Tuesday, October 2, 2018
The Magician's Nephew
When author C.S. Lewis wrote his Chronicles of Narnia books, he did so in various parts of his world’s timeline, with early editions of the series reflecting writing order rather than chronological order, which contemporary collections of the stories do. Thus, what had been the penultimate Narnia book he wrote, The Magician’s Nephew, became the first entry of modern editions, appropriate since it’s largely an origin story of the pantheon’s eponymous world. The narrative opens with a boy named Digory and a girl named Polly meeting and going into the attic of the former’s home, finding his Uncle Andrew’s sitting room, the titular magician wanting to use the children as guinea pigs for an experiment.
Andrew introduces the children to two different colors of rings, yellow teleporting their wearers to a land away from their world (Earth), and green transporting them back to their planet. Digory decides to go after Polly when she mistakenly touches a yellow ring and vanishes, the two finding themselves in the Wood Between the Worlds. Before they return home, however, they decide to try one of the portal pools in the forest to another world, finding themselves in a place with reddish-lit building and a dark sky, not to mention a palace with apparent static waxworks and a bell with a hammer to ring it.
To do so brings to life one of the aforementioned figures, claiming to be Jadis, the last Empress of the World, serving as a primary antagonist, the city where the boy and girl are being Charn. As Digory and Polly seek to return home, Jadis follows them back to Earth, where she causes chaos with her massive stature compared to typical humanoids. Back to the Wood Between the Worlds they eventually go, along with Uncle Andrew and a few others, ultimately finding themselves in a darkened world with mysterious singing that brings forth illumination.
The singer turns out to be the lion Aslan, whose song spawns forth the elements, intelligent speaking animals and other races such as nymphs, dwarves, and whatnot, with the feline telling his fellow beasts that evil has entered his new world, Narnia. After Aslan gives the Cabby that entered the world with the others charge of the animals, the lion gives Digory the task of retrieving an apple from a special orchard as penance for bringing Empress Jadis into his world, and he agrees, with the feline transforming the horse Strawberry into the winged pegasus Fledge to serve as transportation.
Digory and Polly retrieve an apple for Aslan, having warned the children only to take the fruit for others to forbear, and next coronates Frank and Helen as monarchs of Narnia, further giving Digory an apple for his ailing mother Mabel. Before the children leave, Aslan warns them about their world potentially meeting the same fate as Charn, and the rest of the text settles the fates of the characters, ultimately serving as a nice prequel to the other Narnia books that definitely deserves to be read first. There are some nuances non-British readers likely won’t pick up, such as the path to Uncle Andrew’s sitting room, but the book is otherwise an enjoyable origin story.