C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Tashbaan (capital), Azim Balda
In C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series of novels, Calormen /kəˈlɔːrmən/ is a large country to the southeast of Narnia. Lewis derived its name from the Latin calor, meaning "heat". When using the name as an adjective or an ethnonym, Lewis spelled the name with an 'e' at the end: a Calormene /kəˈlɔːrmən/ soldier; "The Calormenes have dark faces and long beards." Narnia and Calormen are separated by the country of Archenland and a large desert. In The Horse and His Boy Calormen is described as being many times the size of its northern neighbours, and it is implied that its army is always either conquering more land or keeping down rebellions, in wars with which neither Narnia or Archenland are involved. The border of the Calormene Empire extends from the Western Mountains to the Great Eastern Ocean. The Calormene capital city is Tashbaan, a vast, walled metropolis near the northern desert separating Calormen from its northern neighbors, located near the mouth of the Calormen River.
- New calormen
- Calormen no cigar
- Calormene Poetry
- Concepts of freedom and slavery
- Accusations of racism
Calormen no cigar
The country of Calormen was first mentioned by Lewis in a passing reference in chapter 2 of Prince Caspian, though in the first edition it was spelt Kalormen. He first wrote about Calormene characters in the subsequent Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though neither of these is their first chronological appearance in the series. They are presented with the following words: "The Calormenes have dark faces and long beards. They wear flowing robes and orange-coloured turbans, and they are a wise, wealthy, courteous, cruel and ancient people". As narrated in that book, after the Telmarine kings cut Narnia off from the sea, The Lone Islands - though in theory remaining a Narnian possession - fell into the Calormene sphere of influence, becoming a major source of slaves for Calormen and adopting the Calormene Crescent as the islands' currency. After King Caspian restored Narnian rule and abolished slavery in the islands, there was some apprehension of Calormen resorting to war to regain its influence there. The book's plot then moves away and it remains unknown whether such a war did take place. However, Lewis later placed Calormen at the focus of The Horse and His Boy - set a thousand years earlier, at the time of High King Peter.
The origins of Calormen and the Calormenes are not made clear during the Chronicles. According to the Narnian timeline published by Walter Hooper, Calormen was founded by Archen outlaws, who traveled over the Great Desert to the south some 24 years after Archenland's founding. In an alternative theory, Calormen was founded by people accidentally crossing into Calormen from our world through a Middle Eastern portal (similar to the English wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), which was subsequently lost or destroyed, preventing their return. The Calormenes speak a flowery version of the standard English favoured by both human and animal Narnians, which might support this argument; however, Jadis also speaks English. The reason for the ancient Persian, Moorish, Mughal, Indian and Ottoman Turkish aspects of Calormene culture, or the origin of their religion, was not satisfactorily explained, but stand in strong counterpoint to the largely European, Anglo and Greco-Roman (and Christian) aspects of Narnia and Archenland.
Throughout the times covered by the Chronicles of Narnia, Calormen and Narnia maintain an uneasy, albeit generally peaceable, coexistence. The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle contain plot lines that focus on Calormen, while some of the other books have peripheral references. In The Horse and His Boy the main characters (one a young member of the Calormene nobility) escape from Calormen to Archenland and Narnia whilst the Calormene cavalry under Prince Rabadash attempts to invade Narnia and capture the Narnian Queen Susan for his bride. The rather small (200 horse) Calormene invasion force is rebuffed at the gates of the Kingdom of Archenland. In The Last Battle, there is a reference to King Erlian having fought a war with the Calormenes. King Tirian is - until the events narrated in the book - at peace with them, and some level of trade and travel exist between Narnia and Calormen. The Narnian King does but maintain a supply of Calormene armour and weapons for the purpose of conducting undercover operations in their country - suggesting a kind of cold war.
Calormenes are described as dark-skinned, with the men mostly bearded. Flowing robes, turbans and wooden shoes with an upturned point at the toe are common items of clothing, and the preferred weapon is the scimitar. Lavish palaces are present in the Calormene capital Tashbaan. The overall leitmotif of Calormene culture is portrayed as ornate to the point of ostentation. The people of Calormen are concerned with maintaining honour and precedent, often speaking in maxims and quoting their ancient poets. Veneration of elders and absolute deference to power are marks of Calormene society. Power and wealth determine class and social standing, and slavery is commonplace. The unit of currency is the Crescent. Narnians hold Calormenes in disdain for their treatment of animals and slaves. Conversely, Calormenes refer to the human inhabitants of Narnia as "barbarians". All of this appears quite consistent with the Osmanli Turkish Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), its known and purported splendor, rigid class structure, and the always-volatile relationship with many of its European neighbors.
