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Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  1,302 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis's famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the ...more
Hardcover, First edition, 347 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Brittany Petruzzi
Dec 27, 2013 Brittany Petruzzi rated it really liked it
I’ve often wondered what it is that makes me love the Chronicles of Narnia so much. Objectively speaking, the writing and structure are not as put together as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. And yet, I’ve read the Narniad more times than I can count, while Lord of the Rings only thrice. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia gives me that reason.

While it’s true that some of what he says is far-fetched—“reaching” might be a better term—I think the gist of it is correct. Lewis may have been a speedy aut
Ryan Reeves
Oct 01, 2012 Ryan Reeves rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cs-lewis
I will say from the start a bit about my history with this book's author. Michael Ward (Spud to his friends) was a friend and colleague at Cambridge University. In fact, he was more than a friend; he was a scotch-drinking friend, and those are the best sorts of friends to have. I say this not to give my review any particular weight, but merely to say that I am prejudiced towards seeing all good and light and truth in Michael's work.

But the reader of "Planet Narnia" will, I think, find that I am
Douglas Wilson
Jan 12, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-study
This one is right at the top.
Aug 14, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
There is a verse in Proverbs that says it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out. Well, since all creators of books are made in the image of a creative God, I think its safe to say that sometimes it is the glory of an author to weave a mystery in the symbols of his story. There is in some books, a unity, a power of image, a spiritual atmosphere that cannot easily be described, yet drives the wonder of the story. I believe it is the glory of a thoughtful, ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Melinda rated it it was amazing

If you love CS Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia (deeply, not just casually, but DEEPLY), then you'll find this book very wonderful. Michael Ward, the author, brings in many of Lewis' other works and poetry, to explain his discovery (he says) of the underlying and unifying "theme" or "kappa element" in the Chronicles of Narnia -- the medieval cosmology of the planets. This cosmological theme in each book is the "kappa element" according to Lewis, which explains the atmospheric
Ben De Bono
Planet Narnia is quite an interesting failure, but a failure nonetheless. Michael Ward makes the fatal error of becoming far too enamored with his conclusions and, as a result, misses the far more interesting things his research points to.

The premise of the book is that C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia with the intention of having each volume take on the character of one of the seven spheres of medieval cosmology. Thus The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reflects the medieval understa
Anne Hamilton
Jul 09, 2014 Anne Hamilton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
I've read both the Narnia Code and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward and my comments on them are basically the same:

Despite the fact I think Michael Ward caught the ball and then dropped it on this one, I'm still giving it five stars. I think he's almost right. That for a fleeting sentence, he discovered the real code and then forgot that Lewis was self-admittedly 'crazed with Northern-ness'.

The premise - that Lewis deliberately encoded each both in the Narnia series with attributes of the seven med
M.G. Bianco
May 19, 2013 M.G. Bianco rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I finished this book having read it as part of my vacation in Narnia. I read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia septet in seven days, followed by a few days for Douglas Wilson's What I Learned in Narnia, then this.

This book took my a couple of weeks to read. It was much more scholarly than I expected. I understand that author Michael Ward has another version of the book, Narnia Code, that is intended to be more accessible popularly. I probably should have read that book.

I really did enjoy
Jul 31, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This was a mind-blowing book. Being more of a fiction/poetry girl, it's rare for me to come across a scholarly, non-fiction work that falls into my "can't-put-it-down" category, but this one sure did. I've always loved the Narnia Chronicles, and the Ransom Trilogy, and Till We Have Faces, and Great Divorce, and Screwtape and have read a significant amount of Lewis' nonfiction as well (though not all), multiple times for most of them. So, while not technically a scholar of Lewis, I have steeped ...more
A stunning achievement of literary criticism! Though much beloved, Lewis' Narnia chronicles have long been criticized (beginning with his friend JRR Tolkien) for inconsistencies in tone and theme, as well as for "mish-mashing" images like earth's Father Christmas randomly showing up in the otherworldly Narnia. The Christian allegory, though obvious, is not actually the bedrock layer of meaning across the series.

Michael Ward convincingly argues for a larger narrative coherence built upon the 7 pl
L.A. Nicholas
Michael Ward has achieved what many critics have sought to do and failed: he has discovered the hermeneutic key that unlocks a whole level of significance in the seven Narnia novels hitherto undetected by Lewis critics. Ward's is the first theory I've heard that (a) takes seriously into account Lewis's long career as a medievalist, (b) looks at the Narnia stories as an integrated part of L's overall opus (i.e., showed that he did not, by some weird aberration, suddenly turn to writing ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm nearly always skeptical of literary critics who find hidden meanings in classic works, but I have to say that by the end of this book, I was pretty well on board with Ward's thesis. But even if I hadn't bought into the thesis, I still would have enjoyed Planet Narnia for the writing alone. This is a scholarly treatment, yes, but it's very readable.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys C.S. Lewis, literary criticism, theology, and big words. (It's recommended, of course, that the reader first ha
Del Herman
Sep 09, 2016 Del Herman rated it it was amazing
CS Lewis is often remembered for two things and both of those things are understood in dichotomy: one is as an intellectual, an English Literature professor at Oxford as well as a lay philosopher and theologian of analytical rigor and the other is as a writer of a series of children's tales known as The Chronicles of Narnia. These two things are often understood as apart, as being two separate parts of his identity.

