I’m sure most of you have read or at least seen the movie adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s classic book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. If you haven’t, you’re really missing out. There’s a reason the book is so popular. It tells the short but powerful story of four children who find themselves magically transported (via a wardrobe) to a land called Narnia and then proceed to have an adventure with a mysterious talking lion named Aslan. The book is not only witty and fun; it contains Christian themes and symbolism that make concepts like salvation accessible to children and adults alike.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was and is wildly popular, but it leaves the reader with a lot of questions. What exactly is Narnia? Where did it come from? Are there other worlds besides ours and Narnia? How did those four kids get to Narnia through a wardrobe anyhow? And what on earth is up with that lamppost in the middle of the woods? These questions and the success of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe led to the writing of a prequel to the book, entitled The Magician’s Nephew, and that’s the subject of my review this week.
Like its predecessor, The Magician’s Nephew features children as antagonist. Digory is the main character and the nephew of a crazed magician (thus the title) who is in way over his head. Through magic that he cannot even begin to understand, Andrew (the magician) sends Digory and his friend Polly into the “world between the worlds.” Here, they discover new places, meet a witch named Jadis, and eventually get to see firsthand the creation of Narnia.
The Magician’s Nephew does exactly what a good prequel should do. It tells a story that explains a lot of things about its predecessor, but it isn’t extremely in-your-face about it. The connection between Digory and the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe isn’t explained until the very end. Narnia isn’t even mentioned until the second half of the book. The only characters the reader truly recognizes from the other book are Jadis (known as the White Witch) and Aslan. The book functions as a story in and of itself while also giving nice, subtle shoutouts to people who have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
One thing I wish the book had touched on was Aslan’s father, the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. He isn’t even mentioned in the book. Maybe more is said about him in the rest of the series (I haven’t finished re-reading them all yet), or maybe C. S. Lewis purposely left the character out of the rest of the series to keep the focus on Aslan, but I would be very interested to know more about the character, who obviously is supposed to represent God the Father.
But other than that, I have no complaints. The Magician’s Nephew does a great job of explaining the origins of Narnia and explaining why it came to be the way it was by the Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy showed up in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There is a considerable time gap between the two, as The Chronicles of Narnia, covers hundreds—if not thousands—of years of Narnia’s history, but there’s no confusion in going between the two books. And as a big fan of prequels, I appreciate that.
If you’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia, you should give them a shot. The world that C. S. Lewis creates in them is just remarkable. I’m currently re-reading them for the first time since I was a kid, and it’s really cool to re-experience Narnia again. I may do more reviews of the books as I get to them, or maybe of the series as a whole when I finish, but until then, check out The Magician’s Nephew. Thanks for reading, friends, and I’ll see you next time!