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Who was the Lady of the Green Kirtle?

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Spalatin Rengriss
(@spalatin-rengriss)
NarniaWeb Newbie

@sirvincentofnarnia

It has always seemed obvious to me that The Lady of Green Kirtle is Morgan le Fay. There are four things that have always led me to believe such a thing:

First, virtually every feature of The Lady of Green Kirtle finds a parallel in one of Morgan's versions: Morgan is almost always depicted as a green-clad sorceress. Morgan is immortal. Morgan can transform into a snake. To obtain Camelot (Narnia), Morgan attacks Arthur's wife (Caspian) and uses the king's son, Mordred (Rilian). In some version, Morgan is also associated with lakes and living in an underground world, plotting how to conquer the surface. The parallels can continue.

Second, C.S. Lewis was absolutely in love with the Arthurian legends.

Third, C.S. Lewis never had a problem bringing legendary characters from our world into the world of Narnia. Father Christmas is an example.

Fourth, Morgan is practically referenced in the story "The Magician's Nephew". Recall that Uncle Andrew is able to create the rings to travel to the forest between the worlds thanks to his godmother, Mrs. Lefay, leaving him a box containing "powders" from other worlds. It seems to me that Mrs. Lefay was most likely a descendant of Morgan, who at some point in the past discovered how to travel between worlds and came to Narnia after Jadis.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

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Posted : September 29, 2022 3:53 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@spalatin-rengriss not surprising, but not all your four points work.

Morgan might be immortal but the Lady in SC is not, since Rilian succeeds in killing her with an ordinary sword. 

It is unclear whether she is a woman or a snake. Rilian is glad she '"took to her serpent form at the last". He said "this is undoubtedly the same worm that I pursued in vain..." that killed his mother. This speech suggests her real form is a snake.

Perhaps most people who've read Arthurian tales and read "Mrs Lefay" for the first time naturally thought of Morgan. 

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : September 30, 2022 12:22 pm
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Guru

 

    While I'm not sure if Morgan LeFay is the Lady, it's probable she influenced the character. The way she teaches her protege to entrap Merlin in a trancelike enslavement seems a little similar to the Lady's enslavement of Rilian. (Also, I had not heard that about her living underground! That's pretty cool). 

  I think one other really good candidate would be the figure of Error from 16th-century poet Edmund Spenser's allegorical work The Faerie Queene. In this story, Error is personified as a half-woman, half-snake monster (in a mermaid sort of way). After blasting a cloud of poison (and, interestingly, heretical pamphlets) she attacks the heroic Red Cross Knight by twisting around him and trying to crush him. Like Rilian, he defeats her by working his sword arm free and hacking her head off. Given the Lady's ties to deception, and the fact that Lewis himself wrote at least one essay on The Faerie Queene as well as Spenser's other writings, it seems likely that this character is a major influence behind the Lady of the Green Kirtle. 

This post was modified 2 months ago by Cleander

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Posted : September 30, 2022 2:56 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Hospitality Committee

I would guess that Morgan le Fay is one influence behind the Lady / Green Witch, and a significant one, but probably not the only one, and it's a bit too much of a stretch to claim that the Lady is Morgan. Lewis drew on many influences from mythology (probably not always consciously), but he transformed and adapted them in his own way to suit what he wanted to write. I don't think it's very accurate to suggest he "never had a problem bringing legendary characters from our world into the world of Narnia" — Father Christmas is in fact the only explicit example of this, and he only occurs in the first of the books. That scene was one of the most heavily criticised by commentators (including Tolkien!) — it still is to this day — and that may have made Lewis wary about transferring any other specific legendary characters wholesale from our world into Narnia. He certainly never did it again after that.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : October 2, 2022 6:29 am
hermit
(@hermit)
NarniaWeb Regular

I rather agree with Courtenay; Morgana may well have been part of the inspiration Lewis drew from in creating the Green Lady but i don't think she actually was Morgana.

