The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew Study Guide

C.S. Lewis is an author of children’s literature. He is most widely known for The Chronicles of Narnia series; he also has written scholarly books and fictional works about Christianity. The Chronicles of Narnia series consists of seven books in total, and the first book to be published was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1951). The Chronicles of Narnia is considered a children’s literature classic, and has been published in forty-seven languages, and has sold over 100 million copies.

Narnia is a magical land that is ruled by a god-like lion named Aslan. Narnia features fantastical creatures such as nymphs, fauns, satyrs, witches, dwarves, and talking animals. Lewis drew from a wide variety of tales and myths to write the mythical creatures in the story. One reason Lewis appreciated the fairy tale genre was for the simplicity of the stories; in many ways, Lewis’ works have characteristics of fairy tales, such as the simple narrative style of the series.

The Magician’s Nephew took Lewis over five years to complete. It was published in 1955, and tells the story of the beginning of the fantastical land Narnia. The Magician's Nephew was originally published as the sixth book of the seven book Chronicles. However, in 1956, a young reader suggested to C. S. Lewis that The Magician’s Nephew should be the first book in the series, and C.S. Lewis appeared to agree with the suggestion ("History of Narnia"). Harper Collins then republished the series in 1994 with The Magician’s Nephew as Book One. There has also been debate over where the book The Horse in the Boy (published fifth originally, and published as book three under Harper Collins) fits in the series. Lewis is said to have concluded that the order in which one reads the books is not very important, as he did not write them to be in any particular order, nor did he plan the series in advance.

In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis introduces the origins of the iconic characters of Aslan the Lion and the evil Queen Jadis, who is known as the White Witch in other parts of the series. Digory Kirke is also introduced in The Magician’s Nephew, as a child who witnesses the creation of Narnia; in later books, Digory is the old Professor Kirke.

The Narnia series was written in the early 1950s, not long after World War II. In the books, Lewis reflects some of his own experience through the character of Digory Kirke. For example, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the character of Professor Kirke shelters children in his home during the war; Lewis also did this. In addition, Digory Kirke as a young boy in The Magician’s Nephew has a dying mother; Lewis, too, dealt with his mother’s illness and death at a young age.

The Chronicles of Narnia has been both praised and criticized for the Christian themes interwoven into the characters and stories of the novels. The series presents the conflict of faith and logic, as well as raising moral questions about whether good will always triumph over evil. Although there are Christian themes present, as well as many allusions to Christian texts and allegories, the overall magic of the story is found in the fantasy of the world of Narnia, and thus appeals to children and adults of all faiths.