- "This wood was very much alive."
- ― The Magician's Nephew (Chapter 3)
It had the form of a quiet forest dotted with many wide pools of supposed water, each of which served as a portal to a different world.
It was used by Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer to visit the dying world of Charn, to transport Queen Jadis from Charn to Earth, and then take her, along with Frank, Strawberry and Andrew Ketterley, to Narnia on the day of its creation.
Travel Between Worlds
The rings are of two types: Yellow rings transport a person from a world to the Wood. If a person on Earth touches a yellow ring, for example, they will disappear and appear in the pool in the Wood, which leads to Earth.
The green rings, however, transports a person out of the Wood and into a world. If a person in the Wood wants to go to Charn, for example, they step into the pool that leads to Charn while touching a green ring, and then materializes there. What determines the location in that world, where the traveler appears, is not clear.
Contact with the ring must be made by skin. Another feature of the rings is that the effect works like electricity, by chain of contact; you don't have to be touching a ring to be transported, only merely touching someone who is in contact with one.
The rings themselves were created from a magical dust, originally in the possession of Uncle Andrew's godmother. This powder had come, via the lost island of Atlantis, from the Wood itself. Thus, originally, the dust must have been used in travelling between worlds, and it is implied that in the past, travel from our world to others such as Charn, may have been more common. This offers explanation of how in "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe", Jadis is described by the beavers as descended from Adam's first wife Lilith (from Earth), whilst also being the last of the royal house of Charn.
Neither Uncle Andrew, who made the rings, nor Digory and Polly, who were tricked by Andrew into trying them out, understood any of this. This resulted in Digory and Polly blundering into Charn, and the accidental transport of Jadis back to Earth by the 'chain of contact' effect when she grabbed Polly's hair as they were leaving. The next time they used the rings they understood them better, and used this effect to remove Jadis from Earth, holding hands while Digory grabbed Jadis's heel, and Polly touched her yellow ring. Unfortunately, the chain of contact unintentionally included Uncle Andrew, Frank the Cabman, his horse Strawberry, and even the cab, which were all transported first to the Wood, and then to Narnia of the year 1/1900.
An interesting detail is that the initial choice of Narnia as a world to go to, which began all the contact between Narnia and Earth, was made by Strawberry the horse, who blundered into the first pool he saw because he was thirsty, which happened to lead to Narnia. It is of note that this pool existed before Narnia had properly begun, whilst it was in the state of "dark and stillness before the dawn of time".
When the world of Charn was destroyed, following the exit of its final living inhabitant, its pool in the Wood dried up into a grassy hollow. This suggests that any of the pools dries up after its world has met its end. Presumably the pool that led to Narnia had also dried up in 2555/1949 following the Last Battle.
The Wood was never again accessed (from our world), for after Digory and Polly returned from Narnia, Digory buried the magic rings upon Aslan's command, in a circle around the apple core that he had brought back from Narnia to heal his mother.
The Seven Friends of Narnia later attempted to use the rings to help Narnia in its final hours. Peter and Edmund retrieved the box of rings from Professor Kirke's old garden in London, but before they could use them, the train on which the friends were gathered was involved in a crash. The rings were presumably destroyed, or else lost in the rubble.
The Wood could have been part of Aslan's Country, since like the Wood, it contained all the worlds. However, since the Wood was not a world itself, it probably didn't become a part of Aslan's Country. According to Jadis, there were eleven worlds in the beginning of the universe, which implies that there were eleven pools to begin with in the Wood.
The Wood itself is not a 'world' in the sense of Charn, Earth, or Narnia. It is more like a nexus, a dimension that exists outside of all worlds, like a corridor from where anyone can access any of the portals.
It is largely uninhabited, perhaps explained by the fact that continued presence there causes a general amnesia and sleepiness. This quality of the Wood may be present in order to prevent it being captured and held by any one race, thus only allowing its use as a portal. Although there are no creatures truly native to the Wood, it may still be inhabited by the guinea pigs used by Uncle Andrew in his experiments with the rings.
The Wood's resistance to hostile parties may also be apparent in its toxic effect upon Jadis, who lost her strength and vitality when she entered it.
The Wood is described as being very much alive, with having a large number of trees that grew so close together, with so many leaves that one could hardly see the sky. Despite this, though, there is a bright green light that shines through the leaves, creating a warm climate for the Wood. It is very quiet, with hardly any inhabitants, and no wind. You can apparently almost feel the tress growing, and there are pools everywhere, which the trees' roots drink up the water from.
- "It was a rich place: as rich as plum cake. "
- ― Digory's thoughts on the Wood (Chapter 3) [src]