Half-Dwarves in Narnia and the Colonial Mestizo

cornelius

“Doctor Cornelius!” cried Caspian with joy, and rushed forward to greet his old master. Everyone else crowded round.

“Pah!” said Nikabrik. “A renegade Dwarf. A half-and-halfer! Shall I pass my sword through its throat?”

“Be quiet, Nikabrik,” said Trumpkin. “The creature can’t help its ancestry.”

The book Prince Caspian, fourth in The Chronicles of Narnia novels by C.S. Lewis, opens with a lonely Prince yearning for stories of the mythical Old Narnia – a civilization eliminated by his ancestors, the Telmarine Conquerors, who perpetuated genocide when they invaded the country, demolished its buildings, and destroyed its society. Prince Caspian believes these tales to be fiction, but when his new tutor, Doctor Cornelius, admits that he himself is half-Dwarf, the truth of the Telmarine invasion is exposed.

The Telmarines are clearly depicted as conquerors that in many ways mirror the European invaders who colonized the Americas in the 16th Century, but the similarities between Telmarine Narnia and the colonized Americas do not end there. Through Doctor Cornelius’ struggle to conceal his Dwarvish features from humans, the rejection he faces even from the Dwarves in Old Narnia, and the strangely passive role he plays in the Narnian rebellion, it is clear that Doctor Cornelius is a perfect example of a disadvantaged segment of colonial population: the mestizo, reviled by both the conquerors and the conquered.

Doctor Cornelius is introduced to the reader as a character who clearly manifests the characteristics of a Dwarf, but presents himself to Telmarine society as fully human for the sake of avoiding discrimination, even death. Under the reign of the Telmarines, even the mere mention of Old Narnia is punishable, and the survivors of the invasion hide in the shadows.  “I’m not a pure Dwarf,” Doctor Cornelius tells Caspian. “I have human blood in me too. Many Dwarfs escaped in the great battles and lived on, shaving their beards and wearing high-heeled shoes and pretending to be men. They have mixed with your Telmarines.”

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