Would the “Blue Fire” Have Brought Back The White Witch? | Talking Beasts

In this episode, the podcasters review Episode Two of BBC’s Prince Caspian TV series, which includes the “Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance” scene.

For decades, readers of Prince Caspian have been discussing if the Hag and Werewolf really could have brought The White Witch back from the dead. Whatever C.S. Lewis intended, both BBC’s TV series (1989) and Walden Media’s movie (2008) imply it was a possibility.

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Glumpudle. Gymfan

18 Responses

  1. I enjoyed this podcast guys, as usual. Thanks for getting this to us twice a month!

    I have a few notes on BBC Prince Caspian Episode 2, which I made while watching the episode and listening to the podcast episode.

    The first time I watched the BBC series was on BBC Prime (the European version of BBC) around the time that Disney’s Pocahontas was released. Since that day I have always thought that the Pevensie girls’ Narnian costumes look like Pocahontas’ tan-coloured dress. I can’t get it out of my head! Also, the shimmering magic dust that Aslan puts onto Lucy in this episode reminded me of the coloured leaveds in the wind from Pocahontas.

    The trees awakening is in this show – for about 1 second! I agree that not many things make sense if you take this on its own.

    Watching the hag and Maugrim – I mean, the wolf, feels just like watching The Witch and Maugrim. As one of the Talking Beasts hosts said once, this show must have had a really small casting budget. Therefore we get Barbara Kellerman as an evil woman – thrice…

    Miraz’s line “Give it me!” is unnerving, while humorous, and shows him as a petulant child. That sums up this characterisation for me. BBC’s Miraz is like an ungrateful, spoiled child. In Walden’s PC, Miraz is much more menacing.

    Susan and Lucy do nothing! It is like they are sent to Narnia so they can stand next to a benign Aslan for an hour or two. #hashtagMakesNoSense ๐Ÿ™‚

    Glumpuddle said that it seems like Prince Caspian believes that the werewolf could have brought back the White Witch. Well my opinion is that magic was so new to Caspian that he might have believed that it was possible, even though it wasn’t. He had only been in Old Narnia for a short while, so he can’t be expected to know how magic works. In fact, he had not been around black magic at all, I suspect. So that makes it even more unlikely that he would know how it works.

    I am loving this series on BBC’s Narnia adaptations. Please do VDT and SC too! I don’t mind if you take a couple years, like the HAHB commentary took.

  2. Col Klink says:

    The girls’ dresses do kind of look like that now that you mention it.

  3. Col Klink says:

    I saw this adaptation before I read the book (a looooong time ago) and yeah, I totally wondered for a moment if the hag and the werewolf were supposed to be the White Witch and Maugrim in disguise! Apart from that confusion, I think the sorcery and sudden vengeance scene could be described as the highlight of adaptation. I like Barbara Kellerman’s performance as the hag better than her performance as the Witch. She just seemed to have a better tone for the character.

    I love that you pointed out all that was cut from the Lucy-Aslan subplot, mainly Lucy having the wake up the others and tell them she was going whether they were or not. Without that scene and the dialogue between Lucy and Aslan right before it, the plotline really feels awkward and pointless.

    When you were quoting Aslan, I thought for a second he was going to say, “no, you are not as good as the boys!” LOL. Anyway, the climax to this Prince Caspian really makes you appreciate how comparatively well done the climax to Walden’s one was, even granting all the great stuff they cut.

    I wonder if the reason they didn’t have the other mice in this adaptation was because they didn’t have any more mouse suits.

    This Prince Caspian reminds me of something Glumpuddle said in another episode about how he couldn’t understand the Harry Potter movies without reading the books. I feel like that’s how it is with this adaptation especially the climax and resolution. It makes kind of an interesting contrast with the BBC LWW. That one was a bit sluggish and montage-heavy. This one needed to take some time to stop and smell the roses.

    I’d say that the BBC VDT was the best of their Narnia adaptations. (I know The Silver Chair is generally considered the best but there were actually a number of decisions I disliked with that one.) I don’t love it or anything but it feels like they included everything I’d want a VDT adaptation to include and they didn’t include anything they didn’t need to include. If you guys watch it next season, I think you’ll have a much easier time being “balanced.”

    P.S. I’ve heard a number of people, especially people who were disappointed with Walden’s Eustace, says that BBC’s Eustace is their favorite because of how annoying he is. I don’t really feel that way myself. (Maybe because I actually don’t find Eustace that annoying in the book. To live with, sure. But not read about. C.S. Lewis did a lot more telling than showing with Eustace’s annoying-ness.) But I sure don’t dislike this Eustace!

  4. Lil Princess says:

    This title reminds me, I just remembered when I first saw BBC Prince Caspian, I remember the terror of seeing them “call up the blue fire!” The first time. As I got older I could understand no “real magic” was being performed

  5. Timmy-the-Ute says:

    I have no problem with the idea of the White Witch coming back in a form. I am not a christian cessationist.

