7 Facts You Might Not Know About The Magician's Nephew
The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the most beloved series of all time. Almost everyone has read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and loved to escape to the magical world of Narnia where animals can talk, children are heroes and Good almost always prevails.
But not everyone has read The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the series! Before our production of the show this November, we put together a list of 8 facts that you might not know about this phenomenal story!
1. It was the last book finished in The Chronicles of Narnia series
That's right! Despite being the first book in the series, it was actually the final book completed by C.S. Lewis. He wrote it over a five-year period from 1949 to 1954, while the other six books in the series were written from 1948 to 1953.
Despite that, it was not actually the final book published. The publishers decided to publish The Magician's Nephew before the final book in the series, The Last Battle.
2. It is partly autobiographical
C.S. Lewis and Digory, one of the two children at the centre of The Magician's Nephew, share many similarities! They were both children living in the first decade of the 20th century and both had to leave their families at a very young age. Both Lewis and Digory (as well as Polly) were not very good at math—the children struggle with sums as they try to figure out how far they've come crossing the attic, while Lewis failed the maths entrance exam at Oxford.
Lewis remembered many rainy days in the summer as a child, and Digory is faced with the same problem. Plus, Digory eventually grows up to be a professor who takes in children during the Second World War, just like Lewis himself!
3. Many people maintain that you shouldn't read it first
The fact that The Magician's Nephew is often the first book in a set of The Chronicles of Narnia is controversial! That has only been the case since the 1980s when HarperCollins decided to publish a set with that order. Many people believe that the series should be read in the published order, rather than the timeline within Narnia as it is often presented.
To support this, point to a part of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe where Lucy enters Narnia—if you already know the details of The Magician's Nephew it ruins the wonder and suspense of the moment when she enters a strange, unknown world with a lamppost!
4. There is an abandoned fragment of the story that is very different
In the abandoned original draft of the story, Digory is born with the ability to talk to trees and animals in our own world. He meets Polly, who wants to build a raft in order to sail down a stream that leads to an underground world. Digory, while helping to build the raft, decides to cut a branch off of a tree which leads him to lose his ability to talk to animals and trees. Finally, his godmother, Mrs. Lefay, visits knowing that he has lost his abilities and instructs him to visit a furniture shop at which point the fragment ends.
This is very different than the novel we know and love today! Except that Mrs. Lefay remains as Digory's uncle Andrew's godmother who bequeathed him a box of magic dust.
5. There are echoes of the emerging Cold War in the story
When C.S. Lewis was writing the novel, the Cold War was just beginning between the United States and the U.S.S.R. and the dropping of the atomic bombs was not long before. This is strongly echoed in his description of the end of the world of Charn—Jadis speaks the Deplorable Word and instantly destroys all living creatures on the planet except for herself.
Indeed, Aslan warns of this threat later in the novel when he says: "You [Earth] are growing more like it [Charn]. It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as evil as The Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things."
6. The Magician's Nephew may be coming to a small screen near you
In 2018, Netflix entered into an agreement with the C.S. Lewis Company that would see them develop stories from Narnia into TV series and films. According to reports, the terms of the agreement include all seven books, which is unique as the previous film series did not have rights to all of the books.
As of 2022, no major news has been released, but Netflix did confirm in April 2022 that the project is still in development. We can't wait to see what they have coming!
7. The play premiered at the Shaw Festival in 2018
The script written by Michael O'Brien and Tim Carroll that Gallery 7 Theatre is producing has only been produced once before: at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario! We can't wait for you to see this stunning and layered adaptation of C.S. Lewis' magical tale.
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis is starting on November 11 at the Abbotsford Arts Centre!