Monday, November 26, 2012

Villain of the Month: The White Witch (Jadis)

And the villain for this month…NanoWriMo! Just kidding (though, at this point, I am finding it a considerable nemesis). This month’s villain is The White Witch (a.k.a Jadis) of C.S. Lewis fame.

In case you’ve never read or seen The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is #1), the Witch’s presence is first felt when the child protagonists climb through a wardrobe into a tyrannized land that is perpetually stuck in a non-Christmased winter. The land is under the reign of the White Witch who exemplifies the traits outlined in The Dictator’s Handbook (basic premise: economics of a “great” dictator is to always do the thing that will keep you in power regardless of any human cost.)

Here are some of the evil trademarks that have landed her on so many “Top Literary Villain” lists. Note: most of the techniques/tropes are borrowed from classic texts and made fresh for Lewis’s day.
  • ·      Perpetual winter. What a use of setting as characterization! And talk about power; this chick has power over even the elements. We’ve seen this power before in mythology (Persephone is kept in the underworld half the year while the rest of us suffer through sun-free days because her momma misses her), and winterizing as punishment is popular with good reason. If winter represents the dark times in our lives (great for growing humans and plants), then being trapped in perpetual winter is more than dangerous. It leaves us void of hope, and brings to mind societies trapped under oppressive regimes whose greatest indignity is being robbed of hope for a “sunny day.”
Writing Takeaway: If you want to make your audience hate you, tyrannize them in only “winter” (At SCBWI NYC last year, Chris Crutcher claims that he always strives to go as deeply funny as he goes deeply sad).

  •      Turning enemies to stone. Hmmm… sounds a bit like Medusa. Or to combine winter with this, Dante’s Inferno. Dante believed that the worst punishment was to be frozen at the center of hell. To be unable to move forward. To be able to see, but not react. Not move. What evil.
Writing Takeaway: Keep your plot moving so that you don’t turn your readers to stone.

  •  Network of spies. There is no privacy; even the trees are spies (and C.S. Lewis didn’t even have articles like this for inspiration) 

  •       Beautiful fa├žade. She’s beautiful. Taller than most. And inviting. And gives poisoned candy to children. In fact, she is so beautiful, rich, and powerful that she becomes paranoid/terrified that life as she knows it will be taken away (ironic that she is so scared she wants to force that kind of growth-punishing stagnation on herself) that she is willing to destroy children. Sounds like pretty much every dictatorship I’ve ever read about.

That said, happy winter, everybody (literally and metaphorically)! Feel free to enjoy the snow, storms, mittens, Chuao/La Maison/Marie Belle/Chocolate Springs etc. hot cocoa, and cozy fires because the summer is coming. The White Witch is not here; there will be spring again.  :)

My favorite way to warm up from the literal & metaphorical cold.
(La Maison NYC= $8 of happiness!)

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