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Literature: The Magician's Nephew

The sixth book written in The Chronicles of Narnia series, and the first one chronologically, its events taking place before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

In this prequel, two Edwardian children, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, accidentally visit the dead world of Charn, where Digory falls for Schmuck Bait, waking the Empress Jadis. She boasts about how she destroyed all life on her world, and forces the children to take her to London, where she causes a public disturbance. Eventually Jadis, the children, Digory's wicked Uncle Andrew, and a cabbie and his horse get a front row seat for the creation of Narnia by Aslan. Jadis is exiled to the far North, the cabbie and his wife (who gets transported there by Aslan) become king and queen, and the children and Uncle Andrew are returned home.

This book provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Both Jadis and Uncle Andrew think this way. "Ours is a high and lonely destiny." Of course, all the good characters realize that both Jadis and Uncle Andrew are full of crap. Digory nicely lampshades and deconstructs it:
    "All it means," he said to himself, "is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants."
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Frank and his wife Nellie become the Adam and Eve of Narnia.
  • After the End: Charn, the White Witch's home world.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Inverted and subverted when on Charn, Digory and Polly see an inscription on a bell written in another language. While the language does not change, the kids can understand it due to a magic in the air. Something similar may have happened when Jadis woke up and was able to communicate with them.
    • When off Charn, Jadis inexplicably does speak English, though her spell casting is still done in her original language and doesn't work outside of Charn.
  • Apocalypse How: The Deplorable Word. Class 4, planetary at the minimum and possibly universal.
  • Backstory: For Professor Kirke, the Wardrobe, and Narnia itself. Also for the White Witch.
  • Beautiful Void: The Wood between the worlds. It is a dense forest, with a grass floor and many shallow, stagnant pools of water. Each pool is connected to a different world, and the only way to get to this place is through the use of special magic rings, created by Andrew. The place has a very peaceful, blissful, soporific atmosphere. There are no creatures there, save for the ones that have used the rings to get there... and those that have have most likely entered an deep, indefinite, peaceful, dreamless sleep.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Jadis is an aversion. Digory is at first smitten with her, but he and Polly soon find out that she is certainly not good.
    • It's even lampshaded - he notes that really she's just as bad as Uncle Andrew, but it's tough to remember because Uncle Andrew isn't seven feet tall and stunningly beautiful.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The warning on the garden wall that Jadis ignores: the apple she ate made her immortal, but because of her evil heart she'll live a life of misery.
    Aslan: All get what they want; they do not always like it.
  • Big Bad: Jadis.
  • British Accents: Frank the cab driver starts out with a cockney accent. It slowly disappears the longer he talks to Aslan.
  • Brought Down to Badass: After arriving in England, Jadis finds her dismay that her magic does not work. However, she's still incredibly tall and strong enough to tear a lamppost's arm off.
  • Byronic Hero: Deconstructed with Uncle Andrew, who for all his cynicism and professed devotion to higher ideals, is little more than a pathetic bully.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: An odd example since it's an uncle rather than a father: Digory to Uncle Andrew, throughout the entire book.
  • Character Title: Diggory is the nephew, and his Uncle Andrew is the Magician.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: The bell in Charn — its associated inscription summarises this trope fairly well.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Spell: The Deplorable Word.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The magical incantation by the white witch Jadis is this. After ruling her home planet of Charn as a cruel and capricious tyrant with a 0% Approval Rating and on the eve of defeat by her own subjects, Jadis out of pure spite uttered the deplorable word, resulting in the instant death of every living thing in that universe except herself.
    • Though the war was against her sister, implied to have been almost as evil, at least if the wax figures presenting the last members of the imperial house are anything to go by, as they all appear cruel and miserable.
  • Disappeared Dad: Digory's father was working in India. This resulted in Digory and his mother having to move into his Aunt and Uncle's house.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: We are never told what is killing Digory's mum, but cancer claimed both C. S. Lewis' mother and his wife in Real Life. Justified since The Magician's Nephew is set in the Edwardian Era, before cancer diagnosis and treatment were commonplace.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Deplorable Word. This book was written during the cold war.
    • This is even lampshaded at the end, when Aslan warns Digory and Polly that in their own lifetimes, it's possible that their world will invent something as destruction as the Deplorable Word.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Polly's reaction to Digory’s going after the Schmuck Bait.
    • And Digory's reaction when Polly took the ring from Uncle Andrew.
  • Einstein Hair: Uncle Andrew.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: How Jadis makes her mistake when tempting Digory in the climax.
    • Played with in the case of Uncle Andrew. He understands goodness well enough to know that tricking Polly into using the rings to go to another world would also get Digory to go, since his nephew was too good a person to abandon his friend to whatever dangers she could have landed in. When they go to Narnia though, all he thinks about is how the magical world can benefit him. When Digory wonders if there's something there that could cure his mother (Andrew's sister), Uncle Andrew can't for the life of him figure out why Digory is bothering with such silly questions.
  • Evil Is Cool: Subverted with Jadis. Did you expect C. S. Lewis not to? invoked
