The Temptation of the Garden: Good, Evil, and Aslan in The Magician’s Nephew

During his life, C.S. Lewis writes a collection of seven novels that he publishes into his well-known Chronicles of Narnia series, which sheds light on Narnia’s history. These novels introduce similar themes with the first book in the series named, The Magician’s Nephew. Most importantly, we learn how Aslan, the Lion who can be seen as a symbol of Jesus created the world but also how evil first entered into Narnia because of two children. A clear theme C.S. Lewis introduced in The Magician’s Nephew is the parallel to the original sin and temptation presented in the Book of Genesis by Adam and Eve with the temptation of the snake. This is a parallel to the story of Adam and Eve but this story differs slightly. Digory does not give into the temptation of disobeying the rules of the Garden, but he does give into the temptation of ringing the bell that awakens Jadis which is his first mistake. Digory learns from his mistakes and figures out the difference between right and wrong after being lectured to by Aslan. He wants to make amends for his earlier mistakes so he does not feed into the wrong temptations once again. Looking closely at The Magician’s Nephew, we see the influence Aslan has in Digory and Polly’s lives and in turn this influence is what compels them to want to undo the harm they have already caused in their own world.

In The Magician’s Nephew, we learn about Digory and Polly’s initial mistake to awaken Jadis, the Witch who has been in a deep slumber. The only way she would be woken up is if someone was to ring a mysterious bell and the curiosity of the two children would change their lives forever. They thought it would be fine to ring the bell but the narrator speaks on the children’s blunder by saying, “And both thought it was; but they had never been more mistaken in their lives” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 37). They thought ringing the bell would have no effect but little did they know that Queen Jadis was awakened and ready to wreak havoc. Apparently, the bell simply symbolizes the start of chaos in the novel because before the bell was rung, everything was peaceful. Along with the bell symbolizing this significant change, I also believe this foreshadows the trouble the character of Jadis will bring to everyone she encounters. But what’s truly interesting is that, Polly and Digory have differing opinions on the Queen. Polly states that, “This is a terrible woman” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 39). While, Digory exclaims, “She’s wonderfully brave. And strong. She’s what I call a Queen! I do hope she’s going to tell us the story of this place” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 39). Initially, the two children have two opposing impressions of Jadis. The only reason that Digory is mesmerized by Queen Jadis is because he’s a boy and this may be the first time he’s ever seen a woman with such power so he instantly develops a crush. Polly on the other hand, sees right through Jadis and knows that her introduction smells trouble for everyone. Digory is clearly startled when Jadis reveals her interest in going back to Earth and when the dust settles, he can infer that if she does come back to Earth, things will be turned upside-down. Digory and Polly seem to finally realize their mistakes once they witness the creation of Narnia by Aslan. (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 79). Once Digory realizes the severity of his “Son of Adam” nomer, he knows he has potentially destroyed Aslan’s creation and like Adam in the Bible, Digory’s initial curiosity is what is going to bring turmoil to Narnia. Altogether, with the introduction of Aslan, Digory and Polly know their curiosity has brought evil amongst the inhabitants of Narnia and the only way to undo the wrong, is to follow and abide by the teachings of the Great Aslan.

By the later stages of the novel, Aslan knows the grief Digory is dealing with and tasks him with one simple mission. This mission represents a change in direction for Digory in that, he realizes his boyish wonders put many people in danger earlier but now he wants to make a change, for the better. If successful, this mission would protect Narnia for years to come and also heal Digory’s ailing mother; however, this is where temptation arises once again. When he initially smells the forbidden fruit, the narrator states, “A terrible thirst and hunger came over him and a longing to taste that fruit” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 92). So it’s definitely possible that if Digory didn’t have the guidance of Aslan he would have disobeyed the sacred rule of the tree. The question arises, why doesn’t Digory eat the Apple? Perhaps it is because he feels like he is under some sort of surveillance. It could also be the simple fact that he can’t go against the Tao or natural law according to the narrator, “Things like Do Not Steal were, I think, hammered into boys’ heads a good deal harder in those days than they are now. Still we can never be certain” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 92). Digory’s values seem to finally take over when he thinks of the possible consequences of eating the forbidden fruit. He sets his sights on returning the fruit to Aslan, but as expected, Queen Jadis appears once again. C.S. Lewis makes this stage the turning point of the novel, because we as the audience know how easily Digory gave into his temptations earlier in the novel and he is thus challenged once more by a greater power to see if he will give in once again.

