The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
This may be a surprise to you, but I’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia. Somehow this series was skipped in my literary education. In fact, the writings of C. S. Lewis and I didn’t meet until I read The Screwtape Letters in high school. Even then, it was several more years before I read anything else of his. As a result, I don’t have that awed reverence for C. S. Lewis that so many Christians have had since their childhood. But don’t worry; I’m catching up. When my best friend, Amanda, suggested we read The Chronicles of Narnia, I thought it would be interesting to see how he approaches children’s literature.
What was most evident for me was the heart C. S. Lewis obviously had for teaching children about the love of Christ. We decided to read the series chronologically, and I was fascinated by Lewis’s version of the creation story. I think he brilliantly portrays the story in a way that children will be awed and excited by the majesty of God’s power. Aslan creates Narnia with music, by singing. Just read this:
“Digory had never seen such a sun. The sun above the ruins of Charn had looked older than ours; this looked younger. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. 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. But it was a valley of mere earth, rock and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen. The earth was of many colours: they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.”
I love the picture of the sun laughing for joy as it is created. All of creation just praising God—it’s beautiful.
Many times Lewis speaks directly to his reader—a child—and affirms the reader’s feelings. While so many books try to convince the reader to sympathize with the characters, Lewis sympathizes with his reader. No wonder children love this series. I’m already excited to read it to my own kids.
As an adult and future mother, there were lessons in there that I want my kids to learn. I want my kids to believe in remarkable things, things that don’t necessarily make sense, because I know that faith is not always logical. God can and does do miraculous things, so I wouldn’t want my children to miss them like Uncle Andrew does in this book. I want my kids to know that they are not exempt from God’s laws; as special as they are, they are responsible for their actions. Uncle Andrew and the Empress Jadis both believe they are better in ways than others, and therefore that laws do not apply to them. (This is another theme I see in Crime and Punishment—review coming soon!) Aslan makes it clear to Digory that this thinking will only lead to ruin and sadness.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice was that in this version of the creation story, it is Digory who commits the first sin, ringing the bell which brings Empress Jadis to life, thus letting evil into Narnia. It’s not Polly. I appreciated this, as I especially wouldn’t want a child getting the wrong idea. So many people blame women for bringing sin into the world, when the Bible makes clear that all—men and women—have sinned.
I’m glad that Amanda and I are now making our way through the series. On to book two: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!