The Magician’s Nephew was definitely my favourite of the Narnia books growing up. I think because it explained so very much of what happened in later books – even if it did mean I would never be able to find a wardrobe that took me to Narnia because there’s only one, at least I knew why there was only one.
The book is set in a very definite time again – as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was – possibly Edwardian times, although it’s never explicitly stated, instead we are given references such as cabbies still having horse drawn carts etc.
“I don’t mean another planet, you know; they’re part of our world and you could get to them if you went far enough – but a really other world – another Nature – another universe – somewhere you would never reach even if you travelled through the space of this universe for ever and ever.”
The children – Digory and Polly – arrive at Narnia via magic rings and seem to arrive at the beginning of its time as there is nothing there. They had previously been to another world called Charn – also via the rings but I won’t say how the rings work – which was at the end of its time; the sun was nearly dead and there was only one living person in the world.
Once they arrive in Narnia they watch Aslan creating the world, as the world is so new anything that is planted in the ground grows such as a part of a lamp-post…
“‘It’s not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.'”
The religious symbolism from the other books is if anything more prevalent here than in the others, with Aslan creating the world and the witch the children bought with them eating from what must be a form of the tree of knowledge, but it is adapted enough for it to be its own plot and an interesting plot at that.
“The more dressed up you were to begin with, the worse you look after you’ve crawled out of a hansom-cab and fallen into a muddy brook.”
While the children do seem quite out of date compared to how you would expect a child to talk today, even if it is set in Edwardian times – they do seem very much like children in a story rather than children that might actually exist, being a little too good at times, but the imagery which is present in all the Chronicles of Narnia books – including the ones I don’t own – more than makes up for this as you can imagine yourself there so clearly that it doesn’t matter if the other people don’t seem as real.
“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”
The book remains one of my favourite Narnia stories as it ties up so many loose ends, the only question which remains is am I supposed to read it first even though it was not written first?