  • Fantastic Nuke: The "Deplorable Word": a magic word that, if spoken, instantly kills all life forms in the world except the speaker. Lewis makes the nuclear allegory pretty transparent, especially in the description of the burned-out remains of Charn and the Aesop that Aslan delivers at the end:
    "It is not certain that some wicked member of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon, very soon, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis."
  • Fridge Horror: In-universe. Diggory is about to run off exploring other worlds when Polly thinks to mark the pool they came from. The thought of what might have happened if she hadn't thought of it - trapped and unable to find their way home in an infinite wood full of infinite pools of water all of which look exactly alike - scares Diggory so badly he can barely use his knife to make the mark.
    • When Aslan explains how the special apples do indeed grant the user his wish, but how the wish inevitably gets spoiled if the apple is not obtained legitimately, he mentions that had Digory taken one home to his mother as Jadis recommended, she would indeed have recovered just as Jadis said, but then a future day in their lives would be so horrible that Digory and his mother would both ultimately look back on that day and wish she had died instead.
  • Genocide from the Inside: Jadis did this by using the Deplorable Word, killing everyone in her world when she was on the edge of losing a civil war.
  • Genre Savvy: Digory warns Uncle Andrew that, as he's obviously a villain, he better expect retribution for what he does. Uncle Andrew privately thinks, "Oh Crap, he's right!" before trying to laugh it off as Digory reading too many fairy tales.
    • Polly is Genre Savvy enough to suspect that the warning next to the bell in Charn (which says that anyone who reads said warning must either strike the bell or go insane wondering what would have happened otherwise) is just Schmuck Bait and not actually putting them under an enchantment. She's right. Unfortunately, Digory does fall for it.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Andrew
  • Ghost Planet: The world of Charn.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Two sisters started a civil war over the throne of Charn, and one of them was an Omnicidal Maniac. It didn't end well.
  • Good Hurts Evil: Though it is a Beautiful Void, the Wood Between the Worlds is described with very positive imagery. When Digory, Polly, and Jadis return there after Digory and Polly meet Jadis in Charn, Jadis seems to be in extreme discomfort and begs the children to take her somewhere else:
    "Help! Help! Mercy!" cried the Witch in a faint voice, staggering after them. "Take me with you. You cannot...mean to leave me in this horrible place. It is killing me."
    "It's a reason of State," said Polly spitefully. "Like when you killed all those people in your own world."
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The song that Aslan sings to create the animals causes Digory and Uncle Andrew to become "aroused." (Though thankfully not for Aslan, or each other.)
  • Humiliation Conga: Unintentional on the animals' part, but it's what they put Uncle Andrew through as they try to take care of him since they can't communicate with him and have no idea what he is. He really, really deserved it though.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: The green and yellow rings, which allow one to enter the Wood between the Worlds and leave there for any number of worlds.
  • It's All About Me
  • The Last Temptation
  • Locked into Strangeness: Uncle Andrew.
  • Magic Music: Aslan sings an entire world into existence.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Digory's curiosity gets the better of him and results in Jadis being awakened.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Newly-crowned King Frank establishes himself as the first in a long line of kind Narnian rules through this trope, as we see he's incredibly devoted to his horse, Strawberry. He ignores Jadis's rage in his efforts to calm the poor thing down and, when he sees that Strawberry became one of the talking horses, he's pleasantly surprised and says that he always knew his horse was very smart.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The town of Charn; when Digory and Polly first arrive, both are creeped out by the sheer darkness and emptiness of the ruins around them. When they fear something may be stalking them, they stop and listen closely; all they hear are their own heartbeats.
    • The second couplet of the "Schmuck Bait Verse" might invoke this as well, or at least "Nothing Is More Maddening."
  • Oh Crap: Done non-verbally in The Wood Between the Worlds, when Polly realizes, just before they move away from "their" pool, that all of the pools are identical, and they have no way of finding theirs again after they leave. After they look at each other, Digory shakily takes out his pocket knife and digs up the turf next to their pool. It's all but stated that they realize how close they came to being lost forever.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Jadis's backstory.
  • Out of Order: Due to the book chronologically occurring first, some editions label it as the first book, while others label it 6th (out of 7) because Lewis wrote it 6th. Naturally, it works better the latter way thanks to the reader knowing the importance of everything they're seeing to later events.
  • Panacea: The silver apples.
  • Portal Network: The Wood Between the Worlds.
  • Portal Pool: Many in "The Wood Between the Worlds".
  • The Power of Creation: Explicitly stated to be the source of one of Lion/Witch/Wardrobe's biggest mysteries: the lamp post. Jadis unwittingly brought a bar from an English lamp with her to Narnia and tried to attack Aslan with it; the bar was imbued with a life force where it fell, and it grew into a brand new lamp post. Similarly, coins from Andrew's pockets grow into two small trees of gold and silver.
  • Prequel: To the Narnia series as a whole, but specifically to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • Schmuck Bait: In verse, no less:
    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.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Jadis the White Witch put herself into suspended animation after destroying her world, and left a way for any visitors to wake her up, so that they’d take her to a new world.
  • Seven Minute Lull: A jackdaw in the newly-created Narnia does this, to the great amusement of the other talking animals. Rather than scold his creations for laughing, Aslan, equally amused, informs the jackdaw that he has become the first joke.