  6. Col Klink says:

    According to the internet (not an infallible source), Christian Cessationism is the belief that the works of the Holy Spirit have ceased at this point in history. However, Christians in general are against trying to contact the dead. So from a Christian perspective, it wouldn’t be the Holy Spirit that brought back the White Witch anyway. (Pardon me for being didactic but since Cessationist isn’t a word people hear every day, I thought people could use some clarification.)

  7. Timmy-the-Ute says:

    A broader definition is that all direct actions of spirits stops, whether by works of the Holy Spirit or spirit possession by demons. In that CS Lewis seem to believe in healing, means that he believe that spirits can act directly on us and not just by the power of suggestion on our mind. Thus calling on a spirit is very dangerous, unless you are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.

  8. Larry W. says:

    I kind of liked it when the others say to Lucy, “Where did you think you saw Aslan?” And Lucy replies, “I didn’t think I saw him– I saw him.” Even though the story was shortened too much this was one of the better parts. Then Peter says “It’s kind of tricky in this light” which shows he isn’t sure about it, but he wants to give Lucy a fair chance. I think in this scene they did a fairly good job on the lighting and background. Remember how fuzzy it was on the old VHS tapes? The DVD’s are a little better. But I guess you can forgive the lack of technology in 1989 and the low budget. I still think they had a good location for the scene, but not enough time was given for the making of the program, which was the problem with the whole production of Prince Caspian.

    I don’t hate this version, but the shortening was a big disappointment even though I really like the rest of the BBC Narnia. They may have done it this way for fear of their budget, but I think if they had spent more money and made Prince Caspian longer more people would have liked it, and it would have paid off in the end.

  9. Courtenay says:

    Well done again guys! Really enjoyed your commentary.

    I’m now realising that a lot of my fairly rose-coloured memories of the BBC versions of Narnia come from the fact that they were first shown on TV (in Australia) less than a year after I first read all the books and fell completely in love with them. I was rapt to have any TV version of them at all โ€”ย despite how laughably hokey the special (?) effects were even back then โ€” and because the books were so fresh in my mind and I dipped back into them regularly, I realise now I hardly noticed just how much the TV versions cut out, particularly in Prince Caspian, because I was mentally able to fill in the full scenes and understand what was happening and why. But if I’d been watching without having read the books first, I can see now I’d have been completely baffled by a lot of what’s in this very shortened and rushed version of the story. It’s years since I last saw it and I hadn’t really thought about how it doesn’t give viewers an adequate understanding of what’s really going on in so many key scenes. Like, as you mentioned, Aslan calling Lucy a lioness (and why he does that โ€” it’s because she needs to face up to her fears and become a leader when she doesn’t feels she can, and he gives her lion-strength to do so when she buries her face in his mane); Aslan’s teasing of Trumpkin when he meets him; and yes, I totally agree about the messing up of the scene with Reepicheep’s tail!! I never noticed quite how sloppily done all those scenes are in the BBC version until you pointed it out here.

    I’m still really sorry they did rush it so much, because Prince Caspian is one of my favourites in the series โ€”ย it just suffers from having a slightly unwieldy plot, if anything โ€” and it makes one wonder how much better it might have been if they had spent a proper 4-6 episodes on it, instead of just treating it as “the bit we need to get through in order to set up Dawn Treader”. I loved Glumpuddle’s comments about the spiritual healing of Narnia that Aslan brings and how we just don’t get to see that at all in this adaptation (and it obviously didn’t get adequate time in the movie version โ€” which I haven’t seen โ€” either).

    One other point, which I don’t know if anyone else has discussed anywhere โ€” why did the BBC choose to make it that Dawn Treader takes place immediately after Prince Caspian, so that it’s only a few days since Lucy and Edmund were last in Narnia, instead of a year like it is in the books? My guess is that someone at the BBC noticed the total inconsistency between the books as to how much time passes in Narnia during a year in our world. Between LWW and PC, a year passes in our world, but something like 1,300 years pass in Narnia. Between PC and VDT (in the books), a year passes in our world, but then Lucy and Edmund return to Narnia and find it’s been “exactly three years” since they were last there. That’s a mystery Lewis himself never even attempted to explain, but almost certainly the BBC decided that in order to make it only three Narnian years between these two stories, they had to happen within a few days of each other in Earthly terms!! I prefer it Lewis’s way, even though the time thing doesn’t make much sense (and I suspect it’s not supposed to). Having Edmund and Lucy go to Narnia again so quickly after the last time makes it far less of an exciting thing somehow.

    Thanks again Gymfan and Glumpuddle โ€”ย please do BBC Dawn Treader soon!!!

  10. Geekicheep says:

    To answer the question of whether the “Blue Fire” would have brought back the Witch, I think the answer is, “yes”. I’m not going to comment on the symbolism of that, as it seems to have already ruffled a few feathers, but let’s look at it from a writer’s perspective. Narnia has what some would call a “soft” magic system; that is, the limits of its magic are not all that well-defined. We know Aslan can do anything because of who he is, but it’s not like there’s something in the books that says, “dark magic can do much, but it cannot do {x}.” In fact we kind of have evidence that it is – the hag seemed really confident that she could do it. I kind of get the feeling they can’t, just because it’s the evil ones resurrecting someone. But honestly, looking at it now, I kind of think they could. But I’m glad they didn’t.

