The Magician’s Nephew

The Magician's Nephew So now I’ve encountered Narnia for the first time. Not at all what I expected.

C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew tells the story of how Narnia came to be. I get the feeling that he wrote it after the other books, but wanted it to be the first read. It tells the story of a couple of children who get hold of some magic rings and travel between worlds. In doing so they unleash a great evil, as young children in the first book of a series are wont to do. In the process of trying to undo this evil, they end up in a ‘blank’ world that then becomes Narnia.

I’d been told there was a lot of religious symbology in these books, but still wasn’t prepared for how blatant it was. Do a search for ‘Lion’ and replace it with ‘God’ and the creation of Narnia is just about verbatim the first part of the book of Genesis, from my dim recollection of things. Then a woman goes into the special garden and eats an apple and so damns herself? Sheesh. Where was god before the earth was created? Where was the Lion before Narnia was created? Both great questions for the philosophers.

Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with all of this, I just didn’t realize how heavily Lewis had borrowed from The Bible to build (literally) this world.

The story itself is much more fairy-tale-ish than I expected, too. It was pleasant, though, and Lewis’ voice is delightfully archaic. I enjoyed the very ordinary things that his characters say and do…it gives a glimpse of what life was like when Lewis was writing these books.

I’m hoping that The Magician’s Nephew is to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the following books, what The Hobbit was to The Lord of the Rings but perhaps, knowing that Tolkien and Lewis were friends and contemporaries, I’ve come into Narnia with expectations that run too high.

4 thoughts on “The Magician’s Nephew

  1. It’s been a while since I read these (like maybe 10 years) but I think that if you read them in order of publication you’ll find the earlier novels are more traditional adventures and have less religious symbolism. I could be misremembering though.

  2. All-in-all, I think of Lewis’ Narnia books as a “gentler” or “smaller” style than Tolkien’s–not necessarily better or worse (although that depends a lot on your tastes!), just different. He’s got a three (?) volumn sci-fi (or, as he calls it, scientifiction) series that isn’t big on the science of things (he even says that some of the settings he wrote about for Venus and Mars he already knew astronomy was proving wrong), but on the story, with (again) plenty of religious symbolism. As I recall, they are definitely more adult-focused in style, although I read them as a kid so my memory may be off.

    ******POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT**********

    “Lion…”, which is typically the first book read (was the first I was given to read), definitely recreates the crucifixion/resurrection story in Narnia terms, and “The Last Battle” (I think that’s its title?) is very much like Revelations, but others (like my personal favorite from childhood, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) are pretty pure adventure/fantasy.

  3. Nod… The Space Trilogy was a deep read for me, not at all whimsical like the Narnia series.

    Of all the books I read, frankly, I found the Magician’s book my least favorite, even though it set the context of the series. Like selfnoise, I’d read them in their published order, and so MagNeph was fourth in the series.

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