Living Books + The Magician's Nephew

If you've read much about educational philosophies, you have likely heard of Charlotte Mason and her view on books. Miss Mason taught that a book should be "teeming with ideas," "worthy," and "valuable for its own sake." She said, "anything less than the best is not good enough." And she said that the best books are "living books." I honestly love just about everything she said.

Living books are alive with ideas. Instead of listing facts and dates in a monotonous tone, they teach ideas and truth through vibrant stories and multidimensional characters. They're the kinds of books you read with a pen in your hand to underline the many passages that teach you something or speak to your heart. After reading a living book, you come away a little bit changed, excited to learn more, filled with that particular thrill of inspiration. It's passed some of its life into you!

The Magician's Nephew is just such a book. I chose it for my syllabus this year because a) I trust C.S. Lewis to write living stories that are worth my time, and b) this particular book tells the story of how Narnia came to be. How the White Witch came to be, where the lamp post came from, and why some animals in Narnia can talk and others can't. In other words, a creation story! Lewis's delightful voice takes us on a grand adventure through secret passageways and into other worlds using magic rings. But beyond that, this book is a beautiful allegory of the Biblical creation story. This is the part I want to highlight here.

I love Lewis's description of the darkness and silence of absolute nothingness, what it might feel like before anything existed.

"Really it was uncommonly like Nothing. There were no stars. It was so dark that they couldn't see one another at all and it made no difference whether you kept your eyes shut or opened. Under their feet there was a cool, flat something which might have been earth, and was certainly not grass or wood. The air was cold and dry and there was no wind" (p 114). 

Moments later, we are given a chance to witness the fast-forward creation of a world like our own. C.S. Lewis paints a picture so clear, I can easily visualize myself standing in the midst of nothing and watching different elements of a world popping up around me. 

"Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into humps...And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump there came out an animal...Showers of birds came out of the trees. Butterflies fluttered. Bees got to work on the flowers as if they hadn't a second to lose" (p 134). 

Such a glorious description of a miraculous event! Overall,  The Magician's Nephew left me with stars in my eyes. It was a living, breathing story that delighted me through and through. "It made [me] want to run and jump and climb. It made [me] want to shout. It made [me] want to rush at other people and either hug them or fight them" (p 133). Haha! And, as a living book should, it made me excited to continue reading creation stories from other belief systems. Onto the next!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

NEXT UP: In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World told by Virginia Hamilton and Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff.

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