We know that Jadis used this word to cast a spell over Charn and this brought about the destruction of everybody there except for her. However, who taught Jadis the Deplorable Word and what was the 'terrible price' she had to pay to learn it?

I don't want to know how she was taught the pronunciation so it's not a duplicate of this question: How did the White Witch know how to pronounce the deplorable word?

1 Answer 1


C.S. Lewis never explains what the price was in the books or otherwise. The "where" is equally vague, but we can reasonably glean that it was not learned from a (still living) person, but rather a secret learned by finding the place that secret was hidden, and that learning it cost her something of great value to herself (note that she doesn't even say that learning it is what costs a great price: just that her journey to learn it did).

Here's pretty much all of the relevant quotations regarding the Deplorable word by Jadis in The Magician's Nephew (emphasis mine):

"She even knew that I had the secret of the Deplorable Word. Did she think—she was always weakling—that I would not use it?"


"That was the secret of secrets," said Queen Jadis. "It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and soft-hearted and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never even to seek after the knowledge of that word. But I learned it in a secret place and paid a terrible price to learn it."


"Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing beneath the sun."

Then later, from Aslan (pretty much the only other place the word is discussed).

"It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things."

From these we can deduce that the Deplorable word of her world was something locked away for many generations, and seeking to know/knowing it was forbidden, and thus there was likely no one left alive who could have taught her. While it only explicitly mentions the ancient rulers, it seems probable that they were the only ones with the authority to learn it without consequences, so they only had their oaths to go by, and as such were the only ones worth mentioning.

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    Unless she engaged in neromancy, bringing someone back who could teach her the word.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:03
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    @MolagBal Entirely possible. Or time travel. Or a experimentation with magic/science. But these are all just speculation, and the reality is that we don't know for certain. At the very least we know the location was important, while what "price" had to be paid is completely unknown. I'll edit the answer to clarify "living person" though.
    – Mwr247
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:08
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    Was Aslan talking about nuclear proliferation? Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:31
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    @Quasi_Stomach That's worthy of it's own question. The short answer is that while probably yes (at least in part), neither C.S. Lewis or Aslan verify it. As a whole however, it likely referenced humanity's growing knowledge and power in general, allowing for even yet unknown technologies of ever greater destructive capabilities to fall under Aslan's warning.
    – Mwr247
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:39
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    @Reya Maybe it was something indestructible. The magic behind the Deplorable Word could have been part of the foundation of the world, unable to be destroyed or truly lost, only avoided. Not unlike nuclear bombs: the technology can always be rediscovered, even if all contemporary records of them are destroyed.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 21:14

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