The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche rather prominently includes the idea of the Übermensch ("overman" or "superman"), who were exempt from the ordinary rules of morality in some sense. Is this what the following passage from The Magician's Nephew is referring to? Does Uncle Andrew consider himself an Übermensch?

"All in good time, my boy," said Uncle Andrew. "They let old Mrs. Lefay out before she died and I was one of the very few people whom she would allow to see her in her last illness. She had got to dislike ordinary, ignorant people, you understand. I do myself. But she and I were interested in the same sort of things. It was only a few days before her death that she told me to go to an old bureau in her house and open a secret drawer and bring her a little box that I would find there. The moment I picked up that box I could tell by the pricking in my fingers that I held some great secret in my hands. She gave it to me and made me promise that as soon as she was dead I would burn it unopened, with certain ceremonies. That promise I did not keep."
"Well then, it was jolly rotten of you," said Digory.
“Rotten?” said Uncle Andrew with a puzzled look. “Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. 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.”

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    I would assume that by men like me, Uncle Andrew meant magicians and not Übermenschen. (Although I would not assume that C.S. Lewis believed that all magicians would have Uncle Andrew's sense of morality.)
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:39
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    @PeterShor That's an interesting question, actually; is he referring to "profound students and great thinkers" in general, or specifically to men "who possess hidden wisdom" (presumably other magicians)? Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:45
  • One question is whether Uncle Andrew is a profound thinker with philosophical theories about exactly who moral obligations do not apply to; or whether he just knows they don't apply to him, and is looking for any justification for this. It's been a long time since I read The Magician's Nephew, but knowing C.S. Lewis, I suspect there's very little in the text to support the first possibility.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


That's most likely what C. S. Lewis was thinking of, but he wouldn't necessarily expect his readers to be aware of that fact. Uncle Andrew does, in fact, appear to hold to a variant of this idea.

First, who is he referring to here? "Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom" and "profound students and great thinkers and sages." The first sentence could be seen as referring especially to magicians, or it could be referring more generally to anyone who had "secret knowledge" of some kind. (I think that the former is more likely). He seems to be including magicians (like himself) in the category of "profound students and great thinkers and sages", who have special moral rules that don't apply to "ordinary" people.

The question, then, is "who are the 'profound students and great thinkers and sages'?" Does being one of them make you an Übermensch?

I think that we have to assume, for starters, that Uncle Andrew thinks that it makes you something like an Übermensch. At a minimum, he seems to think that being one exempts you from "ordinary" moral rules, which are just for "common people" (kids, servants, etc.).

Google's dictionary defines an ubermensch as "the ideal superior man of the future who could rise above conventional Christian morality to create and impose his own values, originally described by Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883–85)."

So, in a word, yes - C. S. Lewis (who presumably would've been familiar with with this concept) was most likely thinking of this concept when he wrote this.

TL;DR Yes, he did consider himself an Übermensch (or, at least, something very much like one).

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