Queen Susan, the Gentle|
The following analysis is ® Mark Feezell, and may not be reproduced or redistributed without permission
Why is Susan crowned "Queen Susan, the Gentle" at the end of the movie? How does Susan Pevensie become Queen Susan over the course of the film? This analysis will attempt to systematically approach the question of Susanís character development. To simplify and focus the discussion, I am addressing her character specifically in the movie, not the book. Her development in the book is certainly of interest, but would merit a separate discussion.
Comments are orginized by the movie scene order, and you can jump to any particular part of the character analysis by clicking on one of the links below.
1: London Blitz
2: Station Goodbye - Train Ride
3: Arrival at Professor Kirke's
4: Hide and Seek
5: Lucy's first visit to Narnia
6: Edmund follows Lucy into Narnia
7: Lucy and Edmund in Narnia
8: From Lucy and Edmund's exit to third visit
9: Pevensies explore Narnia
10: Meeting the Beavers
11: Edmund sneaks off to the White Witch
12: Kids/Beavers Chased
13: Father Christmas
14: Escape across River
15: Pevensies at Aslan's Camp
16: Edmund's return - Parlay
17: Stone Table - Battle Preparations
18: The Battle Commences
19: Aslan lives! - The battle rages
20: The battle ends - Edmund is saved
21: Coronation! Celebration!
22: Adult Pevensies
23: Back in England
24: Bonus Scene: Lucy and Professor Kirke
1. London Blitz
We first meet Susan rifling through some books on a nightstand, trying to find something she wants to take into the bomb shelter. She discovers Lucy, and pulls Lucy out of her powerless state, "Lucy, COME ON!" Even in this frightening situation, Susan has a clear head and is able to help Lucy into the shelter. So we see two important aspects of Susanís character already: her clear reasoning and her affinity for comforting or protecting Lucy.
2. Station Goodbye - Train Ride
At the train, Mrs. Pevensie admonishes Susan to "be a big girl" as Susan is seen crying. It is Susan who keeps her emotions in check enough to hand the tickets to the railroad agent as they board the train. Notice from the beginning that Susan is not "all bad" - she exhibits strong character traits and weaknesses, often in the same scene. This is also the first time we see a conflict between Peter and Susan. Susan and Lucy are seen reading a book on the train together, an indication that Susanís imagination is not completely gone, just under the domination of her practical side. She is using this "practicality" as a means of dealing with her loss of control due to the war.
3. Arrival at Professor Kirke's
In an uncharacteristic moment, Susan is the one whom Mrs. Macready admonishes about touching the "historical artifacts." (But we do see that Susan isnít beyond a bit of childlike exploration even yet.) She is the one that turns the radio off when it is announcing news of air raids in London, again protecting Lucy from the harshness of the world. It is almost as if Susanís pragmatism is a means to protect Lucyís innocent emotional side from getting hurt.
4. Hide and Seek
Susan, with her quick mind, is the one that comes up with what Edmund terms the "worst game ever invented" - reading the dictionary. She jumps right into playing hide-and-seek without a complaint, possibly because Lucy suggested it, and Susan feels a particular duty to protect Lucy.
5. Lucy's first visit to Narnia
Susan is not in this Narnia scene.
When Lucy emerges from the wardrobe, Susan is the first one we see knocking on the back of the wardrobe. That is how she approaches the world: she doesnít believe in it unless she can see it with her eyes, and knock on it with her own hands. There is a quick but wonderful shot of Popplewell looking very smug as she pulls back from the coats and prepares to "correct" Lucy. It is Susan, the voice of reason, that tells Lucy, "thatís enough" when Lucy goes on and on with her story.
And there is a further tension developed between Susan and Peter in the scene after Lucy emerges from Narnia for the first time as well. Basically, Susan feels that her reason should be sufficient information for Peter to properly lead the four children; Peter is torn, wanting to take into account Lucyís pure emotional response as well, and not sure how to cope with Edmund.
6. Edmund follows Lucy into Narnia
Susan is not in this scene, but it is interesting to note that she is sleeping next to Lucy, who is awake; this is the same thing that happens later when they are both in the tent and Aslan walks by.
7. Lucy and Edmund in Narnia
Susan is not in this scene.
8. From Lucy and Edmund's exit to third visit
Susan is always concerned about Lucy, yet never quite able to comprehend her. Lucyís openness and innocent heart donít fit in very well with Susanís practical, reasoned approach to situations. Susan is the one that insists on telling the professor all about Lucyís "problem" when Peter doesnít want to. Susan (and Peter) are mystified by his response. It just doesnít fit into her understanding of things.
