I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
The Magician’s Nephew Discussion Questions
Diggory and Polly are two neighbor children exploring in the attic one rainy day when a door unexpectedly opens upon the boy’s mad uncle’s study. Uncle Andrew is in possession of something even he doesn’t fully understand—an ancient, powerful magic that can transport people to other worlds. Unwilling to experiment on himself, he allows first Polly to disappear, then Diggory to follow after her to save her. But of course, Diggory cannot resist the temptation of an opportunity to visit other worlds. And so he steps into a decaying world and awakens the most beautiful and wicked Queen he has ever seen, the Empress Jadis. She will wreak havoc not only in our world but also in a newly-born one called Narnia. The Magician’s Nephew is more than a children’s book; it is an inspiriting magic adventure about the ancient battle of good and evil, and even a protest against slavery and the unkind treatment of others (and animals), especially those under our power or authority. This book is the prequel to the beloved bestseller The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
1.1 Was Mr. Ketterly (Uncle Andrew) really mad? Was he a good scientist? Why or why not?
1.2 How long did the tunnel between houses go on for?
1.3 Where were the children headed? Where did they end up?
2.1 Why did Uncle Andrew think he was “free from common rules”? What types of rules did he think were beneath him? Should people with power or magic have more lenient rules than everyone else, or stricter ones, or the same?
2.2 Why did Uncle Andrew think his “destiny” was higher and lonelier than anyone else’s? Was he actually the one who made himself lonely by his actions and obsession and leaving people out of it?
2.3 What did Uncle Andrew think the yellow ring did? What about the green ring?
2.4 Why did Diggory call Uncle Andrew a coward? Why did Uncle Andrew think he shouldn’t be experimented on, but have subjects for that instead?
Bonus research opportunity: Look up Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine and contrast his ideas with Uncle Andrew’s.
3.1 What was the Wood between Worlds and how was it a little like the tunnel between houses?
3.2 Why did Diggory describe it as “very much alive” or “rich as plum cake”? How did it make Polly and him feel?
3.3 Where did the green rings actually lead you back to? What about the yellow rings? Why did Uncle Andrew make a mistake in his assumptions about how they worked?
4.1 Why didn’t Polly like the world they entered?
4.2 What did the golden bell do?
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4.3 Why couldn’t Diggory resist ringing it?
5.1 What happened to Charn? Why did the queen think that the people in her land were only there to do her will?
5.2 Why did the Queen think that “what would be wrong for [the children] or any of the common people, was not wrong for her? Who else talked this way? Was she right that she should “be freed from all rules”?
5.3 Why did Diggory think those words sounded grander when Jadis said them? But were they really?
6.1 In order to jump from worlds, do you have to be the one touching the ring yourself? Who took advantage of this fact?
6.2 Why did the Queen think the Wood between Worlds was a “horrible place” and was killing her?
6.3 What was the expression or “Mark” Polly saw in Jadis and Uncle Andrew’s face, that the Queen did not see in Diggory’s face?
7.1 What happened when the Queen tried to turn people to dust in London?
7.2 How did a visitor bringing grapes give Diggory the idea of looking for fruit from a “land of youth”? Who and what did he want it for?
7.3 What had Jadis stolen in London? What did she destroy?
8.1 Of what was the Cabby speaking when he said “Glory be, I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this”?
8.2 Who or what was the Singer in the young new world?
9.1 How did the trees grow in this new land?
9.2 What made everything grow?
9.3 What happened with the lamp post?
9.4 What was Uncle Andrew thinking of killing in the new land? Why?
9.5 How did the animals appear and what did the song do to the people there as well? Do you know any songs that make you feel this way?
9.6 What happened to the special, chosen beasts who were taken in pairs? How were they chosen?
9.7 What was the name of this new world?
10.1 What was the name of the lion?
10.2 What warning did the lion give the Talking Beasts?
10.3 Why couldn’t Uncle Andrew understand the Talking Beasts? What kind of person was he to not be able to see the truth right in front of him—what adjectives would you use to describe him, especially in that moment?
11.1 Why did the animals not know how to tell that Uncle Andrew was the same type of creature as Polly, Diggory, and the Cabby?
11.2 What type of creature did the Talking Beasts decide Uncle Andrew was? What did they decide to do with him?
11.3 What did Aslan call Diggory?
11.4 (Optional bonus) If you’ve read book two, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, what is the “worst of it” that fell upon Aslan? What did he mean that Adam’s race would help to heal it? Who else did he mean later?
11.5 Who did Aslan call into his world from ours?
11.6 Who were the first King and Queen of Narnia?
11.7 Why was it important that the king and queen “rule these creatures kindly and fairly, remembering that they are not slaves...but free subjects”?
