lady_songsmith: owl (truth stranger than fiction)
[personal profile] lady_songsmith
To judge by the way I've been bending reviewers' ears on this story (and I apologize for the lengthy discourse if you are one of them), I have many Things To Say about it. Thus, fic commentary! I've never done this before, really, though I've thought about it and I've talked some about the writing process of other stories. This is exciting!

This story has its roots in my NBB, which explains why it was the first thing I wrote when I stopped frantically trying to make that story fit into the deadline. That story is about the pre-PC power struggles; it is the time of that litany of disasters Cornelius tells Caspian about:

When he first began to rule he did not even pretend to be the King: he called himself Lord Protector. But then your royal mother died, the good Queen and the only Telmarine who was ever kind to me. And then, one by one, all the great lords, who had known your father, died or disappeared. Not by accident, either. Miraz weeded them out. Belisar and Uvilas were shot with arrows on a hunting party: by chance, it was pretended. All the great house of the Passarids he sent to fight giants on the northern frontier till one by one they fell. Arlian and Erimon and a dozen more he executed for treason on a false charge. The two brothers of Beaversdam he shut up as madmen. And finally he persuaded the seven noble lords, who alone among all the Telmarines did not fear the sea, to sail away and look for new lands beyond the Eastern Ocean, and, as he intended, they never came back. And when there was no one left who could speak a word for you, then his flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become King. - PC, Chapter 5

Except, of course, that I work in movieverse, so the King part didn't happen. Still, thinking about titles made me realize something interesting about Miraz: he's a lord. Now some of you are probably saying, "So what? He's a lord, all the Telmarine nobles are lords, what's the problem here?" And he is referred to as "Lord Miraz" so easily and so often in both book and movie that it took me a while to question it, too. But when you start to think about his history and his background, there is one question which eventually rises:

Why isn't he a prince?

Status and Authority

It isn't an absolute given that the son of a monarch would be titled Prince, of course, but we know the Telmarines use the title, and we know that many people bear the title Lord, which rules out it distinguishing a person of royal blood. It seems odd that Miraz has no style that places him clearly above the other nobles and indicates his place in the succession -- which he does have. No one ever questions whether he was in line for the throne; the issue is that he's jumped position twice: once by killing his brother and again by taking his nephew's place, reversing the proper order (that is to say, he ought to have been Caspian X's heir presumptive, not Caspian his).

So this is an interesting question. Movieverse makes it even more interesting by delaying Miraz's ascension to King (and aging up Caspian), meaning that he's been acting as regent for over a decade without ever claiming a higher title. Why does a man do that? I can think of a few reasons:

1. He wants to appear humble.

Miraz doesn't seem to have a great problem with looking arrogant or flaunting his power, but it's possible he has political reasons for wanting to be seen as accepting power only because he must.

2. He doesn't have the political support to step up.

Plausible. It took a clear move by Caspian to elevate Miraz. He didn't move to do it immediately after the arms raid, despite his words to Sopespian. Instead it took until after Caspian had been seen invading the castle in the company of Narnians (which was probably more to the point, as it doesn't seem Telmarines are particularly fussy about royals feuding over the throne) for the other lords to accept his coronation. And based on both the Council scene and the challenge scene, the other nobles are only too happy to tear down Miraz's political power.

3. He actually has concern for the rule of law.

This one is a bit harder to apply to a man who killed his brother and would have killed his nephew, but I couldn't shake it entirely. He does respect tradition, or he has no reason to fight the duel with Peter, however much his lords needle him. And while he does a lot of fairly nasty things, he's pretty careful about keeping his public reputation intact. So while he evidently doesn't care about violating the law, he does seem to care about being perceived as law-abiding.

(Reason 4 is that he wants someone else to be the target while he wields the power, and reason 5 is respect for the legitimate office-holder. Neither applies to Miraz in the slightest.)

Power Base

Examining the second idea leads naturally to considering who does support Miraz, and why. Canon doesn't give us a lot to work with. In bookverse, pretty much everyone hates him; in movieverse, the only courtier who seems truly loyal to Miraz is Glozelle. Which is, given the movie's characterization of Glozelle, an intriguing relationship.

