Reading Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew

The-chronicles-of-narnia-the-magicians-nephew-book-coverI have never read all the Narnia books before. I read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was little, but then I got bored when I started The Horse and His Boy and found out that it introduced new characters when I thought we were going to stick with Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund for a while, or at least Polly and Digory. And that was the end of my Narnia reading as a child.

But a few weeks ago I decided to give it another try. The cat is out of the bag – I know that the series covered many characters, and I now know about the Aslan/Jesus metaphor – another aspect of the books that I wasn’t aware of when I first read them. I also watched Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and Prince Caspian recently and it got me in a Narnia mood.

Even though I’ve never read through the Narnia series, The Magician’s Nephew was a book that I returned to a lot as a child so it was pretty familiar to reread. I also used it in my senior paper about children’s literature and the changing view of the British Empire through the 20th century. Sounds kind of obscure but it was really fun to write. So in a way I was returning to an old favorite.

Reading The Magician’s Nephew for fun was much different than the last time I read it for my paper though. I found myself enjoying it much more than I expected, even though the story is a familiar one to me. Digory Kirke lives in London with his aunt, uncle, and sick mother. He is playing one day when he meets a girl named Polly next door and the two of them discover what Digory’s Uncle Andrew is creating in the attic – magic rings that will take the wearer to new worlds.

C.S. Lewis meant The Magician’s Nephew to be a prequel to the rest of the series, and I found that although a lot does happen in this book, there is a lot of set up and not as much action as in future books. It does have some memorable scenes and characters it though – the evil queen who wants to take over whatever land she is in, Uncle Andrew who is slightly mad and power crazy but is intimidated by the queen, Strawberry the talking horse, Digory, Polly, and of course Aslan.

Lewis also did a good job of telling the creation story while still making it his own. I love the idea of Digory et. al. watching as Aslan creates Narnia, and the way Lewis describes each person’s reaction to what is happening before them. The Queen is just too obsessed with power to notice, Uncle Andrew ignores Aslan as much as he can, convincing himself that he is just a silly lion and argues with the queen, and Polly and Digory want to simply observe the creation but are constantly distracted by the Queen and Uncle Andrew. The only character that is fully present is the London cabby and his horse who came along by accident – the most unlikely king of Narnia.

That’s one of the things I like about Narnia. It’s characters from our world are regular every day people who are introduced to Narnia and Aslan, and it is from that place that they do amazing things.  That is seen over and over again throughout the series. It is something that Lewis himself focuses on, and I’m excited to look at that further in these blog posts.

The story has a very 50’s children’s story feel to it, almost as if Lewis is narrating the story himself, which I liked. I feel like that’s not seen as much anymore with the author directly talking to the reader, and I felt like I was being read to.

I also liked the way The Magician’s Nephew set up The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (I need to find an abbreviation for that) by explaining the lamp-post, the Queen, and the wardrobe.

So although I found other Narnia books more action packed than this one (I am currently on The Voyage of the Dawn Treder), I enjoyed being reintroduced to Narnia and the characters that it holds. And whether you see Aslan as Jesus or simply as the lion in Narnia, there is no denying that he is awesome.

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