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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book (chronologically) in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In early 20th-century England, neighbors Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke look for adventure during their summer holidays. They live in a row of connected houses and decide to travel through the attic passages to get into a vacant house and explore it. Instead of discovering an abandoned house, the children stumble into a forbidden study room that belongs to Digory's Uncle Andrew. When Uncle Andrew discovers them, he pretends that he is going to keep the children captive, but relents and says they may go. As Polly is leaving, he gives her a present of a yellow ring. Polly vanishes along with the ring. Uncle Andrew tells Digory that Polly has been sent to another world, and the only way Digory can bring her back is to put on a yellow ring himself and follow her. Digory is also given a pair of green rings, which are supposed to bring them both back home.

When Digory puts on his yellow ring, he travels through time and space, and emerges from a pool beside a quiet forest. He sees Polly relaxing on the ground. The nearby woods seem to be magical and cause the children to take a few minutes to remember who they are and how they know each other. After some experimentation, they discover that the pool Digory stepped out of is the passage back to Earth. They conclude that the other pools around them must lead to other worlds. The children go into one of the pools and find themselves in a lifeless world with a red sun. Digory wants to explore the ruins, and Polly reluctantly agrees. They find a room full of life-size wax figures in an ancient palace. When Digory rings a magical bell in the center of the room, one of the wax figures stands up. Her name is Jadis, the final queen in the world of Charn. The bell has woken her from an enchanted sleep. She wants the children to take her back to their world, but she horrifies them when she tells them that she used a spell to destroy every living creature in Charn.

Polly and Digory accidentally bring Jadis back to Earth with them. She announces her intention to conquer the world, and Uncle Andrew is afraid of her and becomes her servant. After Jadis stirs up trouble in London, the children manage to transport her back to the Wood between the Worlds, but they bring Uncle Andrew, a cab horse and cab driver, too. They try to take Jadis back to Charn, but they jump into the wrong pool and emerge in a completely dark world. As they wait in the nothingness, they hear a wordless song, which brings light to the world and makes plants grow. A Lion is singing a creation song, and Jadis runs away from him. The Lion, Aslan, continues singing. All kinds of animals spring up out of the earth. He selects a few of the animals and gives them the ability to speak.

Digory follows Aslan and asks if there is any way Aslan can cure Digory's terminally ill mother. Aslan questions Digory about how Jadis, a creature of evil, came into Narnia. Digory admits to bringing her. Aslan establishes Frank the cab driver and his wife as King and Queen of Narnia, then gives Digory a quest. Digory must retrieve a special apple from a far-off garden and bring it back to plant in Narnia as a form of protection against Jadis. Digory and Polly travel on a winged horse until they reach the garden. Jadis is in the garden, and she advises Digory to steal the fruit and take it back to his mother. Digory refuses her offers and brings the apple back to Aslan. Digory, Polly and an addled Uncle Andrew are sent home to England, where Digory feeds his mother another apple given to him by Aslan. Mrs. Kirke makes a full recovery. Digory's father comes home, and the Kirkes enjoy a happy life in the countryside, where Polly is their frequent guest. The children also follow Aslan's orders and bury the magic rings, so no one will be tempted to use them again.

Christian Beliefs

While rapidly teleporting through space, Digory sees St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Frank sings a hymn of thanksgiving when he first comes to Narnia. Aslan is a mighty lion, and his character is representative of Jesus Christ. His singing creates the world of Narnia. Jadis instantly loathes him because she senses that he is totally different from her and that his Magic is stronger. Aslan calls Digory a Son of Adam and Polly a Daughter of Eve.

Other Belief Systems

Digory and Polly suspect that the vacant house in their row is unoccupied. The Magic rings produce a low humming sound and seem to fascinate and attract anyone who comes near them. The narration ascribes some level of free will to the rings and says that the yellow rings want to get back to the Wood between the Worlds while the green rings want to leave it.

Uncle Andrew speaks of old Mrs. Lefay, his godmother, who was part fairy. Mrs. Lefay left Uncle Andrew a box from the legendary island of Atlantis. The box contains dust from the Wood between the Worlds. The Wood between the Worlds is a magical place and makes the children grow forgetful when they enter it. Polly says there is a danger of sitting down to rest in the Wood and never getting up again. Magic is frequently mentioned and usually spelled with a capital "M." Digory says that he didn't believe in Magic until he saw Polly vanish but that if any of the other fairy tales he has read are true, wicked magicians like Uncle Andrew will inevitably be punished. In the room of waxworks on Charn, Magic has kept the figures and their clothes from decaying. An enchantment enables the children to read the foreign inscription on a pillar in the middle of the room. When Digory rings the bell on the pillar, the sound magically grows louder until it shakes the room and makes part of the roof collapse. Ringing the bell also breaks the enchantment that holds Jadis in stasis.

