The Magician’s Nephew, Chap. 15: Why We Read

Oh, Narnia. It’s here that we go our separate ways…for now. Books transport you into a whole new world, and the best part is, they can do it over and over again. Of course, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know that already. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I never actually read any of the books after Prince Caspian. Re-reading The Magician’s Nephew now makes me want to go back and read through the entire Narnia series. I think I’d like to go back and read the rest of the books and see what I missed. Aware, of course, of all the religious symbolism, racism, and sexism that I missed the first time around.

The final chapter is perhaps the most insightful; at the very least, it gave me the most to think about as a child. Aslan takes Polly, Digory, and the sleeping Uncle Andrew back to the Woods Between the Worlds and shows them a hollow in the grass.

‘When you were last here,’ said Aslan, ‘that hollow was a pool, and when you jumped into it you came to the world where a dying sun shone over the ruins of Charn. There is no pool now. That would is ended, as if it had never been. Let the race of Adam and Eve take warning.’

‘Yes, Aslan,’ said both the children. But Polly added, ‘But we’re not quite as bad as that world, are we, Aslan?’

‘Not yet, Daughter of Eve,’ he said. ‘Not yet. But you are growing more like it. 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. And very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Emperor Jadis.’

This book was published in 1955, though it takes place before World War I. I can’t help but think that Aslan’s warning to the children about the Deplorable Word was a thinly veiled reference to the atomic bomb. I couldn’t have known that when I read this more than a decade ago, nor could I understand just how bad the world could really be.

Now I see that our world is a scary place, and I’ve been very fortunate to have a comfortable life. Perhaps the question I’ve asked myself the most over the past two years, the one that I can’t answer, is, “Is the world getting worse, or am I just paying more attention?”

Unfortunately, I’m usually an optimist.  I want to believe that there is more good than bad, that love will conquer hate. More and more, it seems like the opposite of that is true.

But there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

And that fight is terribly, terribly frustrating. Because everyday I want to change the world, but I’m just one person.

And that’s why we need books. Because Digory and Polly protect Narnia from the evil they brought into it; because Digory saves his mother with a magical apple. Because they give us simple solutions to our complex problems. Because the world is terrible, the characters we love go through endless trials and tribulations, and things turn out okay.

Because real life needs more happy endings.

Final Verdict: Keep

For now, anyway. This will likely make it to the collection of children’s books my mom has on the unlikely chance that I’ll ever give her a grandchild.

I’ll be taking next week off, but starting on May 30, I’ll be back with Angelic Layer by CLAMP, which just happens to be the first manga I ever read. Stay tuned!

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