Fantasy Book Review – C S Lewis – The Magician’s Nephew
Movie version only fans assume the Narnia Chronicles began with The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe but that is the second of the seven short novels in the epic series written by Tolkien’s priestly friend.
The Magician’s Nephew is unusual in many respects. 1/. Though it still centres on children as the main protagonists, it also involves a lot of adults being transported to Narnia too. 2/. Most fantasy stories (including Tolkien’s Middle Earth Saga) involve a fantasy land that is in its heyday and with its time coming to a close. Dragons are seen as near extinct, and the people believe many myths and legends of old, as if having fantasies of their own. 3/. Though set as the first novel in the series, it was actually the sixth to be written and originally served as a prequel, but most collected sets of the books set it rightly in the first book position.
In this story, Narnia is seen actually being created from scratch by the God lion Aslan, along with all its magical talking creatures.
The story involves a cowardly professor who has invented inter-dimensional rings that take its wearers to other worlds. He is afraid to use them himself, but tricks his nephew and a neighbour’s daughter into making a trip with the rings.
The children meet a powerful witch, who they transport home with them, only to find her trying desperately to take over the Earth (though her powers are limited). In the chaos she does generate, the children, the professor (the self-appointed magician), the witch, and a few other people, as well as a horse and cart, are whisked into another realm.
This World seems unformed and unfinished until the lion Aslan creates life there and in effect, generates Narnia by sheer will. He makes many animals there able to talk, including the Earth-based cart horse which chooses to stay.
Aslan sends the children to find an apple from a special orchard (the Biblical analogy is obvious), but they are forbidden to eat the apples they find. The witch follows them and she does take an apple, as well as trying to tempt the children to do so too. Seeds from the apple the children return to Aslan safely are used to create a tree that marks the heart of the land.
As a reward for their work, the children and the befuddled professor are sent safely home, with a cutting from the tree. This, Lewis tells us, will grow into a tree that will eventually be cut down and turned into a very special wardrobe.
It is lovely to see how Narnia came about. We will visit the land over the remaining chronicles to its near destruction in The Last Battle. The Magician’s Nephew would make a great film in itself, but it is likely to seem rather low-key beside the movies based on the later books in the Chronicles.