What is Tash anyway?

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What is Tash anyway?

Postby lionsmane13 » Jun 25, 2013 3:08 pm

I think Tash is one of the series’ most interesting villains. His brief appearance in The Last Battle was, I think, quite a creepy and memorable scene. I have always assumed that Tash was meant to be the “Satan” figure in the story. However, I have come up with a few interesting theories of what else this character could represent. One idea is that he is some sort of demon who has been sent out to play the role of a false god and lead people astray. Another, perhaps more controversial, idea is that perhaps Lewis is using this character to comment on the notion that the Muslim God Allah is the same as the Christian God. This would fit well with what later happens with the attempt to convince the Narnians that Aslan and Tash are one and the same. What do you think Lewis intended with this character? Is he just a Satan figure or is he meant to represent something more?
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby King_Erlian » Jul 01, 2013 4:44 am

I don't think that Tash is meant to represent Allah. That's the kind of over-simplified reading of the stories that people who want to attack Lewis because of his faith love to make. It's based on the reasoning, "The Calormenes look and sound like Arabs, so their religion must be based on Arab religion" (i.e. Islam - forgetting that some Arabs are Christians). Calormene religion is polytheistic (e.g. Zardeenah, goddess of maidens) and is a far cry from Islam.

I suppose it could be a comment on the view that "all religions worship the same God/god, so all religions are basically the same" - and by implication, are equally false, as Ginger and Rishda Tarkaan believed. Lewis didn't think that, as some of his other writings show, such as the passage in "The Great Divorce" with the two bishops (which is a hilarious scene).

The other thing is, there is no equivalent of Christianity as a religion in the Narnian world. The Talking Beasts don't worship Aslan as such, or the Emperor-Over-Sea for that matter. There are no churches where the Narnians go to express their devotion to Him. They just know Him and love Him, that's all.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 02, 2013 12:13 am

King_Erlian wrote: The other thing is, there is no equivalent of Christianity as a religion in the Narnian world. The Talking Beasts don't worship Aslan as such, or the Emperor-Over-Sea for that matter. There are no churches where the Narnians go to express their devotion to Him. They just know Him and love Him, that's all.


Come to think about it, I'm fairly certain that there was no such thing as organised religion in Narnia, though there was in Calormen. And Aslan had a thing or two to say about the difference between Tash and Aslan. Aslan told Emeth that all his good and true service to Tash was accounted as service to Aslan, whilst anything done in Aslan's name that was vile and horrible was accounted as service to Tash. Perhaps the simplest way to see Aslan was as that world's main force for creation and for goodness, whilst Tash was a force for destruction and death. So Tashlan is therefore a contradiction in terms.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby shastastwin » Jul 03, 2013 10:47 am

I had also assumed that Tash was the world's greatest source of/force for evil and thus an analogue to Satan (though I've also heard arguments for the White Witch to claim that title). I've come to think of him as one of the many gods that inhabited Narnia's world (like the river and forest gods seen in MN and PC). In this case, he might be seen as death, or unrighteous death, since he only claims Rishda Tarkaan and other villains in LB.

Once, when someone tried to convince me that Jadis was the greatest evil in Narnia (and that the LotGK was somehow tied into this), I attempted a theory that rolled Tash into it as well, so that the spirit of Tash was the spirit of evil in that world, and was essentially the same as (or perhaps the superior of) Jadis'. But even then I wasn't convinced.

I think taking Tash as the death god of the Narnian universe is probably the best interpretation if one needs to see him as anything more than one of the gods of the Calormenes.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby Aslanisthebest » Jul 03, 2013 1:06 pm

King Erlian wrote:I don't think that Tash is meant to represent Allah. That's the kind of over-simplified reading of the stories that people who want to attack Lewis because of his faith love to make. It's based on the reasoning, "The Calormenes look and sound like Arabs, so their religion must be based on Arab religion" (i.e. Islam - forgetting that some Arabs are Christians). Calormene religion is polytheistic (e.g. Zardeenah, goddess of maidens) and is a far cry from Islam.
Yes, thank-you, I agree. If anything, the Calormene "religion" is a lot more like Hindu or Babylonian and other Middle-Eastern polytheistic myths.

I don't know. I've always had a hard time figuring out what the other gods mean. I hope not to get too theological for this section of the forum, but: To be honest, it's an odd concept - the concept of having a god who is the source of light and then a god who is the source of darkness seems very uncomfortably polytheistic to me as a personal belief. It almost feels as if Aslan has a rival or a darker twin, for lack of better terms. That doesn't really seem to coincide with the theme that Aslan is the ultimate, unprecedented king.
I'd believe something more along the lines that Aslan is the source of all good, and evil present in Narnia is the absence of that good, a willful rebellion against Aslan, since everything in Narnia is Aslan's creation. (The witch's control over Charn, Tash, etc.) I don't know, just throwing suggestions around.

