Monday, March 21, 2011
The Magician's Nephew
Author: C. S. Lewis
You know, once I got past The Silver Chair, this series has really taken off for me. I've now read six of the seven Chronicles of Narnia and I think this one is my favorite thus far. And I've heard from several folks that The Last Battle is a favorite. Is it better than The Magician's Nephew?
There are some that would argue this is the first book in the series. However, it was published sixth. Lewis begins the book by referring to Narnia as if the reader was already familiar with the magical world. The reader could only possibly be familiar with Narnia if he or she had already read the earlier installments. I think from that first paragraph, it's clear that C. S. Lewis meant for this to be a prequel.
It's like the Star Wars movies. If we begin with The Phantom Menace, do we have any reason to care about meeting some annoying kid named Anakin Skywalker, played by some annoying kid who can't act? But if we start in the order in which the movies were filmed, we're introduced to Darth Vader, the biggest bad guy in the whole galaxy. Turns out he used to be this annoying kid called Anakin. The story of his journey to the Dark Side is an expansion on the story of his redemption told through the original trilogy.
Sorry, I didn't mean for this to turn into an analysis of the Star Wars saga. My point is, it's a lot easier to understand this prequel if you're already familiar with the world that C. S. Lewis has created through the previous five books.
Remember the Professor from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Well, he's the title character here. Only he's not the Professor yet. He's just a kid named Digory Kirke. He's got a friend and neighbor named Polly and a crazy uncle who claims to be a magician. Uncle Andrew is no more a magician than Oz was really a wizard. Uncle Andrew just happens to be messing around with things he doesn't understand and accidentally sends Digory and Polly out of our world and on an adventure exploring others.
The first world the children encounter is a place called Charn. It's a world that's nearing its end. The only living person they find is Jadis, the witch who eventually rises to power in Narnia and is conquered with the help of the Pevensie kids. The witch manages to follow the children back to our world, and in a desperate attempt to get her back to Charn, they accidentally carry her to a world that has yet to be formed. On this second trip out of our reality, they carry Uncle Andrew, along with a horse and the Cabby that drives him.
If you haven't guessed yet, the unformed world is what becomes Narnia. They all become witnesses to Aslan the Lion's creation of Narnia. They help to set things in motion that set the stage for all the previous stories.
All in all, I thought it was a great story. And it's a great parallel to the Creation story in Genesis, including the temptation and the fall of man. I'm kind of excited about reading the final book of the series, but a little sad that I'm getting to the end of it.