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In chapter 13 (Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time) of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Jadis claimed that a traitor's life belong to her, but nothing was said about it in The Magician's Nephew, the book about the creation of Narnia, nor of the stone table.

Quote from The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe:

"Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch.

"Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely. "Tell us of this Deep Magic."

"Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree? Tell you what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill."

"Oh," said Mr. Beaver. "So that's how you came to imagine yourself a Queen—because you were the Emperor's hangman. I see."

"Peace, Beaver," said Aslan, with a very low growl.

"And so," continued the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property."

"Come and take it then," said the Bull with the man's head in a great bellowing voice.

"Fool," said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, "do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."

"It is very true," said Aslan; "I do not deny it."

"Oh, Aslan!" whispered Susan in the Lion's ear, "can't we—I mean, you won't, will you? Can't we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn't there something you can work against it?"

"Work against the Emperor's magic?" said Aslan turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.

And later, after Aslan came back to life, here's Aslan's explanation about the Deeper Magic:

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that 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.

Now in The Magician's Nephew, we learned that Jadis did come into Narnia at the dawn of Time, not before it. The book, however, didn't mention any "contract" drawn between Jadis and Aslan, or between Jadis and the Emperor-Beyond-The-Sea.

Is the reader supposed to assume that the Emperor or Aslan made the agreement with Jadis to apply to any world because Jadis didn't seem to know about Narnia's existence until she stumbled into it along with Digory, etc. from the "Wood between the Worlds"?

Did C.S. Lewis explained this in any of his letters, in another Narnia book, in an interview, or in his other writings?

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    Are we 100% sure that Jadis is the White Witch? – Matt Gutting Mar 1 at 1:28
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    @MattGutting Yes, she goes by the name "Jadis" in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. – Buzz Mar 1 at 2:45
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    I just want to mention that as one who grew up in a very devout Christian home (and still is) Buzz's answer is pretty much spot-on, specifically because reading this as a Christian, the allegory of Jadis as Satan is quite obvious. There are mysteries within the Christian faith, and one mystery in particular is to which extent Satan has dominion over the Earth, and why he even has it in the first place? CSL writing from this perspective would have alluded to the White Witch having similar authority in Narnia because she represents a type of Narnian "Satan". The authority is assumed by default. – RLH Mar 2 at 22:04
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    @M.A.Golding What rule would compel Jadis to comply? How is she a traitor? And CSL clearly wanted an analog to the crucifixion, so that would not have fit where he wanted the plot to go. – Acccumulation Mar 3 at 7:10
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    Jadis was a powerful enough sorceress to cast a spell that (a) destroyed every life on the world of Charn but her own, and (b) arrange that she would have an escape from that world. She was, whatever her faults, terrifically adept at magic. Recollect also that she ate from a tree of immortality which dropped a lot of knowledge. Does not seem that incredible that she hacked herself into the Narnian world's boot sequence. – Lexible Mar 3 at 17:22
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You speak of a "contract"

Now in the Magician's Nephew, we learned that Jadis did come into Narnia only to the dawn of Time, but there was no "contract" drawn between Jadis and Aslan, or between Jadis and the Emperor-Beyond-The-Sea.

and also of an agreement between the Emperor and Jadis

Is the reader supposed to assume that the Emperor or Aslan made the agreement with Jadis to apply to any world because Jadis doesn't seem to know about Narnia's existence until she stumbled into it along with Digory, etc. from the "Wood between the Worlds" ?

But note that no such contract or agreement is anywhere mentioned. All CSL said is that the Emperor built Narnia with Deep Magic in its bones, so to speak:

...what is written on that very Table of Stone ... what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree ... what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning.

Jadis herself knew part, but not all of it.

the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.

A few things seem clear. First, there was no agreement between Jadis and Aslan's Father the Emperor. The Emperor alone for his own reasons made the Deep Magic beginning in "the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned"

Why did it apply to Jadis? CS Lewis is never explicit, but it is completely consistent with what he does say that the rule is that if a person X betrays A to B, then X is forfeit to B, is owned by B. That's a pretty general rule of real life. A traitor had better be pretty sure about his new master because the act of treachery completely severs his relationship with old master and any obligation his old master had to protect and defend him. When Edmund betrayed his friends to the White Witch, he became the White Witch's creature.

