Saturday, December 10, 2005

More on Maugrim

In my review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I commented that the name of the captain of the White Witch's secret police was Maugrim from the British editions of the book, rather than Fenris Ulf from the American editions. I mentioned that I didn't know the history of how that change had come about.

Well, ask and ye shall receive. Regular reader Ian M. Slater wrote in about that history:

The substitution of Fenris Ulf for Maugrim is an interesting example of a
highly specific, externally verifiable, allusion, replacing Lewis' own
invention. (There is apparently no source for "Maugrim," although I was once
under the impression that a version of "Reynard the Fox" had something

There were a few others, plus some other changes, all of which are
documented in (the successive editions of) Paul F. Ford's "Companion to
Narnia" (1980 and following). The 1994 edition decried the announced change
from the American to British texts, and he continued to protest in the new
(2005) Fifth Edition.

Ford makes a good case that (barring some actual errors) the revisions were
made by Lewis in galleys, and were deliberate improvements, in some cases
responses to observations by readers; and worth preserving.

In connection with Fenris, he points out that Norse material was injected
into LWW at another point -- a substitution of "the World Ash Tree" for "the
fire stones of the sacred hill" in one of the White Witch's comments. The Norse
element in the whole book seems to have been made a little more overt, as if to
counterweight the existing, very obvious, classical material.

Not everyone agrees that any or all of the changes in the American editions
were improvements. See Ford's note to his "World Ash Tree" entry for a defense
of the original reading there.

I think that they were; or most of them. And it is not as if Lewis was given
to second-thoughts, and frequent tampering!

My opinion in favor of Fenris and the World Ash is probably shaped by the
fact that I read the American text while in sixth or seventh grade, and
recognized and enjoyed the allusions. I recall being surprised a bit later that
they were not present in the Puffin paperback, which was otherwise far and away
the most attractive edition I had seen, and checking against a library copy to
be sure that I had remembered correctly.

And it wasn't as if I was giving Lewis the sort of close reading I did with
the Ace and Ballantine texts of "Lord of the Rings." Ford points out at
least one textual corruption in the Puffin "The Last Battle" which changes
the whole impression of a passage, and which I never noticed. (Lucy's
typically compassionate appeal for the "poor, stupid, dwarfs" became just
"stupid dwarfs," which is much less effective as a plea for mercy, if not
flatly contemptuous.)

Just to add one small note, "Maugrim" might not have a specific source, but it seems to me an obvious conflation of the germanic words "maw" and "grim." Maw might be a bit archaic nowadays; in the Anglo-Saxon leechbooks "maw" seems to refer to the stomach more than the mouth, though I take it to mean the digestive tract from mouth to stomach. The allusion, then, is more philological than mythological.


  1. Anonymous6:31 AM

    As C.S Lewis' heritage is Northern Irish Protestant, this 'source' for the name Maugrim suggests itself.

    Maugrim looks and sounds very like 'Aughrim', Co. Wicklow, Ireland. (pronounced 'Aw-krim' with a long first/short second syllable).

    It was in 1691 the site of a battle between Jacobites and Williamites - respectively, if a little simplistically, the forebears of the Catholics (or Nationalists) and Protestants (or Unionists) of the modern era.

    Both words share a similar disticntion in the odd -'grim' ending. In the case of 'Aughrim' this derives from its being a rendition into English phonetics of 'Ath na gCurrach'; 'boating ford' or 'ford of the boat')

  2. I thought "Maugrim" was from Reynard, too, but the wolf in Reynard is Isengrim.

  3. On reflection, its probably just 'maul' and 'grim'; nasty connotations for a nasty piece of work!

    P.S: did anyone else have a problem with the accents of the animated characters?

    I found Maugrim's (American, evil super-villain - very day-time TV cartoon-ish) and Beaver's (Cockney/Eastender "'allo dawling") were rather darned irritating!

  4. Anonymous9:38 AM

    I'm glad to have found someone else thought the accents in the film a bit silly. I thought perhaps I was being overly critical. As to the name Maugrim, I've found your conversation very helpful as I'd grown up with the early american ed. in which he is named fenris ulf, and was shocked and a bit dismayed when, watching the film, out came fenris sporting a name I thought I'd so cleverly invented for a book myself! from the words "maug" (which is a scary sound to make, since it does sound so close to "maul") and "grim". (This villain is NOT a wolf.) Now I'm down to the conundrum of whether to change the name of a villain whose name I've come to regard as an essential part of their character, since they do tend to scream "maug"... alot. It isn't really important as I'll prolly never publish it, but still. Arg! Indeed, Jack!