11.8 Why should the king and queen, especially as leaders and rulers, also not “have favourites either among [their] own children or among the other creatures or let any hold another under or use it hardly”? What does it mean to “hold another under” and why is that not a good thing?
11.9 Why should a leader in war “be the first in the charge and the last to retreat”?
12.1 Why did the Lion have tears in eyes his the same as Diggory’s when the boy mentioned his mother?
12.2 What was the purpose of the apple Aslan wanted from the garden? Why was Diggory the one who had to get it?
12.3 What happened to the horse, Strawberry, to help Diggory on his quest? What became his new name?
12.4 What treat did Polly have nine of in a bag in her pocket, which they planted the last one to make into a tree?
13.1 What was the warning on the gates of the garden?
13.2 Did Polly and Fledge go in with Diggory? Why?
13.3 What type of creature was watching Diggory from the top of the tree?
13.4 Why would it have been wrong for Diggory to eat the apple?
13.5 What things did the Witch tempt Diggory to do with the apple? What did she tell him it would do? What did she say that was her “fatal mistake” that made everything else she’d said “sound false and hollow”?
14.1 Would anything planted in Narnia always grow into a tree version of itself?
14.2 How could the tree protect the people of Narnia from the Witch?
14.3 What happens to people who “pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way”? Do you know anyone that that has happened to?
14.4 What would have happened if Diggory had eaten a stolen apple or taken it to his mother?
14.4 What would be the difference if he had permission?
15.1 What was the warning Aslan gave the children? What was the command he gave them?
15.2 A memory of what moment stayed with the children always, even when they were sad or afraid or angry? Why was it such a special memory?
15.3 What did Diggory do with the apple core?
15.4 Why was this important and what happened with its wood much, much later?
Apple Oat Scones Recipe
In the attic tunnel, Polly kept a stash of bottles of ginger beer and usually a few apples. The Cabby would often feed his horse, named Strawberry, oats, and mash, especially on cold London mornings. An apple was also needed from the tree in the garden for an important purpose.
To combine these, I made a typical London afternoon tea treat, (because of course, that’s where most of the characters are from)—apple oat scones.
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus 1/2-1 cup more for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold salted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling, if desired
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, (optional, but remove 1/4 cup milk if leaving out)
- 1 1/2 cups (2 medium) apples, peeled and diced small
- 3/4 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream, (not skim milk)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Make sure all ingredients are measured before you take the butter out of the fridge to begin the first step. You need the butter to be as cold as possible. Combine flour and baking powder and sugar. Mix the tsp cinnamon in a bowl with the apples. Preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, then cut across 16 times (at least). Drop the sliced butter into the bowl of flour and cut together using a pastry cutter or fork, or your hands, if you don’t mind getting messy. (A food processor pulsed 5-6 times would also work, but make sure each pulse is short). Cut until the butter is pea-sized or smaller.
- Then make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk and vanilla extract and the oats. Stir together with a spoon (not a mixer) until all of it is mixed together, about two minutes. Add the egg next, combine completely, and then add the apples. Stir to combine. Then drop onto a floured counter (using at minimum half a cup of flour; I used a whole cup). Roll dough out into two large balls. Flatten each one, and then using a butter knife, cut in half, then into quarters, then into eighths. If any of them are making an oddly shaped triangle, you can remold them using the crook of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger, or just roll them into a ball.
- Place on a parchment-lined or butter-greased baking sheet, sprinkle with extra brown sugar if desired, and bake for fifteen minutes. Makes about 16 small scones.
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Other books by C. S. Lewis include the rest of this series in The Chronicles of Narnia, which continues with the sequel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He also wrote an adult science fiction series that begins with Out of the Silent Planet. He has numerous other works which include the following: The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, and A Grief Observed.
Treasure Island is mentioned in this book as one that the children have read. It is an adventure story about survival, pirates, and sailing.
Another wonderful adventure series written by a close personal friend and colleague of Lewis’ is Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
A wonderful adventure series about magic and children who help to save the world begins with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
“Men like me who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”
“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”
“Glory be, I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”
“The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. For out of them you were taken and into them you can return. Do not do so.”
“You need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”
“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
“The trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”
“Do not be cast down...Evil will come of that evil, but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself.”
“Rule these creatures kindly and fairly, remembering that they are not slaves...but free subjects.”
“And you wouldn’t have favourites either among your own children or among the other creatures or let any hold another under or use it hardly?”
“A chap don’t exactly know til he’s been tried.”
“My son, my son. I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”
“There will always be a way through.”
“Come in by the gold gates or not at all,
Take of my fruit for others or forbear.
For those who steal or those who climb my wall
Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair.”
“And it just shows that you can’t be too careful in these magical places. You never know what may be watching you.”
“Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”
“That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after.”
© 2018 Amanda Lorenzo