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

The hidden theme behind CS Lewis' Narnia books has finally been uncovered, according to a BBC documentary...

[But read my postings on this Weblog from July/August 2006]

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.

The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 120m copies in 41 languages since their first publication in the early 1950s first of the books, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was turned into a film starring Tilda Swinton and James McAvoy in 2005.

The books are already known to work on two levels: the fantasy narrative enjoyed by generations of children, and the Christian allegory in which the lion Aslan represents Christ. However, Lewis never revealed the hidden key behind the series.

Dr Ward made his discovery in 2003 after reading The Planets, a poem by Lewis which refers to the influence of Jupiter in "winter passed / And guilt forgiv'n" – a theme echoed in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

He claims Lewis' knowledge of medieval history, of which he was one of the leading scholars, made him familiar with the characteristics attributed to the seven planets during the period. Each of these planets gives one of the books its theme. Prince Caspian, for example, is a story ruled by Mars, who is manifested by soldiery and battle, while The Voyage of the Dawn Treader focuses on the Sun, with its light and gold themes. In The Horse and His Boy, based on Mercury, the planet that rules the star sign Gemini and is associated with the power of communication, the characters include twins and a talking horse.

Mr Stone said: "This isn't the first theory on Narnia and I don't suppose it will be the last but this is the best explanation yet.

"Critics of Lewis said his writing was sloppy - Tolkein, for example, said the characters were a mish-mash - but this third level of meaning shows the books were not simplistic. In fact, writing such a complex set of notions into a novel must have been like three-dimensional chess.

"Lewis was a great medievalist - a real expert on the period. He was also interested in astrology. He loved the medieval view of the world. His view of faith was also that if it is to be anything it must be cosmic."

He added: "This will help change the view of Lewis. It will help elevate Lewis to a different level and make him the equal of Tolkien - both as a writer and thinker. He felt that we have been blinded by facts, but he loved hiding things. He loved the idea that people learnt more by discovering things themselves, especially hidden things. A lot of the meaning of God is after all hidden."

Mr Stone, who is married to television presenter Sally Magnusson, won both a BAFTA and an Emmy for his 1984 epic Shadowlands, which traced the unusual relationship between Lewis and his wife Joy Gresham.

Sunday Telegraph (London) – 30 November 2008

All Hallows Eve

Lester looked round her. She saw the stars; she saw the lights; she saw dim shapes of houses and trees in a landscape which was less familiar through being so familiar. She could not even yet manage to enunciate to her companion the word death. The landscape of death lay round them; the future of death awaited them. Let them go to it; let them do something. She thought of her own flat and of Richard-no. She did not wish to take this other Evelyn there; besides, she herself would be, if anything at all, only a dim shadow to Richard, a hallucination or a troubling apparition. She could not bear that, if it could be avoided; she could not bear to be only a terrifying dream. No; they must go elsewhere. She wondered if Evelyn felt in the same way about her own home. She knew that Evelyn had continuously snubbed and suppressed her mother, with whom she lived; once or twice she had herself meant to say something, if only out of an indifferent superiority. But the indifference had beaten the superiority. It was now for Evelyn to choose.

She said: "Shall we go to your place?"

Evelyn said shrilly: "No; no. I won't see Mother. I hate Mother."

Lester shrugged. One way and another, they did seem to be rather vagrants, unfortunate and helpless creatures, with no purpose and no use.

She said: "Well . . . let's go."

Evelyn looked up at her. Lester, with an effort at companionship, tried to smile at her. She did not very well succeed, but at least Evelyn, slowly and reluctantly, got to her feet. The lights in the houses had gone out, but a faint clarity was in the air -perhaps (though it had come quickly) the first suggestion of the day. Lester knew exactly what she had better do, and with an effort she did it. She took Evelyn's arm. The two dead girls went together slowly out of the Park.

Charles Williams : All Hallows Eve (Last paragraphs of Chapter 1 - The New Life)

Williams and the Arthuraid

Two spiritual maxims were constantly present to the mind of Charles Williams: "This also is Thou" and "Neither is this Thou." Holding the first we see that every created thing is, in its degree, an image of God, and the ordinate and faithful appreciation of that thing a clue which, truly followed, will lead back to Him. Holding the second we see that every created thing, the highest devotion to moral duty, the purest conjugal love, the saint and the seraph, is no more than an image, that every one of them, followed for its own sake and isolated from its source, becomes an idol whose service is damnation. The first maxim is the formula of the Romantic Way, the "affirmation of images": the second is that of the Ascetic Way, the "rejection of images." Every soul must in some sense follow both. The Ascetic must honour marriage and poetry and wine and the face of nature even while he rejects them; the Romantic must remember even in his Beatrician moment "Neither is this Thou."

C. S. Lewis, Arthurian Torso, "Williams and the Arthuriad" (1948)

The C.S. Lewis Collection at Taylor University

(reprinted from Will Vaus’ weblog (link on the left)

Taylor University boasts one of the best collections of C. S. Lewis first editions, original manuscripts and letters in all of the United States, second only to that of the Wade Center at Wheaton College. This is thanks to Dr. Edwin Brown, former Associate Professor of Medicine at Indiana University, who amassed one of the finest private collections of C. S. Lewis first editions in the world. A number of years ago this collection was sold to Taylor University so that it might be more accessible to C. S. Lewis scholars. The collection is complemented by the presence of pub furniture also collected by Ed Brown and resembling the Eagle & Child pub in Oxford where C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and others of the Inklings group met.

