, bears, deer, beavers, hares, ravens. Well, bears and beavers were in short supply in England in the 20th century, but they would have been there, but for man; that’s their biome.

It is also worth reflecting on the fate of wolves. They are the only species which had given itself over to evil, during the Long Winter; but were all of them thus turned? Were they exterminated after that, or did they repent? (Someone write a fanfic about this please.)

Anyway, more talking beasts that might have existed had the series gone on.

 

More Narnian Creatures

Rabbits / Hares

Springlegs

Weedwinter

Quickblossom

Hollyharp

Dawndash

Moles

Chunkstep

Popcollar

Spadebrood

Plumpling

Earthness

Hedgehogs

Cricklehitch

Mossmouth

Wormsniggle

Pennypop

Spinebrow

Eagles

Trueseek

Windjoy

Highcrest

Stormwing

Quillfrost

Foxes

Slypath

Bluffhunter

Redthatch

Moonglade the Vixen

Vulpina

Wolves

Graykin

Longpace

Bruteflank

Blackfrost

Vandalpaw

Cair Paravel

Cair Paravel, Narnia’s royal castle, as depicted in a Pauline Baynes illustration from the original book, and in an artist’s concept for the movie. The movie version is larger and grander but keeps to the same outline.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday 6/17/20: Narnia III

Reepicheep toasts Ramandu the Star’s Daughter in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Pauline Baynes did the illustrations for all the books.

Speaking of Prince Caspian, the book contains one of the most memorable of all the series’s peripheral characters: Reepicheep the Mouse, short in stature but long on bravery. To me he was the Narnia equivalent of Scappy-Doo, Scooby-Doo’s more eloquent little nephew: annoying.  He does introduce, however, the Narnian way of naming mice: three-syllable names based on the noises they make.

The other talking animals of Narnia have distinctive names as well, often related to what they do, filtered through a pastoral English wonderland. Moles are named Clodsley Shovel and Lilygloves. A squirrel is named Pattertwig, a badger Trufflehunter. And on and on.

Writing Narnia fanfic? Here are some ideas for your animal characters.

 

Narnian Creatures

Mice

Neepileep

Pipichip

Chippiteep

Teepisqueek

Neepinip

Cheepititch

Feepimeep

Squirrels

Luckbranch

Patterpaws

Tumblefluff

Joytwig

Rainleaf

Fairflick

Graywhistle

Deer

Starhorn

Snowmist

Gladfoot

Joygrove

Gallanthoof

Northsong

Lanklegs

Beavers

Logsnap

Shortbelly

Paddletail

Darkdive

Pondflapper

Coldbrook

Badgers

Cobblefern

Moonwhiskers

Rootsnuffle

Snowmask

Hextangle

Jennysalt

Ravens

Runefeather

Proudbeak

Goodcroak

Crookpenny

Combescry

Sootwing

Witch’s League Smackdown

This is hilarious.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 6/10/20: Narnia II

Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian in the movie version, decidedly older and hunkier than the character in the book.

C. S. Lewis actually wrote Prince Caspian, the second book of The Chronicles of Narnia, hot on the tail of the first.  In it, he explored an idea he had been playing around with for a while: What if King Arthur actually returned to England during the Battle of Britain as prophesied (when England was in its “darkest hour”) thereby saving the day? He cast the Pevensie children in the role of Arthur, made the peril out to be an invading kingdom bent on destroying Narnian culture, and so Prince Caspian (named after the sea, no less) was born.

Though the book was second in the series, I read it the last, and might have been spoiled for it by the other books. Still, it’s the weakest, IMO, of the Narnia books. The plot is frustrating (there’s a lot of dull wandering  around in the woods before we get to the action) and many decidedly un-Narnian elements in it that never recur, like Narnia being converted into a facsimile of a repressive British town complete with a bureaucratic  school system, necromancy, black dwarves, and werewolves.  If the books had stopped there, as a duology, the worldbuilding might have made sense; but the wilder and more metaphysical elements of the later books sit oddly with the modern-day (mid twentieth century) elements of this one. It’s also a disappointment for readers, I think, to discover that the Narnia they loved and knew had been been completely plowed under in the intervening years between the events of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and this one. (I could say more, and will, in a later entry.)

Prince Caspian does, though, have the simplest title of the Narnia books; and here are some alternate versions with the same sound.

 

Variations on Prince Caspian

Prince Sasdian

Prince Dysnian

Prince Testian

Prince Baskian

Prince Thesvian

Prince Nosthian

Prince Yesthian

Prince Lesrian

Prince Yösdian

Prince Rasdian

Prince Gesthian

Prince Nassian

Prince Risrian

Prince Chestrian

Prince Tosnian

Prince Sesdian

Prince Tosbrian

Prince Missian

Prince Fuslian

Prince Thöszian

Voyage of the Hot Potato

Yes, these are a thing on someone’s Christian website.