Tash's presence was a little alarming to me. I really wonder what he is. I personally do not think that any one villain in Narnia is supposed to represent Satan. I think they're supposed to represent evil. Apart from the WW and her minions and such, we are really never told if there's an underworld, or really what significance the Calormene gods have... except for what Aslan told Emeth. To be honest, Aslan's speech to Emeth makes more sense in our world than it does in Narnia. :P EDIT: But I can see why Tash can seem a parallel to Satan because Aslan attributes evil works done in his name, kind of like Satan being the father of lies.

We are told, however, that there are fallen creatures (as the devil is a fallen angel), Ginger being one of them. I wonder if Tash fits here and was simply worshipped by the Calormenes over time?
Tash just seems to be the one who has no motive for evil, whereas all the other ones do.
Because Lewis never meant to write all the books, I think that the WW represents the Biblical story of Satan a little more cohesively. (WW was created, rebelled, thrown out, tried to control creation, Aslan redeemed it, but Aslan was still orchestrating everything, and the Witch knew she would lose.) I wonder if there's some Tash and Aslan backstory that Lewis never developed. Nevertheless, I do believe that Tash represents the whole idea that "Tash and Aslan can not be the same."

I am uncomfortable taking the "death god" view, because, while I know Narnia is not an allegory and is influenced by the concept of myth, I associate that with the Hindu deity of Shiva as the death god or Hades. That feels a little odd to me, as that allots him equal power as the god of creation. That does not seem to represent the Narnian universe.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby Louloudi the Centaur » Jul 16, 2013 5:37 pm

I just thought Tash was just a representation of Satan, or one of them at least. There is no evidence that I really see of him being Allah. Tash is just another false god, not a specific representation of a god in the world we are in.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 17, 2013 4:02 am

Aslanisthebest wrote:Thank-you, I agree. If anything, the Calormene "religion" is a lot more like Hindu or Babylonian and other Middle-Eastern polytheistic myths.


Not to mention the Celtic, Norse, Roman, Greek and Egyptian pantheons, plus others. Do you notice that what is common with all these groupings of gods is a mother/marriage goddess and a militaristic god of war, who is treated as a supreme god in many cases, the bringer of victory, his worshippers hope, and whose rites demand codes of honour. Before Christianity became accepted in the Roman Empire pre-Constantine the Great (312 AD), the two most favoured deities there were Mithras who was worshipped by soldiers, whilst Isis, a feminine Egyptian goddess was also popular.

It is almost as if in various parts of the world there is a common need amongst various peoples to explain the world around them in terms of a female deity governing all that is important to fertility and marriage, and also in terms of battles and warfare. The latter generally gets a masculine god, a sky-god, who will punish wrong doing and reward obedience.

Tash appears to be one such masculine God. The more I think about him, the more I see him as drawn as a sky god (bird's head and beak), the product of Calormene imaginations. There is a statue of Tash in a temple in Tashbaan. The trouble is, that what Rishda Tarkaan and his accomplice Shift succeeded in doing in Tash's name, was to call Tash into life, as if he was a nightmare come to reality. Rishda even summons him into Narnia. And in the stable, Tash tells Rishda that this is the case.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby Ithilwen » Jul 20, 2013 10:12 pm

I think that Lewis, in many ways, wanted Narnia to mirror the way the Christian religion works in our world. He put in some very direct parallels, such as Aslan and the Emperor Over the Sea. But that doesn't mean they have to all be direct parallels. Sometimes, all it needs is to match thematically. In our world, we have one main figure of evil, and that's Satan. But that doesn't mean Narnia need have only one. If it has two evil figures, Jadis and Tash, that doesn't mean that one of them represents Satan and the other represents something else. Perhaps, it's one case where Lewis decided to do things a little differently from our own world, and both of them were used by the author to equally represent evil in Narnia.


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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 21, 2013 3:18 am

Ithilwen wrote:If it has two evil figures, Jadis and Tash, that doesn't mean that one of them represents Satan and the other represents something else. Perhaps, it's one case where Lewis decided to do things a little differently from our own world, and both of them were used by the author to equally represent evil in Narnia.


Now that is also a fair point. Lewis' Narnia obviously didn't have the formalised sort of religious worship we all are familiar with. He just had this figure Aslan who turns up every now and then and when time is right to do so, puts wrong to right, even if he has to lay down his life to protect his world.

