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In this prequel, two Edwardian children, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, accidentally visit the dead world of Charn, where Digory falls for Schmuck Bait, waking the Empress Jadis. She boasts about how she destroyed all life on her world, and forces the children to take her to London, where she causes a public disturbance. Eventually Jadis, the children, Digory's wicked Uncle Andrew, and a cabbie and his horse get a front row seat for the creation of Narnia by Aslan. Jadis is exiled to the far North, the cabbie and his wife (who gets transported there by Aslan) becomes king and queen, and the children and Uncle Andrew are returned home.
- Above Good and Evil: Both Jadis and Uncle Andrew think this way. "Ours is a high and lonely destiny."
"All it means," he said to himself, "is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants."
- Though it does sound more impressive when a beautiful seven-foot female declaims it proudly.
- Adam and Eve Plot: Frank and his wife Nellie become the Adam and Eve of Narnia.
- After the End: Charn, the White Witch's home world.
- Apocalypse How: The Deplorable Word.
- Backstory: For Professor Kirke, the Wardrobe, and Narnia itself. Also for the White Witch.
- Badass Boast
And those high and heavy doors trembled for a second as if they were made of silk and then crumbled away till there was nothing left of them but a heap of dust on the threshold.
"Whew!" whistled Digory.
"Has your master magician, your uncle, power like mine?" asked the Queen, firmly seizing Digory's hand again. "But I shall know later. In the meantime, remember what you have seen. This is what happens to things, and to people, who stand in my way."
- Having set the mood, thus, she doesn't stop for page after page.
- Beautiful Void: The Wood between the worlds. It is a dense forest, with a grass floor and many shallow, stagnant pools of water. Each pool is connected to a different world, and the only way to get to this place is through the use of special magic rings, created by Andrew. The place has a very peaceful, blissful, soporific atmosphere. There are no creatures there, save for the ones that have used the rings to get there... and those that have have most likely entered an deep, indefinite, peaceful, dreamless sleep.
- Inverted with Charn.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The warning on the garden wall that Jadis ignores: the apple she ate made her immortal, but because of her evil heart she'll live a life of misery.
Aslan: All get what they want; they do not always like it.
- Big Bad: Jadis.
- Calling the Old Man Out: An odd example since it's an uncle rather than a father: Digory to Uncle Andrew, throughout the entire book.
- Character Title
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: The bell in Charn -- its associated inscription summarises this trope fairly well.
- Dangerous Forbidden Spell: The Deplorable Word.
- Depopulation Bomb: The magical incantation by the white witch Jadis is this. After ruling her home planet of Charn as a cruel and capricious tyrant with a Zero-Percent Approval Rating and on the eve of defeat by her own subjects, Jadis out of pure spite uttered the deplorable word, resulting in the instant death of every living thing in that universe except herself.
- Though the war was against her sister, implied to have been almost as evil, at least if the wax figures presenting the last members of the imperial house are anything to go by, as they all appear cruel and miserable.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: We are never told what is killing Digory's mum, but cancer claimed both CS Lewis' mother and his wife in Real Life. Justified since The Magician's Nephew is set in the Edwardian Era, before cancer diagnosis and treatment were commonplace.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Deplorable Word. This book was written during the cold war.
- Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Polly's reaction to Digory’s going after the Schmuck Bait.
- And Digory's reaction when Polly took the ring from Uncle Andrew.
- Einstein Hair: Uncle Andrew.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: How Jadis makes her mistake when tempting Digory in the climax.
- Evil Is Cool: Subverted with Jadis. Did you expect CS Lewis not to?
- Fantastic Nuke: The "Deplorable Word": a magic word that, if spoken, instantly kills all life forms in the world except the speaker. Lewis makes the nuclear allegory pretty transparent, especially in the description of the burned-out remains of Charn and the Aesop that Aslan delivers at the end:
"It is not certain that some wicked member of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon, very soon, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis."
- Genre Savvy: Digory warns Uncle Andrew that, as he's obviously a villain, he better expect retribution for what he does. Uncle Andrew privately thinks, "Oh Crap, he's right!" before trying to laugh it off as Digory reading too many fairy tales.