Another great asset of the Edwin Brown Collection is this first edition of Mere Christianity given by C. S. Lewis to Joy Davidman Gresham at their first meeting:

On page 78, in the midst of Lewis's chapter on Sexual Morality, Joy wrote at the bottom of the page:

What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

This is a quotation from Shelley's poem, Love's Philosophy.
Then on page 86 Joy wrote:

What if the quieter love does not come?
It cannot be achieved alone.

Is there any question that Joy's first annotation reveals that she was in love with C. S. Lewis beginning with their first meeting in 1952? And certainly her second annotation refers to the failure of love in her marriage to Bill Gresham. Thankfully the story didn't end there. The kisses and the quieter love were experienced in the eventual marriage of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman, though accompanied with much pain and grief.


The Paradisiacal Bike

"Talking about bicycles," said my friend, "I have been through the four ages. I can remember a time in early childhood when a bicycle meant nothing to me: it was just part of the huge meaningless background of grown-up gadgets against which life went on. Then came a time when to have a bicycle, and to have learned to ride it, and to be at last spinning along on one's own, early in the morning, under trees, in and out of the shadows, was like entering Paradise. That apparently effortless and frictionless gliding -- more like swimming than any other motion, but really most like the discovery of a fifth element -- that seemed to have solved the secret of life. Now one would begin to be happy. But, of course, I soon reached the third period. Pedalling to and fro from school (it was one of those journeys that feel up-hill both ways) in all weathers, soon revealed the prose of cycling. The bicycle, itself, became to me what his oar is to a galley slave."

"But what was the fourth age?" I asked.

"I am in it now, or rather I am frequently in it. I have had to go back to cycling lately now that there's no car. And the jobs I use it for are often dull enough. But again and again the mere fact of riding brings back a delicious whiff of memory. I recover the feelings of the second age. What's more, I see how true they were -- how philosophical, even. For it really is a remarkably pleasant motion. To be sure, it is not a recipe for happiness as I then thought. In that sense the second age was a mirage. But a mirage of something."

"How do you mean?", said I.

"I mean this. Whether there is, or whether there is not, in this world or in any other, the kind of happiness which one's first experiences of cycling seemed to promise, still, on any view, it is something to have had the idea of it. The value of the thing promised remains even if that particular promise was false -- even if all possible promises of it are false."

C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns, "Talking About Bicycles"
(1st published in Resistance, October 1946)

A floating paradise

Over his head there hung from a hairy tube-like branch a great spherical object, almost transparent, and shining. It held an area of reflected light in it and at one place a suggestion of rainbow coloring. So this was the explanation of the glass-like appearance in the wood. And looking round he perceived innumerable shimmering globes of the same kind in every direction. He began to examine the nearest one attentively. At first he thought it was moving, then he thought it was not. Moved by a natural impulse he put out his hand to touch it. Immediately his head, face, and shoulders were drenched with what seemed (in that warm world) an ice-cold shower bath, and his nostrils filled with a sharp, shrill, exquisite scent that somehow brought to his mind the verse in Pope, "die of a rose in aromatic pain." Such was the refreshment that he seemed to himself to have been, till now, but half awake. When he opened his eyes -- which had closed involuntarily at the shock of moisture -- all the colours about him seemed richer and the dimness of that world seemed clarified. A re-enchantment fell upon him. The golden beast at his side seemed no longer either a danger or a nuisance. If a naked man and a wise dragon were indeed the sole inhabitants of this floating paradise, then this also was fitting, for at that moment he had a sensation not of following an adventure but of enacting a myth. To be the figure that he was in this unearthly pattern appeared sufficient.

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, Chapter 4 (1944)

In Paradise...

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True
J.R.R. Tolkien
An interesting piece entitled: "Deep lies the sea-longing" inklings of home (1).
by Charles Huttar (2007) may be found on
2007 Mythopoeic Society

The Bent One in "Out of the Silent Planet"

Out of the Silent Planet saves its allegorical work for the end when Ransom meets the Archangel of Mars (Malacandra). Even there, one has to have been brought up on the Bible in a living and abiding way (esp. the books of Daniel and Isaiah) to connect Oyarsas to (planetary) archangels, and Malacandra's tale of The Bent One and his fall (wounded in the very light of his light = and I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning) to Lucifer. Likewise, "Thulcandra" = The Silent Planet, that is earth, a world from which no news comes, because our Oyarsa has become "Bent" and our world is quarantined. And the nice addition of Malacandra telling Ransom that the Maleldil (meaning "Friend of the Eldila" or angels, God the Father) has "taken strange councils" and dared terrible things, and how these are things that the out-of-the-loop Oyarsas "desire to look into". One raised on the Bible will immediately pick up on this. But it's not likely anyone else will.

The Bent One

After Tolkien on ‘critics as Jabberwocks’, Lewis on the critics, and the opportunities that their myopia bring to the discerning author -- see my posting ‘Stealing Past the Watchful Dragons’ on the 20th October too -- bringing my little series on ‘Dragons’ to a close is this letter from C.S. Lewis. (Roger R)


You will be both grieved and amused to hear that out of about 60 reviews only 2 showed any knowledge that my idea of the fall of the Bent One was anything but an invention of my own. But if there only was someone with a richer talent and more leisure I think that this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelisation of England; any amount of theology can now be smuggles into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.

C.S. Lewis ~ Letter to a Lady, 9 July 1939