C. S. Lewis: The Magician’s Nephew

“The Magician’s Nephew is chronologically the first book in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Set about 50 Years before the events in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, it describes how the land of Narnia came into being.

If you watched the recent movie “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, you might have wondered about two details: why does a wardrobe lead into the magical land of Narnia, and why does Lucy find a lantern burning in the middle of a forest?

“The Magician”s Nephew” answers these questions (though I will not give the answers away in this review) and many more. The novel contains the genesis (literally) of the entire Narnia cycle.

The story begins in late 19th-century London, when two children, Polly and Digory accidentally enter the secret study of Digory’s eccentric uncle Andrew while exploring a passage that connects the attics of several houses.

The uncle is actually a magician, and he tricks Polly and his nephew into performing an experiment involving magic rings. These rings transport the children into the “Wood between the Worlds”, a quiet forest that contains numerous small pools serving as gates to other worlds. Polly and Digory jump into one of the pools and explore the ruined city of Charn, where Digory is faced with a great temptation. A sign on a small bell next to a sleeping woman proclaims:

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

Digory is unable to resist and strikes the bell, which has momentous consequences. The sound awakens the woman, Empress Jadis, who had destroyed the entire city of Charn with a curse thousands of years ago. She manages to follow the children to London, and scenes of hilarious mayhem ensue.

Eventually, the two children, the uncle, the cruel Empress and a cabbie and his horse are transported back to the Wood between the Worlds and from there to a new world that is just coming into being – Narnia.

The creation of Narnia is described in poetic detail, and afterwards Digory has to atone for his earlier mistake by resisting another temptation – the fruit from the forbidden tree. The history of Narnia begins, but the shadow of evil (the Empress will one day return as the White Witch) and the future necessity of Aslan’s sacrifice are already hinted at.

Sound plays an important role in this novel: there is the drowsy stillness of the Wood between the Worlds, the barren silence of the city of Charn shattered by the bell, the harmony of the celestial spheres and the creative song of Aslan’s voice. All this makes “The Magician”s Nephew” a true prelude to Narnia.

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