Queen Susan the Gentle: A Character Comparison Between Film and Book

By Always Narnian

As a continuation of my last article on Peter Pevensie, it is only fitting that I follow up with the second Pevensie child, Susan. This family of four has a remarkable diversity of personalities and it is fun to compare the characters in the films of 2005 (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and 2008 (Prince Caspian) with the characters penned by C.S. Lewis. Susan is portrayed by Anna Popplewell in both of these films. Anna also appeared for a short reprise in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Susan, being the second child and oldest girl, has a very practical, opinionated and somewhat bossy attitude. She is not overly fond of adventures, yet seems to be rather talented in areas such as archery and swimming. She is known in Narnia as Queen Susan the Gentle, as she indeed has a caring nature and a dislike for violence.

The first Narnia film of 2005 depicted Susan as a very “logical” girl. During a scene where they must dangerously cross a river while being hunted by the White Witch’s wolves, Susan cries out to Peter, “Wait! Will you just think about this for a minute?” Peter quickly responds, “We don’t have a minute.” Susan replies, “I’m just trying to be realistic.” This is followed by Peter’s obviously annoyed reply, “No, you’re trying to be smart. As usual.” In the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, though Professor Kirke complains about the children’s lack of logic, Susan obviously has an analytical nature. She comes to a fascinating—though perhaps not completely accurate—conclusion about using the coats in Professor Kirke’s Wardrobe: “I am sure nobody would mind,…it isn’t as if we wanted to take them out of the house; we shan’t take them even out of the wardrobe.”

An interesting thing to note while comparing the two films is Susan’s response to receiving her bow from Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and her involvement in two great battles in Prince Caspian. As Susan receives the bow and arrows from Father Christmas, she asks, “What happened to ‘battles are ugly affairs’?”, referring to the words he had spoken to Lucy only a moment before, when he had given her a dagger as a gift. Despite Susan’s seeming reluctance to fight, she does shoot one dwarf who is about to attack Edmund. pcteaser055In Prince Caspian, she is involved in the fight at Miraz’s castle and the battle at Aslan’s How. These appear to be choices of her own, not that she was in some way obligated to fight. In the book Prince Caspian, Susan shoots at two soldiers who are holding a dwarf captive: “…Peter knew that Susan’s arrow had struck on his helmet. He turned and saw that she was very pale but was already fitting a second arrow to the string.” Her talent of archery is obviously not matched with a desire to harm people. We get another glimpse of Susan’s opinion on warfare in The Horse and His Boy, the story that takes place during the reign of the four Pevensie siblings: “Queen Susan is more like an ordinary grown-up lady. She doesn’t ride to the wars, though she is an excellent archer.”

In the novel Prince Caspian, Susan is concerned with her own comfort and shows marked signs of selfishness, especially toward Lucy when she claims to have seen Aslan at the gorge. Although I have already mentioned this particular scene in my last article, let’s consider it from a different perspective. Susan is adamantly against Lucy’s spotting of Aslan. However, this unbelief was mostly caused by her weariness and her discomfort. She explains to Lucy her reasons: ‘“And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I’d let myself. But I just wanted to get out of the woods and—and—oh, I don’t know. And what ever am I to say to him?” “Perhaps you won’t need to say much,” suggested Lucy.’ There is a conversation between Lucy and Susan in the film as well, with Susan inquiring of Lucy: “Why do you think I didn’t see Aslan?” This question is soon answered by Lucy, “I don’t know. Maybe you didn’t really want to.” This is interesting, noting that in the book Susan admitted to knowing Aslan was there, but she didn’t desire to believe it.

In a letter to a young fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis described Susan in these terms: “Haven’t you noticed in the two you have read that she is rather fond of being too grownup. I am sorry to say that side of her got stronger and she forgot about Narnia.” [1] In the beginning of the film Prince Caspian, Susan tells the others, “I think it’s time to accept that we live here.” Susan has an easier time settling for England and not going back to Narnia, perhaps a sign of the view she later takes about Narnia, as seen in the quote about her in The Last Battle: “…whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’” Susan shows many signs of “growing up,” possibly more rapidly in the film than in the novels, as seen in her romance with Caspian and also in her satisfaction with the real world. Perhaps this was the filmmakers’ attempt to show Susan’s desire to be liked and noticed, and that she was being molded into the type of girl that would no longer care about Narnia.

What do you think are the greatest contrasts between the Susan of the books and the Susan of the films? Do you think they differ at all or did the films nail Susan’s personality? Comment below!

(image source: spareoom.net)          

[1] C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead

5 thoughts on “Queen Susan the Gentle: A Character Comparison Between Film and Book

  1. LilLil

    I like how Susan is touched on here. I know some people get angry about the friends of Narnia’s comment about Susan’s only being interested in “nylons, lipstick, and invitations”, but as I was thinking and expressed to another friend of mine, I see these as symptoms of a deeper problem. Not that Lewis was condemning growing up (even he said young things ought to want to grow) but I think that he was maybe speaking of the superficial kind of “grownup” mentioned in his qoute about critics who use ‘adult’ adult as a term of approval. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/84171-critics-who-treat-adult-as-a-term-of-approval-instead

    1. LilLil

      (While I was searching for the qoute about Susan, I found this which seems I thought seemed to back up the article )”Oh Susan!” said Jill. “….She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
      -The Last Battle, Chapter 12

  2. always narnianalways narnian Post author

    Lil!!! O thank you so much for the comments! I really appreciate you sharing!

    OOOO! Extra quotes! The quote by Lewis I absolutely love- he really nails down what maturity is.

    I think it is really interesting to read Letters to Children, Lewis really answers some questions that may leave fans hanging.

  3. Ariel.of.NarniaAriel.of.Narnia

    Hmm, point especially on book-Susan admitting that she didn’t want to see Aslan as opposed to movie-Susan not catching onto that (or not admitting it, whichever). Besides that though, I think the movies captured Susan pretty well. (Minus the, um, high-school romance part….)

  4. always narnianalways narnian Post author

    Thanks for the reply, Ariel. What do you think about them making Susan fight in the battles?

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