When they are playing cricket, Edmund suggests hide and seek, and Susan, out of concern for Lucy, says that they "need the fresh air." Her response when Edmund insists that they must all hide in the wardrobe is one of incredulity: "You MUST be joking!" Yet, she runs in quickly enough along with everyone else. Her famous response to Narnia is a one-word summary of the whole movie: "Impossible!" Impossible, and yet, there is Narnia in all its beauty. It doesnít fit in her understanding, but it is real. [Notice how this unbelief is transferred to the White Witch at the end of the movie, when the White Witch says, "Impossible" upon seeing Aslan. Also, impossible was spoken once before, in England.]
Susan is quick to pick up a snowball to fire back at Lucy. Five minutes into Narnia, her childhood trust and joy are already beginning to come alive again.
9. Pevensies explore Narnia
As the four children are walking, I love the shots of Susanís joy at seeing the wonders of Narnia. Itís the first time we see her enjoying something she couldnít have conceived. When they get to Tumnusís cave, she is quick to formulate a plan, suggesting that they enlist the help of "the police" to find Mr. Tumnus. Again reminded of the limits of her knowledge, she wonders when she hears a bird "Pssst" them.
10. Meeting the Beavers
"Itís a beaver! He shouldnít be saying anything!" Susanís problem isnít that her reasoning is bad, or even that being practical in itself is bad. Her problem all along is that she trusts her own reasoning exclusively, and there are some things that are simply beyond the limits of her knowledge. Here we see her again, grappling with this idea. In so many words, she is exclaiming "Impossible" yet again.
But Susanís heart is not completely cold. After a very short time period, she is willing to follow Mr. Beaver into his home, and her expression upon meeting Mrs. Beaver is pure delight, not doubt. When Mr. Beaver reveals the prophecy, her assumptions are challenged again, and she replies with the very practical fact that they are from a suburb of London ("Finchley"), and so shouldnít be heroes.
Notice how Susanís understanding of the world is increasingly challenged: first Narnia exists, then it contains talking animals, then she is to be Queen. These are an increasingly difficult series of revelations to accept from a practical point of view. But Susan grows in her trust and acceptance of things outside of her control. This growth is very carefully controlled and developed over the entire course of the movie.
11. Edmund sneaks off to the White Witch
When Edmund goes to the White Witch, Susan lashes out at Peter. If they had listened to Susanís logic, and not Lucyís emotional urge to follow the Beaver, they would have left Narnia before this happened. Although Susan loves Lucy deeply, she cannot understand her, and always wishes that Peter would take Susanís "well-reasoned" advice as law. In an ironic twist of events, it is LUCY who points out to Susan the logically obvious fact that arguing wonít help Edmund.
12. Kids/Beavers Chased
Susan is amazingly level-headed - able to ask about jam as they are packing when she knows that the enemy could arrive at any minute. She keeps her tongue when the Fox is grabbed by the wolves. By the fireside afterward, she says again, "Weíre not fighting in any war." Still Susan Pevensie, she canít see her purpose in Narnia.
13. Father Christmas
"Iíve put up with a lot since I got here, but this..." Susan is forced to face yet another fact outside her realm of knowledge: Father Christmas is real. When he gives Susan her gifts, Father Christmas says two important things. The first is, "Trust this bow, and it will not easily miss." In other words, she must TRUST in something beyond her understanding and reasoning in order to hit the mark. The second is, "Although you donít seem to have a problem making yourself heard, if you blow this horn help will come to you." In other words, when her understanding, when her "being realistic," when her practicality arenít enough to save her, she can blow the horn (again, an act of trust) to call forth help from beyond herself. Notice that she is never told how the help will come, or what type of help. She must just TRUST the horn.
So both of Susanís gifts require her to have trust beyond herself, and it is only through the development of this trust that she will be able to become Queen Susan.
14. Escape across River
In the ice scene, Susan trusts in her reasoning. As they descend to the river, she says, "I was only being realistic." And Peter rebukes her: "You were trying to be Ďsmartí like always!" Then she calls out, "If Mum only knew what we were doing" as they are crossing. When Maugrim and Peter are facing off, Susan gives in to her fears and suggests that they take Edmund and leave. On the surface, this is a very reasonable plan, and we should give Susan a bit of forgiveness here. At this point, she is still reasoning from her limited sphere of knowledge. She hasnít accepted the prophecies, and she doesnít know about the "Deep Magic" her brother Edmund has violated. Happily, Peter doesnít listen to her, and they escape on an ice block.
