The Magician’s Nephew

Text


Their adventures began chiefly because it was one of the wettest and coldest summers there have been for years. That drove them to do indoor things: you might say, indoor exploration. It is wonderful how much exploring you can do with a stump of candle in a big house, or in a row of houses. Polly had discovered long ago that if you opened a certain little door in the box-room attic of her house you would find the cistern and a dark place behind it which you could get into by a little careful climbing. The dark place was like a long tunnel with brick wall on one side and sloping roof on the other. In the roof there were little chinks of light between the slates. There was no floor in this tunnel: you had to step from rafter to rafter, and between them there was only plaster. If you stepped on this you would find yourself falling through the ceiling of the room below. Polly had used the bit of the tunnel just behind the cistern as a smugglers’ cave. She had brought up bits of old packing cases and the seats of broken chairs, and things of that sort, and spread them across from rafter to rafter so as to make a bit of a floor. Here she kept a cash-box containing various treasures, and a story she was writing and usually a few apples. She had often drunk a quiet bottle of ginger-beer in there: the old bottles make it look more like a smugglers’ cave.
Digory quite liked the cave (she wouldn’t let him see the story) but he was more interested in exploring.
‘Look here,’ he said. ‘How long does this tunnel go on for? I mean, does it stop where your house ends?’
‘No,’ said Polly. ‘The walls don’t go out to the roof. It goes on. I don’t know how far.’
‘Then we could get the length of the whole row of houses.’
‘So we could,’ said Polly. ‘And oh, I say!’
‘What?’
‘We could get into the other houses.’
‘Yes, and get taken up for burglars! No thanks.’
‘Don’t be so jolly clever. I was thinking of the house beyond yours.’
‘What about it?’
‘Why, it’s the empty one. Daddy says it’s always been empty since we came here.’
‘I suppose we ought to have a look at it then.’ said Digory. He was a good deal more excited than you’d have thought from the way he spoke. For of course he was thinking, just as you would have been, of all the reasons why the house might have been empty so long. So was Polly. Neither of them said the word ‘haunted’, and both felt that once the thing had been suggested, it would be feeble not to do it.

Commentary


In this story from C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, two children, Polly and her neighbour Digory, begin their adventures or ‘indoor exploration’ in the attic of Polly’s family house. The extract deals with different kinds of childhood fantasy, from smugglers’ caves to the possibility that a house might be haunted. The story depends on the fact that in this row of London terraced houses the spaces beneath the roofs are interconnected, allowing the boundaries of each domestic space to be crossed. Here the theme of urban proximity gets a particular treatment, as the access into other houses proves to offer access into the fantasy world of Narnia.

Themes

Boundaries and Thresholds
Leisure

Dominant Representational Strategies

Elements

Dwelling

Type
Residential
Detail
Terrace house
Historical Terminology
Specified Social Level
Unspecified

Activities

Type
Intellectual, Cultural and Spritual
Physical States and Actions
Detail
Playing
Talking

Rooms

Type
Other / Unknown
Historical Terminology

Inhabitants

Type
Detail
Children
Male
Female

Objects

Type
Detail

Bibliography

Direct Cross-References

The Magician’s Nephew

Lewis, C.S. 1955

CG1065

Indirect Cross-References

Names
Lewis, C.S.
Date(s)
1955
Country
United Kingdom
Historical Region
Description
Format
Type
Genre
Publication
Penguin Books, 1972, pp.12-14
Copyright
THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW by C.S. Lewis copyright © C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1950. Illustrations by Pauline Baynes copyright © C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1950, 1955. Reprinted by permisison.
Location
Record ID
CG1064