To further tempt Digory, the Queen states, “Think of me, Boy, when you lie old and weak and dying, and remember how you threw away the chance of endless youth! It won’t be offered you again” (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 95). However, Digory has learned from his earlier mistakes and does not give into the witches’ claims of everlasting life. He proves he’s not the selfish boy he once was by considering and letting Aslan have a direct influence on his activity. For his loyalty, Digory is thus rewarded. Once Aslan receives the apple from Digory, he reveals the drawbacks that stealing one would have. According to the folklore, a “stolen apple” would heal but it would not bring desirable “joy” for the thief and whoever consumed it. (Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, 100-101). Thus, Digory receives the apple as a gift from Aslan’s hands which in turn, restores his mother’s health and allows him to live happily ever after. In my eyes, Digory receives the apple as a gift once Aslan knows that he can trust Digory. Aslan wants to spread his beneficence to his people and with Digory proving himself, he gives Digory the one thing he has been longing for since the beginning of the novel. It’s clear without the influence of Aslan on Digory’s life, he may have eaten the forbidden fruit and joined sides with the evil Queen Jadis. Digory knew the right thing to do in the situation when the Witch attempted to sway him and for his support and trust in Aslan, he was rewarded with everything he wanted in the form of a gift. When one has the right guidance, you reap the benefits of following the right path. With the introduction of Aslan, Digory acquires a “Role Model” of sorts seeing that he looks up to Aslan and aims to abide by his morals.

One of C.S. Lewis’ well-known fiction works, The Magician’s Nephew draws a familiar parallel when comparing Digory and Polly from the novel and Adam and Eve from the Book of Genesis. In the beginning of the novel, Digory Kirke is just a foolish young boy who is curious for the next adventure and doesn’t think much of his actions. He slips up and brings evil into Narnia and it seems that chaos and havoc are imminent after his mistake. But eventually, his character finally develops into someone with a goal once he becomes familiar with Aslan. Digory is faced with two parallels during this novel. One being he can follow the right way to live which is depicted by Aslan or he can succumb to all of his temptations and be influenced by Queen Jadis. He seems to refuse her power because he has learned that when he gives into his own temptations, he does not make the best decisions. Due to the great Aslan’s guidance, Digory’s character makes an immense amount of personal growth and the land of Narnia is protected for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, all of C.S. Lewis’ works possess a sense of overlay and this novel seems to correlate in part with the story of the original sin & temptation in the Book Genesis which is then introduced in the magical land of Narnia.

Theology and Children’s Literature: Understanding The Magician’s Nephew

Though written primarily for a young audience, C.S. Lewis’s fiction overflows with Biblical allusion and religious imagery. A Lewis narrative, indeed, becomes a vessel through which he is able to infuse his writing with his own complex theological ideology. This is evident in the events of his children’s novel The Magician’s Nephew; through the use of Biblical parallels woven throughout this work of fiction, Lewis offers a window into his own perceptions of God as well as the nature of evil.

Chapter Nine of The Magician’s Nephew, titled “The Founding of Narnia,” serves in many ways as an allegory for the creation story found in Genesis. Aslan, who serves as a symbol of God within the world of Narnia, sings creation into life and eventually appoints the Cabby and his wife as the King and Queen of Narnia—a parallel to the appointment of Adam and Eve as the rulers over the rest of the animals in the world. However, beyond simply outlining parallels between the founding of Narnia and the creation story, Lewis uses these parallels as a way of making rather bold yet subtle claims about the nature of God. Lewis does not simply leave Aslan as the creator; he bestows him with a character that reflects Lewis’s own understanding of who God is. For instance, his selection of the Cabby to rule implies far more than the creation of a generic man to fill the role of Adam; Aslan is illustrating his preference for choosing the humble and the seemingly unqualified to lead. The Cabby himself acknowledges his seeming incompetence for the rule of king, for he replies to Aslan’s declaration with the remark, “Begging your pardon, sir… but I ain’t no sort of chap for a job like that. I never ‘ad much eddycation, you see” (151). This is a clear example of the Christian understanding of God’s “choosing the weak to lead the strong.” Through this, Lewis is suggesting a God that goes against people’s expectations and raises up the humble and meek rather than those that appear to be the best suited for power.

