Writing with Master Storyteller
C. S. Lewis

The Magicianís Nephew


Composing Strategies Highlighted

1.  Using singing to evoke feelings for writing

2.  Creating an imaginary new world

3.  Animal noises (voices) and human needs as a basis for writing

Background Information

Ancient philosophers talked of the music of the spheres, referring to the systematic and predictable movement of the planets and constellations through the heavens, so systematic they argued that their movements "sounded" musical in their mathematical precision.  C. S. Lewis used this ancient concept to create a wonderful fictional scene.  Lewis, known to many readers for his famous Chronicles of Narnia, also holds an outstanding scholarly reputation as an expert on the seventeenth century and the Medieval Romance era.  His scholarly books, especially The Allegory of Love and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, detail a world view that assumes order in both science and society.  That order can be noted in the music of those times, for Medieval and Renaissance music both contain measured dance forms and stately chants and liturgies for church services, music that assures the listener that the universe moves to a set rhythm.

Lewisís scholarly interests centered on a universe created by a rational and logical deity, one best represented in the predictability of musical sounds.  Music itself is mathematical in that it has predictable intervals between notes and measurable rhythms and cadences.  Lewis would have argued that one need only look at the wonderful structure of any piano or organ keyboard to see the orderliness of the natural world as it is represented in music.  For Lewis, the universe truly did reflect the organized and structured music of the spheres.

When he set out to write his Narnia tales, he began with the image in his head of a great golden lion, whom he later named Aslan.  Some think that the lion may resemble the golden retrievers who succeeded one another as a constant part of Lewisís home life.  At any rate, as Lewis spun out the stories, each tale became more tightly connected with the lion of Narnia.  As readers will remember, Aslan died, an innocent and willing sacrifice for a wrong doer, in the first and most well-known of the volumes, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe..  He, of course, came alive again shortly after his execution.  Throughout the tales Aslan reappears to save and direct the various children as they pursue their adventures in Narnia.  Aslan finally becomes known as the creator of all Narnia in the next to the last volume, The Magicianís Nephew.   There the boy Digory (a pretty clear version of the young Lewis) and his Uncle Andrew accidentally find themselves back in time at the creation of Narnia.  Digory hears a noise, not quite music yet, but the most lovely noise imaginable.  It is the great lion singing.  As he sings, the world of Narnia comes into being.  In some of the most wonderful pages ever written (99-107), Lewis tells of each stage of Narniaís creation, each part responding to a different part of the song.  When the song ends, the new world has begun.

In this unit students will learn how to use music to "create" their own worlds, using music to connect with writing, drawing, and motion.  The unit offers many options so that both student and teacher will be comfortable with their classroom music.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Lewis, C. S.  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  New York:  Macmillan, 1950.

--.  Prince Caspian:  The Return to Narnia.  New York:  Macmillan, 1951.

--.  The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader."  New York:  Macmillan, 1952.

--.  The Silver Chair.  New York:  Macmillan, 1953.

--.  The Horse and His Boy.  New York:  Macmillan, 1954.

--.  The Magicianís Nephew.  New York:  Macmillan, 1955.

--.  The Last Battle.  New York:  Macmillan, 1956.


Getting to Know The Magicianís Nephew

The Power of Song

C. S. Lewis tells the story of Narnia by beginning in the middle.  When he began to write the first book, he didnít know that it would be the middle though.  He started to tell a story about a wonderful lion named Aslan.  The story turned into a tale about some children who travel into a "parallel" (next to) world, Narnia.  After Lewis has written five books about that world, he wrote a sixth that would explain where the parallel world began.  That story became The Magicianís Nephew.  In it the lion "sings" Narnia into being.

As the lion sings different notes, different parts of the world come into being.  Low notes bring about the earth, high notes the sun.  The music moves the adults and children who listen to it in various ways depending on their personalities.  The good or innocent characters, including an old cart horse, feel lively and happy when they hear the music.  The selfish and bad-tempered characters despise the music and want to get away from the new world as quickly as possible.  When they cannot escape, the worst-tempered of them all, Jadis, hurls a lamp post at the lion.  That lamp post glances off the lionís forehead and roots in the ground, becoming, of course, the lamp post that Lucy will later, or actually earlier in the first book the reader will see, find in Narnia.


