First, my apologies for finishing these notes incredibly late. I completed most of it earlier, but my summer became insanely busy and I've only just received a short breather. If this author's notes section brings up further questions that you desperately need answered, I can certainly produce another chapter of additional notes. And I'll be a lot faster this time.
The Basis for This Story
Several reviewers called Chanson de Geste a darkfic, and I suppose that it is to some degree. I didn't intend to add misery and darkness just for their own sake, though. Instead, I tried to imagine what Narnia would need to look like if it was actually the preindustrial land of magic that Lewis described.*
* Unless, of course, you believe that Aslan created Narnia as a kid-friendly playground where Edmund, Susan, Lucy, and Peter could grow into well-behaved English schoolchildren. The books actually support this theory in several places, so I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility. It would also explain why humans still seem to "exist" in Narnia. Frank's descendants should have died out from the effects of inbreeding, and the Telmarines should have met the same fate since they were corsairs who probably didn't bring many women along. Perhaps the humans who greeted the Pevensies during the Golden Age weren't exactly real. But I digress.)
Medieval people lived with some unpleasant realities. They lacked proper medical care, so women often died in childbirth. Many of their children also died young, which partly accounts for the discrepancy between the "average" life expectancy then and now. Peruvian Quechua-speaking farmers still refuse to consider their children human until they can stand up for the first time. I have no doubt that Western European peasants had similar mental tricks to prevent themselves from caring as much about the early loss their children. Medieval parents were not particularly nurturing: the overwhelming majority of children raised before 1800 suffered from child abuse by modern standards, and infanticide could follow a poor harvest. If young adults survived all of this, they could look forward to abusive husbands (if female), drunken knife fights and faida (if male), and the depredations of people who resided higher on the social food chain (both genders). Medieval stories betray a rather cruel outlook on life – abuse, violence, and maiming are often considered jokes.
Did Medieval people have non-morbid fun? Of course. They loved, danced, sang (as their preserved sheet music attests), drank (though not as much as their descendants did during the Gin Epidemic), watched mystery plays, etc. etc. Modern people have the same genes, after all – including the ones that allow us to smile. Medieval people could get along in the Middle Ages quite well, thank you very much. And they did.
I think that this nuance trips some revisionist historians up: they try to show how the Middle Ages weren't so horrible (Hey, look: Aquinas! Roman de la Rose! Beautiful illumination! More religious holidays than a modern government job! Serfdom…er…I mean, guaranteed employment!), but they forget that "horrible" depends a lot on your audience. Somebody who's performed hard labor on a farm with his eight siblings - four now deceased - and has suffered child abuse from age two might not mind a medieval world very much. If our hypothetical person is slightly better off and comes from a semi-urban area, he might look forward eagerly to an apprenticeship whose hours would give a modern investment banker pause. If he's bright and young enough to receive an education at one of the local schools, he might even write about his appreciation of birds' songs and hum "tara tantara teino" slightly off key as he scribbles surprisingly sophisticated epistemology in bad Latin.
…But I don't think that four urban children from modern Britain would like it very much. Chanson de Geste's Edmund focused on the depressing parts of medieval life because that's what stood out to him. His co-narrator doesn't have the same excuse; Jadis was just being Jadis.
By and large, I think the terrible living conditions came from technological limitations rather than any innate cultural problems. As long as Aslan's Narnia is agrarian and preindustrial, it will suffer from the same social ills that afflict every agrarian, preindustrial civilization. And since it's medieval, it will probably suffer from a few that were innate to Northern Europe.
As for the witch trials: I think that the European witch-craze between roughly 1400 and 1600 is the most accurate depiction of the way a preindustrial civilization would react to "real" magic. The late-Medieval and Renaissance Europeans believed that magic could kill indirectly, in secret, and without leaving evidence. Its operations could blend into conventional causal chains: if a granary collapses on a group of villagers, it could have fallen due to (1) Termites eating the foundation, (2) Witchcraft, or (3) Witchcraft causing termites to eat the foundation at the particular moment that the villagers chose to picnic under it. In a world with science, you can pick #1. In a world with magic, you can never be sure. So what's a regular person in a magic-haunted world to do? Probably something very similar to what the Renaissance Europeans actually did: create paranoid police-states in each village or town, complete with "witchfinders".