As the characters continue to interact with the Lion, Lewis goes on to paint the character of Aslan—and therefore, the character of God—a proponent of forgiveness and redemption. He explains that he has chosen Cabby and his wife as the King and Queen of Narnia because he wishes that, “as Adam’s race has done the harm, Adam’s race shall help to heal it” (148). Instead of expelling man from Narnia as the nefarious foreigners who brought evil to a newly created world, he uses them, despite their flaws, to help protect and restore the now broken world. Lewis’s choice to portray Aslan in this way speaks volumes about his own conception of the nature of God. To further this idea, Lewis also strays slightly from the story of Genesis to allow Digory two encounters with symbols of Eden; one in which he, like Adam and Eve, gives into temptation, and another in which Aslan, in full knowledge of Digory’s previous failure, gives him an opportunity for redemption by sending him to fetch the apple. In both of these instances, Lewis is making a rather bold assertion about the nature of God as being one of second chances and redemption rather than portraying a God who is wrathful in response to man’s sinfulness.

Lewis is also suggesting a very particular view of God in the scene where Digory asks Aslan for a cure for his mother. Lewis writes that, “great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself” (154). Here, Lewis is suggesting of God an unparalleled capacity for grief and empathy at the sorrows of man. Aslan’s tears convey Lewis’s belief in God as a personal God who feels the pain of his people, perhaps even more than the people themselves.

The final chapters of The Magician’s Nephew, beyond reflecting Lewis’s views on the character of God, has roots in Lewis’s own individual relationship to him. When Digory approaches Aslan, he does so with the sole intention of seeking a cure for his mother, much in the same way that Lewis himself does as a child. In Surprised by Joy, he recounts “what some…might regard as [his] first religious experience” (20), in which he turns to prayer to produce a miracle that will cure his dying mother. Lewis writes that he, “approached God, or my idea of God, without love, without awe, without even fear. He was, in my mental picture of this miracle, to appear neither as a Savior nor as a Judge, but merely as a magician…” (21). Digory, similarly, first approaches Aslan with an almost identical motivation. Digory tells Polly, “I must speak to him… It’s about Mother. If anyone could give me something that would do her good, it would be him” (131). Digory, prior to speaking to Aslan, has no desire to interact with him beyond achieving a cure for his mother. In this way, Lewis uses Digory almost as a mirror image of himself, and through him, he illustrates the learning of a lesson that Lewis himself did not realize until much later in his life. When Digory finally comes face to face with the Lion, Digory finds that he is “much bigger and more beautiful and more brightly golden and more terrible than he had thought” (146). Here, he begins to develop a capacity for the kind of awe and fear that both Lewis and Digory initially have, and “realize[s] in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with” (153).

Lewis also uses the latter half of this story to grant insight into his view of God in relation to the nature of evil, largely through the character of Uncle Andrew. For example, when Aslan begins his song, Lewis writes that Uncle Andrew’s “shoulders were stooped and his knees shook. He was not liking the Voice” (108), and goes on to describe how Uncle Andrew talked himself out of being able to hear the animal’s voices as speech, remarking that, “the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed” (137). Here, Lewis is implying both that evil cannot stand to be in the presence of good, and that to distance oneself from truth and God is a choice rather than a punishment for sin. Uncle Andrew becomes unable to hear and understand Aslan not because Aslan made it so, but because Uncle Andrew talked himself into a false perception of the truth until he was wholly unable to hear things as they truly were. Aslan does not, at any point in the story, bring punishment upon Uncle Andrew; instead, he remarks, “I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice… Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good! But I will give him the only gift he is still able to receive” (185). Through this remark, Lewis is suggesting that man is at fault for his inability to hear God, and that God gives to whatever extent a person can receive.

