Monday, December 31, 2012

Revisiting the Classics -- The Magician's Nephew

I first read C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew back in college, and it remains my favorite book of the Narnia series (Aslan got to be kind of a hardass by Prince Caspian).

The protagonists of The Magician's Nephew are Digory Kirke (the Professor from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and his neighbor Polly. They live next door to each other in pre-war London, and in fact their houses are connected to each other by an attic. They spend some time exploring the rafters and one day  find that it leads to the study of Digory's Uncle Andrew, a morally questionable self-proclaimed magician who is letting Digory's sick mother live with him. Uncle Andrew proceeds to put slip a strange ring on Polly's finger and she instantly disappears into the Wood between the Worlds, an inter-dimensional nexus. Digory, although angry at Uncle Andrew, grudgingly goes after her, and they end up in the dead world of Charn. There they meet the evil Jadis and accidentally bring her to London, and later they are all present for the birth of Narnia.

I've always liked The Magician's Nephew because it answers a lot of questions one might have about Narnia. Why does Professor Kirke's wardrobe lead there? Why is there a lamp post in the middle of nowhere? Where did the Witch come from and why is she so ill-tempered? How did the Professor know about Narnia in the first book? Also, Lewis had a knack for wonder and whimsy that few others possess.

One caveat, though: People who aren't Christians might not appreciate the Biblical allegory of Narnia's creation. The whole thing parallels Genesis. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Aslan represents Christ, but here there are a lot more Bible metaphors. Of course, this is par for the course when it comes to C.S. Lewis.

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