Monday, September 14, 2015

The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew
© 1955 C.S. Lewis
183 pages

        

 Diggory and Polly were just two kids on vacation exploring a forbidding-looking attic. They didn’t intend to witnesss Creation, let alone accidently unleash evil into it. Like the more familiar Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe –   for which this serves as a prequel  -- The Magician’s Nephew retells a Christian story, this time of the Creation and Fall, incorporating creatures and symbols from other western traditions as well. The trouble begins when Diggory’s uncle, a man with a taste for the occult, discovers a way to send beings into another world. He’s tolerably sure he knows of a way to fetch them back, but not positive enough to test it on himself – that’s what nephews are for. Diggory and Polly, having discovered the warlock-wannabe’s lair, become his unwilling test subjects and are thrown into a mysterious netherworld that allows travel between different places like our own Earth and Narnia. One world proves a desperate landscape, lit by a dying sun and filled with lifelessness reigned over by a wax-still woman. A nearby bell teases visitors; ring it and heaven knows what will happen, but let it be still and the prospect of what might have been will agonize them forever. Over the warnings of the far more sensible Polly, Diggory rings the bell – and awakes a creature who will one day be known as the White Witch.   The meat of the story of Narnia fans happens halfway through, when the Witch, the children, and a few innocent bystanders fall into a world which is without form and void – until they hear singing. The dream-weaver is Aslan, the great lion, and his songs call life into being. The witch ruins things, but in the end the children are able to accomplish a mission for Aslan which sends her into retreat at least for a little while.  As with its predecessor, The Magician’s Nephew abounds in symbols, creatures, and objects from across the western imagination. A  forbidden tree in the midst of the garden, for instance, hangs low with not just any fruit, but silvery apples reminiscent of Eris’ Apple of Discord.   The garden appears long after the 'fall' of the novel; this is not a Chrstian story reold with different characters, but in a different way altogether; unlike  Lion, wherein Aslan did all the heavy lifting, here  he human characters, principally Diggory, to prove capable of growing beyond their mistakes through accomplishments more impressive than great physical deads.  Narnia continues to be a lovely, enchanting story.


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