How we treat others – a lesson from The Magician’s Nephew

Prompted by a friend, I’ve started re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. The one volume edition we have starts not with the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe but with its prequel “The Magician’s Nephew”, the story of how Narnia all began.

The story is of a boy Digory and his friend Polly, tricked into using magic rings by Digory’s wicked Uncle Andrew to enter an other world, they bring back Jadis the queen of Charn and old and dying world. It’s in a bid to get her away from London that they use their rings again and find themselves in a new world where they become eyewitnesses as Aslan the lion brings the world to life by his song and them breathes onto some of the animals so that they become talking beasts. 

The idea of creation brought into life in response to song is beautiful. However I want to draw your attention to something else that Lewis picks up on in the story. When the children arrive back in Uncle Andrew’s attic room, the Queen, or witch as she truly is, interrogates the uncle for a period of time and then sends him off to do her bidding. The children had attempted to leave her in the woods in between the worlds where here powers were weakening and she seemed to be dying. They are now afraid she will remember this and bring retribution on them. However,

“Now that she was left alone with the children, she took no notice of either of them and that was like her too. In Charn she had taken no notice of Polly (till the very end) because Digory was the one she wanted to make use of. Now that she had Uncle Andrew, she took no notice of Digory. I expect that most witches are like this. They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them.”[1]

This is the crucial distinction that Lewis makes between people in this particular book. There are those who are full of wonder and enjoyment, who find that enjoyment in creation around them and with other people. Then there are those so focused on their own power and satisfaction that they are only concerned by how the situations around them, the things at their disposal and the people they meet can be used to their advantage.

This is of course what corruption and abuse are all about. Those who become intoxicated on power and corrupt, those who abuse others are guilty of seeing people based on whether or not they are useful to them. Instead of knowing them as friends, family, colleagues, fellow church members, they see them as there to be used.

But it’s not only something that we see in outright abuse.  In fact, if we are truly honest, we’ll realise that it’s something that our culture encourages of all of us. Perhaps this is seen particularly obviously in the modern practice of “networking.” We are positively encouraged to make links with people, to find out about them, to develop connections through in person meetings and social media not so we can truly get to know them but so we can build up our network of connections, so that they can link us to those with things to offer us like jobs, and business and openings.

We tend to envy those who seem to have all the connections and to fear them when it gives them power. However, I get the impression that Lewis saw them as to be pitied. Whether it’s the witch or Uncle Andrew, their narcissism results in them living in a closed in world where they can never be truly happy.

How different the Gospel vision of a happy life which begins not with use but with enjoyment as our chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How different the world where we are told to love one another and to think of others more highly than ourselves. 

[1] CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, 46.

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