As for Aslan…
I tried to stay faithful to Aslan's canon characterization here. Unfortunately, the characters in Chanson de Geste are no longer children, and they see Aslan through adult eyes. If Narnia was an adult series, Aslan would be closer to one of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones than a benevolent teddy bear with Liam Neeson's voice.
- Exhibited questionable benevolence toward people. When it came down to Telmar versus cute fuzzy animals, he started killing humans.
- Let Narnia suffer winter for a hundred years for no apparent reason, allowed the Telmarines to invade for no apparent reason, allowed the Lady of the Green Kirtle to destroy Rilian's mind for no apparent reason, and allowed Rabadash's expedition to go off without a hitch just so that he could see Edmund's army get killed fighting them. When Calormen set up a "false Aslan" and invaded, Aslan could have cleared things up rather easily. Instead, he used it as an excuse to launch Doomsday. In general, Allows horrible things to happen, and then intervenes in inexplicably bizarre ways that cost a lot more human and animal lives than were necessary, just so that he can make a moral point. What moral point? See the entry about schoolchild morality further below.
- Used children to lead his armies, repeatedly. He dragged them out of their own world whenever he thought they needed to learn some moral lesson or other. In the end, he "rewarded" them by killing them all and sealing their souls in his own idea of a perfect world. This would be creepy enough, but remember that the people in Narnia who Aslan used to administer these lessons (by provoking their wars, etc.) were also human.
- Clearly had no problem with killing, but seemed to prefer exotic punishments like transfiguration. When a group of humans in Calormen displeased him by behaving "wickedly", Aslan did Jadis's transformation-into-stone act one better: he changed Telmarine Calormenes into dumb beasts [see Lewis's author notes]. For good measure, Aslan also "laid waste" to the area. He did something similar to Rabadash in HHB, and I suspect that Eustace's transformation into a dragon was another of these. (Food for thought: When the Calormenes eat a stag or other wild animal, they're eating their own distant relatives…)
- Aslan's moral code isn't evil, but it is definitely alien. He cares enormously about other people acknowledging that he's right, and Aslan's ideas about proper behavior lack any sense of proportionality. He seems particularly obsessed with English schoolchildren's etiquette. Aslan chastises Lucy for choosing to listen to her friends' gossip, for instance, and bars Susan from her "reward" of dying with her siblings because Susan enjoyed parties and flirtation now and again…just like she had as an adult in Narnia. By contrast, Alsan doesn't seem to mind when ten-year-olds kill on his orders, start wars, brawl in the streets, conduct plundering expeditions, or fight duels. Aravis could run away from an arranged marriage without any problem, even though her maid was beaten. Unfortunately for her, though, she didn't mind that her maid was beaten. Aslan clawed her back in response. (Just to be clear – this was an eleven year old girl). Even adults were not immune, however. Rabadash got away with trying to invade Narnia and steal Susan by force, but Aslan turned him into a donkey when he said rude things about Narnia.
As to Jadis and Edmund, I'll leave that up to your interpretation. The text strongly suggests the following:
(1) Edmund was attracted to Jadis at some level, but wasn't too happy about it for most of the story.
(2) Jadis's only admission of regret – to the readers, anyway – comes when she dismissed Edmund after he saved her from Tash. The admission counts for something; this is a woman who denied feeling guilty about massacring her entire family. By her standards, she also seems quite grateful that Edmund saved her mother and sister.
(3) Jadis obviously finds Edmund interesting at some level, if only because she has a connoisseur's taste for the political schemes he excels at.
(4) At the same time, though, Jadis clearly enjoyed making Edmund miserable, even after he saved her. She called Edmund's vulnerability to guilt and emotional pain "part of his charm", and exploited it whenever she could.
…Beyond that, you're on your own. You could interpret Jadis's relationship with Edmund as a (very) creepy romance, a platonic mutual appreciation between two intellectual equals, a reluctant partnership born of Tash's own schemes, or even a one-sided manipulation where Jadis used her hold on Edmund to get what she wanted before she left. The text supports all of them, to varying degrees.
I have my own opinion, of course.
Final, Final Notes
Yes, the Lady of the Green Kirtle was Jadis. As you can probably guess, this AU differs from canon at several points, and one of them was Edmund's involvement in the Rilian incident. Eustace's encounter with Jadis was quite interesting for both parties.
If I have time, I'll write it.