I never read the Narnia books when I was a kid. In fact, I may not have even been aware of their existence until I was almost in middle school – my preferred fantasy series at the time being the (*coughsuperiorcough*) Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, which we will discuss at a later date. But eventually I decided that I was ignoring a major player in the fantasy literature world, and that it was time to find out what the big deal was (this may or may not have been right after I saw
William Mosely’s pretty pretty face the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). So, in the summer of 2009 I gave myself a project: I decided to read all of the Narnia books, one right after the other, and see what everyone was talking about, and if the religious allegory was as in-your-face as people said it was.
I decided to read the books in chronological order – that is, the order in which events take place in the world of the books – which meant that The Magician’s Nephew was first up.
So a British kid named Digory and his friend Polly get sent into another world by Digory’s jackass magician uncle through the use of magic rings. They find themselves in a wood where leaping into one of the many pools of water will take you into a different world. After some experimentation, they wind up in Narnia before it was Narnia, but not before they manage to awaken the woman who will become the White Witch. Magical hijinks ensue, and we get to read about the history of the White Witch and see the creation of Narnia. I don’t know if I’m the only one who thought this, but I especially liked the part that explained how the lamp post got there.
All in all, a very brief but nice story. Good for kids, maybe a little too dull for the rest of us, but cute. And entertaining, as long as you can tune out C.S. Lewis’s voice in your head shrieking that it’s all BRILLIANT RELIGIOUS ALLEGORY DO YOU SEE! (would the allegory have bothered me – or indeed, would I even have noticed it? – if I’d read these books when I was little and not conditioned by years of literature study to find symbolism where there is none? The world will never know.)
Verdict: three out of five stars