Worldbuilding Wednesday 6/1/22: People of Calormen (Narnia XXX)

The city of Tashbaan

I’m going to start off this third Summer of Narnia with this Pauline Baynes illustration from The Horse and His Boy that I just found. I assume it wasn’t included in the American edition of the books, because I don’t remember it from my childhood. It shows the moment when the Narnian entourage, headed by King Edmund, is walking through Tashbaan and spots Shasta, taking him for the runaway Prince Corin. Not only does it give an idea of Tashbaan’s architecture (very much like Samarkand, with Ottoman domes) it shows the actual people who live there, who seem to be a mix of races and nationalities. Some wear Byzantine-style hooded caps, others Sihk turbans, or Arabic turbans, or even Mongolian furred hats. Women and girl children are present, implying that females are not sequestered and are allowed to walk the streets with males. It’s a delicate, ornate, and pretty depiction, but it’s at odds with the text which highlights the city’s great contrast of wealth and poverty, beauty and ugliness, much of which Lewis puts across by smells.

Inside the gates Tashbaan did not at first seem so splendid as it had looked from a distance. The first street was narrow and there were hardly any windows in the walls on each side. It was much more crowded than Shasta had expected: crowded partly by the peasants (on their way to market) who had come in with them, but also with watersellers, sweetmeat sellers, porters, soldiers, beggars, ragged children, hens, stray dogs, and bare-footed slaves. What you would chiefly have noticed if you had been there was the smells, which came from unwashed people, unwashed dogs, scent, garlic, onions, and the piles of refuse which lay everywhere.

On the surface it’s a factual description of any ancient city’s marketplace, but on the other hand, neither Narnia or Archenland were described in such terms, implying that Tashbaan, for all its splendor, is at heart a rotten place. The free North, we can assume, is free from the foul odors of sewage and unwashed people and dogs, because it is egalitarian and free also of cities. Even as a child this conceit bothered me.

If you are writing Narnia fanfic set in Calormene, here’s some character names.


Characters from Calormen


Ankhaat the Red Magician

Chlarek the Dyer

Prince Al-Khaat

Prince Waskhat

Prince Zedrek

Quamad Tarkaan

Rheeth of the Flame

Sharhan the Butcher

Sidrish Tarkaan

Taraz Tarkaan

Wasyet Tarkaan

Yometh the Mad

Zaryef the Thief

Zarmash the Wine Merchant

Zedammed the Gem Cutter

Zhornish the Ancient


Anjinda the Sweetmeat-seller

Anjnaa Tarkheena

Chaniris Tarkheena

Jalinda the Healer

Khemisa the Goat-Girl

Ladis, a slave

Lazarra the Poetess

Lyris the Wine-Girl

Parvaqa The Golden

Princess Hyatis

Princess Jandalan of the Jasmine Flower

Princess Shvakomis, aka The Honeyed Lily

Princess Zylmira

Saphys Tarkheena

Sephneen the Priestess

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.