1.  Why do you think that Lewis chose a lion to be the creator of his world?  Write down as many words as you can think of to describe lions:


2.  Lewis loved golden retriever dogs.  Why would he choose a lion rather than a dog as the creator of his imaginary world?  Discuss with your group why it is important that the animal who sings the creation song be a lion.  Write a list of your reasons here.


3.  How do you feel when you hear a lion roar on television or in a movie?  What does a lionís roar usually mean, or at least what do we imagine that it means?  Write down words to describe your reactions to the word "roar."

4.  Lewis believed that writers were "creators" of the stories that they wrote.  Thus he was creating the Narnia tales in the same way that Aslan was creating Narnia, and he was creating a mood in his readers as he wrote the pages describing Narniaís beginnings.  Describe how you feel when you read Lewisís story.  Compare your feelings to music that you know if possible.  Write about your feelings here.


Writing About "The Magicianís Nephew"

Focusing on Song

1.  Lewis admired stories about Vikings and Norse peoples (early settlers of England and Germany from places that are now Sweden, Denmark, and Norway).  In the "North" tales words, even letters, were very significant.  Runes (letters) could have powerful meanings.  When letters were worked together into poems and put to music, they became powerful forces in the community.  Singers of songs, or scops, were honored when they came to visit with their harps on their backs.  Thus it is not surprising that he would have a singer create his imaginary world.

List some songs that you find particularly important to you, either personally or as "public" (for example, the national anthem) symbols.

2.  Lewis also felt that music did represent the closest human connection possible to the order and structure of the universe.  Draw a diagram or picture of the solar system or our galaxy as you imagine it to be or use a model that you find in a science book.


3.  Ancient writers thought that the spheres made music as they moved across the sky.  Discuss with your group what kind of music you imagine the planets would make as they move around the sun.  Would the music sound like a roar, or maybe a purr, or even a growl, or something else?  Describe your groupís ideas here.


4.  Music can "create" moods in people.  Bring tapes or CDs to class of songs you like.  If possible, ask your teacher to find tapes of famous inspiring music, like the national anthem, too.  Then write about how the music makes you feel.

Compare your impressions of each song with those of your classmates.  List the likenesses and differences.


Writing With C. S. Lewis

Pick Your Creature

We all have our favorite animals--or even fantasy creatures.  Those creatures can have great power for us, sometimes becomes symbols of important events in our lives.  Certainly, mascots have powerful meaning for sports teams, and many people find that they canít imagine life without a favorite pet.  Lewis felt this way about his golden retrievers and somehow translated his love for these animals into the lion.  He then combined that love with his scholarly knowledge about the way ancients viewed the creation of the universe.  He put the two together in a wonderful story.

Try your own combinations.

1.  Describe your favorite pet, animal, mascot, or wild animal.  Draw it here as well as writing about it if you like.

2.  Now imagine the "song" that this animal would sing.  Would it be popular music or folk or some other type of song?  Describe the song, writing as much of the song as you can, or you can write about the song that the animal would sing.  Describe it in as much detail as possible.


3.  What sort of world would your animal create?  Would it be a better world than the one we live in now?  Lewisís Aslan creates a world where all animals live together peacefully and where they can talk to one another.  Perhaps your animalís world would reflect something about the nature of the animal.  Describe it here.

4.  Now put your animal and your favorite kind of music together.  How does the animal fit with the music?

Write a story about your animalís world.

Or write the words to a popular song that would fit your animal.

Compare your choices to those of others in your group or class, and talk about how the symbolism of the animals, the power of the songs, and the imagined worlds change your impressions.  Write about your reactions to a friendís animal and song.

 Intro paragraph for Magicianís Nephew

This unit gives students the opportunity to think about how music enhances creativity.  Student writers discuss the symbolism of lions and the sounds that lions and other animals make.  The "music" of these sounds becomes the basis for helping student writers investigate their own emotional responses to various kinds of music.  These emotional responses lead to drawing and writing about musical preferences and experiences.  Students then return to their own preferred animals as representatives of kinds of music and have the opportunity to consider how personal feelings can evoke different musical and written compositions.  Finally, writers respond to one otherís choices and compositions.