  • Shout-Out:
    • "“In those days Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road.”
      • The Russian translation for no discernible reason changes the reference to Bastables to reference to Father Brown from stories by G. K. Chesterton.
    • The trees of silver and of gold have analogs in the works of Lewis' longtime friend J. R. R. Tolkien.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Jadis. Her beauty is noted more than once, and when on Earth she is shown to be taller than everyone else.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Played for Laughs when Jadis is on rampage in England. The cabbie whose carriage and horse she stole kindly tells her that a lady like herself shouldn't be involved in such a to-do, and she should go home and have a nice cup of tea and lie down. Given that Jadis is knocking out a police officer with a lamp post she ripped out of the ground while she's being told this, it just establishes the cabbie as well-meaning but not terribly perceptive.
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Jadis wiped out all the living things in Charn because her sister won the civil war.
    • Notably, Jadis did not die from using the Deplorable Word, so the "suicidal" part doesn't apply. Given that everything else was dead, though, she placed herself in a state of torpor afterward to wait for visitors.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Digory had to retrieve the apple himself. Had a Narnian taken it, it would have been for themselves and eventually caused Narnia to turn bad. However, if an outsider like Digory took it, it would have been taken for the sake of others.
    • Him calling out Jadis on her lies ends up like this as well. He realizes for himself how hollow everything she says is, and asks just when she became so "precious fond" of his mother all of a sudden. Polly cheers him on for the revelation, and the narrator lampshades it with "You'll notice she kept quiet for the whole conversation. It wasn't her mother dying of some illness."
  • Tsundere: Polly.
  • Übermensch: Jadis. Of course, being a book by C. S. Lewis, there is an even stronger force.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Frank the cab driver, and his wife Helen. They care more about protecting the talking animals and appreciating the beauty of the new land than being shocked by this new fantasy world...and Aslan crowns them the first king and queen for it.
  • Villain Decay: Uncle Andrew ceases to be intimidating in the slightest once Jadis enters the story. Diggory compares it to an earthworm not being very scary compared to a rattlesnake.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: After our heroes accidentally bring Jadis back to Earth, the book keeps shifting between domestic and cosmic. Most notably is when Polly remembers she's mad at Diggory, and tells him she's going home.
    • For some time, Polly is also kept out of the search for Jadis because when she went home, her parents got angry with her for running off, not being able to give a satisfactory explanation for where she'd been, and she'd been sent to her room as punishment.
  • We Can Rule Together: Jadis tempts Digory to eat the Apple of Youth so the two of them can rule the world as king and queen forever.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Jadis tempts Digory to take the apple back to Earth for his mother instead of giving to Aslan. While she was already having trouble convincing him, she shoots herself in the foot by suggesting that he leave Polly behind in order to ensure nobody could tell on him. Polly has her own way home, but even if she didn't it would never have even occurred to Digory to abandon her; the suggestion makes him realize that if Jadis cares nothing for Polly, there's no reason for her to care about his mother either and there must be a catch in her proposal.
  • Wish Fulfillment: Arguably, when Aslan gives Digory the means to save his mother. Note that Lewis lost his own mother at a young age to a long illness, probably cancer.
  • World Tree: Several of them, each a significant plot point.
  • X Must Not Win: Jadis' attitude towards her sister.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: Jadis' attempts to enter the garden by climbing the wall; as Digory pointed out, it's pointless to try to climb the wall when you can just open the gate. Then again, we don't know whether or not Jadis could open the gate, since she never even tried.
  • Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: Lampshaded. Uncle Andrew calls the talking bulldog "good doggie then, poor old boy" before fainting. The narrator remarks that it's a good thing the bulldog couldn't understand him, because he would have hated being called a 'good doggie then' "anymore than you would have liked to have been called 'my little man'."

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alternative title(s): The Magicians Nephew
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