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  • Amy MacKinnon

Magic in Narnia

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe are all magical in some way, in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Yes, even the lion!

Aslan talks about the “deep magic” that rules Narnia, and it’s the world that Aslan himself created in The Magician’s Nephew.

So there is definitely magic in the Chronicles of Narnia, but what kind of magic, and how is it used?

If it’s fairy tale magic, then where does Aslan fit in, and what is that “deep magic” that he mentions after he comes back to life in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?

Is Narnia a Fairy Tale?

If it’s the same magic that’s in fairy tales, then Narnia has to be a fairy tale, so is it a fairy tale?

You can tell if a story is a mystery, a detective novel, a real-crime, or other genres, but what does a fairy tale look like?

There are a lot of fantasy stories written today that draw some of their elements and characters from fairy tales, but they aren’t necessarily fairy tales themselves.

So what is a fairy tale?

Fairy tales usually include these elements:

  • A simple writing style

  • Short stories

  • Few descriptions of details

  • Very few (if any) descriptions of emotions

  • Magic

(I wrote another blog post on why the stories in the Chronicles of Narnia are fairy tales, click here to read that post).

Since it is a fairy tale, magic must be involved in the story, whether it’s:

  • A character who is magical

  • A talking animal

  • A magical object

but in some way there is magic involved in every fairy tale.

What Magic is There in Narnia?

There is a lot of magic in the Narnia stories!

There are animals that talk (and animals that don’t talk), witches, hags, magical potions (like Lucy’s) that heal, magical objects (like Susan’s horn), spells that can be cast by anyone who says them (Lucy in Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and magical entrances from Narnia to other worlds (or universes).

Two specific examples of magic are the witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Aslan talking about the “deep magic” that rules Narnia.

The White Witch and the Deep Magic

The White Witch is in the first book of the series, whether you read them in the order they were written, which starts with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or in chronological order, which starts with The Magician’s Nephew (more on the reading order below).

The witch, who is called “Jadis” in The Magician’s Nephew and the Disney version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, comes from another world or universe. She enters Narnia at its beginning by tagging along with Digory and Polly in The Magician’s Nephew.

She goes from her world, to our world, to Narnia, and each world has a different affect on her magical powers. The magic in Narnia is specific to the world of Narnia, and she really likes the power she has in Narnia! It’s that magical power that allows her to rule Narnia—until Aslan returns, as promised.

So How Does Magic “Work” in Narnia?

Tolkien would hate that I’m explaining this! Or at least trying to explain it.

Magic is what rules the world of faerie (or fairy), but that world is a completely separate world from our universe. It’s beside our world, but not part of it, and has a very different set of laws that govern that universe.

Our world is not a magical world, it’s a world of logic and reason.

For example, if an apple falls from a tree, we can make very good guesses about:

  • Why it fell

  • Why it fell down instead of up

  • What kind of apple it is

  • And (if it’s still underneath the tree) where the apple fell from

Even though so many things about the apple have changed (it’s location, it’s attachment to the tree, acquiring bruises from falling, etc.)

We can also know that it’s still an apple.

We can understand all of that because in our world (the real world), we can talk about natural law, because when something changes or acts in some way we can explain why it acted that way.

But the world of fairy tales, or faerie, is not our world. So in worlds that are governed by magic, the laws of cause and effect aren’t the same. The use of reason to determine the cause or effect of objects and their actions isn’t the same, either.

This is why you can have a wardrobe that is just a wardrobe at times, but at other times it’s a magical wardrobe that can lead from our world to Narnia.

Why Is the Wardrobe in Narnia Magical?

The Magic Wardrobe Narnia is in our world and Narnia simultaneously. It’s one of several gateways between Narnia and our world. Faerie is a separate universe altogether, so there’s no way that we can cross into that world on our own. No plane, train, boat, or automobile from our world can—in itself—take us from here to Narnia.

So when they do take people to Narnia, it’s either because the object itself was created in Narnia and has magical properties, or some magic from the world of Narnia has crossed into our world to affect the object. This kind of magic is natural to Narnia, but is impossible in our world.

In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis makes it very clear that the type of magic in Narnia is not the same thing that we call magic in our world, and Narnian magic is not something people from our world are capable of using naturally.

We don’t have real magic in this world; the only types of magic that can be practiced in our world are magic tricks, or through the actions of a demon. So it’s impossible for any of us to open a door and simply walk into the world of faerie.

The only way to enter that world is if someone or something from that world reveals itself to us and creates a doorway or entrance. This means that anything that serves as an entrance has to come from that other world, and it must be magical.

If you read The Magician’s Nephew, you’ll meet the character Digory Kirke (who is also Professor Kirke in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). He travels to other worlds with his friend, Polly, and they eventually arrive in the world of Narnia at the moment of its creation.

There is a specific tree that’s mentioned that was created during the beginning of the creation of Narnia which is used to make the wardrobe (I’m not going to spoil it for you and tell you any more about that tree!).

The wardrobe is magical because it’s from Narnia; if it were made from a tree in our world, it wouldn’t be magical: it would just be a tree.

Even though we know that the tree and wardrobe are magical, we can’t explain why they’re magical in the same way that we can explain the apple on the ground that I mentioned earlier.

What Order Should the Chronicles of Narnia Be Read?

If you do searches online about what order to read the stories in the series, you will find a lot of people expressing very strong opinions about this!

My opinion?

If you haven’t read them before, start with whichever story you’re most interested in.

My recommendation?

It depends on whether or not you’ve read the stories before.

First Time Reading the Series

If it’s the first time you’re reading them, the I recommend that you read them in the order in which they were published. Once you’ve read them in that order, you can go back and read them in whatever order you want.

The reason I suggest that you read the Chronicles of Narnia in the order they were published the first time is because some of the stories won’t make much sense, and will be really boring if you read them without having read certain other books first.

The Magician’s Nephew and A Horse and His Boy will be especially boring if you start with them. There are a LOT of references in them to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and to Prince Caspian, but if you haven’t read those two stories first then you’ll be completely lost and the references will go over right your head. I’ve known people who started reading them in that order, and dismissed the entire series for years because of this.

Second (or later) Time

Once you’ve read the entire series (yes, ALL seven books!), you can read the Chronicles of Narnia in chronological order.

I told you a few paragraphs up why I recommend waiting, so now I’m going to explain why I think it’s also a good idea to read them in chronological order.

They’re fairy tales, and fairy tales are always about salvation.

When you read them in chronological order, or the order in which the events occur (although there’s some overlap between some of the stories), you see the creation, fall, and redemption of Narnia.

You can probably see it already now that it’s been pointed out to you, but it’s not the same thing as reading through the stories and experiencing that. When you start reading them in this order, then you’ll see things slightly differently, too.

I hope you’ll read this wonderful series over and over again.

Reading just once through the series isn’t enough—there are so many wonderful tidbits that Lewis hides in the stories that you can only discover when you’ve read it multiple times.

Reading Order for Chronicles of Narnia

First time (this is the order in which they were first published)

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

  2. Prince Caspian

  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  4. The Silver Chair

  5. A Horse and His Boy

  6. The Magician’s Nephew

  7. The Last Battle

Second (or later) Time

  1. The Magician’s Nephew

  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

  3. A Horse and His Boy

  4. Prince Caspian

  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  6. The Silver Chair

  7. The Last Battle

List of Posts in the Blog Series, "Magic in Christian Fiction"

Magic in Narnia (this post)

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