Let's Talk Narnia: The Magician's Nephew

By Monday, January 11, 2016 , , ,

We’re back for the second installment in my series of discussion posts on The Chronicles of Narnia. These are one of my top book recommendations for struggling readers and possibly my favorite children’s books of all time. It’s because they aren’t just for children. They’re magical and exciting, yes, but they’re rich with spiritual meaning and have a teachable moment on almost every page. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most well-known of the seven books, which was the subject of my first discussion post. It’s also my favorite of the series, but The Magician’s Nephew has come close behind for many years now. 

The prominent themes in The Magician’s Nephew are beginnings, the tainting effects of evil, and promises of redemption. I’ve always loved this story for its creativity and the glimpse it gives into Narnia’s origins. I came to it having already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so I caught certain connections quickly, but even so, some that came later in the book were still delightful surprises. But regardless of when it’s read, “delightful” is really a good word for this story. I still instinctively smile at the creation scene every single time, and Digory and Polly’s antics are always giggle-worthy. Here are some favorites from this wonderful first book in the Narnia series! 

Favorite Characters 
Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer: It’s honestly hard to separate them since they’re glued at the hip for almost the entire story. They play off each other wonderfully well, and their fun and games make me wish I could jump in with them. Digory’s excitement and Polly’s practicality contrast to make them quite an enjoyable pair to watch. And I appreciate their journey as friends – they bicker at the beginning, but have matured by the end to understand loyalty and forgiveness more deeply. 

Aslan: Just my favorite, ya know. I love everything Aslan stands for in all seven books, and his roles as creator and promise-maker in this story are so moving. I love that he sings to bring Narnia to life, that he feels Digory’s pain over Mrs. Kirke’s illness so strongly, and that while he is honest about the effects of evil, he also promises that it will ultimately be defeated. 

Favorite Scenes
Creation of Narnia: This part still makes my breath catch a little whenever I read it. It’s so reflective of the creation account in the Bible and so full of innocent wonder that it makes me smile like a little child. Aslan sings everything into being – sun, grass, flowers, trees, stars, animals…everything appears at his bidding. And soon, the sounds of the creation begin to replace his song. He speaks, and everything comes to life. Then everything speaks back to him in reply. It reminds me of a wonderful song about how all of creation sings praise to God in its own way. It’s a simply glorious and spine-tickling scene. 

Digory’s Temptation: There some stories that excite wretched suspense and anxiety no matter how many times you’ve read them in the past. This scene is like that for me. It always makes me wince and scream in my head “No, Digory, no! Don’t give in!” And yet, the Witch’s arguments still sound reasonable at the same time! Her cunning is so strong and Digory’s resolve so severely tested at this scene that I sometimes hold my breath. As the reader, of course I know the right decision, but I also suspect that I’d be very tempted to believe the lies the Witch is telling. And naturally, this makes Digory’s ultimate resistance so much more triumphant. The whole sequence reminds me keenly of my weakness and need for divine guidance. It carries so many similarities to the temptation of Adam and Eve in Eden, bringing the severity of their disobedience and of Satan’s lies into frighteningly sharp focus. 

Favorite Connection to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Silver Apples: Who would have thought apples would have so many effects on the future of Narnia and on the Pevensie children’s adventures there? When the Witch eats one wrongly, it turns her skin white and makes her a force for evil in Narnia for years to come. But when Digory uses it rightfully, Narnia is promised years of protection and Digory’s mother is healed. And of course, much later, a tree that had grown from the core of Digory’s apple is made into the wardrobe that starts it all for the Pevensie children. What an imagination you had, Clive Staples. 

Favorite Quotes 
“Polly was finding the song more and more interesting because she thought she was beginning to see the connection between the music and the things that were happening. When a line of dark firs sprang up on a ridge about a hundred yards away she felt that they were connected with a series of deep, prolonged notes which the Lion had sung a second before. And when he burst into a rapid series of lighter notes she was not surprised to see primroses suddenly appearing in every direction. Thus, with an unspeakable thrill, she felt quite certain that all the things were coming (as she said) ‘out of the Lion’s head.’ When you listened to his song you heard the things he was making up: when you looked round you, you saw them.” 

“‘Creatures, I give you yourselves,’ said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. ‘I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself.’” 

“The longer and more beautiful the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song.” 

“‘Do not be cast down,’ said Aslan…‘Evil will come of that evil, but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself. In the meantime, let us take such order that for many hundred years yet this shall be a merry land in a merry world. And as Adam’s race has done the harm, Adam’s race shall help to heal it.’” 

“‘Come,’ said Aslan…Look here, children.’
They looked and saw a little hollow in the grass, with a grassy bottom, warm and dry.
‘When you were last here,’ said Aslan, ‘that hollow was a pool, and when you jumped into it you came to the world where a dying sun shone over the ruins of Charn. There is no pool now. That world has ended, as if it had never been. Let the race of Adam and Eve take warning.’
‘Yes, Aslan,’ said both the children. But Polly added, ‘But we’re not quite as bad as that world, are we, Aslan?’
‘Not yet, Daughter of Eve,’ he said. ‘Not yet. But you are growing more like it…And soon, very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis. Let your world beware.’”

So many good ones in every category! And I know a lot of those quotes are long, but how could I resist? 

What do you like about this Narnia book? What are your favorite scenes, quotes, and characters? How does this book rank in the series for you? I’d love to hear!

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