Thursday, November 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday: A Brief History of the Nation of Telmar

It all started not long after I saw the movie Prince Caspian. I had grown up reading the Chronicles, and loving them. I even had this small snippet of curiosity over what it would be like for a character who was deaf and dumb to all things in the real world, but could hear and speak in Narnia. The trouble was, there was already a series about Narnia, from its very beginning to its end. To write something myself would either be redundant or end up ruining the established canon—something I like to avoid unless the series does something REALLY stupid (and my only fault against CoN was the fact that they waited so long between movies that the main cast got too old before their characters should have).

But I very much wanted to write this story, and since Narnia was out, what other option did I have? I checked the map of Narnia usually included with most editions of the books: Calormen and Archenland were definitely out, because there were definitely scenes and events that happened in these places that would make it impossible to craft a story. Ettinsmoor didn't strike me as a very nice place to send a character, and the islands from "Voyage" were too far-flung to be a sensible setting like what I wanted. 

Mystery Solved
As it turns out, it wasn't that difficult to discover at least one country that certainly exists in the Narnian "world" and yet has never appeared on any map, nor have any characters from Narnia had any dealings within its borders. That country is, of course, Telmar.

Just as a precaution, I did a lengthy Google search and came up with a neat timeline (with a gap of about two centuries right in the middle of it!) and not much else. This is what as known as "fanfiction gold," especially for a world-builder-in-training like me. It's something referenced within the canon of a published "world", but there is plenty of room for the writer to have free rein and interact within the setting as she sees fit, without worrying about accuracy. 
I saw very little history in Telmar, especially during the years since King Caspian The Conqueror first departed Telmar; we know some of what went on in Narnia during that time... but not Telmar. That got me thinking:

What if, in the interest of maintaining the territorial rights to a kingdom without actually having to be there, King Caspian made sure to leave behind a man he trusted to keep the kingdom afloat just in case this Narnia campaign went sour and he needed to come back--and appointed that man Lord Protector of Telmar? (which is why the "Narnian" Telmarines would still accept Lord Protector Miraz as king, even though he really wasn't--he was their interim ruler, and they could understand that) 
What if Telmar was a provincial nation, with Lords ruling over each province, and all of them under the authority of the Lord Protector--and the area that my original character ends up at would be the smallest and least desirable province?

I read that King Caspian left shortly before a famine hit--but what if he left because of the famine? And what if the country didn't die out in his absence like he assumed it would, but only struggled greatly? And what if, because of what he intended to do through Telmar in Narnia in the future, Aslan saw fit to send my original character to Telmar, as a sort of "preaching to the Gentiles" sort of message? It made sense to me that the whole nation would function on a feudal-like system, with the richer classes owning all the farm land, and each province centering around one or two Cities where merchants would trade (and swindle) with the artisans, craftsmen, and farmers, and the rest of the land would either be barren forests or farmland owned by rich men who lived in the city and took the better part of all the crops, in spite of the recent famine that made the larger provinces only slightly worse off, and totally decimated the smaller provinces.

As far as the inhabitants of Telmar, they would necessarily operate on a class system. Occupations and family fortunes are passed on through generations; if your family farmed, the farm went to the oldest son, while the other sons had to find other farms to work on; nobody ever considered doing anything different than the life they already knew.

I drew up a sort of map... the best I could do on a Word document with little to no idea of map-making or actual world-design... and all I had left was to figure out the kind of person my main character would be.

Character Connections
I knew it would need to be a girl, because at that point I was not really skilled enough to cross genders in my writing. I knew she would have to connect with the Pevensies somehow at some point, because anyone who ever visits this Other World Collectively Called Narnia is either a blood relative or a close friend... at least in the series. But I really couldn't just make up Cousin Myrtle or slap Lucy with a Primary School Chum without messing up the series which was the last thing I wanted to do... so what gives?

Again, Prince Caspian gave me the answer. I don't recall off the top of my head whether it expressly mentioned it in the books, but the movie definitely shows Queen Prunaprismia and her baby among those to travel "back to our world" at the end--but it never quite divulged where they ended up.

I saw my chance to do a bit of retcon: to help me decide where (and when) they ended up, I needed to know a bit more about where the First Telmarines ("pirates from your world," according to Aslan) came from... And I found out something interesting:

According to one source, someone found somewhere in Lewis' notes or otherwise that perhaps the "South Seas" mentioned in his history of Telmar is a literary reference to William Bligh's Mutiny on the HMS Bounty... which happened in the 1780s. In the area now known as the South Pacific.

Didn't that get the wheels turning! I thought, What if the Telmarines from the end of Prince Caspian didn't just go back to the same place they left--but the same time as well? A desert island is now the only home known to a handful of people just ripe for starting a community in a strange world with no way off the island and no way back to the place they came from... so they populate the island and set up their community and call it.... ready? .... NEW TELMAR.

I got really excited after that.

So the girl who would be my main character is born into this community in the late 1920's, and she's of course deaf and mute, which doesn't make sense to anyone, since nobody had been born deaf and mute all at the same time for no apparent reason. She's cast out of the community and finds her way to America.... where she crosses paths with Susan, who is of course touring the country with her parents during the events of Dawn Treader, and Susan brings her back to England.... and the rest, as they say, is history.