I agree that Lewis might have tried something different with Narnia. But although Jadis and Tash can both represent evil, they tend to do so in different ways. Even if both are real, Jadis started off as humanoid in her admittedly utterly corrupted world, having grown up vying with her sister for supremacy over Charn, and the three other cities. Whilst Tash seems to have been nothing more than what the Bible would call a graven image for most of the time. Until Rishda's tinkering with religion seems to have called into being - summoned - the malignant spirit that represented a very real Tash.

Was Tash humanoid to begin with? Just a revered leader, who was worshipped by his descendants? Whose graven image was then depicted as well-armed (he has four of them), with the sight, speed and strength of an eagle, so that someone gave him an eagle's head?

Not only is there that difference, but they are not the only evil figures in Narnia. What about LOTGK, even though she, at least, was destroyed by Rilian?
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby Lilygloves » Oct 17, 2013 6:25 am

It is important to keep in mind that (as much as we say this on NW), The Chronicles of Narnia books are not allegories. To be an allegory, everything must represent something else and that is not the case in Narnia. It's hard to analyze Narnia and try to keep my theology aside, but it's the best way for me to determine what the books really mean and what Lewis was trying to convey.
I don't think that Tash really represents Satan, but it's easy to think that since he's clearly some sort of demonic character and is the main god of Calormen. I think that the purpose of Tash was to show that there are real, evil things out there and people cannot mess with those evil things so easily. As pointed out in LB, "They have called him, and he has come" (I don't know if that's verbatim). I would not consider Tash in any way the "equal, opposing force" to Aslan. I don't think Tash is even close to Aslan's power.
I think the purpose of Tash is to show that there is a supernatural side to Narnia, and it's one that we have generally not seen very much throughout the series up to this point. Lewis mostly reveals the positive, supernatural side such as the Deep Magic and Aslan's Country. But there is evil in Narnia on a deeper level than just physical beings, such as the White Witch and the Green Witch. We get a glimpse of the evil side of the supernatural when the hag and the werewolf try to call the ghost of the White Witch. So in general, I'm not entirely sure what Tash is, but these are just the clues that I have gathered from the book and my opinion. (Sorry if it sounds like rambling.)
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby aragorn2 » Oct 19, 2013 3:25 pm

I'm pretty sure Tash was one of the Maiar, oh wait... Wrong mythology ;)
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby twinimage » Dec 08, 2013 2:01 pm

I don't believe he "represents" Satan or is a direct parallel to any person or religion from our world. Only a few things in Narnia really are to represent something, IMO. Aslan as Jesus of course, maybe the White Witch as Satan... If Tash were to represent something, he probably serves a similar purpose that Bachus and Silenus had in PC. In PC they helped bring the point across that Narnia was being renewed and the romp they had helped bring that point across.
Tash's physical presence probably plays a similar role. His presence probably was used to bring the point home of the death and doom coming to Narnia. If Tash is meant to be more of a representation of death, then it makes sense that Aslan says the good things were done unto him, but evil deeds were done unto Tash/death. The Bible says sin leads to death.
I could be wrong. There's a lot of Tash or "Tash talk" (lol) in The Last Battle. So maybe his role is bigger in the story than I think it is.

An interesting note that not long after Tash first appears in Narnia, Cair Paravel falls under the Calormen seige.
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby Cleander » May 07, 2019 3:15 pm

It's interesting that both Jadis and Tash seem to claim traitors and other miscreants as "lawful prey." This suggests to me that Tash, who doesn't tempt anyone like Satan would, is a picture of death (as twin image said), while Jadis seems to play a dual role both as tempter and punisher. That bit really confused me when I first tried to "decode" Narnia because I was looking for a straight allegory. I had to learn to be a bit less specific while trying to find meaning in Lewis' writing.

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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby fledge1 » May 17, 2019 8:03 am

One of the things I love about this series is that it is the typical good vs. evil, and in that are umbrellas. Yes there are many parallels to Christianity and other religions, however I love how there are gods, both good and evil. And he wrote them in a way that people can take them how they want. I never viewed the witch as Satan, but just someone who works against the good. Aslan and the Emperor are good, those going against or opposite of them are evil. I completely agree with you Lionsmane13 that Tash's scene in last battle was creepy, had a cold feeling about it. The exact opposite of the feeling you get when reading about Aslan.
Cleander (welcome back) I love how you and twin image mention that Tash, who doesnt tempt anyone like Satan would, is a picture of death. That is a fantastic way to word it!
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Re: What is Tash anyway?

Postby coracle » May 17, 2019 12:48 pm

Death? That links him with the Hindu goddess Kali, as well as the additional arms.
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