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In The Chronicles of Narnia, Tash is the principal god of Calormen. The capital city, Tashbaan, is named after him, and his temple stands at the summit of the city's main hill. Calormenes swear oaths in his name, and Calormene soldiers call on him for success in battle.

The worship of Tash is so ubiquitous that I don't recall any other gods even being mentioned. However, Tash is referred to as a "god" with a lowercase g, suggesting that there may be other gods. And several things about Calormene religion remind me of Ancient Near Eastern polytheism:

  • Tash has a physical form: a humanoid figure with multiple arms and the head of a bird.
  • The temple of Tash contains a statue of the god.
  • Sacrifices (possibly including human sacrifices) are offered on the altar there.
  • The rulers of Calormen claim to be descended from Tash.

However, none of that is actual evidence of polytheism.

Do the Calormenes worship Tash alone, or do they also have other, lesser deities?


To clarify: I'm asking about the beliefs and practices of the Calormenes themselves. To the Narnians and to us, the readers, it's clear that Tash is not an actual deity worthy of worship. However, the Calormenes do worship him as a god.

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    I suspect that Tash is a god with a lower case g because Aslan is the true God with a capital G. Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 21:45
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    @WiggotheWookie I believe that Aslan recognizes Tash as roughly equal-but-opposite to him, thus a Devil-expy of sorts.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 22:07
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    @DavidW Not at all equal, merely as opposite as possible while still existing in some form.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 4:43
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    @computercarguy Jews also capitalize "God," and I believe Muslims do as well. So yes, it's a monotheist thing. (Also, Christians would strenuously disagree that they worship Mary or the saints, though some Christians may accuse other Christians of doing so.) More to the point, C. S. Lewis was a Christian writing in a fairly Christian culture, so I'd expect him to follow the convention that uppercase G = the one true God and lowercase g = other, polytheistic gods. The question is whether the lowercase "god" for Tash indicates the characters' beliefs or the author's beliefs.
    – DLosc
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 17:54
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    @DLosc, Muslims worship the same Hebrew god as Christians, so it might be inaccurate to say all monotheistic religions simply because these three related religions do it. And more than just other Christians say that Mary and the saints are worshiped as gods. Personally, I don't know of another religion that prays to non-gods. (Prayers in Buddhism are different than Christian prayers, but rather a mantra, and Buddha isn't a god.) Btw, it's been surmised that Aslan is a representation of Jesus, so it would follow that Lewis would likely not use a capital "g" for someone other than Aslan. Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 18:34

4 Answers 4

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The Calormenes regularly refer to "the gods" collectively, but Tash ("the irresistible, the inexorable") seems to be supreme. It suggests that "the gods" are comparable to saints in Catholicism; not the equivalent of God, but spiritual beings of power who can grant boons.

A Calormene fisherman:

"How well it was said," answered the fisherman, "that Swords can be kept off with shields but the Eye of Wisdom pierces through every defence! Know then, O my formidable guest, that because of my extreme poverty I have never married and have no child. But in that same year in which the Tisroc (may he live for ever) began his august and beneficent reign, on a night when the moon was at her full, it pleased the gods to deprive me of my sleep. Therefore I arose from my bed in this hovel and went forth to the beach to refresh myself with looking upon the water and the moon and breathing the cool air. And presently I heard a noise as of oars coming to me across the water and then, as it were, a weak cry. And shortly after, the tide brought to the land a little boat in which there was nothing but a man lean with extreme hunger and thirst who seemed to have died but a few moments before (for he was still warm), and an empty water-skin, and a child, still living. "Doubtless," said I, "these unfortunates have escaped from the wreck of a great ship, but by the admirable designs of the gods, the elder has starved himself to keep the child alive and has perished in sight of land." Accordingly, remembering how the gods never fail to reward those who befriend the destitute, and being moved by compassion (for your servant is a man of tender heart)—"

Aravis relates her story:

"My name," said the girl at once, "is Aravis Tarkheena and I am the only daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Rishti Tarkaan, the son of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Ilsombreh Tisroc, the son of Ardeeb Tisroc who was descended in a right line from the god Tash. My father is the lord of the province of Calavar and is one who has the right of standing on his feet in his shoes before the face of Tisroc himself (may he live for ever). My mother (on whom be the peace of the gods) is dead and my father has married another wife.

