Secret theme behind Narnia Chronicles is based upon the stars, says new research

Each of the seven children’s chronicles is based on one of the seven planets that comprised the heavens in medieval astrology, says a scholar whose theory is examined in the programme.

The explanation comes after more than five decades of literary and theological debate over whether Lewis devised the fantasies with a pattern in mind or created characters and events at random.

It is put forward by Reverend Dr Michael Ward, in his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of CS Lewis.

Norman Stone, director and producer of The Narnia Code, to be screened on BBC2 at Easter, says the theory is the “best explanation yet” for the chimerical nature of the books.

See also the Rev. Ward’s website.

It was fiction, it makes little difference where Lewis borrowed ideas from. There are good lessons in the books, leave it at that.

I don’t know the order of the planets off the top of my head, nor all the Narnia books, but I want to try to match them without being told. Someone tell me the names of the books and a few key images and I’ll match them. Please?:smiley:

Seven is also the number most associated in Hebrew thought with perfection.

There definitely has been a struggle for the soul of Children’s literature going on in the publishing world.

You have works like the “Golden Compass”, and, dare I say it, “Harry Potter” on the one hand, and a movement to make C.S. Lewis’ writing looks stupid, or bigoted, or as an example of bad writing.

So, there’s this cadre of writers and literary critics who say Lewis should have had a donkey as Aslan instead of a lion, and level other criticisms against the books.

I think it is really hard for an individual to try to out think another
person who wrote something, even if they’ve read everything that other person wrote.

One can at best speculate about another individual’s motives for writing something in fiction the way they did, but unless they revealed the reason during ther lifetime, we’ll never know with 100% certitude.

I haven’t read the books, but I have read the life story of C. S. Lewis and I have seen the two recent movies. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe is so clearly about Christ that it is a fact that jumps right out at you. Prince Caspian, in my opinion, is just confusing. But I probably should read it because the movie may have not explained the story well.

I thought there already were diffinative studies done on what CS Lewis intended to convey with his children’s stories.

I think the person who wrote the book is trying to lead people into astrology and lead people away from looking at CS Lewis as a Christian.

I’d have to go hunting for the source, but I remember reading that Lewis himself stated that he did not plan all 7 books out in advance, and at one point planned The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to be the last book in the series (hence the episode with Aslan at the end of it). That would sort of blow the idea that all 7 books were pre-planned around an astrological theme out of the water.

Having said that, given how he is able to weave Christian themes with pagan mythology, I don’t think looking at astrological images is necessarily out of place. The pagan myths are always shown in a subordinate position to the Christian images. This is perhaps clearest in Prince Caspian when Aslan is explicitly given power over Bacchus et al.

Just my :twocents:

In defense of C. S. Lewis, it should be pointed out that the Catholic Church’s antagonism towards astrology is directed at the attempt by astrologers to seek knowledge and prediction about the future.

The study of the planets as symbols and metaphors of human virtues and vices, on the other hand, is clearly orthodox. The “Seven Deadly Sins”, for instance, have clear planetary correspondences.

If Lewis did only plan to write the first three, then there would be an astrological explanation for that plan. According to the good Reverend, the first three books had something in common:

C.S. Lewis designed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe so that it would embody and express Jupiter’s qualities.

C.S. Lewis designed Prince Caspian so that it would embody and express Mars’s qualities.

C.S. Lewis designed The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ so that it would embody and express Sol’s [the Sun’s] qualities.

In astrology, the “fire” signs represent vigor, life, and energy. Fire was used in the Jewish sacrifices in the Temple, and tongues of fire appeared on the heads of the early Church during Pentecost. Lewis probably saw the “fire” signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius) as symbolic of the power of God.

The planets that rule the fire signs are Jupiter (Sagittarius); Mars (Aries); and the Sun (Leo).

In astrology, Sagittarius is often considered the “root” sign, so it would make sense for Lewis to start his Narnia series with the planet that rules Sagittarius. After Sagittarius, the next fire sign is Aries (Mars), which is then followed finally by Leo (the Sun).

So, Lewis initially wanting to only do the first three books, makes good astrological sense.

If Lewis then decided to do all seven planets, then the last book (The Last Battle) would symbolize Saturn, the last planet.

That would leave the Moon, Mercury, and Venus, to occupy the spaces between the first three books and the last book. Lewis decided to write The Silver Chair (the Moon), then The Horse and His Boy (Mercury), and then The Magician’s Nephew (Venus), in that order, because the Moon is the fastest planet, followed by Mercury, and then Venus. (Notice that silver is astrologically associated with the Moon; the horse symbolizes mercurial qualities; and Venus is often associated with magic.)

Seems pretty reasonable to me, this theory of astrological Lewisiana. Since Lewis wasn’t using astrology to try to predict the future, his use of astrology was perfectly orthodox.

How about Lewis’ space trilogy? How does that all fit in?

You may be referring to this quote:

Lewis, writing to a reader]: I think I agree with your order * for reading the books more than with your mother’s. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion* I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.

Notice, though, that Lewis simply says he did not think he would write a complete series, initially. He did not say that he didn’t write each book with an astrological symbolism in mind. It’s quite possible that he simply wanted to write one book at first, on Jupiterian themes (The Lion), without promising himself that he would write future books on other planetary themes. (Jupiter, by the way, is an excellent theme for a first book: Jupiter is the planet with the greatest positive significance. The Magi may have been able to deduce the birth of the Christ-child because of the Jupiter’s motion in the sky.) And, then, as he found out he actually wanted to continue writing, he then wrote them, and continuing to use an astrological framework.

The first one is set on Mars; the second one on Venus; and the last one on Earth. Whether the first book has an astrological martial theme; whether the second, a venusian theme; whether the third, a terrestrial theme – themes the Rev. Ward argues you can see in the *Narnia *series – I’m not sure about. I haven’t read those books. (But neither have I read Narnia for that matter – I’m more of a Tolkienian. :D)

I’m not at all sure that Ward is right that Lewis did this on purpose. But he certainly was steeped in medieval cosmology (see his book The Discarded Image, as well as the poem on the planets which Ward cites, a letter describing his reaction to Holst’s *The Planets, *and the “descent of the gods” scene in That Hideous Strength–the whole space trilogy, for that matter). For me the test of any literary theory is whether it enriches my understanding of the books. And this one does. The symbolism largely makes sense, whether it was intentional or unintentional on Lewis’s part.

I was very skeptical about Ward initially, and I still find many of his claims over the top. But the basic thematic pattern he describes does seem to be there.

Edwin

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