Susan of Narnia, Warrior Queen

A commenter on Vox Popoli brought this to my attention again, though I had seen the scene I’ll be referring to on TV. Unfortunately I don’t remember the thread or I’d give him credit, but the information is publicly available regardless.

So, in the Narnia book “Prince Caspian” Susan Pevensie, one of the four Pevensie siblings who became Kings and Queens in the first book (and the infamous Susan who is “no longer a friend of Narnia” in “The Last Battle”), mostly plays the role of bitch. I’m really not reading anything into the text here. Susan almost outright says it to Aslan in apology at one point. She has let “fear overcome her” on the journey to Aslan’s How, and because of this she had been nothing but nasty and unpleasant the entire trip, expressing more skepticism than any of the others at Lucy’s claims of seeing Aslan.

After she admits her fault she becomes little more than a passive observer. Her role for the rest of the novel is pretty much limited to Aslan scooping her and Lucy up and carrying them through Narnia.

Early in the novel, before they all reach Aslan’s How, the main action we see from Susan is an arrow-shooting contest between her and Trumpkin the dwarf. She gets upset at the idea of even this small bit of conflict, and takes special care to try and spare his feelings.

In “The Horse and His Boy” when the possibility of war between Calormene and Narnia is raised she literally starts to cry. In the series she is the only Pevensie sibling to never actually appear in battle.

All of this is really a prelude to make sure all of you understand how ridiculous this scene is, which was added into the Prince Caspian movie:

The girl in the middle there fighting? The one with the bow and arrow on her back, taking out full-grown soldiers through a combination of slashing and ninja-archery? Yeah, that would be Susan. You can see her doing it again in the final battle.

There will be some strong language past this point, so prepare yourself (not a lot):

Susan’s title in the series? Queen Susan the Gentle.

Queen Susan THE GENTLE.

Leaving aside the fact that Lewis’s views on female fighters would certainly have precluded him from including this scene in any case, Susan is, literally, probably the LAST CHARACTER IN THE ENTIRE SERIES to be seen in the middle of a battle, taking out full grown male soldiers, in battle armor, by spearing them in the chest, on the run, with an arrow.

Susan, who got upset when she beat a dwarf in an archery contest.

Susan, who cried at the mere possibility of war in “The Horse and His Boy”.

Queen Susan the fucking GENTLE is in the middle of two battle scenes taking down full grown soldiers in hand-to-hand combat (What else do you call stabbing somebody in the chest with an arrow?)

The Walden Narnia movies could not have gotten her character more totally, utterly wrong if they had tried. Did they even read the series? Any of them? It’s not like this is some sort of subtle clue, that is actually the title Aslan gives her at the end of the first book.

Right, that’s all. Carry on now.

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8 Responses to Susan of Narnia, Warrior Queen

  1. Syllabus says:

    Leaving aside the fact that Lewis’s views on female fighters would certainly have precluded him from including this scene in any case,

    Slight quibble: I don’t know if you’ve read Till We Have Faces, but in it, Orual actually becomes a reasonably competent warrior, though not to the modern Uber Warrior Princess™ extent, and she is certainly the exception rather than the rule. Also, from what I recall, Lucy was called Lucy the Valiant, and supposedly had some skill; she shows up with the Narnian army to help save Archenland in The Horse and his Boy. So I don’t think that his views on women as warriors would entirely preclude displaying a female warrior. But certainly, his portrayal of Susan would preclude showing her as a warrior.

    Unless you’re just talking about it in terms of the strength disparity, in which case yeah, you’re probably right.

    • I have, great book. Notice that I wrote “this scene”, not women fighting. In my post, I believe I mention Lucy fighting in “The Horse and His Boy”. But Lucy is not on the front lines and is fighting on horseback using bow and arrow only.

      Lewis famously wrote in the first Narnia book that “battles are ugly when women fight” (and to the Walden movies’ credit, this line, if I remember correctly, was included in the movie version).

      Orual is definitely a special case. Her whole life is basically a form of self-inflicted punishment. She lives like a man as much as she can, and near the end of the book it is portrayed as a tragedy that she was never able to find the sexual love that she craved, and she does not marry. By the end of the book she is quite miserable, even nearly committing suicide.

      The ugliness of her face also makes living as a normal women impossible, and she is described early on as being a natural swordsman. So instead of trying to live as a woman, something she knows is basically impossible, she embraces her mannish qualities, which makes her an excellent King (not a typo) but causes her much misery. Were she beautiful, and were she not living her life in penance, she almost certainly would not be fighting, which would have been the real ideal.

      Psyche, who is almost perfectly feminine, is portrayed as far more virtuous than Orual.

    • Quick read-through of my own post, I notice that I never actually mentioned Lucy. Well, rest-assured I know all about it, as well as Jill fighting in “The Last Battle”.

      I also wrote this, though:

      In the series she is the only Pevensie sibling to never actually appear in battle.

  2. JWDS says:

    They actually changed the line in the movie to just “battles are ugly,” full stop.
    And this just goes on the lengthy list of ways the films fundamentally betrayed the books.

    • Really? Guess I remember it incorrectly. I remember the first movie being a pretty faithful adaptation. It always irks me when people change lines that directly change what the author intended to say. Lewis did not like the idea of women on the front lines. You can agree or disagree, but don’t pretend this wasn’t his position.

  3. JWDS says:

    And now that I think about it, Aslan didn’t give the title in the book, she just gained it popularly through her actions as queen. But Aslan gave her the title in the LWW movie itself, so her crazy violence in PC is actually contradictory even within the movies, not just in comparison to the book.

    The thing is that Lewis’ vision of the world that is portrayed in the books is absolutely not the controlling vision of the movies. Rather, the controlling vision of the movies is the Hollywood one: what does the majority of the the viewing public expect and want, so that we will make money.

    • And now that I think about it, Aslan didn’t give the title in the book, she just gained it popularly through her actions as queen. But Aslan gave her the title in the LWW movie itself, so her crazy violence in PC is actually contradictory even within the movies, not just in comparison to the book.

      Yeesh, good point (and I’m pretty annoyed I got that detail wrong!). It’s beyond stupid.

  4. I think we can safely despair of a Narnia movie that is actually true to the book. 😦

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