Jadis reduces the gates of Charn's palace to dust by reciting a spell at them. She says all the Powers should eternally curse her deceased sister, but it is not clear if the Powers are part of an actual religion or belief system on Charn. Jadis used a powerful spell called the Deplorable Word to end all life on her world. When Digory sees Jadis in England, he notes her inhuman appearance, and the narration suggests that she is descended from giants. She says there is a Mark that can be seen in the face of anyone who does Magic and that Uncle Andrew has the Mark, while Digory does not. Jadis may be called either a Queen or a Witch. Most witches are only interested in people when they can use them in some way.

Along with talking animals and walking trees, Aslan creates forest gods and goddesses, fauns, satyrs, dwarfs and a river god. They all acknowledge his sovereignty and agree to obey him.

Digory buries the core of the magical apple that restores his mother's health. The core grows into a tree that has vague magical quality to it and sometimes shakes when there is no wind. In the future, when the tree falls down during a storm, Digory has it made into a wardrobe. This is the same wardrobe the Pevensie children use to travel to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Authority Roles

Digory lives with his Uncle Andrew and Aunt Letty while his father is in India (presumably for military service) and his mother is terminally ill. At the end of the novel, Digory's father generously accepts responsibility for Uncle Andrew and invites him to live with them so Aunt Letty will not be burdened.

Digory says that adults always dismiss interesting possibilities with dull explanations. Digory loves his mother and is concerned for her welfare. He is worried about how his mother will react if he dies in another world. He is not as concerned about his own safety. When he hears his Aunt Letty casually say that only fruit from the land of youth can heal his mother, Digory resolves to search through the available worlds and find something to cure his mother.

Uncle Andrew consistently puts his own well-being ahead of Digory's and Polly's. When the children step into Uncle Andrew's study, he locks the door so they can't escape him. He views Digory and Polly as expendable resources to advance his own knowledge of magic and of other worlds. He manipulates Digory into silence by suggesting that his screams might scare his sick mother into a worse condition. Uncle Andrew says that young boys should not break their promises. Then he explains why he was justified in breaking a promise to his godmother. He likes the idea of exploiting Narnia's resources and considers coming back with a gun to shoot Aslan. However, at the end of the book, he has been through so many difficult experiences that he becomes a calmer, kinder man and never attempts to do Magic again.

Digory insults his uncle and speaks rudely to him after Polly vanishes. Jadis dismisses Digory as a child of inferior birth and says that only nobles or royals should be able to do Magic. She does not value any life besides her own. Polly is scolded by her mother and sent to her room for a couple of hours as punishment for getting her shoes and stockings wet.

Aslan cautions King Frank about having favorites among either his children or his subjects.


Beastly, fool, pig, a-- and hussy are used as insults. Queer is used to denote something unusual. Uncle Andrew says d--n several times, but it is spelled phonetically as dem. Jadis tends to call other people either slave or dog.

Uncle Andrew conducts some unethical experiments on guinea pigs. Some of them dropped dead while others exploded. While walking through the ruins of Charn's palace, Jadis points out the pathways to dungeons and torture chambers. She also says that one of her ancestors killed hundreds of rebellious nobles at a feast. In the final battle between Jadis and her sister, the river of Charn turned red with blood. In England, Jadis picks up Digory's Aunt Letty and throws her across the room, but Aunt Letty lands on a mattress and is unharmed. Jadis kicks Digory in the face, and he ends up with a mouthful of blood.


Jadis thinks Uncle Andrew sent the children to retrieve her because he saw her beautiful face and fell in love with her.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Fighting: Polly and Digory argue constantly. Sometimes they have mild differences of opinion, and sometimes they bicker angrily. Their most intense argument involves name-calling on both sides and ends with Digory wrenching Polly's wrist to keep her out of his way.

Alcohol: Polly drinks ginger-beer, a non-alcoholic drink comparable to ginger ale. Uncle Andrew drinks alcohol and repeatedly requests brandy while he is in Narnia. When Jadis recites an ineffective spell, Aunt Letty assumes she is slurring her speech and accuses her of being drunk.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 and up


C.S. Lewis






Record Label



HarperCollins Children's Books, a division of HarperCollins is the publisher


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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