The gods are not just absent spirits; they have at least some iconography like Catholic saints:

They were zigzagging up to the centre of Tashbaan. Soon they came to finer streets. Great statues of the gods and heroes of Calormen—who are mostly impressive rather than agreeable to look at—rose on shining pedestals.

The tisroc speaks of Aslan:

It is commonly reported that the High King of Narnia (whom may the gods utterly reject) is supported by a demon of hideous aspect and irresistible maleficence who appears in the shape of a Lion.

Two other gods, "Azaroth" and "Zardeenah," are mentioned, but other than a reference to the rites of Zardeenah (involving sacrifice, naturally), little else is said:

In the name of Tash and Azaroth and Zardeenah Lady of the Night, I have a great wish to be in that country of Narnia.

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    It appears to me that the gods of Calormen form a pantheon very much like the Classical Greek and Roman pantheons with gods of varying degrees of potency -- Tash being the most important -- but none who were supreme. The comparison with saints is inapposite, but otherwise the answer is excellent.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 22:59
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    The comparison with saints doesn't make sense to me, either. Catholics don't see the saints as "lesser gods," just people in heaven who can pray for you. The saints (like the Biblical prophets) have no supernatural powers on their own, but can just ask God. A better comparison might be God and angels, or even gods and demigods in other religions.
    – trlkly
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 0:39
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    @DavidW That suggests the others in reality are lesser beings than Tash, or perhaps don't exist at all. But it doesn't follow that the Calormenes believed that. Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 13:58
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    This seems to be an extremely well-crafted answer with all the correct elements, in service of the wrong conclusion. It's hard to read all of these references to the gods and not say they view them as GODS, full stop. Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 18:52
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    But Catholic Saints are not spiritual beings of power who can grant boons. They're just people who are in heaven. Clearly "the gods" refers to a pantheon of gods. Catholicism is almost the least similar system possible.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 17:29
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Generally speaking, no, they don't worship anyone else. There's some scenes from The Last Battle that support this, because the Calormenes (who have invaded Narnia at this point) get caught up in their own narrative.

Shift the Ape dresses Puzzle the Donkey in a lion skin and pretends that Puzzle is, in fact, Aslan (the patron deity of Narnia). Shift strikes a deal with the Calormene noble (Rishda Taarkan) to let them start coming into Narnia on "Aslan's" orders. Apparently, the Calormenes are supposed to be on Aslan's side now. Unfortunately, the Calormenes keep on worshiping Tash, which confuses the creatures of Narnia following Shift and Rishda. Shift then concocts the idea of Tashlan, claiming that Aslan and Tash are really one and the same. Thus everyone ostensibly starts worshiping Tashlan.

The whole scheme breaks down in the end when, in the resulting battle for Narnia, Rishda drops the Tashlan nonsense after Shift's demise and reverts to worshiping Tash alone. Rishda gets quite the comeuppance when the real Tash shows up and carries him off.

The only odd note would be Emeth. Emeth was a Calormene, and reviles the Tashlan bit. Puzzle the Donkey had long since left the stable where he had been kept for parading around as Aslan/Tashlan. Shift, however, needed to keep the ruse going, so he invites people to go in and look. Ginger the cat does, but winds up losing his intelligence. Emeth then decides to go in, convinced Tash had come to end the ruse. Instead, he finds a Calormene solder inside, ostensibly to strike dead anyone brave enough to come look upon Tashlan. Emeth strikes the man dead and tosses the corpse outside. Emeth subsequently winds up in Aslan's country (there's a whole side issue I won't go into there). To my knowledge, he's the only one who gets into Aslan's country, and not by directly converting.

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    This shows that Rishda and company don't worship Aslan, but does that mean they don't worship anyone besides Tash, or just that they aren't interested in worshiping Aslan specifically? (Also, IIRC, Rishda doesn't actually believe in Tash either, and is greatly surprised when Tash shows up.)
    – DLosc
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 16:48
  • @DLosc But if they had a weak/no affinity for Tash (or were polytheists) why did they continue to worship Tash when it nearly ruined their plans to quietly take over Narnia? And why does Rishda go back to it when he appears to be in a position to do as he pleases? It's a pretty big hump to get over when looking at the question.
    – Machavity
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 19:38
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The Tisrocs may be regarded as at least semidivine figures, even if they do not seem to count among the gods in casual speech

"I might be the son of a Tarkaan myself—or the son of the Tisroc (may he live for ever)—or of a god!"

