January 18, 2013

The Magician's Nephew: The Genesis of Narnia

If you've never read The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis I highly recommend you do. For many fans of the Narnia series it is their favorite book. Even though Lewis wrote the book toward the end of the series, it actually tells the story of how Narnia began, decades before the events of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The story follows the adventures of two young children, Polly and Digory, as they're tricked by Digory's magician uncle into entering another world. Actually, where they end up is more of a gateway to many worlds. The children inadvertently awake an evil witch-queen who has destroyed all life in her world. The witch follows the children home to London, and in their attempt to return her to her home, they end up in Narnia.

A nice treat for readers is that they get to witness the creation of Narnia from the very beginning.What's interesting is that the genesis of Narnia is somewhat similar to the genesis of Tolkien's Middle Earth: they both start with a song. In Narnia it is Aslan and the stars who start the song (with Aslan finishing it). Readers also get an explanation of why some animals in Narnia can talk but others cannot.

Of course, the witch is the first evil in Narnia. Jadis is the name of the witch-queen, or the White Witch, the name most people know her by. That's right, she's the same witch who takes advantage of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some speculate that the Lady of the Green Kirtle is another embodiment of Jadis or the White Witch, but there's nothing in The Silver Chair to indicate that. Instead, Lewis only mentions that both Jadis and the Green Lady are Northern Witches, but no further explanation is offered.

Digory and Polly must work to combat the evil they have brought with them into Narnia, which of course is not an easy task. And of course they don't entirely succeed, as you might notice Jadis is doing quite well when Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund arrive in Narnia. You have to read the book to find out why that is.

If you're a fan of any of the Narnia books (or movies) you definitely need to read The Magician's Nephew. For those of you who are waiting for the movie adaptation, you might have to wait a long time, because those involved in the creative process have disclosed that the different shareholders involved in the Narnia movie franchise are in a deadlock about what movie to make next and when.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I discovered the series when I was 12 and fell in love with it. I must've read it a hundred times. The first time I saw a commercial for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I got chills hearing Aslan roar.

This book was actually my least favorite. Felt very short. The third and fifth books were my favorites.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Just like Genesis. Sad we probably won't ever see a movie of this one.

Steven said...

Diane, TMN isn't my favorite of the Narnia series, I have to admit. Since I read them all the first time in the third grade, Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my absolute most favorite.

Alex, I think Lewis very purposefully put in many parallels with the book of Genesis. Last I heard, his estate was looking into doing another film independently so they could circumvent all of the politics that ruined the last two films and have been hanging up any future ones. We shall see.

Misha Gericke said...

I actually like all of them, although The Silver Chair and The Last Battle are my least favorites.

Didn't like how Susan got treated in the end.

Steven said...

Misha, many critics have questioned Lewis' treatment of Susan in the end. I've read entire essays arguing both that it demonstrates Lewis was sexist and that it does not.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I must admit I haven't read any of them.... But I will definitely get to them this year.

Thanks for the great review...

Steven said...

Michael, they are quick reads, and worth the time. Glad you enjoyed!