Full disclosure: The Magician’s Nephew was not and probably never will be among my favorites of The Chronicles of Narnia. With that out of the way, I have to say it was pretty enjoyable, and my issues with it are more of a personal nature, than anything wrong with the story itself. For some reason, while I do enjoy character origin stories (which this book did sort of involve, but no spoilers here), I don’t tend to like prequels that go so far back that it wipes out the world I love. Something about going back in time to a point before anything I’ve come to know as a reader, going back to a point where I have nothing familiar that I care about is just not very comfortable reading for me. The first time I noticed that in myself, I was about eleven, and it was the origin story for The Indian in the Cupboard. I don’t remember the story, or even the title of the book, but the story explained where the cupboard came from and how it got its magic, and I remember it greatly disturbed me. This felt very much like that.
Digory, a young boy living with his bachelor uncle and spinster aunt, finds himself and his best friend, the girl next door, Polly caught up in his uncle’s magical experiments and swept back and forth between several different worlds. Digory foolishly wakes up an evil witch, and in the attempt to keep her out of his own world, he and Polly, the Witch and Uncle Andrew witness Aslan creating Narnia. Unfortunately, the Witch’s presence introduces evil into the virgin land even before it has really had a chance to exist, and Digory must take fruit from a very special forbidden tree. Take the fruit to plant it for Narnia’s protection, not for his own use or enjoyment, or even for his sick mother, though it could save her life.
This section, involving the fruit of the tree, was the most interesting part of the story to me. So often we think we can do something very good for someone. We may think we know better than God, even if we won’t say it in so many words. But the only way to truly do good, is His way, whether we think so or not, whether we believe it at first or not.
I don’t regret reading it, but I’m also very glad I didn’t start out with it. Many people say you must start with this one. I can’t agree, just on a personal level. I will probably read it during each of my read-throughs or Narnia, but I can’t promise. I will read it again, I’m sure. Maybe not as much as the others though. Passages like this make it worth it:
Both the children were looking up into the Lion’s face as he spoke…And all at once (they never knew how exactly how it happened) the face seemed to be sea of tossing gold in which they were floating, and such a sweetness and power rolled about them and over them and entered into them that they felt they had never been happy or wise or good, or even alive and awake, before. And the memory of that moment stayed with them always, so that as long as they both lived, if ever they were sad or afraid or angry, the thought of all that golden goodness, and the feeling that is was still there, quite close, just round some corner or just behind some door, would come back and make them sure, deep down inside, that all was well.
Now because I began with a full disclosure, I’m ending with one. I’m stalling on reading The Last Battle. It’s partly because I know spoilers that sound very sad, but mainly because the whole LAST thing doesn’t sound very fun. I don’t like endings, goodbyes, or last things. I prefer my ending left slightly open so I can imagine everything continuing perfectly. But that said, I have started it, and it’s very interesting so far. I’m just a little afraid. I’m quite excited about my next round of books though, so I’m making myself finish this first. A little incentive never hurt anyone. So, hopefully, next Tuesday will bring a review of The Last Battle.