The only thing that hints that Jadis is anything special is her own bragging to Aslan. Is a villain's monologue canon? And I'd note that Aslan contradicts her and says she only understands part of the Deep Magic -- which means that while you can trust the part that Aslan accepts (that Edmund is forfeit to Jadis), you can't rely on anything else she says that Aslan doesn't confirm.

(It's not clear whether traitors are forfeit to their new master or to the local Dark Lord, but since Jadis has both roles in this case, it doesn't matter.)

So to the question "Is the reader supposed to assume that the Emperor or Aslan made the agreement with Jadis to apply to any world?" the answer is "no." The rule that Jadis knew (of traitors being forfeit) Jadis herself said was baked into Narnia by the Emperor at its foundation. All she says is that as Edmund is a traitor, his life is hers. There is nothing to suggest that it applies in worlds other than Narnia (though it might, of course) or that it is agreement made by the Emperor with Jadis specifically.

The Deeper Magic -- that someone willing to lay down his life for a friend could undo the (merely) Deep Magic and release a traitor -- was present from before Narnia. It may well (probably does) apply everywhere, but it is explicitly stated as being the command, the magic, of the Emperor alone.

(@Buzz's answer is excellent -- Lewis was not in Tolkien's league as a world-builder -- but is an out-of-universe explanation for something that can be explained in-universe.)

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  • Incidentally somebody far too clever fixed the Lady in the Green Kirtle too. Short version: Jadis was newly pregnant when she put herself into suspension on Charn. If you work out the consequence of "take for others" ... – Joshua Mar 2 at 3:18
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    I choose your answer because if an in-universe explanation exists it should win. I especially like labeling Jadis's bragging as "villain's monolog" since it feels very consistent with her character as usurper, exaggerating her honor and importance maybe to the point of deceiving herself as to claim "right" owed to her personally, although she wasn't native Narnian but simply took advantage of the laws of the land, which made Jadis the beneficiary of the law in Edmund's case. Great answer! – Paul S. Lee Mar 2 at 6:48
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    "CS Lewis is never explicit, but it is completely consistent with what he does say that the rule is.." When does he say that? "That's a pretty general rule of real life." No, it's not. "A traitor had better be pretty sure about his new master because the act of treachery completely severs his relationship with old master" His siblings were not Edmund's masters. – Acccumulation Mar 3 at 7:12
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    "if a person X betrays A to B, then X is forfeit to B, is owned by B... he became the White Witch's creature" This seems to be much more than she claims and Aslan confirms; she's only entitled to kill him and not do anything else to or with him. – Alexey Romanov Mar 3 at 8:00
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    As a powerful witch from a long line of powerful witches, Jadis would have looked into the Magic that was foundational to her world (Charn) in order to be as powerful as she could be. With the same Creator for all the worlds, this Deep Magic would be the same across them (Earth, Charn, Narnia, etc.). She was just (ab-)using the rules of the existing system for her own twisted ends. What she didn't realize was that there was Deeper Magic that was foundational to Magic itself and that could be used to cut through the twistings to provide true justice instead of her own "brand" of it. – Jed Schaaf Mar 3 at 10:40
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I too wondered about this as a child, and I ended up researching it. The basic conclusion I came to is that this was a major retcon, and like the other elements of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that were retconned, it is unclear if C. S. Lewis really changed things intentionally, or if he just forgot what he had written.

The role played by Jadis in Lewis's Christian allegory changes in a fundamental way between her two appearances. Some elements of the cosmology are consistent, however. The overarching idea that Aslan is the Jesus of Narnia is clearly present right from the first book. Aslan's execution, taking on the punishment for another's crime, then subsequent resurrection, is too close a metaphor to be missed. From what Jadis the White Witch says, she has direct knowledge of the rules of the Narnian world as they were set down at the beginning of time, including what is written on the sceptre of God the Father, as he manifests himself in that universe. (For if Aslan is God the Son, the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea is necessarily God the Father.) This indicates that she is some kind of transcendent being, as old as the world, with knowledge of things as they are in Narnia's version of heaven. In other words, she appears to be a sort of angel; since she is evil, clearly a fallen angel.

