Thursday, March 21, 2013

Death Working Backward

(This is a revised/shorter version of an essay I wrote recently, for Omnibus class. We were reading Machiavelli's The Prince, and examining his corrupted views on power and authority. We were told to take a character and to analyze them according to Machiavellian principles. So, I chose the White Witch...Sorry it's rather long :P)

“You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill...And so, that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.” The queen, Jadis, otherwise known as the White Witch, must have looked terribly impressive as she said this. She was undefeated and fully confident. In the end, however, no matter how mighty and unconquerable a corrupt ruler may seem, he cannot triumph. In the grand finale of His Story, “we will see laughing children pulling cobras by their tails, and hawks and rabbits playing tag.” (N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl.) The light will always fill the darkness. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)...
Even though she could not end up victorious, the witch still accomplished quite a bit of evil while she was able: “My poor child,” (she said to Edmund.)  “How cold you look! Come and sit with me here on the sledge and I will put my mantle around you and we will talk.”’ Jadis knew exactly how and when to show mercy. Whenever it would convenience her more to be sweet, she would be sweet. But just as quickly, she would turn on you and, well, change you into stone, or something worse. She knew that to have the most power, she must only behave in the way that would most benefit herself. If that meant bestowing gifts and fine words upon her subjects - then that is exactly what she did. However, if that meant turning on her own people and treating them cruelly, then she went right ahead and did it, without any qualms. 

When the little girl, Lucy Pevensie, stepped into the wardrobe that led to Narnia, the first thing she saw was a snow-covered wood. She thought it was very beautiful, but she learned from the faun, Tumnus, that the natives of Narnia were quite tired of wintertime, even if it did mean snowball fights and icicles and roaring fires. That was because it had been winter for a hundred years. The queen, Jadis, had decreed that it should be always winter, but never Christmas, after she had killed the rightful King, and taken his throne. She created this new law because she felt that if the people saw, firsthand, the great, black magic that she controlled, then they would never dare to defy her. 

Jadis also realized that in order to rule with the most effect, she must devote everything to the good of her country. And so, the Witch did everything for her authority over her kingdom. It was for Narnia that she turned rebels into stone; for Narnia that she schemed to slay the heirs to the throne; and it was for Narnia that she killed Aslan. Everything else was secondary. The country came first, always. And she thought that must surely be enough. 

But, in the end, it was not enough. In order to truly succeed in her wickedness, the White Witch knew she must change fate.. And that was where she failed. She heard of the whispers and legends that spoke of a time when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve would sit on the four thrones of Cair Paravel. And that when they sat in those thrones, it would be the end of the White Witch’s reign, and of her life as well. She knew the old prophecy by heart, because it terrified her:
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, 

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, 
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 
(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, pg 79).
For a while, it all seemed to be working out exactly the way she wanted it to. When she stood above Aslan, the King, with her stone knife, she felt such giddy relief. She had changed Fate. “You know, Aslan,” she bent and spoke in his ear. “I’m a little disappointed in you. Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor? You are giving me your life and saving no one. So much for love. Tonight the Deep Magic will be appeased, but tomorrow, we will take Narnia forever! In that knowledge, despair...and die!” (pg 155). And then Aslan was dead. And that seemed to truly be the end of everything good. But it was not.  When the sun rose the next morning, the Stone Table - Aslan’s altar - was cracked and Aslan, himself, stood before the Pevensie girls, alive and glorious. “Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic,” Aslan said to the exulting girls. “There is a magic deeper still which she did not know...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 backward.” (pg 163.) The Witch could not, no matter how hard she struggled, overcome Fate and the prophecies. Good was going to triumph over Evil, even if it took a while. And even if nobody believed it was possible anymore. The end of the Story had already been written and Jadis, despite her greatness as a ruler, could not destroy it. 


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