The Magician’s Nephew | Book Review II

“Be just and merciful and brave.” | CS Lewis | The Magician’s Nephew

I often forgot about The Magician’s Nephew when I thought of The Chronicles of Narnia. I used to look at it as the one I had to suffer through before I could get to the “fun” books in the series. I thought it was boring.

Now that I’ve read it again and now that I’m older, I really don’t know what I was thinking haha It’s packed full of sooo much goodness and CS Lewis was a genius. I’m going to try and keep my thoughts and words as focused as possible ’cause I could ramble on and on and on about this masterpiece.

One of the main things that stood out to me was how Lewis takes ordinary things and ordinary people and makes them extraordinary.

For starters, the book’s main characters are children.

As adults, we can tend to treat children with condescension; assuming they don’t understand certain things and speaking to them as if they were fools or mentally-impaired. While it’s true that they are innocent in certain areas (perhaps a sort of innocence that quite a few of us would like to go back to…) and they find some things confusing simply because they’re young and inexperienced, children are not imbeciles.

Lewis portrays Digory and Polly as quite the opposite of fools.

When Uncle Andrew manipulates Digory into going after Polly and rescuing her from The Other Place, Digory sees right through his uncle’s facade; straight through to the rubbish inside the old man’s heart:

“‘You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises,’ said Uncle Andrew. ‘Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. ⁣

No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.’⁣

…all at once [Digory] saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. ‘All it means,’ he said to himself, ‘is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.’” \ CS Lewis

How often have we used that sort of logic on ourselves and even on others! We rationalize sin and meanness by deceiving ourselves into thinking that certain rules don’t apply to us because we’ve “arrived” and others haven’t. Perhaps seeing it played out on a grander scale in a novel may help us to identify the ugliness in our own hearts. It reminds me of when King David committed heinous sin and Nathan the prophet came to convict him. Nathan essentially told David a fairy-tale; a made-up story to drive home the truth. When David grew angry at the injustice portrayed in the story, Nathan delivered the crushing blow: “you are the man”.

We are Uncle Andrew, lovely humans. I’m Uncle Andrew. It’s so terribly hard to admit and incredibly humbling…but it’s true. Every time we sin, we’re saying “oh, those rules don’t apply to me…God told me not to do this but I’m different, see, I’m strong enough to do it anyway.”

But Digory saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words and the view disgusted him. Digory was no fool and in that way, Lewis took a child and made him extraordinary.

Someone once said that it is often the least likely among us who is in a position to accomplish the most and Lewis proves that to be true over and over again.

He chooses the Cabby and his wife to become the first king and queen of Narnia. An ordinary, London cabman and his ordinary, London wife with equally ordinary names: Frank and Helen. There was nothing special about these lovely humans except that Frank happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Witch happened to commandeer his horse and cab to drive violently through the cobble-stone streets on her quest to rule the world.

But, at second glance, there was something special about Frank the Cabby: his kindness and bravery.

He tried to gently convince the Witch to relinquish her grip on Strawberry (Frank’s horse) when he could have used harsh language. He gave sensible advice when everyone (well, mainly Uncle Andrew haha) nearly lost their heads when they found themselves in Narnia at the dawn of its birth. He did all he could to help Digory get to see Aslan even though he and Digory had only known one another for probably about twenty-minutes.

And, best of all, when Aslan told him he would rule Narnia with his wife, Frank’s humility made him shrink from the idea at first but he bravely promised to do the best he could with what he had. The whole scene just melted my heart and I wish I could copy and paste it here but it’s too long so you’ll have to go and read The Magician’s Nephew for yourself 🙂

Someone like Uncle Andrew would not have been fit to be king. His arrogance and cunning would have made him a manipulative sovereign. Someone like Jadis the Witch would have made (and did make) a horrible queen. Her pride destroyed her world and evil bubbled in her heart like a foul-smelling swamp. Frank, on the other hand, thought himself so ill-equipped to be king which showed him to be the right man for the job.

