Planet Narnia (XI) - Summary

Michael Ward's dissertation points out that by the medieval (Ptolemic) reckoning, there were seven planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Was it possible, Ward wondered, that each of the seven Narnia books was written under the sign of a different planet?

Looking closely at the Narnia Chronicles side-by-side with Lewis's 1935 poem, and other of his writings that touch on the planets, especially his posthumously published book, The Discarded Image, a retrieval of the medieval worldview, Ward found that indeed there is such a correspondence:

- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe corresponds to Jupiter,
- Prince Caspian to Mars,
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the Sun,
- The Silver Chair to the Moon,
- The Horse and His Boy to Mercury,
- The Magician's Nephew to Venus, and
- The Last Battle to Saturn.

Each planet, in a greatly simplified summary of the medieval understanding, represents a certain set of linked emotions and images, a temper, a disposition, along the spectrum -- we are all familiar with a 'jovial', 'saturnine' or 'mercurial' dispositions -- and these are reflected, Ward found, in the Narnia books, both in the big arc of each story and in countless fine touches throughout each volume.

What Ward has discovered is entirely consistent with Lewis's Christian humanism. The imaginative worldview embodied in the medieval astrological lore of the planets speaks to something fundamental in our experience; it is not to be rejected but rather baptised, made harmonious with the underlying Christian vision that governs Narnia.

Ward's discovery will send fellow-scholars and countless ordinary readers back to the books to evaluate the evidence for themselves. In the long term, by situating the Narnia Chronicles in the context of Lewis' lifetime fascination with the planets and showing the intricate patterning of the series, Ward will have finally laid to rest what he rightly calls A.N. Wilson's absurd suggestion that "Lewis turned to children's fiction as a retreat from apologetics after his clash with philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe at the Socratic Club." And he will have added yet another layer of appreciation for books that have delighted generations of children and their parents.

Michael Ward has lectured on Lewis in Oxford, Cambridge and many places in the United States, including Wheaton College, IL; Notre Dame University, IN; and Fuller Theological Seminary, CA.

Ward's work is to be published in the Spring of 2007 by Oxford University Press (USA) under the title "Planet Narnia".

In his 1937 TLS review, Lewis concluded by saying that Tolkien's Hobbit "will be funniest to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe...".

In a similar way, the Narnia Chronicles have yielded up their secret... only after many years and many readings. The Narnian septet has often been criticized by those who object to its Christian symbolism. Now it may be the turn of the religious fundamentalists to raise their own cry of foul. Narnia is a work of medieval astrology!

C.S. Lewis - The Planets (1937)
C.S. Lewis - That Hideous Strength (1945)
C.S. Lewis - The Discarded Image (1964)
C.S. Lewis - The Alliterative Metre, Selected Literary Essays (1969)
James Bonwick - Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions (1894)
Planet Narnia - Times Literary Supplement April 28th, 2003
The Ptolemaic Universe & Architypes - Wikipedia
Michael Ward - Wycliffe Hall, Oxford lectures (July 2006)

... and of course, all Seven Narnia Books.

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Planet Narnia (X)

Mars & Prince Caspian

MARS mercenary, makes there his camp
And flies his flag; flaunts laughingly
The graceless beauty, grey-eyed and keen,
--Blond insolence--of his blithe visage
Which is hard and happy. He hews the act,
The indifferent deed with dint of his mallet
And his chisel of choice; achievement comes not
Unhelped by him; --hired gladiator
Of evil and good. All's one to Mars,
The wrong righted, rescued meekness,
Or trouble in trenches, with trees splintered
And birds banished, banks fill'd with gold
And the liar made lord. Like handiwork
He offers to all--earns his wages
And whistles the while. White-feathered dread
Mars has mastered. His metal's iron
That was hammered through hands into holy cross,
Cruel carpentry. He is cold and strong,
Necessity's song. Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music--measureless the waves'

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

Prince Caspian - Mars
(Reepicheep is a "martial" mouse; Miraz frets over his "martial" policy; Caspian convenes a "Council of War"; events in Narnia are likened to "the Wars of the Roses".)

The Martial Type
- Courageous, vigorous, persistent
- Blunt, straight forward, resourceful
- Heroic, fearless

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Planet Narnia (IX)

Mercury & The Horse and His Boy

MERCURY marches;--madcap rover,
Patron of pilf'rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul's darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them--gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit's tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought. In the third region

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Horse and His Boy - Mercury
(The reunited twins, Cor and Corin, are an example of what the 1935 poem calls "meeting selves, / Same but sundered"; mercurial, "rocket"-like Narnian poetry is opposed to slow-spoken Calormene "jargon"; Mercury is "patron of pilf'rers" and Shasta several times goes "raiding"; he is also the fleet-footed messenger to Archenland.)

