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The Odd Geography of the Utter East
When speaking of Narnia, the name can mean both the country, and the world. Narnia-the-country’s boundaries are straightforward. This is a Baynes map from Prince Caspian.
North: That line of hills that has a V-shape at the top of the map. Beyond it, Ettinsmoor.
South: The Archenland mountains.
East: The sea.
Northwest: Lantern Waste. (Not visible: Cauldron Pool and the Great Waterfall.)
West: The Western Wild (Not visible, but referenced in the text.)
Holy Cow! Examining these maps for the first time in many years, I’ve realized that I misremembered them, and filled in some blanks on my own. I was so sure that the Great Waterfall and Cauldron pool were in the southeast of Narnia-the-country, not the northwest; and that the hills between Narnia-the-country and Ettinsmoor ran straight east to west, and didn’t dip down as Baynes, and Lewis himself, indicated on their maps. Likewise, I assumed the castle of Miraz lay in the west of Narnia as well, west off the map where Trufflehunter’s cave is labelled, and not so close to Beaversdam. What rock have I been under?
(Caveat: I didn’t like Prince Caspian the book much anyway.)
I also added, in my mind, forested foothills all along Narnia’s western border that merged into tall, imposing mountains. I’ve seen these on many fans’ maps and some editorially-approved ones, but not consistently on Baynes’. But the Western Wild is going to be the subject of my fourth post on Narnia’s Four Corners.
Now let’s look at Narnia-the-world. This is Baynes’ most complete map, compiled of all the ones she did for the books, which had met with Lewis’ seal of approval. It’s been embellished with little frou-frou drawings but it’s still the most complete canon one.
As seen, Narnia-the-world’s boundaries are:
North: The unnamed northern mountains and some blank space.
East: The Great Eastern Ocean; the Silver Sea, stationary wave, and sky-wall (not on map.)
West: The Western Wild, text visible just barely at the left. Fault of the photo cropping.
South: Calormen … and more of those frou-frou pics. The southernmost map feature is a truly huge mountain which isn’t labelled. Interesting. Methinks this might be The Flaming Mountain of Lagour. **
The question here is, how far does Calormen extend to the south and west? And what, if anything, is beyond these borders?
The text in The Horse and His Boy gives no indication of the Empire’s limits. A few places are mentioned but with no markers that would let a reader place them, so their locations are open to interpretation. Calormen’s size is mentioned in relation to Narnia, Narnia being “… not the fourth size of one of [Calormen’s] least provinces.” But since Calormenes tend to bend the truth when they want to flatter or frighten someone, I wouldn’t put much stock in it. Lewis indicates as such, if indirectly.
As for Bree’s and Shasta’s journey north, Lewis says it took “weeks and weeks past more bays and headlands and rivers and villages than Shasta could remember” but again, this doesn’t necessarily indicate Calormen’s size. What it does tell us is that Calormen’s eastern coastline is very convoluted. When Shasta sees the sea for the first time, he also notes it as well. Their trip thus zig-zags back and forth with the terrain, up hills and down, gaining latitude only slowly. There was also another good reason they followed the coast — the interior of the land was too harsh. Being closer to Narnia’s equivalent of an equator and thus in its desert zone, the majority of the country would be dry plains and scrublands. Lewis knew this either consciously or unconsciously. Even Tashbaan is situated close to the sea and is itself a major port.
The text also tells us there are many villages and people in the hilly terrain Bree and Shasta traverse. Which again makes sense: any settlements in an arid land like Calormen would cluster around water sources: rivers, lakes, the tops of high hills and mountains where water vapor rises and falls as rain or dew.
In fact, it’s reasonable to expect that Calormen is an empire where resources — namely arable land and water — are scarce and therefore fought over. In such a place, green, wooded Narnia must look like a paradise. But one that inspires greed and domination, not spiritual yearning. Though the Tisroc and his cronies may brag about Calormen’s wealth, size and might, at its heart it barely holds together. There must be roads such as the Roman empire had, with military outposts along those roads to keep order and enhance communication, yet even so, warfare is a constant. No other countries are mentioned, so the fighting must be internecine, between the Tarkaans, with the throne intervening when things get out of hand.
What lies south of Shasta’s home? Anradin, Shasta’s would-be owner, is said to have come from further south where he has an estate. There’s also a village to the south where Arsheesh, Shasta’s “father,” sells his fish. Lewis doesn’t tell us how far this south extends.