As Paul said, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” | 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

What an encouragement for us, lovely humans! The Most High has chosen us, the most insignificant creatures, oath-breakers, glory thieves; He has chosen us to inherit eternal life, if we are in Him. What glorious condescension! It should make us praise Yahweh for all Eternity 🙂

Kindness and bravery are most often found in the simplest among us. Life at The Office taught me that over and over again (hang tight ’cause I’m missing The Office a bit extra this week haha). All of the lovely humans I met there were so incredibly ordinary but so many of them were also kind and brave. Kind enough to welcome me in and brave enough to share bits of themselves with me and with one another. It was indeed a brave new world.

Mmkay, The Office nostalgia is done haha Back to Narnia 🙂

The last person (animal haha) whom Aslan re-made was Strawberry himself, Frank’s horse. Aslan gave him a new name (ahem…this just SCREAMS of Bible Truth) and a new purpose and calling in life. He gave him wings (quite literally) and called him Fledge. He gave him words (once again quite literally) and raised him above the other beasts of our world, making him a Talking Beast.

And not for anything in the horse itself. Aslan chose Strawberry simply because he wanted to. Just like the Most High. He makes His children new creations, gives us new identities as Sons and Daughters of the King, Heirs of the Kingdom. He gives us new aspirations and new desires: to serve and glorify Him in whatever we do and to bring His Light to those around us.

The very last thing I want to mention, as I bring this post to a close, is a bit darker and less hopeful than what came before.

When Polly, Digory, Frank, Strawberry, Uncle Andrew, and the Witch first enter Narnia and witness Aslan sing it into existence, they all have vastly different reactions. Frank, Strawberry, and the children watch in joyful awe while Uncle Andrew and Jadis watch in hatred, fear, and anger.

Jadis tries to murder Aslan and Uncle Andrew talks incessantly about wanting to do so himself. As Aslan sings on, Jadis grows more entrenched in her wickedness, wrapping it around her like some sort of dark and twisted armour:

“But the Witch looked as if, in a way, she understood the music better than any of them. Her mouth was shut, her lips were pressed together, and her fists were clenched. Ever since the song began she had felt that this whole world was filled with a Magic different from hers and stronger. She hated it. She would have smashed that whole world, or all worlds, to pieces, if it would only stop the singing.” \ CS Lewis

Jadis listens with loathing and once again, the Apostle Paul’s words come to mind:

“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” | 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Polly, Digory, Frank, and Strawberry found Aslan’s voice sweet because he was already calling them to himself. Jadis hated his voice because it smelled like death to her: the death of her power, her will, her pride…all things she held dear and refused to part with. Uncle Andrew feared Aslan’s voice because he tricked himself into believing that Aslan’s words were actually growls.

Aslan bemoans his hardness of heart in a way that smacks curiously of King Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes:

“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” | CS Lewis

“Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” | Ecclesiastes 7:29

It’s a frightening thought. Some of us humans have so hardened ourselves that we cannot hear the voice of our Creator and, like Pharaoh, we will die for our defiance. When the Most High gives you up to your Darkness, it’s terrifying.

We use all the wrong fires to heat up the cold dark of this world and then we wonder why we’re still cold…just like Uncle Andrew. Or we’re so comfortable in the Darkness because it’s familiar and it makes us feel powerful and then the Light comes blazing in and it hurts and it’s foreign and it wants to make us change and we hate it…just like Jadis, the Witch. When you hear the Song of your Maker, everything changes: you either come Alive or you harden.

So much more could be said but this post is a bit lengthy and I did want to keep it as concise as I could 🙈

May Aslan’s words to Frank and Helen at their coronation encourage your heart as we continue to fight on in 2020 🙂

be just merciful and brave

| We’re in a War, my friends, and we all need Courage on the Front Lines ❤ |

 

 

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