The ruler of Calormen is called the Tisroc and is believed by the Calormene people to have descended in a direct line from the god Tash, whom the people worship in addition to other gods and goddesses. The illustrations of Tash, a vulture headed god, by Pauline Baynes appear to be inspired by Hindu as opposed to Islamic imagery, with multiple arms and a distinct resemblance to the ancient Indonesian deity Garuda. Calormenes always follow a mention of the Tisroc with the phrase "may he live forever". Ranking below the Tisroc are his sons (princes), a Grand Vizier, and the noble classes, who are addressed as Tarkaan (male) and Tarkheena (female). The nobility have a band of gold on their arm and their marriages are usually arranged at a young age. Beneath them are soldiers of the empire's vast army, merchants, and the peasantry, with slaves being the lowest rung on the social ladder. The Calormene leaders are portrayed as quite war-like, and the Tisrocs generally seem to have a wish to conquer the "barbarian" lands to their north - to some degree deterred, however, by the magical reputation of the countries, their various rulers and their being known to be under the protection of Aslan. Significantly, the final, successful invasion of Narnia by the Calormene military, which precipitates the end of the Narnian universe, was conducted in close cooperation with the appearance of the false Aslan and the proclamation that Aslan and Tash are one and the same.
Calormene social and political institutions are depicted as essentially unchanged between the time of The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle - more than a thousand years, in which Narnia has profoundly changed several times. This is clearly an artifact of the order in which C. S. Lewis wrote and published the stories, with the two stories above and The Magician's Nephew which also references ancient Mesopotamian civilisation in its depiction of Queen Jadis and Charn, appearing last three of the seven.
When at the end of The Last Battle the characters cross into the Real Narnia and find there the counterparts of all the places they had known in the destroyed Narnia, there is a reference to a counterpart of Calormen being also there to its south, complete with the capital Tashbaan - presumably without the nastier aspects of Calormene culture, but this is not discussed in detail.
The poetry of Calormen is prolix, sententious, and moralizing. Quotations from Calormen poets are often quoted as proverbs. These include such as the following:Application to businessis the root of prosperitybut those who ask questionsthat do not concern themare steering the ship of follytowards the rock of indigence.Natural affection is stronger than soupand offspring more precious than carbuncles.He who attempts to deceive the judiciousis already baring his back for the scourge.Swords can be kept off with shieldsbut the Eye of Wisdom pierces through every defence.Deep draughts from the fountain of reason are desirablein order to extinguish the fire of youthful love.
Calormenes disparage Narnian poetry, contending that it is all about things like love and war and not about useful maxims, but when the Calormen-raised Shasta and Aravis first hear Narnian (or Archenlandish) poetry they find it much more exciting. Calormen also prizes the art of story-telling, which, according to Lewis, forms part of the education of the nobility. The talking horse Bree, though not fond of most things Calormene, thoroughly enjoys a story told in Calormene style by Aravis.
Concepts of freedom and slavery
In The Horse and His Boy, Lewis uses the cultural settings of Narnia, Archenland, and Calormen to develop a theme of freedom in contrast to slavery. Lewis depicts the Calormene culture as one in which a primary guiding principle is that the weak must make way for the strong:
For in Tashbaan there is only one traffic regulation, which is that everyone who is less important has to get out of the way for everyone who is more important; unless you want a cut from a whip or a punch from the butt end of a spear.
He also reveals the motivation for Calormene attempts to invade Archenland and, ultimately, Narnia, as a refusal to abide the thought of free countries so close to the border of the Calormene empire, as illustrated by this speech given to the Tisroc:
"These little barbarian countries that call themselves free (which is as much to say, idle, disordered, and unprofitable) are hateful to the gods and to all persons of discernment".
In contrast, the kings and queens of Narnia and Archenland, as rulers of free people, hold themselves responsible for the well-being of their subjects. As King Lune tells Shasta/Cor:
"For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there's hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land."
Accusations of racism
C.S. Lewis has been accused of racism, particularly in his depiction of the Calormenes. In the Companion to Narnia, the Catholic theologian Paul F Ford wrote "C. S. Lewis was a man of his time and socioeconomic class. Like many English men of this era, Lewis was unconsciously but regrettably unsympathetic to things and people Middle Eastern. Thus he sometimes engages in exaggerated stereotyping in contrasting things Narnian and thing Calormene. He intends this in a broadly comic way, almost vaudevillian. But in our post-September 11, 2001, world, he would, I am sure, want to reconsider this insensitivity." Outspoken atheist critic and novelist Philip Pullman has called the Chronicles of Narnia "blatantly racist" and in an interview with The Observer, criticised the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by saying the books contained "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic, and reactionary prejudice".
