The Lefay Fragment was an unfinished prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis wrote immediately after finishing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in June 1949, even before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published. Most of the ideas would later become what is known as The Magician's Nephew today. However, some of the ideas and Characters subsequently ended up in Prince Caspian, which he wrote after ultimately dismissing the Lefay Fragment and writing Prince Caspian instead. It presented the story of Digory and Polly differently as it is known today in The Magician's Nephew.
Immediately after finishing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis set out to write a prequel, intending to explain the creation of Narnia and the surreal Element of the Lamp-post in Lantern Waste. After going through it at one point and in talks with his publisher, he ultimately decided to dismiss it, as it was "too dark" and "not going where he wanted to" and set out to write a sequel, Prince Caspian, instead. The Legacy of this unfinished fragment remains however, as many ideas and characters are presented in the other chronicles and the fragment remained as it was found by his secretary, Walter Hooper, and ultimately widely published in his publication "Past Watchful Dragons" in 1979.
The Lefay Fragment begins with an introduction to Digory, his unpleasant aunt Gertrude, and the family Cook.
The story then begins on a day when Digory is sick and Aunt Gertrude is out, when Digory goes out into the woods behind his house. He begins to speak to an old oak tree that grows there, and the oak responds back, as it apparently always has. C.S. Lewis then explains that Digory has the gift of being able to communicate to trees and to animals, and this is not unusual for him, though he keeps it a secret from others. The Oak invites him up to sit, and a squirrel known as Pattertwig elects to come along as well, offering Digory a few nuts for a snack.
The trees (now joined by the Beech and the Fir), Pattertwig, and Digory have a talk about humans, and their use or lack thereof. One tree mentions that it sees a human nearby, and Digory climbs over the garden wall to investigate.
The new human is a girl, named Polly. When Digory attempts to explain his previous conversation with a squirrel, Polly suggests trying to trap and tame one, a suggestion which gravely insults Pattertwig and sends the listening trees into displeased grumbles. Digory asks what Polly is doing to distract her, and she explains that she is making a raft, which she intends to use to sail down the stream at the end of her garden. Digory proposes that they make a second raft, and Polly agrees. To his horror, she suggests chopping a branch off the Oak tree. Under pressure, Digory agrees and reluctantly saws the arm off of his friend the Oak, despite the tree's protests. A storm begins and both children go inside shortly afterwards.
The next day, Aunt Gertrude announces that Digory's godmother Mrs. Lefay is coming to visit, to Gertrude's great displeasure. Before she arrives, Digory goes out to talk to the Oak and apologize. He is shocked and grieved to discover that the trees and the animals no longer respond to him. Before he can properly take in the situation, though, Mrs. Lefay arrives, and he must go in to see her. She is an unsightly woman and the opposite of prim Aunt Gertrude. Once she is alone with Digory, she introduces him to her rabbit, Coiny. She gives enigmatic clues that suggest she knows of his gift, and knows he lost it.
She begins to tell Digory her address, but sadly, the fragment ends mid-sentence, before the reader discovers just where she lives.
Commentary and Trivia
- Digory Kirke is able to talk to animals and plants in England, which raises a few interesting points about the idea of sentience of animals and plants in England in addition to Narnia. However, this point and idea was ultimately dropped in every subsequent novel as well.
- Mrs. Lefay shares the same name of a different Character in Magician's Nephew. Even though the name indicates so, they don't seem to be related and quite a different personality over all. Even though they both share non-human blood (dwarfen in the case of this Mrs. Lefay), their role is very much different, with this Lefay serving a similar role to Digory as Doctor Cornelius does to Caspian in the subsequent novel, Prince Caspian.
- Pattertwig appears as a very talkative squirrel, as he does in Prince Caspian with the point of how it is rude to watch a squirrel going after its hoard being the same.
- Aunt Gertrude's personality and characterisation was nearly identical to the Headmistress of Experiment House in The Silver Chair.