    I say that, again, thinking about this as a writer. If it were possible to bring her back, at any time, then the whole plot of Prince Caspian (and potentially the entire series) would be different. If it were possible, wouldn’t they have done it centuries ago? Like okay, let’s pretend for a minute that we’re monsters, remnants of the Witch’s army, after the Battle of Beruna. Our Queen is dead and the Prophecy has been fulfilled. Then Aslan heads off into the sunset (well, sunrise). But it’s well known that a witch can never really die, and you can always get them back. Wouldn’t we bring her back NOW? Aslan’s gone, so she could easily conquer Narnia again. By the time the Telmarines invaded, Caspian the Conqueror would be Caspian the Clobbered! The Witch would have undoubtedly either made another wand or learned something worse – maybe she could turn people to dust like in MN! So the second book would be about saving Narnia from her AGAIN. VDT would never have happened, SC would be interesting (either the Lady of the Green Kirtle is the Witch trying to take over again, or she and the gnomes attack a Narnia already ruled by her and we’d have a witch-vs-witch battle). See where I’m going? It’s an icy, slippery slope. Those are the kinds of consequences writers need to consider, and that’s why I’m glad Lewis didn’t go there. Not that this alternate version of Narnia wouldn’t be interesting (it really would IMO), but it wouldn’t be OUR Narnia. I’ve read some really great fan fiction dealing with the subject (and yes, I know great fan fic is rare), but it doesn’t compare to the Narnia we know and love.

    PS: Having said all this, the fact they almost did it in the Walden version was an awesome twist! Scared the you-know-what out of me! I was really thinking they were about to do a ridiculous rewrite like the one I just described.

    PS2: It wasn’t until I re-watched the BBC Caspian (to follow this podcast) that I realized the werewolf and hag were played by the same people as Maugrim and the Witch! That is so hilarious! ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

    I think the real question is IF they could bring her back, why not do so much earlier? Probably because they need something they can’t readily acquire. I think having it be “Son of Adam’s Blood, willingly given” is actually a really good idea in Walden PC.

    I would guess the witch doesn’t go around sharing magic tips with her friends (that’s how you start civil wars with your sisters) so the remnants of her army that were not hunted down for war crimes (like a few hags and such) probably spend decades researching how it would be done. By then the Pevensies have left and Telemrines invade, wiping out both sides, and now they hide out until they find someone who 1) is a son of Adam 2) won’t kill them on the spot.

    I could even seeing a stipulation of, since Aslan killed the Witch and is the True King of Narnia, maybe the blood must be from a Narnian king? That would discount an Archenlander or Calormene.

    All speculations aside, I think the Hag and Werewolf would be too stupid/inexperienced to properly bring back the Witch. Perhaps only as the meanest ghost, floating around without a body (could she posses people though?! Questions questions…)

    Anyways, I’d actually be very interested in your interpretation of the Blue Fire is. Even if end up I disagreeing, I’m a sucker for fan theories. (Also, you mentioned writing and soft magic, do you watch Hello Future Me?)

  12. Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

    Wait, so she plays the White Witch and Lady of the Green Kirtle? I see which side of the debate they’re on… lol

  13. Col Klink says:

    There are actually a handful of actors in the BBC Narnia saga that play different roles in different stories. Except for Warwick Davis, I can’t remember the actors’ names but I know that the Witch’s dwarf and Trumpkin are the same, and so are Glimfeather and Reepicheep, and Maugrim and the werewolf. So I don’t believe it’s meant to imply anything.

  14. Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

    I don’t find Eustace super annoying, however I have that sinking feeling that I was a (pre-dragon) Eustace for a while as a kid… I don’t like dead insects though lol

  15. Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

    Yeah you’re probably right, although I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Walden version of SC ended up doing that (or like making LotGK Jadis’ thought-to-be-dead sister for backstory/set up a Charn spin-off)

  16. aileth says:

    I’m inclined to think that they wouldn’t have been able to bring her back, if you consider that only God Himself can give life. But maybe they could have found some way of making it seem that she had come back, and that would have caused enough trouble.

    As to it not working out as they planned, even if they could, I’m thinking of one of the authors Lewis liked–E. Nesbit–and her book Five Children and It. Every time they made a wish, the Psammead had to grant it. Somehow, though, it never worked out right, and they would end up regretting their wish.

  17. Geekicheep says:

    Of course I watch Hello Future Me! And Shadiversity, and Overly Sarcastic Productions, and all that good stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    PS: I will have to think about my “interpretation of what the Blue Fire is” – I think you gave me my next blog post. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Just Queen, not High Queen says:

    39:29 I really, really love Walden’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. You are so wrong!

    You’re welcome, lol.

    Though, in reality, it is the weakest of the three, especially in terms of direction. Still love it, though and there’s a lot about it that I think is underappreciated and I think the movie overall is underrated.

    Hated the BBC Voyage though. Saw it in late 2010/early 2011 and it made me appreciate the Walden version so much more. Looking forward to the review though.