The Magician's Nephew is a fantasy novel for children written by C. S. Lewis. It was the sixth book published in his The Chronicles of Narnia series, but is the first in the chronology of the Narnia novels' fictional universe. Thus it is an early example of a prequel and includes many references to the previously published books, especially The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In more recent republications, the books have been re-ordered with The Magician's Nephew as book one. See The Chronicles of Narnia entry for more information on the ordering of the books in the series.
The story begins in London around 1900, when two children, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, meet. One day, they go "exploring" in the attic-passage along their terrace of houses. They intend to go into an unoccupied house, but end up going into Digory's house instead, surprising Digory's Uncle Andrew in his study. Uncle Andrew manages to trick Polly into touching a magic yellow ring, which causes her to disappear. Andrew then blackmails Digory into following to rescue her by using another yellow magic ring and gives him two green magic rings to bring them back. Digory puts on the yellow ring... and vanishes as well. But where will he appear again? And what has happened to Polly?
Narnia... where the woods are thick and cool, where Talking Beasts are called to life...a new world where the adventure begins.
Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory's Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to...somewhere else. They find their way into Narnia, newborn from the Lion's song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.
The Narnia series have been some of my favorite books as I've been growing up, and each story is a window into a different adventure. The Magician's Nephew deals mostly with the creation of Narnia and also follows Digory's journey to save his mother with the Apple of Life. I always found the Magician's Nephew intriguing because of all the talking animals as well (especially Strawberry the horse), and although some parts of the book may be a little strange and fantastical (such as the Bell and the Hammer chapter), I think most children would enjoy the light-hearted chapters about how talking animals arrived in Narnia.
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Just as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis illustrated the mysteries of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, with themes of betrayal and redemption. The Magician's Nephew illustrates, at a similar level, the themes of creation, primal innocence, original sin, and temptation. There are a few obvious parallels with events in Genesis, such as the forbidden fruit represented by an Apple of Life.
Aslan acts in the role of the Creator. There is no reference to the distant "Emperor-Over-the-Sea" who had been paralleled with God the Father previously in the series. It corresponds with the New Testament's teaching that Jesus (God the Son) was the agent of Creation; e.g. "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made," (Gospel of John 1:3 NIV, see also Epistle to the Hebrews 1:10 and Colossians 1:15–16). Aslan's personal selection of many of the wild beasts in Narnia to be made into Talking Animals is also reminiscent of the book of Genesis, since both Aslan and Noah chose two of some kinds of animals for their purposes. The flash from the stars when they are given the ability to talk represents the "breath of life" of Genesis chapter 2, as well as (possibly) the scholastic concept of the divine active intellect which inspires human beings with rationality.
The beautiful, but wicked and powerful Queen Jadis is analogous to the Biblical character of Satan (much more so than C.S. Lewis's other satanic character, Tash) being a demonic creature who introduces the very concept of evil into Narnia. Aslan describes her as the first evil brought into the land. Jadis later tempts Diggory to eat one of the forbidden apples in the garden, allegorical of Satan, disguised as a serpent tempting Adam and Eve into eating a forbidden fruit. Unlike Adam and Eve however, Diggory rejects Jadis's offer. Jadis's satanic elements are particularly evocative of the image of Satan in Islam in which Satan, under the name Iblis is portrayed as one of the race of the Djinn, the same race as Jadis. Like most portrayals of Satan in world mythologies, Jadis is portrayed as being highly narcissistic.
Parallels may also be found in Lewis' other writings. Jadis' continual references to "reasons of State", and her claim to own the people of Charn and be superior to all common moral rules, represent the eclipse of the medieval Christian belief in natural law by the political concept of sovereignty, as embodied first in royal absolutism and then in modern dictatorships. Uncle Andrew represents the Faustian element in the origins of modern science.
- Reading age: 8+
- Read aloud age: 7+
Polly and Digory arrive in a place where ancient, magnificently-robed people sit staring straight ahead like 'waxworks', silent and unmoving. Polly and Digory get in various arguments throughout the book. The witch, Jadis, commands around various people in the story, calling them her slaves and minions. Jadis whips a horse. One scene describs Digory's sickly mother in her bed when he comes to give her the Apple.
Different mild swear words are used infrequently throughout the book, such as 'a_s', 'glory be', 'garn', 'pooh' and 'gosh'.
Magic is a primary key to all the Narnia books, and since the Magician's Nephew deals with the creation of Narnia, it is even more frequent. The magic of the Narnia books, however, is usually mild in tone and not related to any dark arts, but a more fantastical, less spiritual sense of happenings. Digory's uncle, Andrew, declares himself a magician through his study of magical things. Magic rings transport Polly and Digory to another world. Magic also causes a lamppost to grow out of the ground, animals to start talking, a horse to fly, and the world of Narnia to blossom and grow. Jadis is awoken by Digory hitting a bell (an implication of magic).
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- Other Narnia books.
Film, television, or theatrical adaptations
Walden Media retain the option to make The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew in the future. Designs for a winged horse resembling Strawberry can be seen in the book The Crafting of Narnia: The Art, Creatures, and Weapons from Weta Workshop.
- In the view of Avicenna and Maimonides, intellectual inspiration descends through ten angelic emanations, of which the first nine are the intelligences of the heavenly spheres and the tenth is the Active Intellect.
- See chapter 1 of Lewis' History of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century.
- See The Abolition of Man.