This Sunday morning before church I woke up slightly earlier than usual with an idea. I was feeling quite nostalgic for some reason- you know that kind of day- a make pancakes and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Boy Meets World kind of morning. And despite my initial desire to trudge along in my current enjoyable fiction endeavor, I was convinced to put the book down and pick up an old favorite: C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. It is a classic book that I knew would not only be a quick read, but a real joy, and a deeply satisfying adventure to cure those spontaneous nostalgic cravings that sneak up on us from time to time.
Most know the tale of Digory Kirke and Polly who, while exploring the row of terraced houses in London, stumble upon Digory’s magician uncle who has created rings with the power to transport humans into other worlds. Through Uncle Andrew’s deception, he drives the comical, bickering pair to puddle-hopping into different lands, meeting evil queens, and finally stumbling upon the creation of Narnia. Lewis’ voice in this installment of the Chronicles of Narnia seems so much more playful than it’s companions, and had me laughing aloud thinking about how well Lewis understood the mind of a child. This time around I particularly enjoyed the witty arguments between Digory and Polly:
“It’s all rot to say a house would be empty all those years unless there was some mystery.” (Digory)
“Daddy thought it must be the drains,” said Polly.
“Pooh! Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations,” said Digory.
Or how about this one?
And if you want me to come back, hadn’t you better say you’re sorry?” (Polly)
“Sorry?” exclaimed Digory. “Well now, if that isn’t just like a girl! What have I done?”
“Oh nothing of course,” said Polly sarcastically. “Only nearly screwed my wrist off in that room with all the waxworks, like a cowardly bully. Only struck the bell with the hammer, like a silly idiot. Only turned back in the wood so that she had time to catch hold of you before we jumped into our own pool. That’s all.”
The Magician’s Nephew, though traditionally (since the 1980’s) placed 1st in the chronicles of Narnia Series, was actually published 6th, and after another read it is easy to see why. As you’re unraveling the tale you see the origins of different enigmatic elements within the land of Narnia: where does the lamp post come from in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? How does the wardrobe actually have the ability to bring the Pevensies into Narnia? Why is professor Kirke so willing to believe that the land of Narnia is real?
The riddles presented throughout the books are satisfied in The Magician’s Nephew, and I would argue that it should be read sixth because the reader will experience the excitement of understanding the compelling world of Narnia that so effortlessly draws you in to its adventures.
Lewis (as always) has a power to make you feel the longing of something that I can never quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s adventure, or the simplicity of childhood, or the purity of a Narnia character that I long for, or perhaps the way Lewis communicates theological ideas with such an unmatched emotional force through his creative fiction. Whatever it is, the Magician’s Nephew makes for a great read that will always be on the highest bookshelf I have.