So Jadis first appears as an analogue of the Devil for Narnia. Thus it makes sense that she has certain authority over those who have committed crimes against Aslan's prescribed order. The fact that she rules Narnia indicates that Narnia is a "fallen" realm, not in proper Communion with God and instead "under [the] thumb" of the Devil.

The idea of such a realm also appears in C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. In that case, the fallen realm is our Earth. The first book is entitled Out of the Silent Planet, because the protagonist Ransom travels to Mars from the "silent" Earth. The Oyarsa of Earth, the archangel assigned to administer our world, has rebelled against God and become Satan, cutting off the souls of Earthly humans from full Communion with heaven.

However, this view of Jadis as the Devil herself was clearly abandoned by in the later books. In The Magician's Nephew, we learn that Jadis had previously been Empress of Charn, and though she had arrived in Narnia just as it was being created, she had not come, like a fallen angel, from the realm of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. In The Last Battle, the role of an explicitly diabolical evil mastermind is given to Tash, who is worshipped by the Calormenes. The change in Lewis's ideas about her nature may even have begun slightly earlier, with the previous book he wrote, The Silver Chair. (The Horse and His Boy was published fifth, but was largely written before The Silver Chair.) The main villainess of The Silver Chair, the Emerald Witch, is suggested to perhaps have had a similar origin to the White Witch from the first book, which might make Jadis a much less unique figure; however, the truth or falsity of that assertion is never resolved. (And on the other hand, the Emerald Witch plays a somewhat similar role to the explicitly demonic title character in Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. The witch and Screwtape both have a goal of misleading people into atheism.)

So by the sixth book, Jadis's origins seemed to have been changed in a pretty much irreconcilable way. But this is really just one of the retcons that Lewis applied to the Narnia he had constructed in the first book. Some are, in retrospect, even more glaring, such as the Beavers' assertions (and the similar implications of the titles of some if Mr. Tumnus's books) that humans had never before been to Narnia. There is no way to reconcile this with the existence of King Frank and Queen Helen (who share the names of my grandparents who gave me my copies of The Chronicles of Narnia) in The Magician's Nephew, or even the human Narnian nobles who appear in The Horse and His Boy.

As far as I could discover, Lewis made no explicit statement about the nature of these retcons. What he did indicate was that he just made up the narrative as he went along, never (except with books four and five) planning ahead beyond whatever volume he was writing. Besides the retcons, he sometimes made what I think he would have readily admitted were outright errors, such as giving the Telmarine lords in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Narnian lion coins. So the most likely explanation was that Lewis, as a writer, was not that greatly concerned with maintaining consistency, and he just wrote what seemed to him the best story at the time of composition, possibly without checking to make sure everything accorded with what he had previously written.

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    Given that the horse and his Boy took place during the extended period of time where the Pevensie children where high kings and queens of Narnia, couldn't the human noble families of that book been introduced after the Beaver's assertions? For that matter, why would you expect the Beaver to know of King Frank and Queen Helen? – Ben Barden Mar 2 at 17:37
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    Other than the Pevensies, the human nobles in The Horse and his Boy weren't from Narnia, but from Archenland, across the southern mountains from Narnia (and from Calorman, even farther to the south). In my headcanon, Jadis had cut off Narnia from the rest of its world so completely and so long that the Narnians had begun to doubt the existence of humans, and most of Jadis's work in keeping humans out of Narnia was guarding the border with Archenland. (But I doubt that Lewis had thought of any of this while writing the first book.) – Toby Bartels Mar 2 at 22:08
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    @Acccumulation I always believed that CSL said that because one of his best friends, Tolkien, said he hated metaphores. Don't know where I got that, but I remember it from somewhere. :) – Prof. Falken Mar 3 at 11:57
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    @Prof.Falkencontractbreached Tolkien hatted allegory, not metaphor. Specifically, people were looking at LoTR and saying: "oh, so the West is the Allies, Sauran is the Axis, and the Ring is nuclear power..." and he despised that simplistic, allegorical reading of his story (saying also that if it were accurate, then the West would have seized and used the ring, not destroyed it...) – LindaJeanne Mar 4 at 4:25
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    @LindaJeanne, yes, yes, and I as I recall the foreword said something about Narnia not being an allegory but a hypothesis – Prof. Falken Mar 4 at 8:35

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