AKA The Chapter between the Acts. The Wood Between the Worlds neatly divides The Magician’s Nephew into its three acts (although this is the only time it lasts a whole chapter).
“No, I don’t believe this wood is a world at all. I think it’s just a sort of in-between place.”
[…] “Don’t you see?” said Digory. “No, do listen. Think of our tunnel under the slates at home. It isn’t a room in any of the houses. But once you’re in the tunnel you can go along it and come out into any of the houses in the row. Mightn’t this wood be the same? – a place that isn’t in any of the worlds, but once you’ve found that place you can get into them all.”
Nothing much happens in this chapter (as nothing much happens in the wood at all), although it’s certainly not unenjoyable for it.
Now the truth was that Uncle Andrew, who knew nothing about the Wood between the Worlds, had quite a wrong idea about the rings. The yellow ones weren’t “outward” rings and the green ones weren’t “homeward” rings; at least, not in the way he thought. The stuff of which both were made had all come from the wood. The stuff in the yellow rings had the power of drawing you into the wood; it was trying to get back to its own place, the in-between place. But the stuff in the green rings is stuff that is trying to get out of its own place: so that a green ring would take you out of the wood into a world. Uncle Andrew, you see, was working with things he did not really understand; most magicians are.
The majority of the chapter is spent exploring the mechanics of the rings and the Wood, but that alone provides plenty of room for argument between Polly and Digory, which in turn provides insight into their characters. Polly is the more sensible of the two (a type of female character Lewis has written with varying levels of success in earlier books), while Digory is the more emotional one. It’s a pleasant inversion of Lewis’s earlier boy-girl pairs, where the boys tended to be more knowledgeable and less emotional. It makes complete sense, though! Digory has suffered so much loss already, and is always anticipating losing more, so he’s in a more emotionally vulnerable state. He’s not just emotional, though – he’s in a situation with no authority figure, and what’s more, his last interaction with an authority figure of any sort (Uncle Andrew) was extremely negative. Basically, he’s ripe for impulsive behavior, and Polly is the only person who might possibly tell him “no”.
“It’s a good thing one of us has some sense,” said Polly.
“Well don’t keep on gassing about it,” said Digory […]. And Polly gave him a pretty sharp answer and he said something even nastier in reply. The quarrel lasted for several minutes, but it would be dull to write it all down.
Next time: The Bell and the Hammer…