By the very nature of the word “fantasy”, such a story will be nothing short of “fantastic”. Things will happen that defy any logical or scientific explanation, with such a phenomena being attributed to “magic”. This extends to the very denizens that dwell in these worlds. Tolkien had his Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Orcs, dragons, and Istari. Lewis Caroll not only had talking rabbits but the Cheshire Cat, talking caterpillars, jabberwockies and anthropomorphic playing cards. L. Frank Baum’s Oz books not only featured the familiar flying monkeys, munchkins, talking scarecrows, talking lions, and a tin woodsman, who in retrospect is an early cyborg, but people made of porcelain. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter had house elves, owls, three headed Hell-hounds, and a phoenix. Even George RR Martin’s more adult Game of Thrones features dragons.
Without these wondrous creatures the worlds would feel less extraordinary. Something about the presence of these creatures is almost like a warning on the old maritime maps where past continental Europe all they wrote was,“ here there be dragons”. Creatures like these convey a sense of mystery, wonder and at times horror, as we venture into these worlds. Lewis himself was no stranger to such a thing. As Brian Sibley notes in The Land of Narnia,
“In the Land of Narnia we find an extraordinary collection of creatures-there are domestic animals, wild animals and imaginary animals living alongside each other, together with witches, dwarfs, gods, men and monsters. No wonder Eustace remarks, at one point, that there seem to be “some queer specimens” among the inhabitants of Narnia.”
Thus, when Lucy ventures into the wardrobe for the first time, she is greeted by one of these strange creatures. Just as Gandalf the Grey, Glinda the Good, The White Rabbit and the Owl from Hogwarts are the ones to act as a herald and help instigate the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Dorothy, Alice, and Harry Potter, so does this creature serve in the same capacity for Lucy. In fact this creature, known as Mr. Tumnus was a part of Narnia before Lewis ever wrote a word about Narnia. As Colin Duriez Notes in A Field Guide to Narnia,
“Mr. Tumnus represents a pagan element in Narnia, a wildness in nature. His name may also be intended to suggest a shortened form of the word autumn, the idea of which evoked “sweet desire” in Lewis as a child. Mr. Tumnus is near the portal between our world and Narnia when Lucy comes across him, and he functions initially as a guide.”
The Chronicles of Narnia did not begin with the four children entering the wardrobe. Nor did it begin with Aslan. It certainly did not begin as some may think, with CS Lewis sitting in his office with a Scofield’s Reference Bible and a concordance and trying to make a one to one correlation with everything in scriptures. Lewis even acknowledged that during his life time he encountered people who held such an idea.
As he noted in the essay “Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,”
“Some people think that I began by asking myself how could I say something about Christianity to children; then fixed n the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about children and decided what age-group I’d write for; then hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write that way at all. Everything began with images…”
So what image did Narnia begin with? As he stated in “It All Began with a Picture…”
“All my seven Narnian books, and my three science-fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying a umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. His picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’”
As Lucy Pevensie makes her way through the wardrobe she is immediately enchanted but then all of a sudden something startles her. She looks up and sees Mr. Tumnus standing before her.
Indeed, the site of a faun in a showy wood carrying parcels and an umbrella would be something uncanny and worth investigating. This is to say nothing of the odd blend of a faun, with an umbrella. The faun, as they were referred to in Roman mythology, or Satyr in the Greek, was a figure of antiquity, at a time when neither parcels or umbrellas would have existed. In fact throughout Narnia there is a strange blend of myths, as dwarves from Nordic myth, fauns, centaurs, and deities like Dionysus from Greco Roman myth and a host of other strange creatures including Father Christmas himself appear throughout the stories.
The faun, or Satyr, were, according to Bergen Evans’ Dictionary of Mythology,
“Forest gods, usually attendant upon Dionysus. Like the fauns and Pan…they had the head, arms, and torso of a man but had a goat’s ears, small horns, and hindquarters of a goat. They are represented as dancing, playing upon reed pipes and, above all, chasing nymphs, for they were very lecherous.”
