When you're a shy, awkward child who doesn't have a lot of friends, you read. Or at least, I did. My favorite type of book was fantasy because the heroes and heroines of those books were always shy, awkward children who didn't have a lot of friends, and yet they triumphed in spite of that. In hindsight, that feels a bit exploitative, but child-me at that stuff up without questioning it too deeply. Since I've been in the mother of all book slumps, I figured what better way to get out than by picking up an old favorite, the Narnia series, and breezing through them all?
I'm doing this slightly differently and reading them in chronological order rather than publication order, so I actually kicked off this experiment with a book that I hadn't read yet, which was THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW. In publication order, I believe it is book #6, coming just before LAST BATTLE. However, in the chronology of the series, it is actually the "first."
THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW is a cool book because it explains the origin of both Narnia and the White Witch, as well as the Professor who agrees to take in the Pevensie children during the chaos of WWII. Reading it just before THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE was a real treat, because where THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW ENDS, THE LION begins, so depending on which series order you choose, it either brings the entire series full circle before ending it OR kicks of the story while treating you, the reader, with insider knowledge that will give you new perspective.
Rereading this was pretty great because my mom used to read me this book when I was a kid and still had what could be called a "nursery." I've also watched most of the film adaptations including the 1979 animated version, the 1988 TV movie version from BBC, and then the 2005 version that came out in theaters, hoping to ride on the coattails of the Post Harry Potter fantasy craze. I know my opinion isn't the popular one here, but I actually like the theatrically-released one the least. My favorite will always be the BBC one. It's cheesy and most of the animals are portrayed by people who are obviously wearing animal costumes and makeup, but it gives the movies a weird sort of charm. Plus, the opening music is kick-ass. Nothing like a French horn bugles, THIS IS FANTASY, BITCH.
I still liked the book upon rereading it but I definitely noticed a lot of stuff that flew over my head when I was a kid. There are elements of that Cold War paranoia in here (although more so in the prequel, THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW), many Christian allegories to the Bible and Original Sin, and there's also a shocking amount of sexism, with Susan and Lucy being excluded by all of the battles save for a "cry for help" or healing capacity, and Santa Claus himself even tells them that wars are uglier when women are involved, whatever that means. Also, Aslan's a judgy f*ck. Don't @ me.
This is a very short book and I was kind of surprised by how quickly it was over and how much of a movie they were able to make of it despite that. Some of the scenes have still stuck with me all these years, like Lucy's first tumbling through the Wardrobe, the flight through the cold and snowy forest, the night of the Stone Table, and the hall of the statues where they all come to life - relieving them as an adult is like seeing a double-exposed image; you experience it again as an adult while also remembering your childhood experiences of it with fond nostalgia. The ending always made me sad, because it felt like an allegory for growing up and having to leave fantasy behind.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series!
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars
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