The Latest Battle: Depictions of the Calormen in The Chronicles of Narnia

Open access


Two books in C.S. Lewis’s young adult fantasy series Chronicles of Narnia - The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle - paint an uncomfortable portrait of the Calormen, the traditional foil for the Narnians. Throughout the text, the Calormen are clearly marked both culturally and racially as Middle Eastern, perhaps specifically as Turkish or Arab in their socio-political power structure with harems, arranged marriages, and facial hair designating status. Even Tashbaan, the capital city of Calormen, reads somewhat like a description of Istanbul. Throughout these two books, the Calormen are portrayed as a sinister and conquest-driven culture threatening the freedom enjoyed by Narnia. This textual indictment is fairly consistent. In demonizing this group, Lewis took part in a literary tradition extending back hundreds of years, a tradition that has enjoyed renewed resonance with increased fears over the growth of Islam. From Sir John Mandeville to post-9/11 concerns over terrorism, western depictions of Islam have often revolved around fear and distrust. The Last Battle is particularly problematic in its allegorical depictions of Islam, as Lewis seems to suggest that salvation is only reserved for those who follow the lion Aslan, clearly marked throughout the series as a stand-in for Jesus Christ.

Adams, Percy. Travel Literature Through the Ages. New York: Garland, 1988.

Bennett, Josephine. The Rediscovery of Sir John Mandeville. New York: MLA, 1954.

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Dir. Andrew Adamson, 2005.

Dabydeen, David. Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1987.

Downing, David C. Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. San Francisco: Wiley, 2005.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove, 1967.

Geriguis, Lora. Dubai Ports World and Daniel Defore: Islamic Middle-ness in the English Imagination of the Eighteenth Century. Unpublished paper.

Gibson, Evan K. C.S. Lewis: Spinner of Tales. Washington, D.C.: Christian UP, 1980.

Letts, Malcolm. Sir John Mandeville: The Man and his Books. London: Batchworth, 1949.

Lewis, C.S. Arthurian Torso. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1948.

---. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Vol. 1, Family Letters 1905-1931. Ed. Walter Hooper. San Francisco: Harper, 2004.

---. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Vol. 2, Boooks, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949. Ed. Walter Hooper. San Francisco: Harper, 2004.

---. The Horse and His Boy. New York: HarperCollins, 1954.

---. The Joyful Christian. New York: Macmillan, 1977.

---. The Last Battle. New York: HarperCollins, 1956.

---. “Letter to Annie.” C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life and Works. Ed. Walter Hooper. San Francisco: Harper, 1996.

---. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperCollins, 1950.

---. The Magician’s Nephew. New York: HarperCollins, 1955.

---. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan, 1952.

---. Prince Caspian. New York: HarperCollins, 1951.

---. The Silver Chair. New York: HarperCollins, 1953.

---. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. New York: HarperCollins, 1952.

Mandeville, Sir John. Mandeville’s Travels: Texts and Translations, vol 1. Ed. Malcolm Letts. London: Hakluyt, 1953.

Milton, Giles. The Riddle and the Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville, the World’s Greatest Traveller. New York: Farrar, 1996.

Harris, Paul. “Holy War Looms over Disney’s Narnia Epic.” Observer. 16 Oct. 2005. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

Root, Jerry. “Tools Inadequate and Incomplete: C.S. Lewis and the Great Religions.” The Pilgrim’s Guide: C.S. Lewis and the Art of Witness. Ed. David Mills. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. 221-35.

Sack, Kevin. “U.S. Says Hijackers Lived in the Open With Deadly Secret.” The New York Times. 14 Sept. 2001. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1978.

Shesgreen, Sean, ed. Engravings by Hogarth. New York: Dover, 1973.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subalrtern Speak?” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. Ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Christman. New York: Harvester/ Whatsheaf, 1994. 66-111.

Tzanaki, Rosemary. Mandeville’s Medieval Audiences: A Study on the Reception of the Book of Sir John Mandeville (1371-1550). Hampshire: Ashgate, 2003.

American, British and Canadian Studies

The Journal of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 308 308 32
PDF Downloads 164 164 33