Thus, they did not have the most “G-Rated family friendly reputation”. Lewis does his best to hint at the mythical connections through the book titles on Tumnus shelf including “The Life and Letters of Bachus and Silenus” and “Nymphs and Their Ways”. The best example of a “G-Rated” attempt to adapt this kind of character was Phioctetes in Disney’s Hercules, who still chased after every single female he comes across, usually ending in him getting slapped.
As Alice Mills reminds readers in “Spiritual, not Sexual: The Flight of the Adolescent Human Wizard in Duane’s Young Wizards Series” from the book Supernatural Youth: The Rise of the Teen hero in literature and Popular Culture, in which she compared Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books to Narnia in terms of chastity,
“Mr. Tumnus, the faun…is far from the classical Greek model of the faun, that is abounding in sexual energy, endlessly pursuing all available females. Any self-respecting Greek faun would not have hesitated to make sexual advances to Lucy but Mr. Tumnus is altogether chaste as well as only temporarily wicked.”
Among the mythical satyrs included the god Pan, and Silenus who had been the mentor to Bachus. Silenus also featured in the legend of King Midas and the golden Touch. According to some accounts of the legend, Midas had saved Silenus and granted him the touch as a reward, when he offered the king anything he wished. This was something that drove, Lewis friend, JRR Tolkien batty. Along with his dislike for allegory, especially intentional and deliberate allegory, he did not approve of the mixing of mythology.
As Roger Lancelyn Green noted in an encounter with Tolkien in his biography of CS Lewis,
“I hear you’ve been reading Jack’s children’s story…It really won’t do, you know! I mean to say: “Nymphs and their Ways, The Love-Life of a Faun”. Doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?”
However to Lewis’ credit Tumnus is not only a young faun but one who is steered away from evil. Actor James MacAvoy , who played Tumnus in the 2005 film, mad reference to this trait of the fauns in an interview with CHUD.com that he and actress Georgie Henley who played Lucy conducted back in 2005, when asked if Tumnus should wear a shirt to the coronation. MacAvoy said,
“Well, you know, it’s the faun’s way, isn’t it? Classically speaking, fauns are followers of Dionysus and Bacchus and they make reference to that in the book. They were free, they were unrestricted, they were drunken. It was all about being open. That’s why, I think, it was a good choice to make Tumnus a faun, because he’s about openness, which is what he and Lucy have in common.”
Apart from the similarity to Autumn that Duriez noted, the name Tumnus also appears to be derived from the Roman god Vertumnus who was the god of change and the seasons. As anyone who as read , or watched, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe may know, Narnia has been under a spell of an endless winter for a hundred years .With the arrival of the four children, and Aslan change is coming as the spell will be broken and they will have spring again.
Vertumnus was also a shape shifter, and assumed different forms in an attempt to woe the beautiful nymph Poloma. To that end, upon meeting Lucy, Tumnus tries “assumes the form” At least in terms of how he acts, of a kindly stranger who is taking pity on her and wants to help her. However, it’s clear that Tumnus isn’t very good at the job he has been given as he pauses a moment to consider what he’s doing, and can’t fully ensnare Lucy.
Emilie Griffin notes of Tumnus’ character in “Mr. Tumnus and his Umbrella” from explorefaith.org,
“Though he is not entirely good, he is not completely evil. Mr. Tumnus appears to be a fallen creature, with elements of good and evil at war within his nature. In African mythology, the umbrella is a symbol of kingship, but I’m fairly sure Lewis didn’t know that. In fact, I think Lewis meant to use the umbrella to suggest a prim bachelor-uncle prissiness as one aspect of Mr. Tumnus’s personality. Mr. Tumnus lacks character; he means to lead Lucy and the other children astray, but he is not really wicked enough to do so.”