Digory Kirke Heroic Characteristics Analasis

In 1955 C. S. Lewis wrote and published The Magician’s Nephew, a high fantasy adventure story set in early 20th century England, a prequel to the other stories in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the story, Digory Kirke, a young boy, travels to a strange world to save his friend, Polly Plummer, whom Digory’s uncle sent in order to experiment with his magic. Digory rings a bell, not cognizant to the fact that his actions will cause the awakening of Jadis, an evil witch, who follows the two back to England. In order to remove Jadis from his own world, Digory tricks her and sends her into a new world, endangering it. He then travels into the depths of the new world, Narnia, to help save it. All agree that every hero displays courage, selflessness, humility, patience, and care but a reader wonders whether or not Digory achieves these qualities. Because he displays the characteristics of a hero, Digory’s actions necessitate the readers to consider Digory Kirke a hero; the three main virtues of the five including courage, selflessness, and care.

Digory displays courage throughout the story. After Polly vanishes from England and into the new world, Digory takes a teleportation ring too, even though Uncle Andrew can not ensure his safety. Later in the story, when Digory struggles with getting Jadis out of his world, he grabs onto her leg. Jadis, a seven foot tall, powerful and strong as an olympic weightlifter woman, possesses the power to crush Digory with one kick. Also, without knowing what to expect from the dangerous new world, Digory agrees to help the prodigious creator of the world, Aslan, and adventure into the depths of the world. “‘You must get me the seed from which that tree is to grow.’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Digory. He didn’t know how it was to be done, but he now felt quite sure now that he would be able to do it” (Lewis, 1955, p. 142-143).

Digory displays selflessness throughout the story. After dragging Jadis back into London, there exists a chance of Digory responding in a similar way to Polly, who says, “that’s all up to your uncle now” (Lewis, 1955, p. 73). Instead, Digory tries to help his uncle with this feat. At the garden where the fruit Aslan requested resides, Digory displays selflessness again, by not eating the fruit after Jadis misleads him with thought of power and wealth. Finally, Digory threw the apple away, even after Aslan told him it wields the power to heal his ill mother. “‘Throw the apple towards the river bank where the ground is soft.’ Digory did what he was told, everyone had grown so quiet that you could hear the soft thump where it fell into the mud” (Lewis, 1955, p. 166-167).

Digory displays care throughout the story. During her brief period spent in London, Jadis hurts many people. One of these people happens to be aunt Letty, an elderly woman whom Digory wastes no time aiding after Jadis throws her across the room. Once several of the characters first enter Narnia, uncle Andrew proposes they abandon them to escape from Jadis, but Digory refuses out of care for the others so if they wish to return home, they have a means of doing so. Finally, Digory Kirke presents extreme care to his mother, in a cherubic scene, by bringing her the apple that possesses the power of health, and removes her from her deathbed.‘Oh, darling, how lovely,’ said Digory’s mother. ‘You will eat it, won’t you? Please,” said Digory. ‘I don’t know what the Doctor would say,’ she answered. ‘But really-I almost feel as if I could.’ He peeled it and cut it up and gave it to her piece by piece. And no sooner had she finished it then she smiled and her head sank back on the pillow and she was asleep: a real, natural, gentle sleep, without any of those nasty drugs, which was, as Digory knew, the thing in the whole world that she wanted most (Lewis, 1955, p. 181).

Digory Kirke’s complex personality reveals C. S. Lewis’s competence in writing, which includes the characters acting in ways that reflect the thought and actions of a real human. Digory exudes the feeling of a hero in disguise, due to his investment in the characteristics of courage, selflessness, and care. In conclusion, inspecting Digory Kirke’s actions cause readers to believe him a hero and will change that person’s perception of the characters and the story as a whole, and to converse with other readers well requires a proper perspective on this character.