November 16th, 2014 by Karen
Unless you crawled through a magical piece of furniture and accidentally transported yourself to another land where you’ve been living as royalty after defeating an evil queen, then you’re probably familiar with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. You know, that book about Narnia.
But did you know that Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan were not the first children of our world who traveled to Narnia and met Aslan? In fact, two other kids were actually there when Narnia was created — and if you want to know their story, you should read The Magician’s Nephew.
It’s sometimes listed as Book 1 in the Chronicles of Narnia because it’s about the earliest events in Narnia’s history, and it’s sometimes listed as Book 6 because it was the sixth book in the series to be published. But either way, it’s the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and all the adventures that followed.
The magician’s nephew in question is a boy named Digory. One afternoon he and his friend, Polly, stumble upon his uncle performing secret experiments — and they soon become unwilling participants. Through Uncle Andrew’s magic, they find themselves sucked into a strange in-between place that houses portals to many mysterious worlds. As you’ve probably already guessed, one of these portals takes Digory and Polly to Narnia.
Of course, it’s not that simple — no good story ever is! Before going to Narnia, Polly and Digory visit another land, where they meet the power-hungry and murderous Queen Jadis. How can they stop her from conquering our own planet? How do they make their way to Narnia? And what is their own experience with Aslan? Just like beloved Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I’m not going to tell!
But if you can keep a secret, then I will admit that I’ve never read The Magician’s Nephew until now. It doesn’t get the same attention as the other Narnia books, so I never thought to pick it up. But I’m glad I did! It’s got a different feel from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: more old-fashioned and with less at stake, kind of similar to a fable — and that makes perfect sense because it takes place decades earlier than the next Narnia story, and it is sort of a fable about the beginning of the Narnian world.
The different approach to storytelling didn’t bother me at all. I especially appreciated that it’s a funnier book than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And Narnia fans will be delighted to come across details that they’ll recognize from the later stories. For example, did you ever wonder why there’s a lamp-post in Narnia? You’ll find the explanation in The Magician’s Nephew!
Are you a Narnia fan? Maybe you’ve already read this book (and the rest of the series)? Let me know in the comments!