C. S. Lewis on Reasons of State

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sorts of people who congratulate themselves on being the far-sighted ones who “make the tough choices” and know that “If you want to make an omelet you have to be willing to break a few eggs.

C. S. Lewis had this sort of person nailed in his depiction of Queen Jadis in The Magician’s Nephew (from The Chronicles of Narnia). In this passage, she has just told the story of how she killed everyone but herself with a magic, “The Deplorable Word”:


“Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing beneath the sun.”

“But the people?” gasped Digory.

“What people, boy?” asked the Queen.

“All the ordinary people,” said Polly, “who’d never done you any harm. And the women, and the children, and the animals.”

“Don’t you understand?” said the Queen (still speaking to Digory). “I was the Queen. They were all my people. What else were they there for but to do my will?”

“It was rather hard luck on them, all the same,” said he.

“I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.”

UPDATE: My friend Brian Barcus comments: “That should be required reading in every history class. When kids ask the teachers why there are wars the answer is right here.”

8:53 pm on January 13, 2010