We are not told told, either, how long Calormen stretches to the west, only that there is a “far west” where there are rebels. As far west as Telmar, perhaps. Lewis had written, in his unpublished but accepted-as-canon Narnian timeline, that Calormen was the original colonizer of this land, which in Prince Caspian was said to lie “far beyond the Western Mountains.”
Let’s take a closer look. In Lewis’s original map of Narnia, the castle of Miraz is placed near Beaversdam and Lantern Waste, so it seems he intended for the Telmarines to have invaded close to that point. It makes sense for an invader to build a settlement at their entry point — which was most likely a fortress complex — to stage further forays. But on Baynes’s canon map above, Telmar is now indicated as being to the west of the eastern border of Archenland. If you squint you can see the tiny letters that say “Pass to Telmar.”
The exact location of Telmar will be a subject for my upcoming post on the Western Wild, but for now, let’s assume it’s closer to Archenland, over the mountains lying to its far west. In Lewis’s own imagined history of Narnia-the-world, the Calormenes colonized it in the year 300, only to be turned into “dumb beasts” by Aslan for their wickedness two years later and vanishing from the scene. So, somewhere, the two lands connect, and since no western sea is ever mentioned, the connection has to be by land.
So the upshot is, Calormene does extend to the west a good deal, I’d say half again its size at least. Again, this ties into why it has never successfully invaded Archenland or Narnia, until the The Last Battle. Most of its armies and resources are just too far off and too hard to gather and organize and march across the desert and then the Archenland mountains.
Telmar the country already exists during the timeline of LW&W and The Horse and His Boy, according to the Hermit of the Southern March in Horse (“There, as in a mirror, he could see, at certain times, what was going on [ … ] in the great Western forests between Lantern Waste and Telmar”) but is uninvolved in Narnia ‘s doings. Some of the wikis say Telmar and Calormen shared trade, but this isn’t in the books. It may be fan invention, or mentioned offhandedly in the movies.
The original Telmar continued to exist at least up to the reign of Caspian X.
The map above is interesting for its completeness, supplying new countries to the far south for Calormen to battle and absorb, as well as a southern branch of the western wilderness through which Calormen has access to Telmar. It’s interesting to speculate that southern Narnia-the-world had a whole life and history independent of the north. But, though the idea is delightful, there’s nothing in canon about it.
This fan imagines Narnia-the-world as being completely surrounded by sea. This makes sense if my hypotheses about the world being sealed in a globe is correct. Travel to the limit of any part of this sea, and you’ll find a sandy beach, short grass plain, and sky-wall of the same kind that was found The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ensuring intrepid explorers go so far and no further. Of course, Aslan also didn’t plan on the ingenuity and determination of humans.
There’s an excellent fanfic called The Corners of the World, by Elizabeth Culmer, that’s about the journeys of Jadis before she settled down to become the White Witch. In the far north, she attempts to climb over the northern mountains, but is hampered by the lack of oxygen at their heights… and the unearthly smell that comes from Aslan’s Country, invigorating to humans but poisonous to her. It’s a fanfic and not sanctioned by the estate, but to me, as reader and writer, it feels right; in the west and south, somewhere, must be similar barriers and passages. As a child, I supplied a limit to Calormen myself. At its south was another desert, wider, hotter, more inhospitable than the one in the north, with huge sand dunes that impeded further progress.
Perhaps, at the limits of this hypothetical deadly desert, there is a huge stationary sandstorm that acts as a curtain between Narnia-the-world and the next one?
Or, assuming the Flaming Mountain of Lagour is a volcano located at Calormen’s southern barrier, it might the beginning of a desolate land of cinder cones, boiling mudpots, lava wastes, and ultimately a river or sea of molten rock. If any living thing manages to reach this area, they will be cooked many times over.
Or, after the dunes of the Greater Desert, one finds a Great Jungle, full of impenetrable vegetation, heat and humidity, and deadly beasts, and a Great River that leads to Aslan’s Country.
The rainforest biome is one that Lewis never wrote about. I wonder why.
Let’s take leave of Narnia’s south now, and as Lewis himself said, further up and further in…
** Mentioned by Emeth in The Last Battle. This might be an actual geographical landmark, or a feature of a story like Moses and the Burning Bush.