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"Such was Charn, that great city, the city of the King of Kings, the wonder of the world, perhaps of all worlds."
Jadis describing her city.[src]

Charn was a city that existed in a world separate from both Narnia and Earth (the name of that world is unknown, but here is referred to as the World of Charn). Following a bloody civil war, all living things in that world were destroyed by Jadis, the last Queen of Charn, who later ruled Narnia as the White Witch.

The few facts known about Charn and its culture come from the brief accidental visit made by Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, long after it was destroyed, and the few remarks made by Jadis herself.

Architecture  

Charn was apparently the “superpower” of its world, and its physical nature reflected that power. The city was architecturally sophisticated – containing 'temples, towers, palaces, pyramids, and bridges' – and seemingly enormous: From their vantage point, high on a terrace of the royal palace, Digory and Polly saw the city stretching 'as far as the eye could reach'. A great river once ran through the city, but after the destruction wrought by Jadis, only a ditch of grey dust remained.[1]

The royal palace of Charn was a vast labyrinth of interconnected rooms and courtyards, at least one of which contained a large stone fountain shaped like a strange beast. Everything was built from a reddish stone, though it was unclear if this was the stone’s natural color, or simply due to the strange light in that world[2]- its sun was a dying red giant star.[1] A prominent room within the palace was the Hall of Images: Concealed behind great doors seemingly made of gold, this room housed life-sized statues of past monarchs of Charn, all seated on stone chairs and dressed in magnificent clothes. This room also had more windows than other parts of the palace, and was therefore much better lit.[2]

As she escorted Digory and Polly out the palace, Jadis pointed out other rooms to the children, including the dungeons, principal torture chambers, and the old banqueting hall. Eventually she led them out through the main doors of the palace, which were made of either ebony or an unknown black metal.[1]

Culture/People

Charndestroyed

Charn being destroyed.

The rulers of Charn were descended from both jinn and giants, and were much taller than ordinary humans.[2] Jadis also possessed much greater physical strength than a human.[3] It was not stated if the common people of Charn shared these traits to any degree.

Magic was apparently a significant part of Charnish culture- in addition to her accomplished spell casting,[1] Jadis referred to magic carpets and trained dragons as modes of transportation.[4] Magic’s use, however, was apparently limited to the nobility, who possessed an inborn talent for it[1]- Jadis scornfully dismissed Andrew Ketterley, Digory's magician uncle, as an amateur without a drop of real magical blood, saying, "Your kind was put an end to in my world a thousand years ago".[4]  

There were indications that Charn had originally been a benevolent place, but its degeneration was evidenced in the lineup of past rulers in the Hall of Images: As Digory and Polly looked down the rows of statues, the early rulers seemed to be kind and wise. Further down, however, the lineup progressively degraded towards vanity, arrogance, cruelty, and even despair.[2]

By Jadis's time, Charn had devolved into a cruel, absolute despotism whose rulers showed no regard for their people. Not only was slavery and ritual sacrifice practiced, but Jadis believed that, as Queen, the common people had no other purpose but to serve her will. Even members of the nobility were not immune from royal wrath- Jadis recounted the story of how her great-grandfather had invited seven hundred nobles to a feast and killed them all, simply for having "rebellious thoughts."[1] Charn had also become outwardly aggressive, conquering and destroying other parts of its world: Jadis mentioned Felinda, Sorlis  and Bramandin as places that had fallen to the power of Charn.[5]

Final War

The entire population of Charn was destroyed by Jadis when she lost a war against her sister. The war was extremely bloody, and when her sister eventually won, Jadis used a magical “ultimate weapon”, the Deplorable Word, to destroy all living things in that world, so that only she herself remained.[1]

Jadis showed no remorse for her act, and claimed she had offered to spare her sister's life if she surrendered, so in Jadis’ eyes the resulting destruction was her sister's fault.[1]

After Jadis’ use of the Deplorable Word, Charn was rendered uninhabitable, so she put herself into a state of suspended animation in the Hall of Images, awaiting a possible rescue by chance visitors from other worlds.[1]

During their accidental visit, Digory succumbed to curiosity and rang a magical bell, which awoke Jadis,[2] and she was able to leave Charn with them.[4] Afterwards, the world of Charn ended completely, and its pool in the Wood Between the Worlds evaporated, leaving a dry, warm hollow.[6]

It is not clear whether this was due to the dying sun simply collapsing, or Aslan’s Charnish avatar putting a final end to the destroyed world.

Citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 MN V
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 MN IV
  3. MN VII
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 MN VI
  5. MN VIII
  6. MN XV

Trivia

  • The name Charn was possibly taken from the phrase "Charnel House," which is a vault where corpses and bones are kept.
  • At the time of Digory and Polly's visit, the only plant or animal life remaining in Charn was some dead vines climbing up a wall in the palace. Since the Deplorable Word had killed all living things in that world, these plants must have already been dead at the time when Jadis spoke the Word.