As actor James MacAvoy, who played Tumnus in the 2005 film observed in an interview with Empire Magazine,
“Well, he’s not different from how he is in the book in my head, but I’m sure he will be to some other guy who loves the book as well. But we played up the stakes a lot. We really made sure that it was a matter of life and death. Tumnus is a genuinely nice person, a really heartfelt and warm dude, but he’s been asked to kidnap a young child. And Tumnus is fascinated with the whole idea of humans, you know? It’s a big hobby of his. And he finally meets one, so he’s a very conflicted character…We approached Narnia as an occupied land, and everybody within it, even the good guys, kinda become collaborators. And that’s exactly what happens with Tumnus. But when good people are asked to do bad things – how far can they go before they crack? Or do they crack? The way we do it, Tumnus very nearly goes through with it and really it’s quite scary. I think you’ll be scared for Lucy. I think you’ll really know something is wrong. “
It’s more than evident that Tumnus considers humans a hobby of his as among the books on his shelf include “Is Man a Myth,” and “Man, Monks and Gamekeepers: A Study in Popular Legend.” This is a further sign that Tumnus is more civilized then his mythical counterparts as he has shelves filled with books that appear to be scholarly in nature. Devin Brown notes further in the book Inside Narnia,
“Several critics have suggested a comparison between Mr. Tumnus and the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…. Like Mr. Tumnus, the White Rabbit…-is a wild creature who has been transformed into a civilized one and thus also demonstrates a blending of two worlds. When Alice speaks to him, the rabbit is startled and, like Mr. Tumnus, drops what he is carrying…”
Much like the White Rabbit, Tumnus is a jittery fellow, but it’s not because he is late. It’s because of his ulterior motives and because he knows that the White Witch is always watching. Despite this, Tumnus is just as startled by Lucy as she is of him. He apologizes upon learning she is in fact a human girl, he tells her,
“How stupid of me! But I’ve never seen a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve before. I am delighted. That is to say—Delighted, delighted…Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tumnus.”
However, there is a hint of awkwardness in his discussion with her as he appears to be thinking of something but can’t say it out right. It is through Tumnus that Lucy, and the readers are welcomed into Narnia as he tells her,
“This is the land of Narnia…here we are now; all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea. And you—you have come from the wild woods of the west?”
He learns that she came in through the wardrobe door in the spare room, which he humorously mistakes for the land of Spare Oom and the city War Drobe. They talk about how it is summer in England while it is winter in Narnia, and upon this he invites her to tea with him. Lucy refuses at first, insisting he should go back, and it is not until the third offer for tea with toast, sardines cake, and beside a warm, roaring fire, that she accepts. Their friendship is quickly formed as they walk to Tumnus’ cave, as the narrator tells us it feels to them like they had been friends for their entire lives.
Lewis went to great lengths to describe the tea with Mr. Tumnus. Much like the emphasis Charles Dickens placed on the food or the parties in a A Christmas Carol to convey ones social status, or the joyous nature of the celebration, so too does Tumnus’ tea convey something. To Lucy he provides a sense of warmth, friendship, comfort, and home. She had already been told by Mrs. MacCready that there would be no disturbing the professor so the children were often by themselves. Now, here is Tumnus inviting her in and offering her something she has longed for.
As Diane Duane notes in “Eating In Narnia” from Through the Wardrobe,
“So maybe it’s no surprise that the first sense you get in Narnia about Lewis’s attitude toward food is an air of profound nostalgia for the lost paradise of a varied, ample diet, and a willingness to wallow in the nostalgia somewhat. The very first meal any human experiences in Narnia, the high tea which Mr. Tumnus serves Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a perfect evocation of a turn-of-the-century British tea. Nor is this the hotel based “high tea” concept, with tinkly china and multiple fancy pastries, but the middle-class tea you would probably have in someone’s home, a meal rather than a snack, long on protein, carbs and comfort. For Lucy, who briefly escapes from the middle of the war, and for Lewis, who was as hungry as anyone else in Britain and…as board by the limitations and substitutions of wartime food, this meal would have smacked of Heaven. It would be years before any Oxford don or little English girl could sit down to the delights of a meal that featured fresh eggs, and real sardines, a meal in which there was butter for toast, and actual honey, and cakes with sugar on them.”