"How blessed is Calormen," said the Vizier, popping up his face again, "on whose ruler the gods have been pleased to bestow prudence and circumspection! Yet as the irrefutable and sapient Tisroc has said it is very grievous to be constrained to keep our hands off such a dainty dish as Narnia.

Mostly obviously, whenever a Calormene brings up the Tisroc, they wish he lives forever (something that occasionally happened with historical kings). Even runaways fleeing slavery/the country do so and expect captives from other nations to as well

"I say," put in Shasta in rather a shocked voice, "oughtn't you to say May he live for ever?" "Why?" asked the Horse. "I'm a free Narnian. And why should I talk slaves' and fools' talk? I don't want him to live for ever, and I know that he's not going to live for ever whether I want him to or not.

As do the crown prince and Grand Vizier in secret council with the Tisroc

"Oh-my-father-and-oh-the-delight-of-my-eyes," began the young man, muttering the words very quickly and sulkily and not at all as if the Tisroc were the delight of his eyes. "May you live for ever, but you have utterly destroyed me.

Being allowed to stand before the Tisroc is a mark of high status, we only see Rabadash and a powerful lord who is something like the Tisroc's third cousin who have this right

I am the only daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Rishti Tarkaan, the son of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Ilsombreh Tisroc, the son of Ardeeb Tisroc who was descended in a right line from the god Tash. My father is lord of the province of Calavar and is one who has the right of standing on his feet in his shoes before the face of the Tisroc himself (may he live for ever)

The Grand Vizier Ahoshta notably does not do this

As soon as all three had entered the room and the door was shut, the Tisroc seated himself on the divan with a sigh of contentment, the young man took his place, standing, before him and the Grand Vizier got down on his knees and elbows and laid his face flat on the carpet.

Similarly, people do not show their backs to Tisroc, which is exclusive to royalty and not just proper etiquette to your betters

A second later there appeared from round a distant corner, the dark shapes of two men walking backwards and carrying tall candles. And of course it is only before royalties that people walk backwards.

"To hear is to obey," said the Grand Vizier. He crawled backwards on all fours to the door, rose, bowed, and went out.

Ahoshta also says the Tisroc is "irrefutable", has "infallible wisdom" and other such statements that would fit a divine king

"O impeccable Tisroc," said the Vizier. "In comparison with you I love neither the Prince nor my own life nor bread nor water nor the light of the sun."

He may be something of a special case, being a flatterer who owes everything to the Tisroc, but he still presents himself as vastly inferior despite his own importance

Now this Ahoshta is of base birth, though in these latter years he has won the favour of the Tisroc (may he live for ever) by flattery and evil counsels, and is now made a Tarkaan and lord of many cities

Finally, we see the Tarkheena Lasaraleen believes the Tisroc can do no wrong

"Oh Aravis, Aravis! How can you say such dreadful things; and about the Tisroc (may he live for ever) too. It must be right if he's going to do it!"

On the whole, I think you could say how the Calormenes interact with the Tisroc qualifies as worship

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The best-known of these deities was Tash, the powerful patriarch god who had a vulture-like head and four arms. Two other named deities in the Calormene pantheon were Azaroth and Zardeenah, the latter being a goddess of the night who also watched over unmarried women.

Calormene Relegion | The Chronicles of Narnia Wiki

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  • These names were all mentioned in DavidW's answer. There's not much point in posting a new answer unless you have new information or evidence that isn't already present in previous answers. Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 22:52
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    If you're quoting from a source you must specify that it isn't your own words and provide a link to that source. I've edited your answer this time but in future this can make your posts liable for deletion.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 8:42
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    Quoting from a wiki is a bit like quoting from a Google search - you still need to track down where that information comes from, and whether it is reliable. Otherwise, you could edit the wiki yourself, quote it here, and we'd still have no idea where you got the information from.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 12:57

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