- Gentleman Wizard: Andrew
- Ghost Planet: The world of Charn.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Two sisters started a civil war over the throne of Charn, and one of them was an Omnicidal Maniac. It didn't end well.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The song that Aslan sings to create the animals causes Digory and Uncle Andrew to become "aroused." (Though thankfully not for Aslan, or each other.)
- Humiliation Conga: Unintentional on the animals' part, but it's what they put Uncle Andrew through as they try to take care of him since they can't communicate with him and have no idea what he is. He really, really deserved it though.
- Interdimensional Travel Device: The green and yellow rings, which allow one to enter the Wood between the Worlds and leave there for any number of worlds.
- It's All About Me
- The Last Temptation
- Locked Into Strangeness: Uncle Andrew.
- Magic Music: Aslan sings Narnia into existence.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Digory's curiosity gets the better of him and results in Jadis being awakened.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The town of Charn; when Digory and Polly first arrive, both are creeped out by the sheer darkness and emptiness of the ruins around them. When they fear something may be stalking them, they stop and listen closely; all they hear are their own heartbeats.
- The second couplet of the "Schmuck Bait Verse" might invoke this as well, or at least "Nothing Is More Maddening."
- Oh Crap: Done non-verbally in The Wood Between the Worlds, when Polly realizes, just before they move away from "their" pool, that all of the pools are identical, and they have no way of finding theirs again after they leave. After they look at each other, Digory shakily takes out his pocket knife and digs up the turf next to their pool. It's all but stated that they realize how close they came to being lost forever.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Jadis's backstory.
- Out of Order: Due to the book chronologically occuring first, some editions label it as the first book, ignoring that Lewis wrote it as a prequel before the Grand Finale, and it works best when you understand the significance of all the origins you're reading.
- Panacea: The silver apples.
- Portal Network: The Wood Between the Worlds.
- Portal Pool: Many in "The Wood Between the Worlds".
- Prequel: To The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- Schmuck Bait: In verse, no less:
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.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: When Jadis tries justify all of her atrocities by claiming that, as a Queen, "Ours is a high and lonely destiny," Digory remembers his less-impressive uncle using exactly the same words, but not sounding half so grand as when Queen Jadis said them, "perhaps because Uncle Andrew was not seven feet tall and dazzlingly beautiful".
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Jadis, in the aforementioned Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment.
- Smug Snake: Going by Jadis's account, her sister seems to have been this. If she'd just killed Jadis and not wasted time gloating about her victory she might have actually succeeded.
- Statuesque Stunner: Jadis.
- Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Jadis wiped out all the living things in Charn because her sister won the civil war.
- The Sun: Represented in Charn as something dull and red and bigger than the one on Earth. When Polly and Digory learn the story of how Jadis ended life on Charn, there's a brief bit of confusion on the matter, and if what she did to Charn made the sun like that, too:
Jadis: Like what?
Digory: So big, so red, and so cold.
Jadis: It has always been so. At least, for hundreds of thousands of years. Have you a different sort of sun in your world?
Polly: Yes, it's smaller and yellower. And it gives a good deal more heat.
[Jadis reacts with "a long drawn 'A--a--ah!'", and a sudden look of alarming hunger and greed.]
Jadis: So... yours is a younger world.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Digory had to retrieve the apple himself. Had a Narnian taken it, it would have been for themselves and eventually caused Narnia to turn bad. However, if an outsider like Digory took it, it would have been taken for the sake of others.
- Tsundere: Polly.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: After our heroes accidentally bring Jadis back to Earth, the book keeps shifting between domestic and cosmic. Most notably is when Polly remembers she's mad at Diggory, and tells him she's going home.
- We Can Rule Together: Jadis tempts Digory to eat the Apple of Youth so the two of them can rule the world as king and queen forever.
- What You Are in the Dark: Jadis tempts Digory to take the apple back to Earth for his mother instead of giving to Aslan. While she was already having trouble convincing him, she shoots herself in the foot by suggesting that he leave Polly behind in order to ensure nobody could tell on him. Polly has her own way home, but even if she didn't it would never have even occurred to Digory to abandon her; the suggestion makes him realize that if Jadis cares nothing for Polly, there's no reason for her to care about his mother either and there must be a catch in her proposal.
- Wish Fulfillment: Arguably, when Aslan gives Digory the means to save his mother. Note that Lewis lost his own mother at a young age to a long illness, probably cancer.
- World Tree: Several of them, each a significant plot point.