Worldbuilding Wednesday
7/22/20: Narnia VIII (Let’s Talk About Queen Prunaprismia)

Queen Prunaprismia the snob.
(Vanity, by Frank Cadogan Cowper)

One of the most oddly named characters in the whole of Narnia is Queen Prunaprismia, the wife of King Miraz. In Prince Caspian Miraz murders his brother, Caspian’s father, and usurps the kingdom, but keeps Caspian as his heir because he has no progeny of his own. But when his wife Prunaprismia becomes pregnant, Caspian is rendered redundant, and must flee for his life into Old Narnia.

Prunaprismia is the only female Telmarine who’s ever named, and for the sin of being married to Miraz that name is awkward, twee, fussy, and pretentious. Lewis, as he makes clear in the rest of the Chronicles, detested social pretense in all its forms, so while Prunaprismia is not called out in the text as being abusive to Caspian, it’s implied she is one of the villains, and deserves whatever fate comes to her as a widow with an infant son. **

Where did it come from? Lewis may have intended it as an in-joke for the literati. Charles Dicken’s novel Little Dorrit has a quote in it which goes “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism are all very good words for the lips.” The speaker of the quote may have been Mrs. General, a tutor for the Dorrit children who was also marked by pretension, primness, and snobbery. Thusly, poor Prunaprismia is doubly damned, and in addition, is noted as having flaming red hair in the text, another marker of ridiculousness. I’ve also heard a story that Lewis had a bet with another member of the Inklings that he could name a character from that quote, and that he hated prunes.

Whatever its genesis, from the name it is possible to make projections for Telmarine female names in general.

The male names and surnames of Telmar sound like a mash-up of French and Spanish with generous usage of z, sp, elle, and ian. Both countries have a history of invading or threatening England over the centuries, so it’s natural Lewis would have modeled the Telmarines on them. I kept to that pattern for the women’s names.

The female names are also intensely multisyllable, at least for the nobles. Prunaprismia may be a mashup of two names, Pruna and Prismia; perhaps this is a way of honoring the child’s grandmothers or godmothers. Using the names below, one may make other mashups like Tristacaspra or Zinellaneza.

Lastly, the names would sound a little off and ugly, old-fashioned, Victorian. Old-timey girl’s names like Hazel may be making a Steampunk comeback, but not the ugly ones like Bertha or Gertrude.

So, let’s go!


Telmarine Female Names































** The excellent fanfic “In Exile,” by the_rck, describes what happened to Prunaprismia and her son after Miraz’s defeat.

3 pings

  1. […] In last weeks’ Worldbuilding Wednesday I took a look at the etymology of Prunaprismia and how other women of Telmar might have been named. This week, I’ll look at the men. […]

  2. […] 500 years, and even worse, turned into some drab, generic European country with pointedly satiric, odd-sounding names! And those names are the most interesting thing about the invaders, because they’re dull too, […]

  3. […] From all the other Narnian countries, there’s only a handful: Queen Swanwhite and Lady Liln, who are mentioned in passing as figures of legend; Queen Prunaprismia, who may not count because she’s a Telmarine; and Gwendoline, a town girl mentioned in Prince Caspian, who is also a Telmarine, or of Telmarine descent. Unlike the three Calormene names, the “European” women’s names are all over the place. (Note: I did conjecture about Prunaprismia and other Telmarine women’s names here.) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.