The Mercurial Type
- Restless, clean, energetic, quick
- Powerful, mellow voice, speaks rapidly
- The mythological thief

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Planet Narnia (VIII)

Venus & The Magician's Nephew

VENUS voyages... but my voice falters;
Rude rime-making wrongs her beauty,
Whose breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness
Bewitch the worlds. Wide-spread the reign
Of her secret sceptre, in the sea's caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.
The metal copper in the mine reddens
With muffled brightness, like muted gold,
By her fingers form'd. Far beyond her
The heaven's highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv'n thunder

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Magician's Nephew - Venus
(Her beautiful and maternal influence is evident in the fecund birth of Narnia and in the story of Digory's revivified mother, Mrs Kirke; Venus's "breasts and brow, and her breath's sweetness / Bewitch the worlds", rather as Jadis does; Fledge's wings are "copper".)

The Venusian Type
- Warm, passive, sympathetic, langurous
- Sensuous, vegetative
- Dull, sluggish, flesh and blood, earthy

(Next Posting - Mercury)
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Planet Narnia (VII)

Luna & The Silver Chair

Lady Luna, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us--the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count'nance
Orb'd and ageless. In earth's bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
--Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth.

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Silver Chair - the Moon
(The clue is in the title , for the Moon's metal is silver; Rilian and the Headmistress of Experiment House are both described as "lunatic"; the Moon gives rise to doubt - hence the Witch's attempt to persuade the adventurers that the Overworld does not exist.)

The Lunar Type
- Introspective, aloof, timid
- Stubborn, passive, moody
- Nocturnal, detail inclined

(Next Posting - Venus)
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Planet Narnia (VI)

Sol & The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Of SOL's chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle's eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o'er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos'd garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth's matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp'd male,
The earth's husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye. But other country
Dark with discord dins beyond him,
With noise of nakers, neighing of horses,
Hammering of harness. A haughty god

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" - the Sun
The clue is again in the title - a story about a journey towards the sunrise; the Sun's metal, gold, tempts Eustace and he is transformed into a dragon, and on Deathwater Island Lord Restimar is turned into a golden statue.

The Solar Type
- Intense, naive, youthful
- Active, fine, graceful
- Wide shoulders, thin waist, fair skin, broad forehead

(Next Posting - Luna - the Moon)
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Planet Narnia (V)

[Above - an imaginative rendition of Saturn as a hooded, cloaked figure bearing a scythe in his guise as Father Time]

Saturn and The Last Battle

Goes SATURN silent in the seventh region,
The skirts of the sky. Scant grows the light,
Sickly, uncertain (the Sun's finger
Daunted with darkness). Distance hurts us,
And the vault severe of vast silence;
Where fancy fails us, and fair language,
And love leaves us, and light fails us
And Mars fails us, and the mirth of Jove
Is as tin tinkling. In tattered garment,
Weak with winters, he walks forever
A weary way, wide round the heav'n,
Stoop'd and stumbling, with staff groping,
The lord of lead. He is the last planet
Old and ugly. His eye fathers
Pale pestilence, pain of envy,
Remorse and murder. Melancholy drink
(For bane or blessing) of bitter wisdom
He pours out for his people, a perilous draught
That the lip loves not. We leave all things
To reach the rim of the round welkin,
Heaven's heritage, high and lonely.

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

Saturn, whose name in the heavens is Lurga, stood in the Blue Room. His spirit lay upon the house, or even on the whole Earth, with a cold pressure such as might flatten the very orb of Tellus to a wafer. Matched against the lead-like burden of his antiquity the other gods themselves perhaps felt young and ephemeral. It was a mountain of centuries sloping up from the highest antiquity we can conceive, up and up like a mountain whose summit never comes into sight, not to eternity where the thought can rest, but into more and still more time, into freezing wastes and silence of unnameable numbers. It was also strong like a mountain; its age was no mere morass of time where imagination can sink in reverie, but a living, self-remembering duration which repelled lighter intelligences from its structure as granite flings back waves, itself unwithered and undecayed but able to wither any who approach it unadvised. ...

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 15: Descent of the Gods (1945)

The Last Battle - Saturn
(Saturnine features here include ill-chance in Shift's discovery of the lionskin, treachery by the dwarfs, the appearance of Father Time who, according to The Discarded Image , is "derived from earlier pictures of Saturn"; and, ultimately, the death of Narnia, "a perilous draught / That the lip loves not".)

The Saturnine Type
- Introspective, masterful, capacity for self-control
- Breath and wisdom, dominates easily
- The natural leader

Saturn has been known as father time for at least the past three thousand years.
According to Ovid:
"An ancient story has it that when this land was called Saturn's, the oracle of Jupiter spoke like this: 'For the Old Man with the Sickle, pick out and toss in two of your people's carcasses for the Tiber to take'."