When they emerge from the river, Susan accuses Peter of losing Lucy: "What have you done!" Notice again the conflict between Peter and Susan.
But notice also that the conflict is not REALLY about Susan and Peter; it is really about Susan trying to understand and protect Lucy. Although Lucy completely mystifies her, Susan is somehow attracted to her innocent and free approach to the world. Every time Peter refuses Susanís "logical" advice, Susan ends up feeling rejected and afraid that Lucy will get hurt. Lucy represents all that Susan wishes she could be, if only she werenít held back by her reason.
15. Pevensies at Aslan's Camp
At the river, Susan wistfully says to Lucy, "Iím sorry Iím like that [practical and down-to-earth]. We used to have fun, didnít we?" And Lucy says, "Yeah, before you were BORING!" Then SUSAN starts a round of splashing water on each other. As they are threatened by the wolves, Susan is required to do her first big act of trust: she runs for and blows the horn. This is the first time Susan has really trusted completely anything or anyone in Narnia, and it is the first time that she exercises her gifts. Clearly, by the end of this scene, she is well on her way toward becoming Queen Susan. So Peterís duel with Maugrim is important to Peterís development, but also to Susanís.
16. Edmund's return - Parlay
Susan is fairly quick to receive Edmund back. When Edmund and Lucy urge them to stay in Narnia and help, practical Susan is the first one to realize they will need some practice before they go into battle. When she first tries to use her bows and arrows, however, she canít quite hit the bullís-eye right on the mark. She isnít yet "trusting" in her bow all the way, although she is a lot further along than before. (Compare Lucy hitting the bullís-eye on the first try, because Lucy believed that she could do it.)
Susan has no understanding of what is occurring during the parlay. Of the four children, only Lucy gets a hint of it when she makes an emotional connection with Aslan as the others are celebrating.
17. Stone Table - Battle Preparations
Susanís reasoning must be awakened by Lucyís emotional intuition so that they can both follow Aslan to the Stone Table. Significantly, when Aslan tells them they must let him go on, SUSAN objects, "But Aslan..." And Aslan turns to Susan (primarily) and says, "You have to TRUST me." Susan turns her head away from the Stone Table several times - it is too emotionally intense for her.
After Aslanís death, she makes her remarkable confession: "He must have known what he was doing." With no logical reason to make this confession, Susan Pevensie places her trust in the character of Aslan, and at that moment finally becomes Queen Susan. Of course, her statement turns out to be perfectly logical in the end, when the true meaning of the "Deep Magic" is revealed. Reasoning isnít evil; logic isnít bad. The problem is that Susan has been reasoning from faulty or incomplete premises. When she places her trust in Aslan, she is finally able to transcend the limitations of her own reasoning. It is this gentle trust, not her cold logic, that becomes her royal title.
18. The Battle Commences
Susan is not in this scene.
19. Aslan lives! - The battle rages
Still practical, Susan is the one who realizes they must tell the others about Aslanís death (although it takes Lucyís intuitive experience with the trees to find a solution). Willing to trust Aslan and get on his back, she still asks, "Where are we going?" But notice that now she is asking AFTER she is already trusting him, riding along with him. Susan Pevensie would have insisted on knowing their itinerary before boarding the Aslan Express.
20. The battle ends - Edmund is saved
Susan comforts Lucy in front of the statue of Mr. Tumnus. In a very quick but extremely important solidification of character, Queen Susan sees the dwarf about to attack Edmund and kills him by "trusting" her bow. Finally, Susan has trusted and used both her gifts (the horn and the bow), and has also trusted in Aslanís character. Susan Pevensie is finally and completely transformed into Queen Susan, the Gentle.
21. Coronation! Celebration!
Radiant in royal beauty, Queen Susan is crowned "to the beautiful South." Her still-powerful reason is coupled with trust in a very powerful combination.
22. Adult Pevensies
No significant character development for Susan in this scene.
23. Back in England
No significant character development for Susan in this scene.
24. Bonus Scene: Lucy and Professor Kirke
Susan is not in this scene.
Although this analysis is not about dramatic performance, I would be remiss not to say to Anna Popplewell: if you read this thread, and Iím sure that you will, your performance of Susan was stunning, and I am confident that as we continue to see the movie we will see more and more in it. We all eagerly await your rendition of Susan in Prince Caspian. Best wishes from Narniaweb and Spareoom.net.
Also, my kudos go out to the writers and all who had a hand in the script. You have allowed me to see things in the book and implications of the characters that I never saw before.
- Mark Feezell