… and daughters too, let’s make that clear.
|Trufflehunter called again, “Glenstorm! Glenstorm!” and after a pause Caspian heard the sound of hoofs. It grew louder till the valley trembled and at last, breaking and trampling the thickets, there came in sight the noblest creatures that Caspian had yet seen, the great Centaur Glenstorm and his three sons. His flanks were glossy chestnut and the beard that covered his broad chest was golden-red. He was a prophet and a star-gazer and knew what they had come about.
“Long live the King,” he cried. “I and my sons are ready for war. When is the battle to be joined?”
— From Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis
Glenstorm gets quite an introduction in this passage from the otherwise problematic (my opinion) Prince Caspian, so much so he’s one of the most memorable side characters from the books. Though he doesn’t evince as much character as, say, Reepicheep or Trumpkin do in the same book, he’s much more badass, adding gravitas and an adult — or as Lewis would say, “grown-up” — feeling of seriousness to the proceeds. This passage is so evocative, in fact, I can picture the sons galloping up beside him, more youthful versions of their father, with slight variations in color and hairstyling.
The introduction touches as well on the centaurs’ wisdom allied with their role as warriors.
Of the others, Glenstorm and Cloudbirth are constructs of two words, like stereotypical “Native American” names from the Elfquest comics I did for a Worldbuilding Wednesday ages back. Roonwit, from The Last Battle, could be one of those as well, if it was spelled Runewit. But I prefer Lewis’s spelling, which adds ambiguity and suggests that proper names, over time, drift from their original spellings and origins.
The two centaurs Eustace and Jill ride in The Silver Chair did not get names so let’s give them some, as well as Glenstorm’s sons, wife, and daughters, from the list I generated below. These are mix of two-word constructs, vaguely Greek, and what-the-hell-but-it-sounds-good.
Fierax the Starsmith
The Walden movies gave us two more names: Windmane and Lightning Bolt, which are so pedestrian and uncreative, I didn’t even consider them as models.
Which brings me to another opinion I have about the movies: the centaurs are all wrong.
They’re not Greek enough, number one. Where are the bare chests and beards? Why did they have to wear armor? They looked silly with clothing and leather straps on, especially those big plates of metal that shielded their horse chests. It’s like the designers were too lazy to get a convincing join between human skin and horse hide, so they decided to hide where the two met, making it into a decorative element, even, so the viewer wouldn’t notice. Logically, it makes sense for a fighting centaur to wear armor there; but this is Narnia, fer Chrissakes. Throw logic out the window.
Furthermore, I’d think the Narnian centaurs would disdain such armor anyway, which brings them to the level of humans and speaks against their battle prowress. If they were strong on the offense, they wouldn’t need a defense.
Which brings me around to another reason I felt the movies fell short: the emphasis on the big battle scenes the producers felt necessary to attract a blockbuster audience. But the books weren’t about battles and wars. They were mentioned, but not described; it was the little events around them that were.
Anyway, on to the second reason why the centaurs looked so wrong. They were ill-proportioned, which is noticeable here.
In most classic paintings of centaurs, the horse part is proportional to the human one. The front legs of the horse could be the legs of the human, as if he or she was wearing a pantomime suit. Ideally, a centaur should look like horse and human could detach, the human walking forward on his two front horse legs instead of his human ones. Like the picture of our friend at the start of this post, or Chiron in this pic. But in these centaurs the horse’s point-of-shoulder goes on too long, and the horse legs are too skinny and tucked in too far. It’s like the designers went too far in the direction of realism for the horse, but stopped short in giving those realistic horse bodies the fat, round barrel of an equine body, made for digesting tough grass and powering the animal forward.
In sum, the human bodies look undersized for the horse ones. This centaur from one of the Percy Jackson movies handled the balance better.
Lastly, I didn’t like the pointy elf ears of the Narnian centaurs. They’re not a new species, they’re a join of two already existing ones. Let’s keep it that way.