C.S. Lewis was very much into mythology (especially Norse mythology, which somehow led him to work for MI6 for a brief moment). When you become aware of this trait in Lewis, his writing begins to pop all the more. For example, we see that Lewis incorporated both Biblical and Jewish mythology Lewis into one of his prime villains: the White Witch, Jadis. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver says that
“…she’s no Daughter of Eve. She comes of your father Adam’s… first wife, her they called Lilith. And she was one of the Jinn. That’s what she comes from on one side. And on the other side she comes of the giants. No, no, there isn’t a real drop of Human blood in the Witch.”
Both of her genetic backgrounds are of Biblical/mythological evil and in that light, she’s seen as a creature of pure rebellion against God/Aslan.
The name Lilith can be found only once in the Bible in Isaiah 34:14 and this Hebrew name typically translates into English translations as something like “night bird” or “owl.” While this translation may be correct, the Hebrew word Lilith is borrowed from the Akkadian word Lilitu, which was a name for a demon in their literature. She was known there for some rather “adult themes.” But in Isaiah’s passage she’s simply listed alongside a list of other desert animals/demons.
The “Lilith” mythology that Lewis was getting at, however, comes from a Jewish legend in the Chronicles of Jerahmeel that the demon Lilith was Adam’s first wife. In attempts to explain where demons came from, the author claimed that this human/demonic relationship gave birth to thousands of demons, spirits and imps—which is obviously not in the Bible whatsoever. (You can go further into this topic with Bible scholar Michael Heiser’s FringePop321 episode.)
But with this myth feeding Lewis’ own myth, we see his point. On one side of her genetics, Jadis, the White Witch is viewed as a descendant of demons. And as for the other side of things, she is a giant, which is found both in Jewish mythology and firmly in the Bible itself. In Genesis 6, spiritual beings known as “the sons of God” marry human women and give birth to the giants which are found all throughout the Old Testament—even after the flood that tries to wipe them out. Later Jewish literature had special interest in this Biblical story and claimed that whenever one of these giants died, their spirits lived on as demons.
So with the Bible and Jewish literature in mind, Jadis is painted in a dark light. She is born out of pure rebellion against God. She is steeped in sin. She may look somewhat human, but ultimately, she is not. She has demonic-giant blood and demonic-Lilith blood. Both of these rebellions may have had human blood in them at one point, but for her the demonic genes are the only ones that remain.
And so she lives like a false god, viewing humans as nothing more than servants. Why else would they exist? They are a means to an end and nothing more (a mindset that matches Uncle Andrew who may be human, but thinks like a demon).
Her pride is never-ending. She is pictured about as evil and self-centered as one can be. She is willing to destroy an entire world in order to win a battle and she does. And after destroying that planet she heads to another one in attempts to take control of it.
The White Witch is a truly devious villain and we may find ourselves more aware of that reading the Chronicles of Narnia as adults rather than as children. And we may find ourselves even more aware of that when we see the fuller background Lewis is painting of her character.
Love Narnia? Take an 80 minute musical journey throughout the Chronicles with my experimental album, Of Lampposts and Lions.