Aravis, the heroine in The Horse and His Boy, and the other people of Calormen are described as having dark skin. They also bear a resemblance to Indians and darker-skinned Arabs. Shasta, the hero in The Horse and His Boy (who is originally from Archenland) and the other Narnians are fair-skinned and are seen to be royal in a toned down, romanticized way somewhat relative to perceptions of old English Royalty. Once they are older, Aravis and Shasta have a son of mixed race, Ram the Great, who becomes "the most famous of the kings of Archenland". The presentation appears to owe something to romantic epics such as Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, in which the "Saracens" are portrayed at once as benighted unbelievers and as chivalrous knights and ladies who occasionally convert to Christianity and marry into the Christian aristocracy: the valiant tomboy Aravis bears some resemblance to Marfisa in the epics.
The racism critique is based on a representation of the Calormenes as enemies of Aslan and Narnia. The Calormenes are described by vicious renegade Dwarfs as "Darkies" which is the only expression of bigotry used, and by demonstrably oafish individuals (in The Last Battle). Calormenes live in a desert, wear turbans and pointy slippers, their noblemen are called Tarkaans (similar to the medieval Central Asian title tarkhan), they are armed with scimitars, and they use the crescent symbol on their money. Such descriptions can be compared with the historic attire of peoples throughout the Middle Eastern and Asian regions, upon whose physical appearances the Calormenes may have been based. However, they are praised warmly for their storytelling.
The Calormene religion does not seem to be modeled on any of the monotheistic religions that are commonly practiced in these regions, such as Islam—though there may be similarities in pre-Muhammad Arab religions. Instead, the Calormenes are polytheistic and worship a plethora of gods, including the primary god Tash (meaning "stone" in Turkish), who is portrayed as a corporeal, stereotypical Satanic being requiring human sacrifices from his followers. The religion of the Calormenes seems more likely to have been based on early Canaanite and Carthaginian religion, which also required human sacrifice, and was portrayed as the ultimate in diabolism in G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man, a book which Lewis admired. The unimaginative and business-minded nature of the Calormenes may also have been based on Chesterton's portrayal of Carthage. In the purely literary sense, however, the depiction of Calormene religion may owe something to the bogey image of Islam found in medieval romances: see Mahound and Termagant. There are also aspects of Calormene culture, climate, and physical characteristics that suggest India, such as the multiple arms of Tash, similar to depictions of Indian gods, or the name Shasta, which is shared by a Hindu deity. Parts of the culture also seem to have been based on E. Nesbit's depiction of Babylon (such as "Tisroc" as the name of the ruler, and appending "may he live forever" to mentions of this king).
The Chronicles have a British Victorian era flavour that was much in fashion during Lewis's lifetime, but may now be seen as politically incorrect. Of Lewis, Kyrie O'Connor writes: "In his time, people thought it was amusing to make fun of other cultures. We don't. Read the stories, ask questions, and remember that the person who wrote this story was altogether too human." Claims of racism can be seen as countered by Lewis's positive portrayal of two Calormenes and the lack of racism shown to them by Narnian nobility. In The Horse and His Boy, the female protagonist Aravis is a Calormene noblewoman who is accepted whole-heartedly by the Archenlanders and Narnians, and comes to marry Cor, a prince of a more European ethnicity; a progressive and bold statement by Lewis in a time when mixed relationships were neither as common nor accepted as they have been in more recent years. Accordingly, the moral critique that Lewis provides does not rest on any qualities supposed to be inherent in the Calormene race, such as skin color, but rests on the tyrannical values of the hegemonical Calormene culture, in which freedom is scorned and the weak must give way to the strong. Depicting Lewis’ moral critique of the Calormene culture as a ‘racist’ critique would therefore require making the tacit and racist claim, and one not made by Lewis, that morality is an inherent racial rather than cultural characteristic. In The Last Battle, the young Calormene warrior Emeth (whose name is Hebrew for 'truth') is deemed a worthy person by Aslan regardless of his skin colour and despite the fact that he was a worshipper of Tash. Indeed, Lewis goes on to mention in The Last Battle that those who worship Tash and who are virtuous are in fact worshipping Aslan, and those who are immoral and who worship Aslan are in fact worshipping Tash:
I and [Tash] are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.
It would also be true that Aravis and Emeth are the two token Calormenes whom readers come to know personally. These are represented as exceptions to the rule and that otherwise, Calormene culture and people are "wise, wealthy, courteous, cruel and ancient", Chapter 4, What Caspian Did There, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.