Tash was the demonic chief deity of the national religion of Calormen and was depicted as having many arms and bird-like. He was, in particular, the patron deity of the ruling class - the Calormene capital was named Tashbaan, and the Tisrocs, Tarkaans and Tarkheenas claimed to be descended from Tash.
The worship of Tash was the only formal religion depicted in the World of Narnia. There were temples to Tash: he was the only being referred to by characters as a god by the Calormenes. They overlooked the fact that Tash is a bloodthirsty demon and an embodiment of all that is vile.
Rather than being worshipped lovingly, like Aslan, Tash was clearly feared by his followers and was regarded as cruel and monstrous. It was stated that he had his own country, as did Aslan. A murderous beast that matched the common description of the god Tash was present at the Battle of Stable Hill.
Worship and Belief
- "They have a god called Tash. They say he has four arms and the head of a vulture. They kill men on his altar."
- ―A lamb, talking about Tash.[src]
Tash was the chief deity in the Calormene pantheon: two other Calormene deities, Azaroth and Zardeenah, Lady of the Night and Maidens, were minor deities. Ritual human sacrifice was apparently commonplace in the Temple of Tash. The name of Tash was frequently invoked in oaths and exclamations. Prince Rabadash, frustrated and maddened by defeat, tried to call on Tash to inflict vengeance on the Narnians and Aslan such as "lightning in the shape of scorpions". This resulted in nothing but mockery and pity from his captors, because Aslan, after repeatedly warning Rabadash to repent of his anger, turned him into a donkey, humiliating him. Aslan told Rabadash that since he had appealed to Tash, his transformation would be lifted when he visited the temple of Tash in Tashbaan. However, for the rest of his life Rabadash was not to go more than ten miles from the temple, or he would become a donkey again with no return.
By the twenty-sixth century, many Calormenes disbelieved Tash's existence. Together with Shift the scheming ape, Ginger the duplicitous cat and other treacherous Narnians, they concocted a story that Aslan and Tash were the same person, known as Tashlan. They disguised innocent Puzzle the donkey in a lion's skin and kept him in a stable. Many Narnians and even all of the Calormenes that accompanied Rishda Tarkaan saw this as ridiculous, given Aslan's and Tash's antithetical natures, but were powerless to speak up against Rishda Tarkaan and Shift.
The Calormenes placed a soldier with a sword in the stable where Tashlan was said to reside. Sending dissenters to "meet Tashlan" in Puzzle's stable was meant to be a way to secretly murder them, picking them off one by one.
Ginger discovered that Tash was not merely a mythological creature but a real-life monster contained inside the stable. After this horrendous encounter, Ginger was so terrified that he lost the power of speech, becoming a dumb animal, the same as we have in our world.
When Shift was thrown in by King Tirian, Tash appeared, vulture-headed and vicious, and devoured him. After Tirian dragged Rishda into the stable, Tash spoke for the first time, "Thou hast called me into Narnia, Rishda Tarkaan. Here I am. What hast thou to say?" When he saw Rishda, who was speechless from severe fear, he pounced on him and tucked him under the upper of his two right arms. He then fixed his stare on Tirian, possibly wondering what to make of him. Before he could make up his mind, however, the High King Peter declared that Tash should take his lawful prey to his own domain and proceeded to banished him in the name of Aslan and his father, the Emperor-over-the-Sea. Tash obeyed, possibly out of fear of both Aslan and his father.
Many (though not all) of the Narnians who rejected Aslan went to Tash's country.
Since all worlds lead to Aslan's country, it is plausible that evil people from any world are sent to Tash's country. If this is so, then Tash's country is Hell, in the same way that Aslan's country is Heaven.
It is unknown what Tash does to all of the evil creatures that were sent by Aslan to his domain. Given his similar nature to Devil, it is not far-fetched to assume that they are unimaginably horrible.
One Calormene soldier, Emeth, was so devoutious that he insisted on going in to meet Tash and vanished into Aslan's Country. He expected Tash to smite unbelievers with heavenly fire so he went searching for Tash in Aslan's Country, but instead met Aslan. Aslan told Emeth "all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me" and further explained "no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him." He told Emeth that his pious devotion was really to Aslan, rather than to Tash, although Emeth had not been aware of this and Emeth found great happiness in this revelation and lovingly fell at the lions' feet and wept with joy.
When the protagonists see it from the tower:
"At first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it. But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke. Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done. It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak. It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers—all twenty of them—were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails. It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it."
Tash was roughly humanoid, but much larger than a man, with four arms and the head of a vulture. His presence brought cold and the sickening stench of death. Narnians described him as a deity or a demon, to be feared.
Rabadash used as a rallying cry: "In the name of Tash the irresistible, the inexorable--forward!"
Rishda Tarkaan's army chanted "Tash, Tash, the great god Tash. Inexorable Tash."
- Tash is Turkish for stone or rock.
- It is likely that Aslan sent the evil Narnians to Tash's country. Given that even C.S. Lewis did not know what became of them, it can be guessed that their fate were not pleasant.
- Tash's invocation, "In the name of Tash, the inexorable, the irresistible", draws a grammatical (though not conceptual) parallel to the Islamic Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim (in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful).
- Tash's appearence might be based on the Sumerian god Ninurta, who is depicted with the head of an eagle.
It is suggested in the book that Tash is opposed to Aslan: by implication, he is Satan in his Narnian form, just as Aslan is Jesus Christ in Narnia. This is illustrated by the reactions of the main characters to his presence: they talk of smelling a foul smell and of the air growing cold when he passes near to them. 'Tash' and 'Aslan' are respectively the Turkish words for 'stone' and 'lion'. The name Tash can also mean "disgrace" or "stain". Equally telling is the false religion Shift created, not unlike the one certain interpretations of the Book of Revelations depict, which the Bible asserts will ultimately call the Anti-christ. With Lewis' notion that Aslan was literally Jesus, it would be a fitting parallel.
Tash's physical appearance may have been inspired by deities present in certain polytheistic religions. The bird head is reminiscent of the way some ancient Egyptian deities are represented and the extra arms are a staple of several deities in Hinduism, for example. Moreover, in some illustrations Tash is depicted wearing attire that seems to be inspired by Aztec culture, notably its feathered headdress, and the practice of live human sacrifice was likewise common in Aztec society.
Despite his similarities to earth deities, it must be understood that Tash is inferior to Aslan. Peter was able to banish Tash in Aslan's name and it was Aslan, not Tash, who stood in front of the stable judging all of the Narnian creatures.
It should be noted that those Calormenes who did good in the name of Tash were really honouring Aslan: likewise those Narnians who do evil in Aslan's name were in actuality serving Tash. This illustrates Lewis' belief that faith is more defined by a person's deeds and beliefs than by the name they honour. This is made clear in The Last Battle, where Emeth, an honest Calormene soldier, enters "Aslan's Country". In fact, the Calormene capital city has an existence in Aslan's Country.