Consider: Glozelle is quite possibly the more morally grey character in PC. While fanfic tends to focus on his honorable acts -- his concern for his men during the castle raid, his refusal to kill Peter, his hesitation in killing Caspian, and his choice to leave through the tree -- this is also a man who was entirely willing to kill Caspian in cold blood, who accepted the order to murder three of his men*, and who brought Trumpkin to the castle (where execution was inevitable) for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.** Still, Sopespian is very careful to use the language of trust and honor with him, and to conceal his treachery toward Miraz at the duel. He's obviously seen by others as being a man moved by honor. His darker actions all attach directly to Miraz, and even when he was convinced to goad Miraz into a probably fatal duel, Sopespian was still unwilling to let him see the murder. That suggests an overwhelming loyalty, one capable of overriding his own preferences.

So we have a deep connection between Glozelle and Miraz. Where does that originate? They have a history; they must. And we know from the duel that Miraz is an excellent fighter. I therefore postulate that Miraz has a military past, and that Glozelle has served with him extensively.

At this point, it's necessary to take a brief digression into Telmarine culture. Specifically, the question of what sort of armed forces they keep and who they fight. We saw in canon that the Telmarine army was comprised of levies from the nobles which Miraz could only call upon after his coronation. We also saw that the nobles formed and broke alliances amongst themselves easily. Given these two points, I envision a social structure somewhat similar to the feudalism of the 11th and 12th centuries, before the monarchies of Europe began working on cementing and centralizing their power. The logical outgrowth of that is feuding between the various lords, which, when combined with the general canon isolationism of Telmarine Narnia, means that the bulk of the royal military activity was most likely focused on forcibly restoring peace between lords.

This, then, was Miraz's job: quelling nobles when their private feuds got large enough that the crown had to take notice. Glozelle must have come to his attention at some point, and probably owes his position to Miraz. Likely Glozelle is not the only military officer who owes Miraz, so he derives much of his power from the military.

There's another implication to this history which bears upon Miraz's powerbase, and that is the populations benefiting from the royal army's intervention. The peasantry is better off when wars aren't being fought over the land they would otherwise be farming or grazing animals on. But unless they're upset enough to revolt, they don't usually trigger royal interventions. Merchants whose trade is disrupted or neighboring nobles who deal with the spillover effects do have the influence to call out the army, and they would probably be grateful to Miraz for calming the region. While the nobles' gratitude will only last until he has to stop one of their feuds, the merchants and the peasantry would have a more enduring loyalty to Miraz. So he has a rather popular powerbase, as opposed to one at court.

Brotherly Love (Or Not)

Of course, all of this becomes a moot point if the nobles are managed competently and firmly. Which seems unlikely, given that Miraz took the drastic step of murdering his brother.

Just how drastic a step was that? Were they at one another's throats most of their lives? It seems unlikely, if only because Caspian IX should have taken steps to neutralize Miraz if he was aware of the antipathy. You don't put an heir who actively wants you dead in a position where he can gather power and influence. A history of feuding between the brothers doesn't strike me as plausible; Miraz wouldn't have been allowed to survive if he hadn't been useful to Caspian.

How does a man go from enforcing his brother's policies and defending his kingdom to fratricide? If it isn't an overt, active hatred between the brothers, then something has to happen to elevate the situation to violence. If it were one major trigger, I think there would have been greater suspicion cast on Miraz -- or on someone else -- and the 'died in his sleep' story would never have passed muster. A long pattern of smaller incidents which build to a crisis point, on the other hand, might conceivably bring a man to murder without tarnishing an established reputation of support for his eventual victim.

On the subject of the cover story, how does a fairly young king die in his sleep without raising any number of questions? Granted, Caspian might have been significantly older than Miraz, though in that case it would be stranger that he had no direct heir. So let's assume the age difference isn't extreme. Fifteen to twenty years later, Miraz is still healthy and active, showing no signs of dropping dead in his sleep. What makes Caspian's death less suspicious?

