Her Majesties the Queens
The Queen of the Amahagger may have expired in the temple of truth, but her significance as archetype of the undying evil empress lived on. From Haggard’s plain of Kôr to C. S. Lewis’s dead city of Charn and frozen waste of Narnia, the salacious amoral and ambitious queen rules. A notable literary character that is the legacy of Haggard’s Ayesha is evil queen Jadis in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
When I read The Chronicles of Narnia in elementary school I was impressed by the character of the evil white witch who made the animal folk of Narnia complain that it was “always winter, never Christmas”. Not until I read Haggard’s She did I realize that Lewis was not the first to invent the tradition of the nihilistic egomaniacally powerful femme fatale. Comparisons between Jadis and Ayesha are most evident in the prequel to Lewis’s fantasy series: The Magician’s Nephew. In Chapter XIII of She, Ayesha reveals that she has been living with the Amahagger for centuries, in relative loneliness due to her education and their lack thereof. In The Magician’s Nephew, Jadis has been frozen by her own spell for centuries among the corpses of her people.
When Ayesha makes clear her intentions to overthrow the queen of England (Haggard 254) she set up another precedent for Lewis’s character. In chapter 6 of The Magician’s Nephew Jadis reveals similar plans to first subjugate England, its queen, and then the world. Holly says of Ayesha that “her proud, ambitious spirit would be certain to break loose and avenge itself for the long centuries of its solitude”(Haggard 255). Both queens intend to rise out of their ancient homelands and conquer the modern world.
The moral subjectivism evinced by Jadis in the Narnia series when she slaughters the people of Charn and then freezes Narnia all for her own gain are preceded by Ayesha’s style of rule. Ayesha says “for who can say what is evil and what is good?”(Haggard 154) to Holly when she is describing her history. She is also known to subject her people to horrible tortures such as when she sentences those Amahagger who attacked Holly and Leo.
The powerful, terrifying figure of Jadis in The Chronicles of Narnia is a legacy of the equally if not more evil character of Ayesha in Haggard’s She. Lewis took the spirit of Ayesha and placed her in his magical universe of Narnia and to see her character in that realm as opposed to the heart of Africa. Subjugating fauns and minotaurs instead of African savages is an interesting juxtaposition indeed.
Lewis, C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Collier, 1978. Print.
Haggard, Henry Rider, and Patrick Brantlinger. She: A History of Adventure. London [u.a.: Penguin, 2004. Print. P 1-311