I’m actually not sure how many of the Narnia books I read when I was a kid. I had a collection that I stole from my sister, and I think I read through most of them, but I remember so little from any of them. If only I had been writing down my thoughts on books back then. Oh, the insights I would have now. I imagine I’d mainly be comparing them with The Hardy Boys and punctuating my thoughts with ‘psych!’ and ‘not!’. So really, not that far off from what I have now.
I decided to start re-reading with The Magician’s Nephew. It’s technically the sixth book in the publication order, which is the order I’d normally go by, but it’s the first novel chronologically. Random people on the Internet recommend the publication order, because the introduction to Aslan isn’t quite as good in this one as it is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I figure since I definitely at least read that novel and am partially familiar with the series, that doesn’t matter.
My main reason for starting this way was that on Audible each book has its own narrator and Kenneth Branagh narrates this one. I’ve really enjoyed his narration on other audiobooks, so it made sense to pick this up. I’ll choose between audio and physical for each of the next books in the series as I come to them. Patrick Stewart and Derek Jacobi both narrated a book, so I’ll likely go with the audio versions for those.
Pooh! Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations.
This is a bit of an oddity in the series, a prequel that he apparently started writing right after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but didn’t publish until five years, and four books, later. It follows childhood neighbours Digory and Polly as they’re thrust into another world by Digory’s cowardly uncle Andrew. We’re introduced to the White Witch, are shown how she escaped her world, how the wardrobe eventually came to be, how the lamppost originated, and we also witness the creation of Narnia. I’m still not sure whether their arrival to Narnia was the catalyst that spurred its birth or if it was just a fantastic coincidence, but either way we get to see Aslan gift some of the animals with speech and see the world come to life.
I had heard a lot of the religious allegory in Narnia, which went right over my head when I read these as a kid, and it’s very much present in this first/sixth novel. I was a little surprised with just how explicit it was. I’ve heard people describe it as being hit over the head with religion while reading, but I never felt like he was trying to persuade the reader in any way. I got the feeling he just loved the stories of Christianity and wanted to mirror them in his own fantasy world. Yes, obeying Aslan without question will lead to everything being awesome, but if you ignore the obvious parallels then most of the lessons and morals are universal and not really a problem.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
It’s an entertaining and quick read, and it’s both funny at times and heartwarming. What Digory was going through with his mother and how it played out was really touching. I look forward to re-reading the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe next. I’m not sure if I’ll go through the entire series or not right now. Patrick Stewart’s narration is on the final book, so that might keep me motivated to continue.