One intriguing theory I've seen suggested is that the Green Lady is a fallen star like Coriakin. Any thoughts on that idea?

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Posted : October 3, 2022 1:15 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @courtenay

I don't think it's very accurate to suggest he "never had a problem bringing legendary characters from our world into the world of Narnia" — Father Christmas is in fact the only explicit example of this, and he only occurs in the first of the books.

Don't Bacchus, Silenus, Pomona and Father Time count? Then again, half of those are technically introduced in the first book too, so you may have a point. I agree that it would be uncharacteristic for C. S. Lewis to include a public domain character without making their identity explicit. 

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : October 3, 2022 1:28 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Hospitality Committee

@col-klink Oh, you're right — my mistake absolutely! I was so focused on thinking of characters from British legend that I forgot the fact that he does include several from Greek / Roman legend. My apologies for a totally incorrect assertion — I take it back completely.

That said, in the instances in which Lewis does include such characters, he calls them by the names they have in the legends of this world, not by any alternative name that they have in Narnia. He makes it very clear that they are the same people we already know from Earthly mythology. So it stands to reason that if he intended the Lady of the Green Kirtle to be Morgan le Fay herself — the exact same person who occurs in the Arthurian legends, not just a similar character possibly inspired by her — he would have explicitly named her as Morgan le Fay and quite possibly referred to her role in the story of King Arthur, which at least some of his young readers would likely have known.

He does make a brief reference to Arthur somewhere else in the Chronicles, when remarking on how the Pevensies returned to Narnia centuries later just as they say Arthur will return to Britain — "And I say the sooner the better", he adds, or words to that effect — so he obviously expected his audience to have some prior knowledge of that legend. But the only other direct reference to it that I can think of is in naming Uncle Andrew's godmother as "Mrs Lefay" — which suggests she's some relation to Morgan, or certainly connected with her, but not the same person. I really think that if he wanted to suggest that either Mrs Lefay or the Green Witch (or both!) were Morgan herself, he'd have said so plainly.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : October 3, 2022 1:50 pm
Spalatin Rengriss
(@spalatin-rengriss)
NarniaWeb Newbie
Posted by: @coracle

@spalatin-rengriss not surprising, but not all your four points work.

Morgan might be immortal but the Lady in SC is not, since Rilian succeeds in killing her with an ordinary sword. 

It is unclear whether she is a woman or a snake. Rilian is glad she '"took to her serpent form at the last". He said "this is undoubtedly the same worm that I pursued in vain..." that killed his mother. This speech suggests her real form is a snake.

Perhaps most people who've read Arthurian tales and read "Mrs Lefay" for the first time naturally thought of Morgan. 

 

I think it depends on how we understand immortality. For example, there are works in which a character is immortal in the sense that he does not die of age or disease, but someone could take his life. Vampires strike me as an example of that. Jadis herself too.

 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

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Posted : October 4, 2022 9:58 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator
Posted by: @spalatin-rengriss

 

I think it depends on how we understand immortality. For example, there are works in which a character is immortal in the sense that he does not die of age or disease, but someone could take his life. Vampires strike me as an example of that. Jadis herself too.

 

True, there are such works. There are also fantasy books with reincarnation, or an evil character using dark magic to prolong their life. Even in Middle Earth the Elves do not die except from being slain. 

But Narnia is not like these. Jadis may have thought she would not die, or could take another body.

Jadis most definitely dies in LWW. She does not return in any other book. MN is a prequel, and she has gained extremely long life by eating the apple she stole, so that she returns from the north in her same body (changed by that apple) centuries later and conquers Narnia.

The owls in SC say LOTGK is "one of the same crew", a northern witch.

Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, has stated that LOTGK is not Jadis returning.

 

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : October 4, 2022 1:08 pm
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I think what they meant by immortality, Jadis could not grow old and die of natural causes. However, she was still vulnerable enough to be killed in battle.