Ovid also wrote:
"And the ship? A ship brought the god with the sickle to the Tiber after he'd wandered all over the world. I well remember when this land welcomed Saturn after Jove banished him from the heavenly kingdom. For a long time the name 'Saturnian' stuck to the people, and Latium was named for the lately evicted god. Following generations duly minted pennies with a ship to commemorate the divine stranger's arrival."

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Planet Narnia (IV)

Jupiter & The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If we examine "The Planets" again with one eye on Lewis's most successful imaginative work - Narnia - we discover something very interesting. Take, for example, the lines dealing with Jove (or Jupiter):

Joy and Jubilee. It is JOVE'S orbit,
Filled and festal, faster turning
With arc ampler ...Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted,
The myriad-minded, men like the gods,
Helps and heroes, helms of nations
Just and gentle, are Jove's children,
Work his wonders. On his wide forehead
Calm and kingly, no care darkens
Nor wrath wrinkles: but righteous power
And leisure and largess their loose splendours
Have wrapped around him - a rich mantle
Of ease and empire. Up far beyond

C. S. Lewis, The Planets (1937)

What these lines contain, as Dr. Ward maintains, is a plot summary of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , which is a tale of "winter passed / And guilt forgiven". In that story, the first of the Narnia Chronicles, we find a White Witch who is confronted by the "lion-hearted" Aslan, and witness the passing of her perpetual winter "always winter but never Christmas".

The "guilt forgiven" is that of the traitorous Edmund whose dream of becoming King of Narnia is shipwrecked on the rocks of the primogenitive High Kingship of his brother, Peter, and on Aslan's pre-eminent and sacrificial kingliness. Upon his resurrection, Aslan romps with Susan and Lucy in "jocund revel, / Laughter of ladies".

The four Pevensies ("Jove's children") show themselves to be "helps and heroes" in the final battle with the Witch, and are eventually crowned as joint sovereigns ("helms of nations"), with Edmund earning the title "King Edmund the Just" and Susan the title "Queen Susan the Gentle".

Altogether, the story tells the tale "of wrath ended / And woes mended", for "Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, / At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more".

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , we may safely conclude, is Lewis's Jupiter. The jovial influence permeating the story is an example of what Lewis called "the kappa element in Romance" - its hidden element, its quality or atmosphere - which is what Lewis chiefly valued in narrative fiction.

The Jovial Type?
- Flamboyant, cheerful, tolerant
- Maternal, intriguing, affectionate
- Short, rounded and stout; large head, Santa Claus look
(So THAT's why Father Christmas appears in TLtWatW!

(Next Posting - Saturn)
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Planet Narnia (III)

The Discarded Image
In 1937, C. S. Lewis, reviewing Tolkien's The Hobbit for The Times Literary Supplement , noted how it resembled Alice in being the work of "a professor at play". Thirteen years later Lewis added his own contribution to the shelf of playful professorial tales when he published The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , the first of his seven Chronicles of Narnia. Their Christian symbolism has often been remarked on and sometimes objected to - most notably of late by Philip Pullman. What no one has noticed before is that Lewis intended the Chronicles as an embodiment of medieval astrology.

Lewis was a medieval specialist. His posthumous work, The Discarded Image , which presents an introduction to the medieval world-view, was the fruit of his many courses of lectures on the subject, first at Oxford, where he was Fellow and Tutor at Magdalen College for twenty-nine years, and then at Cambridge, where he was the first occupant of the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. A central part of the medieval world-view (at least for Lewis) was an understanding of the heavens.

The seven planets of their astrology (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter,
Saturn) were held to influence people and events and even the metals in the earth in seven distinct ways. Lewis wrote this about Jupiter:

Jupiter, the King ... The character he produces in men would now be very imperfectly expressed by the word "jovial", and is not very easy to grasp; it is no longer, like the saturnine character, one of our archetypes. We may say it is Kingly ; but we must think of a King at peace, enthroned, taking his leisure, serene. The Jovial character is cheerful, festive, yet temperate, tranquil, magnanimous. When this planet dominates we may expect halcyon days and prosperity. In Dante wise and just princes go to his sphere when they die. He is the best planet, and is called The Greater Fortune, Fortuna Major.
C.S. Lewis - The Discarded Image (1964)

Lewis had not only an academic interest in this cosmology; he responded to it imaginatively and wove "baptised astrology", as he called it, into much of his fiction and poetry. Hence his chapter entitled "The Descent of the Gods" in That Hideous Strength (1945), in which five planetary intelligences (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter) come to earth to help bring about the denouement of the story. And of course also his alliterative poem, "The Planets", published in 1935, which he introduced with these words: the characters of the planets, as conceived by medieval astrology, seem to me to have a permanent value as spiritual symbols - to provide a Phanomenologie des Geistes which is specially worth while in our own generation. Of Saturn we know more than enough. But who does not need to be reminded of Jove?
C.S. Lewis The Alliterative Metre, Selected Literary Essays (1969)

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