Further, by inviting Lucy in, it allows the two of them to better know one another. In the 2005 film, after Lucy informs Tumnus that her father is off fighting in the War, Tumnus gets a surprised look on his face as he admits that his father went off to war years ago, showing him that despite their obvious differences in race, and age, they aren’t that different in some ways. It is because of his time with her that when Tumnus then plays his instrument for her to try and lull her to sleep and that is when he breaks down crying.
It is perhaps because he is so inherently nice that he can’t perform the job he has been tasked with, capturing humans and delivering them to the Witch, but more than likely it is because of something much more powerful. However, in her book The Magician’s Book: A Skeptics Adventures in Narnia, author Laura Miller contends,
“Hospitality codes, as anyone as conversant with ancient literature as Lewis would have known, are among humanity’s oldest and most sacrosanct taboos. There’s no possibility that Mr. Tumnus, having invited Lucy into his home and buttered toast with her, could ever have carried out his plan to hand her over to the White Witch. But above and beyond that consideration, he does not do it because they have become friends…Lewis considered it lamentable that friendship, in the contemporary view, had been almost entirely overshadowed by filial and romantic love…”
When Lucy asks him what is the matter he quickly tells her it is because he is such a bad faun, to which Lucy tries to comfort him and tells him he is the nicest Fauns she ever met. Tumnus even admits that what he has done is so horrible as his own father would have never made such a deal as he had done, calling himself one of the worst Narnians, and told her of his arrangement with the White Witch and the task he was given to pretend to be friend a human, lure them to his cave and lull them to sleep to give them to the witch. Lucy, to her credit is still trying to comfort him says she doesn’t believe he would do that, to which he tells her,
“You are the child…I had orders from the White Witch that if ever I saw a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve in the wood, I was to catch them and hand them over to her. And you are the first I ever met. And I’ve pretended to be your friend and asked you to tea, and all the time I’ve been meaning to wait till you were asleep and then go and tell her.”
Tumnus relates the horrible punishment that will await him if he disobeys orders from the Witch. Despite all this Tumnus chooses to help her, saying,
“Of course I will…Of course I’ve got to. I see that now. I hadn’t known what Humans were like before I met you. Of course I can’t give you up to the Witch; not now that I know you. But we must be off at once. I’ll see you back to the lamp-post. I suppose you can find your own way from there back to Spare Oom and War Drobe?”
Lucy returns to her own world and it is a while before she can return. Then during a game of hide and seek she goes back to Narnia, and visits with Tumnus, relieved to see that she is all right. When her time with her friend is over she relates to her brother Edmund that they figured the witch never found out that Tumnus disobeyed orders. However, thanks to Edmund, Tumnus was found out and arrested.
The film added a moment where Edmund got to meet Tumnus in the dungeon prior to being turned into a statue. The faun had been beaten and tortured but remained defiant before the witch, up to the point he was turned into stone. However, in the original book we don’t’ see much of Tumnus until after Aslan rises from the dead and sets Jadis’ prisoners free.
Lucy finds him in Jadis’ courtyard, and is frightened for her friend. However all it takes is the breath of Aslan to break the spell and soon the two of them are laughing and dancing and talking again. Tumnus, like many of the others Jadis took prisoners soon serve as reinforcements for Peter’s army. Tumnus once Jadis’ henchmen, now fights for Narnia. He is even seen reassuring Lucy that there was nothing to fear about the Giant Rumblbuffin whom Aslan set free.
He was in attendance at the coronation of Lucy and her siblings, and in the movie even got to help present them with their crowns. During the party when Aslan leaves Lucy is despondent and Tumnus takes the role of Mr. Beaver in the original book of comforting her, telling her,
“We’ll see him again…In time…you mustn’t press him. He isn’t a tame lion…”
During the reign of the four Pevensies, Tumnus becomes something of a royal advisor and attaché to them, traveling with them around that world. In The Horse and His Boy, he even joined Lucy, Susan, and Edmund on a trip to Tasbaan in the country of Colarman to learn more about Prince Rabadash who desired Susan’s hand in marriage ,When it was revealed that the prince was of ill intent it was Tumnus who helped to hatch the plot for their escape. Later he is even seen at a council meeting after a battle in which Rabadash is arrested.
