Narnian Witches: The Lady of the Green Kirtle

Now let’s take a look at more depictions of The Lady of the Green Kirtle, aka the poisonous, hypnotic Green Witch.

The simple pic at the right puts her in a stuffy Medieval headpiece similar to the one worn by Barbara Kellerman in the 1989 BBC version. But she’s more at ease in it, bending over to kiss a horrified Prince Rilian who is strapped to his chair.

“Make it STOOOOPP! Make it SSTOOOOPPP please!”

Besides the Silver Chair, the Green Witch’s other magical items include her mandolin and a hypnotic smoke generated by a green powder she throws on the fire. (I always took the powder to be a stand-in for opium.) Wickedly complacent, the witch strums her lute as the prince, none too securely bound, rolls his eyes and begs for mercy.

The following are not depictions of Lewis’s Green Witch, but they could be.

From a turn of the century children’s book. I like the slinky dress and the old-fashioned chivalry that’s implied, chivalry that’s presented as less than wholesome by Lewis in the book.¬† Plus, she’s wearing a souped-up version of a green kirtle. If you’re wondering what a kirtle is, skip ahead. I also like the little dogs.

Lady Owein, by Alan Lee

There’s another dog, a greyhound, in this watercolor by Alan Lee who is known for his illustrations of Middle Earth.¬† Again, not the Green Witch, but I like the Medieval feel of it and the calculating, slightly demented¬† look on the woman’s face, whose hairline is shaved back in the standard of beauty of the time.

Melancholy, by Alvor

The Green Witch is a master of putting on a false innocence.

medieval kirtle

To the left is a Medieval kirtle. Basically, what we would consider now a dress, but in the Middle Ages it served as the middle garment of three for most women. The base garment was a chemise or smock which was worn closest to the skin, then came the kirtle, then a gown or surcoat, the multiple layers necessary in a time without central heating. The kirtle was designed to be close-fitting and served as support for the body, important in a time without corsets or brassieres. That the Green Witch rode around in just her kirtle would have been a little racy or inappropriate for Medieval society, as that was considered an “at-home” style. The low-hanging belt on the kirtle was a common accessory and emphasized the lady’s waist and hips.

Pauline Baynes’ illustration of the witch doesn’t exactly show this garment, but by the Baroque period, the kirtle had many variations, some being indistinguishable from modern dresses… that is, those with a fitted bodice and gathered skirt sewn on separately.

The kirtle was revived in the late Victorian period as the “tea gown,” a loose dress worn by the wealthy for lounging in during the day, opposed to the tight, corseted affairs worn for dinners and social outings. Tea gowns were beloved by the pre-Raphaelites, and the pre-Raphaelites, I believe, to Mr. Lewis.

The Mandolin Player, by Charles Fairfax Murray

I wonder if Lewis had seen this image somewhere and based his witch on it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.