In this chapter we have the first appearance of Aslan, singing the world to life. We have the stars, a young sun, grass and trees…even after all these years, it’s still a magical moment. The thing that detracts from it most, however, is the characters. The children, the Cabby, and the horse all know that something important is happening, and that they are witnessing a rare and breath-taking event. Unfortunately, Uncle Andrew and Jadis can’t enjoy it, and they let everyone know.
The magic in Narnia is more powerful than Jadis’s own magic, but the real reason she can’t stand it is because she’s evil. It doesn’t get any deeper than that. It’s disappointing, but I should have known to expect that by now.
I guess I just don’t appreciate it when children’s books treat kids like they’re idiots. Children are smarter than we give them credit for, I think; they can handle a little moral ambiguity. I remember reading books like The Giver and Tuck Everlasting when I was in elementary school. Books that dealt with pretty heavy themes–euthanasia, mortality, freedom–many of which would not necessarily be called “kid-friendly”. They didn’t always wrap things up in neat and tidy ways, and would leave me with questions. They challenged the way I usually thought (“Why does my teacher think that Winnie dying was a happy ending?”), and helped introduce us to new ideas. You see that the world doesn’t fit in nice, neat boxes, and those are the lessons–and the books–that make a real impact on you. It seems pretty obvious as I write this, considering how well I remember those books, and how much of The Magician’s Nephew I forgot over the years.
Don’t get me wrong–the Narnia books (at least the ones I’ve read) are part of a wonderful series that I hold close to my heart, and I’m really enjoying The Magician’s Nephew right now. But as an adult, I can now see flaws in the books that I overlooked before.
My favorite part of this chapter was probably when the animals came to life. They rose out of the ground, and Aslan selected two of each kind to be talking animals. Uncle Andrew, however, continues to ruin the birth of a new world by freaking out. He keeps trying to get Polly and Digory to use their rings to get out of Narnia and back to their world, leaving Jadis (and the cabby) behind in Narnia. Digory doesn’t want to leave, though, because he believes Aslan could help save his mother.
“Digory’s heart beat wildly; he knew something very solemn was going to be done. He had not forgotten about his Mother; but he knew jolly well that, even for her, he couldn’t interrupt a thing like this.”
Uncle Andrew could learn something from him.