Towards the end of the reign of the four Pevensies he informed them of a sighting of am mysterious White Stag. According to legend this creature could grant someone any wished. Ever the adventurous sort the four children sought the stag. It was there in the woods, near the lamppost that they returned home to England and would not be seen for thousands of years later.
After these events we never hear of Tumnus again. In fact it is more than evident that by the time the Pevensies return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, that Tumnus and the rest of their friends in Narnia save Aslan, are dead, a fact that brings Lucy to tears. He had been her first friend in Narnia, and ours as well. From Tumnus we learned, as we do form Edmund that even traitors can mend and bad people can become good.
Leave it to CS Lewis then to give fans the best reunion ever in The Last Battle, when the Pevensies arrive in Alsan’s country. Through the gates they are greeted by all their old friends including Caspian, Reepicheep, the beavers, and of course, Mr. Tumnus. It is fitting then of all the characters we meet throughout the seven books in the series, that among the ones Lewis focuses on is Tumnus as he and Lucy reunite once again and talk about this wondrous new world.
She is baffled as Edmund calls them over to see the Professor’s old house and she is baffled as Lucy knew it was destroyed. Tumnus then gives her and the readers the greatest bit of consolation to come from the pen of CS Lewis,
“So it was, but you are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed.”
FILM: Adamson, Andrew (Dir.)The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Starring Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, William Mosely, Anna Popplewell, James MacAvoy, Tilda Swinton, Ray Winston, and Liam Neeson. Ann Peacock,Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely ( writers). 2005. Walden Media/Walt Disney.
Brown, Devin Inside Narnia pg. 47. 2005. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI
Duade, Diane “Eating in Narnia”. Pg. 80.Through The Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Herbie Brennan Ed.2008. Teen Lebris.
Duriez, Colin. “Mr. Tumnus” Pg 214. A Field Guide to Narnia.2004.InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Il.
Evans, Bergen “Satyrs” Dictionary of Mythology. Pg. 232. 1970. Random House, Inc. New York, NY.
Green, Roger Lancelyn with Walter Hooper. CS Lewis: A Biography. Pg. 307. 2002. Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Griffin, Emilie “Mr. Tumnus and His Umbrella” explorefaith.org. 2005. Last Accessed July 14, 2015
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle.pg. 226. 1978. Harper Collins, New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Pgs. 12,21,22. 1978. Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy. 1978. Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS “It All Began With a Picture”pg. 53. On Stories And Other Essays on Literature. 1982. Harcourt Brace. Orlando, Fl.
Lewis, CS “Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said” pg. 46. On Stories And Other Essays on Literature. 1982. Harcourt Brace. Orlando, Fl.
INTERVIEW: MacAvoy, James and Dan Jolin. “James MacAvoy: We Take Tea with Narnia’s Mr. Tumnus.” December 2005. ARCHIVED. Empire.com. Last Accessed June 9, 2015.
INTERVIEW: MacAvoy, James, Georgie Henley and Devin Faraci. “INTERVIEW: JAMES McAVOY & GEORGIE HENLEY (NARNIA)”December 8, 2005. Archived. CHUD.com. Last Accessed June 9, 2015.
Sibley, Brian and Pauline Baynes. The Land of Narnia. Pg.81. 1998. Harper Collins .New York, NY.
Mills, Alice ““Spiritual, not Sexual: The Flight of the Adolescent Human Wizard in Duane’s Young Wizards Series” pg. 17. Supernatural Youth: The Rise of the Teen Hero in Literature and Popular Culture. Jes Battis ed. 2011. Lexington Books. Lanham, MD.
Miller, Laura. The Magician’s Book: A Skeptics Adventures in Narnia. . Little, Brown, and Company. New York, NY.
This Blog is not authorized, endorsed, or approved by any entities involved the creation, development, distribution or ownership of the Chronicles of Narnia franchise. The views and opinions contained in this blog reflect those of the author and do not represent the views or ownership of in the the CS Lewis Estate, Harper Collins, Walden Media, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox and any other parties involved in the creation or ownership of the books and films.
2005 Walden Media/Walt Disney Studios.