The Lady of the Green Kirtle is mentioned by Prince Rilian as a "divine race who knows mean neither life or death." It could possibly mean that she was a long liver as well. She could have come from a different world, like Jadis originated from Charn. She actually remains a mysterious character.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : October 16, 2022 3:38 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I'm curious why we're believing the Lady of the Green Kirtle when she told Rilian she was immortal. It's not impossible in the world of Narnia, but there are no neutral records of anyone interacting with her hundreds of years before The Silver Chair's events. And she doesn't have a great track record for honesty.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : October 16, 2022 8:05 pm
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @col-klink

I'm curious why we're believing the Lady of the Green Kirtle when she told Rilian she was immortal. It's not impossible in the world of Narnia, but there are no neutral records of anyone interacting with her hundreds of years before The Silver Chair's events. And she doesn't have a great track record for honesty.

I think that's what makes her mysterious. We have no idea how long she's been in the North of Narnia.

Was she close friends with the giants of Harfang? That may have given her a reason to send Puddleglum, Eustace and Jill to the castle of Harfang, where they could get comfortable. It may have been because she knew about the giants there eating humans as tradition for the Autumn Feast.

And why would she even needed Prince Rilian in invading Narnia? Maybe she knew that he was heir to the throne, and she thought a way to gain power, she would somehow use him, and possibly rule through him like a puppet.

So somethings are never explained about the Lady of the Green Kirtle. She's a mysterious character.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : October 17, 2022 1:18 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@jasmine_tarkheena I can't imagine her being 'close friends' with anyone. She is solitary and controls others. Anyone she associates with is her plaything or tool.

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : October 17, 2022 1:21 pm
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Junkie

@coracle 

It's never explained how she knew about the tradition of the autumn feast. She may have at least associated with the giants of Harfang. She does tell Puddleglum, Eustace, and Jill that they are "gentle giants", and they appeared to be. I think the whole thing is about appearances being deceiving.

And to your point, she's manipulative. She appears to be friendly (as Eustace and Jill thought). Puddleglum is the who is suspicious. From the start, he knew how controlling she is.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : October 17, 2022 1:25 pm
Courtenay and coracle liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Hospitality Committee

I don't think it's impossible that the Green Witch is friends with the Giants of Harfang, to whatever extent she's capable of being friends with anyone. In LWW, we're told that the White Witch is descended from "the giants" on one side of her family; Lewis gives her a completely different origin in MN (don't get me started again on the inconsistencies between LWW and MN  Eyeroll Tongue ), but he manages to fudge it a bit by referring to her tallness and remarking in an aside that "some say there is giantish blood in the royal family of Charn" (that may not be his exact wording — I'm away from home this week and don't have the books with me). And as we've discussed elsewhere, the Narnians consider the Green Witch to be "one of the same crew" as the White Witch and describe them both as "these Northern witches". I can't remember if the Green Witch / Lady of the Green Kirtle is described anywhere as unusually tall, but it could be that she too has giants among her ancestors, or at least has had a lot of interaction with them, since so many of them live in the lands to the north of Narnia and that's where she apparently comes from originally as well.

I do agree, though, it's likely that her being "friends" with the giants is more based on them being useful to her and her being useful to them, rather than on any actual affection between her and them. The giants are helping her by getting rid of these human children and the Marsh-wiggle that are on her trail; she's helping the giants by giving them some extra food for their Autumn Feast. But if the giants were actually in trouble or danger, I somehow doubt she'd do anything to help them, unless there was something major in it for her, of course! Lewis really brings out that evil is inherently self-centred and self-serving, and his most deeply evil characters are pretty much incapable of doing anything unselfish, even to those who are supposedly their allies. The best example I can think of is actually the ending of The Screwtape Letters, but I won't give that away for anyone here who hasn't read it yet! Wink  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : October 18, 2022 1:27 pm
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