Clive Staples Lewis was a renowned British author, scholar, and theologian who is perhaps best remembered for crafting the fabled and mystical land of Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia. A beloved high fantasy classic, the series would see seven published novels over the course of the 1950s and several TV, theatrical, and movie adaptations in the following years. Few could argue that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe isn’t the most popular and well-known entry of the series, having also been the first to be finished by C.S. Lewis in 1949. Yet, what of its prequel, The Magician’s Nephew?
While the vast world of Narnia continued to expand with each new book, fans of the series would find themselves asking more questions. How did the world of Narnia come to be? Why did the wardrobe possess magical capabilities? Many of these inquiries would find their answers with The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis’ sixth published entry that sought to tie together the story elements introduced in the first novel.
As The Magician’s Nephew celebrates its 68th anniversary, we hope to inspire readers to delve into the world of Narnia for themselves by examining some interesting notes surrounding its author, the writing process, and inspirations for his acclaimed prequel.
A Mysterious Lamp-post
According to C.S. Lewis, there were no plans to expand upon Narnia beyond that of the first novel. However, when his good friend and fellow Oxford academic, Roger Lancelyn Green, questioned the seemingly bizarre presence of a lamp-post in the middle of a fantasy landscape such as Narnia, Lewis had no answer to give. Green, who proved to be a great influence on Lewis during the creation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, would once again be instrumental in the production of the story’s prequel.
The question posed by Green compelled Lewis to produce a narrative to transport his audience to a time long before the adventures of the Pevensie siblings through Professor Digory Kirke’s wooden wardrobe. The lamp-post became one of several important topics of interest that were further elaborated upon, providing fans of the series with a richer background of Narnia’s history, magic, and its colorful cast of memorable characters.
An Autobiography Comes Together With Fantasy
When compared with the other six novels that make up The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis found himself spending much more time than anticipated when writing The Magician’s Nephew. In fact, the book would prove a challenge to produce as it was written and rewritten over the course of a five-year period. It only became apparent following the book’s release that Lewis had incorporated several of his own life experiences into the character of young Digory, as one can observe many parallels between them throughout the story.
In a way, the author produced an autobiographical account that was reflected in Digory’s personality and characteristics. Both of them grew up in the same time frame of the early 20th century. Each of them shared the pain of loss during their childhood with the deaths of their mothers. Additionally, the lengthy absence of a father would instill a feeling of isolation within the author and his creation. Lewis would take care in reflecting on his own strengths and weaknesses in the young Digory such as his affinity for reading and relatively poor handling of experience with numbers. The author identified himself with his work and used his own experiences to create a believable backstory for his protagonist.
Consistent Biblical Parallels
It is no secret C.S. Lewis’ work is often in the form of an allusion to the stories found in the Holy Bible. As a theologian who professed his faith in Jesus Christ, many of his published novels such as The Chronicles of Narnia contained close parallels to scripture. Other examples were more direct in their thematic approaches to Christianity such as The Screwtape Letters. Likewise, the author continued his trademark style in The Magician’s Nephew.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe portrayed the death for atonement and resurrection of Christ in the character of Aslan, who shared a similar fate in order to vanquish the great evil. As befitting a prequel, C.S. Lewis chose to include biblical allusions to the Book of Genesis with its creation story, original sin, and the fall of man. The forbidden fruit shares its counterpart with the Apple of Life, which was the object of temptation for Digory Kirke, as it was with Eve from the Garden of Eden. And lastly, the creation of Narnia by Aslan itself bears close parallels to that of the Earth’s creation story by the Word of God.
C.S. Lewis spared no iota of inspiration in producing his fictional works with intertwined elements of Christianity. In the hopes of presenting biblical principles through a lens of fantasy to be accessible by all, the talented British author and theologian brought forth a lasting legacy of books that continue to be read and enjoyed by different audiences around the world.
For those who consider themselves connoisseurs of the fantasy genre, make sure to acquire The Magician’s Nephew and immerse yourselves into the world of Narnia as it first began.
Curious to know more about C.S. Lewis and his work? Be sure to see what else Bookstr has in store for you here.