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The Bible in The Magician’s Nephew: Enter Through the Gate

I am embarking on a series of blogposts dealing with the Bible in The Chronicles of Narnia. This series will explore the not-so-obvious traces of God in C.S. Lewis’ phenomenal series and I will address different themes in all seven of the books. So get ready and enjoy as we discuss “The Bible in The Magician’s Nephew, Part I”!

When [Digory] had come close up to he saw words written on the gold with silver letters; something like this:

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.

...“Come in by the gold gates. Well, who’d want to climb a wall if he could get in by the gate! But how do the gates open?” He laid his hands on them and instantly they swung apart, opening inwards, turning on their hinges without the least noise.

Now that he could see into the place it looked more private than ever. He went in very solemnly, looking about him. Everything was very quiet inside. Even the fountain which rose near the middle of the garden made only the faintest sound. The lovely smell was all around him: it was a happy place but very serious.

He knew which was the right tree at once….He walked straight across to it, picked an apple, and put it in the breast pocket of his Norfolk jacket. But he couldn’t help looking at it and smelling it before he put it away.

It would have been better if he had not. A terrible thirst and hunger came over him and a longing to taste the fruit...he thought, the notice on the gate might not have been exactly an order; it might have been only a piece of advice — and who cares about advice? Or even if it were an order, would he be disobeying it by eating an apple? He had already obeyed the part about taking on “for others”....

Digory was just turning to go back to the gates when he stopped to have one last look around. He got a terrible shock. He was not alone. There, only a few yards from him, stood the Witch. She was just throwing away the core of an apple which she had eaten…. Digory guessed at once that she must have climbed in over the wall. And he began to see that there might be some sense in that last line about getting your heart’s desire and getting despair along with it. For the Witch looked stronger and prouder than ever, and even, in a way, triumphant; but her face was deadly white, white as salt.
— (The Magician's Nephew)

The Magician’s Nephew is probably my most favourite Chronicle of NarniaThe sixth to be published, yet the first chronologically in the Series, shows us the dawn of Narnia. And much like the dawn of our own world, there is a Garden. It is gated and guarded, lovely and perilous, and there is only one safe way in: through the gate.

This scene is one of the most exciting in the Seriesto me because just as easy as it is for other Christians to be excited about the mirroring of Christ’s death and resurrection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobeso I also get excited about this parable. Travel with me to the Book of John if you will.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly
— John 10:1-10

Isn’t it funny that Jesus used this parable to warn His disciples (present and to come) about those false shepherds, who we’ve heard of since Jeremiah railed against the false prophets of Israel and Paul who discerned the coming of those who would appear as angels of light, yet we see the same thing happening in Narnia.

Jadis in Charn, before entering Narnia and becoming the White Witch

BBC White Witch a.k.a. Jadis

Disney Movie Witch Witch a.k.a. Jadis with Edmund Pevensie (2005)

This Witch, Jadis, who would later become the White Witch in "Lion," sets herself up to be the shepherd of peoples who are not hers to rule. In this Chroniclewe see that a son of Adam and or a daughter of Eve must rule Narnia (and Archenland, Narnia’s next door neighbor) for it to be in good, legal hands.

In this tale, the cabby and his wife pulled into Narnia from turn-of-the-century England become the first king and queen of Narnia, Frank and Helen. In "Lion" and The Horse and His Boywe see the four Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. In Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair, we see Caspian (Telmarine though he be) and later, his son, Rilian. And finally, in The Last Battlewe see the last king of Narnia, Tirian. All of them humans, but Jadis is a Jinn, a giantess, who only looks like a human, though she towers over them.

Even that would preach in and of itself: giants parading as humans, as seen in Genesis 6 as well as in Joshua’s Day and David’s. But I won’t burden you with that lesson today*smile*

Jesus spoke of false shepherds who not only stole into the sheepfold illegally, but once in charge, tries to lead the sheep astray. We know, though many have tried and will continue to try this until Jesus’ return (and after), there is only one entrance into the fold of God. Jesus is the Door. And not only is He the Door, but He is the Way.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
— John 14:6

Professor Kirke, formerly known as "Digory" with Lucy Pevensie

Lucy discovering Narnia in Professor Kirke's wardrobe, made from the wood of a tree from an apple from THE Tree of Narnia, a product of the tree Digory found in the Garden.

While little Digory who would later become the Professor Kirke into whose wardrobe the Pevensie children would stumble one story later and that same wardrobe being built from the wood of a fallen apple tree sired by the very tree mentioned above, he was not a Christ-type. However, the truth of the One Way, the One Gate, and One Entrance still stands.

Come in by the gold gates or not at all...

It reminds me of The Pilgrim's Progress where two travelers temporarily accompanying Christian thought they could find another road besides the hard, yet sure one set before their feet. They fell into ruin and were seen no more.

Today, people still seek to find other ways into the pearly gates. Oprah teaches that there is more than one way. Pagans and Neo-Pagans believe in multiple ways. New Agers believe in their way. But there is only One Way. It is “the road less traveled,” but it is the road nonetheless.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
— Matthew 7:13, 14

You shall know the truth and it shall set you free (John 8:32). There is no “my truth,” “your truth,” or “our truth”; there is only one Truth. That Truth is a Person and His name is Jesus.

Stay tuned for The Bible in The Magician’s Nephew, Part II!