The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is one of those books I read just because. Because I’d read The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was a kid. Because I always wondered what exactly Narnia was. Because I’d watched all the Narnia movies with my kids. Because it was sitting on my son’s shelf collecting dust and it had a number one written on it: i.e. first book of the series. So because of all those reasons, I wiped the dust off of it and read it.
This book isn’t about anyone I was familiar with from the other Narnia books/movies. Well, I guess Aslan is there toward the end, but honestly, the majority of the book is about Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer and that was okay, because their story was easy to grasp. You see, these two neighbors met, become friends then decide to explore the attic connecting their houses. Unfortunately, during their exploration, they accidently go into the study of Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who is a magician. Hence the name of our book: The Magician’s Nephew.
Once in Andrew’s study, Polly is tricked by Digory’s almost evil uncle into touching a magic yellow ring which causes her to vanish. It seems Uncle Andrew has been dabbling in ancient magic that allows one to travel between worlds. In order to save Polly, Digory is blackmailed by his uncle into testing another magic ring so as to follow Polly; our young hero also takes two green ones just in case they can actually try to return home. When Digory touches his yellow ring it transports him to a wood between the worlds where he finds Polly alive and well. Also there is a series of pools which the two discover lead to separate universes.
Of course, our two, young adventures decide not to immediately return home to England but to explore a different world and so jump into one of the nearby pools. Instantaneously, Digory and Polly find themselves in a desolate, abandoned city of some strange, ancient world, which they later learn is Charn. Inside an ancient building, which they surmise must have been a palace, they discover a huge room filled with statuesque figures of Charn’s former kings and queens. These perfect statues are beautiful beyond compare but seem to degenerate from the fair and wise of the first to the unhappy and cruel of the later. Among these images from some long forgotten past, there is a bell and a hammer with these words written:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger
Strike the bell and bide the danger
Or wonder, till it drives you mad
What would have followed if you had.
The story of Narnia start with that bell. Everything else spirals out from the fateful choice placed before Digory and Polly on whether to ring that bell. Sure, the rest of the book reveals to us the creation of Narnia and its talking animals,, the origins of the lamp-post, the wonders of its first human king and queen, the first evil deed of the White Witch, and of course Aslan’s role in all of it. We are even told how the wardrobe becomes “the wardrobe” which ever after will transport some lucky few to Narnia. But it begins at the decision before the bell.
All in all, this was a very entertaining story. If I was still a kid I would have undoubtable rated it much higher, but it was still well-worth my time, especially since it answered all the “how” questions about Narnia. For that reason alone, you should give it a try.