If Caspian IX were already in poor health, dying in his sleep would not be so unexpected. I see two possibilities for that: either he's naturally frail or he's over-indulged himself into illness. In the former case, he wouldn't have had the energy to ride herd on his nobles properly, and in the latter case, he wouldn't have cared much. Either way, Miraz picks up a lot of the work and deals with the consequences of allowing the nobles free rein.

Now we have a younger brother carrying a great deal of the work of the kingdom, but not being acknowledged as more than just another lord of the court. Over time, however much affection he might have held for his brother, resentment becomes inevitable. And it takes very little to tip resentment into action. Perhaps Caspian slighted him in public once too often. Perhaps he refused to issue royal edicts over some issue that threatened the stability of the country. Whatever it was, something pushed Miraz over the edge into believing that removing Caspian was for the best, clearing his path to kingship.***

The Education of a Prince

There remains the question of how much Miraz knows about Edmund specifically and the Golden Age generally. Now, we know that the Telmarines do have records of the Four, and Miraz is conversant enough with this history to go looking for it when he receives a red-and-gold arrow. He also forbids Cornelius to teach anything of Old Narnia to the young Caspian. Magic, though, and the various creatures of Narnia, seem to be less familiar to him.

Realistically, if Telmar was an established nation during the Pevensie reign (which it must have been, since Edmund was familiar with them), there should be historical documents concerning them. These would likely be colored by their authors' prejudices**** and would also suffer from errors introduced during recopying, but the bare facts would be present. Miraz is probably enough of a student of history to be aware of these records. They would have a certain level of importance to the Telmarines as documentation concerning their adopted land and its last stable government. I also presume a history of antipathy between Narnia and Telmar as part of my larger fanon universe, stemming from Telmar coveting the productive agricultural land so abundant in Narnia.

But the Pevensies are not merely the last Narnian rulers. They are also the Kings and Queens of Old, twice-prophesied saviors of Narnia. This is Narnian folklore, not Telmarine, but it’s obviously entered the Telmarine culture somewhere -- probably through intermarriage -- sufficiently to become bedtime stories and fairytales. I doubt Miraz is more than peripherally aware of these stories; he likely knows only enough about them to disdain them like the intensely practical man that he is. They also strike me as being rather common; that is to say, of the peasantry and not the nobility.

Under the circumstances, it seems unlikely that Miraz would connect the historical Pevensies with the mythological Four. Then, quite suddenly, the mythological becomes important and it appears he may be dealing with these historical figures he's read about. Probably he didn't believe it at first, but the castle raid went a long way toward convincing him that these four humans were more than ordinary children. He is, when the parley begins, still somewhat skeptical of the "return" of the Four, but he can't help feeling just a little excited despite that doubt, as I think anyone would when confronted by the possibility of meeting a real-life important historical personage.


* Though we never see anything one way or another, and Miraz's face at the end of that scene is grim, I would accept a theory that he sent the three men into hiding. I'd also accept a theory that he killed them. Grey character. (back)

** The question of why they were able to capture Trumpkin but not Nikabrik, Trufflehunter, or Caspian himself, and why they didn't pursue Caspian into Trufflehunter's home, is never satisfactorily resolved by the movie. I choose not to think about it too hard because it hurts my brain, but I submit it to the hive-mind for the purposes of fic. (back)

*** Regarding Miraz's heirship, I suspect that Caspian X was a posthumous birth. It makes very little sense for Miraz to kill Caspian IX and not also do away with his obvious heir, if the object was to claim the crown himself. An 'accident' that dealt with the entire royal family at once would have been a better option under those circumstances. If, however, the queen were pregnant at the time of Caspian IX's death -- say a month or two along, well before it shows and during the most dangerous period when an announcement might be withheld -- removing only Caspian IX makes perfect sense, with the unpleasant surprise of a true heir apparent displacing him after the deed had been done. (back)

**** For comparison purposes, consider the way Anne Boleyn's rise to power is distorted because the bulk of first-hand accounts available to historians are the reports sent to the Spanish court by their ambassador, Chapuys. (back)
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