We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Magician's Nephew

As I have previously written, I am reading the Chronicles of Narnia in the chronological order of events occurring in Narnia. Therefore the first book from the series which I have read is The Magician's Nephew in which we discover how it is that Narnia came about. We also learn where the wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe comes from.

Right at the start of the Magician's Nephew we meet the two characters that will become central in us discovering the world of Narnia. We meet Diggory (maybe this is where Rowling got Cedric Diggory from?) and Polly who are used by Diggory's uncle to discover the world that his rings lead to. A yellow ring takes you from our world to another, and a green ring brings you back again. Polly is tricked into wearing a ring, and Diggory has to go after her to save her. But where do they go when they have the rings on? They go to the world between worlds and from there they can go to another world.

The first world that they go to is Charn where a spell has been cast and everyone there is stone or I should say everyone there is a statue. There is a bell with the following words on it:

Make your choice, adventurous stranger
Strike the bell and bide the danger
Or wonder, till it drives you mad

What would have followed if you had

Diggory is curious and driven by these words and strikes the bell even though Polly doesn't want him to. The bell breaks the spell, but only one person wakes up - Jadis an evil witch. Diggory and Polly take her back with them to the World between Worlds where Jadis starts to feel week. Diggory and Polly think they can shirk her, but she holds onto Diggory and follows them back to London where she starts to sow chaos wherever she goes.

Luckily Diggory and Polly find a way to get her back to the World between Worlds, and want to take her back to Charn, but instead they get into a world that is black. But they are not alone, a horse named Strawberry as well as his owner are with them on this journey. It is black because it still has not been created. But Aslan who is the creator of Narnia is doing his walk and singing his song that will result in the birth or Genesis of Narnia. Diggory's uncle Andrew is also with them on this second journey beyond the World Between Worlds. And he does not like the song that Alsan is singing. From Aslan's words things start to come to life.

Soon there are animals, and among those animals Aslan chooses two of each - one male and one female whom he gives the ability to speak. Aslan warns these animals who have been given the gift of speech that an evil has entered their new world and calls upon Diggory to help fight it, since it is he who brought the evil into this world. Diggory has to find a tree and bring from it a fruit which will help to keep away the evil Jadis. Polly goes along to help him, and Aslan asks Strawberry who is now named Flint to take them. Flint gets wings which helps to speed along the journey. What he says when Aslan asks him to take Diggory to find the fruit is my favourite line in the book: "Oh, I don't mind two, not when they're little ones," said Fledge. "But I hope the Elephant doesn't want to come as well."

They get to the garden, and at the gates of the Garden there is this sign:

Come in my gold gates or not at all
Take of my fruit for others or forbear

For those who steal or those who climb my wall

Shall find their heart's desire and find despair

The evil Jadis followed Diggory, Polly and Flint and went into the garden for her own evil will. She tries to tempt Diggory to take the fruit and go back home and give it to his mother to cure her. Luckily Diggory does not fall for her trickery and goes back to Aslan with the fruit. Aslan then gives Diggory what he needs to help his mother get better by giving him a fruit from the tree that has grown from the fruit that Diggory brought him.

Diggory gets very special instructions about what to do with the remnant of this fruit. He buries it in their garden at home and from it grows a tree. When the tree fell over he had a wardrobe made from it. This review leaves much to be desired, since I did not want to give too much of the plot away. I just wanted to give you a taste of what to expect in this first book about the birth of Narnia.

Lewis uses a great amount of intertextuality. Here is the definition of intertextuality as defined by Wikipedia:

"Intertexuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another."

Examples of intertextual referencing in The Magician's Nephew is the allusion to Adam and Eve, Eve's temptation by the snake, Helen of Troy, Pegasus and the book of Genesis. There is also the inclusion of some mythical creatures, such as Nymphs, Fauns, Satyrs and Naiads. And there is also a reference to Dwarfs.

One thing that I really got from Modern Fiction, is that the writer of the story is the ideal writer who writes for the ideal reader. Who is the ideal reader you wonder? The ideal reader is the person who knows just as much as the writer. So if the writer has one of his characters shouting out "I'm melting!" after being wet with water, we know that the writer is referring to The Wizard of Oz where the wicked witch has been thrown with water. This is sort of like an inside joke, as it is the use of intertextuality that has the writer seeking his ideal reader. So to be the ideal reader that C.S. Lewis is writing for, you would have to know mythology and various fairy tales and you would have to be knowledgable about the Bible.

C.S. Lewis also refers to Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Treasure Island by R.L. Stevens and Atlantis. He refers to these directly, which I think is good, as it will encourage the keen reader to seek out these books and read them so that they may become the Ideal Reader.

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