Although published as the sixth in the series, The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis is the first of the Narnia books when arranged chronologically. Much is explained in this book of beginnings, including the origin of the magic wardrobe, the presence of a lamp post in Narnia, and the creation of Narnia itself.
In The Magician’s Nephew, the Professor Kirke of the previous books is a young boy named Digory. He is the nephew of a vain and foolish magician named Andrew Ketterly. Digory and his friend Polly, with the aid of some magic rings, are transported into another world, a cold, dying place named Charn. In Charn, Digory foolishly releases a wicked queen named Jadis from a trance-like state, and Jadis follows him back to our world where she immediately attempts to set up a kingdom of her own. Digory uses the rings to get Jadis out of our world again, and they arrive in an empty place where they find a Lion singing. In response to the Lion’s song, stars appear, and a sun and plants and animals. Of course, the Lion is Aslan, and what Digory witnesses is the creation of Narnia. In this new world, Digory faces (and resists) a grave temptation before he returns home. Jadis stays in the northern regions of the other world and becomes the White Witch who appears in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
In chapter 9 of The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis provides a beautiful picture of creation ex nihilo as Aslan creates Narnia. In later chapters, several biblical themes are illustrated, including the garden of Eden, the first temptation, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. The creative, life-giving power of Aslan is contrasted with the destructive, life-robbing power of Jadis, the witch who had reduced her previous world to a dark, ruinous wasteland. The Lion of Narnia gives himself to his creatures: “‘Creatures, I give you yourselves,’ said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. ‘I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself’” (chapter 10). In contrast, the Queen of Charn selfishly takes whatever power and glory she can steal.
The major theme of The Magician’s Nephew is “rules have a purpose.” Several characters in the book believe themselves to be “above the law,” and each one pays a price. The Lord Jesus (in the form of Aslan) is presented as the all-powerful Creator/Artist of the world and as the loving, kindly Lawmaker. Other themes in The Magician’s Nephew include the importance of exercising power responsibly, the joy and freedom of obedience, and the foolishness of trusting our limited perspective.