Uncle Andrew & Jadis

Posted on August 29, 2011 by

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Andrew Ketterley (“Uncle Andrew”, as he is usually referred to throughout the book) is one of the most interesting characters in The Magician’s Nephew. In addition to being a minor antagonist, Uncle Andrew also shares enough qualities with Jadis (the Witch) that by being introduced to him the reader is actually being helped to understand her character – who would otherwise be probably too unearthly to be relatable.

Not that we need to relate to either one of them, in the sense that they are antagonists, they’re cruel, evil, and selfish, and eventually they need to be defeated or reformed for The Magician’s Nephew to reflect correctly on reality.

What I mean is that Jadis is a fairly lofty villainess, but she is also similar enough to Uncle Andrew that by examining his character, we can see how truly selfish and petty the Witch is too. And, perhaps, how selfish and petty we ourselves can be sometimes.

That said, here are a few select passages that I think give us a lot of insight into the characters of Uncle Andrew and Jadis.

 “…But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys – and servants – and women – and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. 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.”

Compare this to a similar comment by the Witch a little later in the book:

 “You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.”

So there it is – the key underlying attitude that defines two seemingly different characters. On the one hand there is Uncle Andrew, an eccentric, egotistical failure in the autumn of his life, utterly convinced of his own importance.

On the other hand there is Jadis – the sorceress queen who has wielded real power over untold thousands. In reality though, their attitude is the same: I’m special, I’m different, the rules don’t apply to me.

I think this is the sort of thing that Lewis was writing against. I have no doubt he’d balk at the so-called “children’s stories” or “teen fantasy” that is peddled today. Books like Harry Potter or Twilight, to name a couple that I especially love to hate, help children buy into the idea that I’m special, I’m different, if only everybody knew how terrific I really am.

We want to be secretly powerful or unique, if only because we want to stick it to them. They’ll see. And they’ll be sorry they didn’t treat me better. It’s a message of latent, self-aggrandizing power.

The absence of this – and the presence of its opposite – is one of the things that sets Narnia apart and makes it different from mainstream fantasy literature. As we’ll soon see, one of the key messages of The Magician’s Nephew is that the rules always apply to everybody.

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