Friday, February 22, 2008

The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew is probably my favorite of the three books that I read in this series. The protagonists in this story are also children --Digory and Polly. The children stumble upon Digory's Uncle Andrew in the attic of their row house while exploring. Uncle Andrew is dabbling in magic. (Lewis had a great respect for science, but he didn't believe it was right to try to alter the natural order of things.) Uncle Andrew has been successful in sending a guinea pig to "another world" and wants to see if he can succeed with a human. He tricks Polly into touching a magic ring, which indeed does send her to the Woods between the Worlds. In this place, there are numerous pools that connect to different worlds.Digory takes a ring and goes to find Polly and bring her back. However, once there they decide to explore a little more before returning home. They end up in a world in which they come across Jadis, the White Witch. In this world, everything is dead or dying, including the sun. They find out that there has been a great cataclysmic battle that has destroyed everything in this land known as Charn. The children try to escape from Charn, but Jadis grabs hold of them as they slip on their magic rings to return to the Woods between the Worlds. Eventually, Jadis follows the children back to their world in London where she wreaks havoc on the city. Digory is forced to use the magic rings one more time in an attempt to remove Jadis from their world and return her to Charn. During a struggle, quite by accident, the cabby with his horse and Uncle Andrew are transported along with Digory, Polly, and Jadis back to the Woods between the Worlds. However, instead of returning Jadis to Charn , they end up in the wrong pool and find themselves in a world full of darkness. They hear a voice singing far off and are mesmerized by it. Then strange and wonderful things begin to happen all around them.

"There were no words. There was hardly a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn't come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand , thousand points of light leaped out -- single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky in that one place, grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see the shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing. The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward towards the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills.

They finally get a glimpse of the Singer himself:
"It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song..."

The Lion continues his song and he sings the grass and trees into existence. Then the animals began to come up from the earth.
"Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into humps. They were of very different sizes, some no bigger than mole-hills, some as big as wheelbarrows, two the size of cottages. And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump there came out an animal."

Then the Lion touched a pair of each kind of animal and he breathed on them and gave them awareness of themselves and the gift of speech. He told them to love, to think, and to speak. In other words, they were created with a purpose.

Aslan addresses the children and tells Digory to go to a specific mountain and get a silver apple off of a tree. There is a warning on the gate telling all who enter to only take an apple for others or beware. Of course, Digory is tempted to eat one himself, but he gets frightened when he sees a bird watching him from one of the branches of the tree. Then much to his horror, he discovers that Jadis is in the garden, as well. She tries to get him to take an apple for his mother who is ill back in his own world. Jadis tells him that he wouldn't have to tell anyone that he took one to his mother. She overplays her hand by saying that he could just leave Polly in Narnia and return to his mother. This breaks the spell. Digory knows that the witch is evil and couldn't have any one's best interests at heart if she thought he could possibly leave Polly behind. So, he once again withstands the temptation and flees. Aslan uses the silver apple to plant a tree that will protect Narnia for a while (but not forever because Digory brought evil into Narnia when Jadis came in with him). This is how Narnia is been born.

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