Emphatically not so, argues Michael Ward in this stupendous literary analysis. He
CJ Bowen
May 22, 2010 CJ Bowen rated it really liked it
“Intricacy is a mark of the medieval mind.” And Lewis' mind was nothing if not medieval. Michael Ward argues that what unifies the Chronicles of Narnia was Lewis' passion for the medieval cosmology, one that provided a living universe in direct opposition to the sterile naturalism and mechanizing tendencies of Lewis' own day.
Having discovered Lewis' unifying principle in the planetary scheme, Ward uses this to answer the three questions of composition, occasion, and reception that surround the N
Mar 08, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian, read-2012
This is a mind-blowing book on several levels. It proposes that there is a unifying key to the Narnia septet: that they are each influenced by one of the mediaeval 'planets': Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Luna and Sol (the latter two being respectively the moon and sun).

The author is an academic who has devoted decades to the study of CS Lewis, and his arguments are persuasive. Having said that, they are perhaps too extensive for my tastes, full of detailed references and quotations, s
Dec 31, 2011 Sylvia rated it it was amazing
I grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia, and was always enthralled by the beauty and creativity of the series. With those books is the first time I remember consciously recognizing foreshadowing and symbolism on my own. As someone who is studying to teach English, it's with fondness I remember those experiences. When I saw that Ward had published a book about the seven books corresponding to the seven medieval planets, I avoided it for a while because I had some idea that it might taint those ...more
Gwen Burrow
Jul 14, 2013 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary, favorites
Reading Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia is like reading Jim Jordan for C. S. Lewis. Ward shows how the planets, which, as conceived by medieval astrology, had for Lewis “a permanent value as spiritual symbols," are a major driving force behind The Chronicles of Narnia. We have the complete set: Jupiter (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), Mars (Prince Caspian), the sun (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader), the moon (The Silver Chair), Mercury (The Horse and His Boy), Venus (The Magician’s Nephe ...more
Steph Miller
Jun 25, 2012 Steph Miller rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating, though difficult, read. Ward (who I had the pleasure of meeting at the time when he had just begin writing this book) is undoubtedly a great Lewis scholar. His depth of research and attention to detail are outstanding, if a little overwhelming at times. For the casual Lewis reader, like myself, the amount of information was a lot to take in. The revelation of this cosmological theme throughout the Chronicles of Narnia gives me a much greater appreciation of the works now ...more
Clare Holman-Hobbs
Aug 21, 2016 Clare Holman-Hobbs rated it really liked it
This was awesome! I, along with many others, have always thought that the Narnia books were well crafted with many themes, symbols and undertones. I have also agreed with the argument that the books are based on the Seven Deadly sins, and can also agree with the notes on Christian theology in the books too. So imagine my surprise when Michael Ward found evidence and created a theory which stated that they were based on the medieval planets. This particular account/copy is Michael Ward's thesis, ...more
Abi Cadell
Sep 14, 2009 Abi Cadell rated it it was amazing
I won't describe Michael Ward's theory, as many others have done it far better than I could. I loved the book. Ward makes a very, very convincing argument and even if it isn't true, the theory is so beautiful that it's worth reading just for that.

Ward's style is a little jargonistic for someone (like me) who hasn't studied Literature academically, but as long as you have a decent dictionary to hand it's not too hard going (though I must admit I found his term 'Narniad' to refer to the books rath
James B.
Jul 11, 2009 James B. rated it it was amazing
Michael Ward argues that the unifying principle behind the 7 Chronicles of Narnia is the 7 planets of the medieval cosmology. Arguing from Lewis's poem "The Planets," his space trilogy, his book "The Discarded Image," and many other source documents, Ward weaves a persuasive, detailed proof. I came to "Planet Narnia" a lover of the Chronicles and a skeptic of the thesis, but found myself being convinced, chapter by chapter. Anyone who loves Lewis's books, especially the Chronicles of Narnia, ...more
J. Aleksandr Wootton
This book is brilliant.

Not only did I find it thoroughly enjoyable to follow Ward's analytic/appreciative journey through the great body of Lewis' famous fiction and more obscure writings, I also - despite his eyebrow-raising premise - discovered his arguments to be well-made and compelling. This is the kind of literary criticism that ALL literary criticism should be, but very rarely is.

A thorough working knowledge of both the Narnian Chronicles and the Space Trilogy are prerequisite.
Dec 18, 2015 Jeremy marked it as to-read
Michael Ward signed a copy on September 20, 2013, at Houston Baptist University. Eric Metaxas interviews Ward on the book here. More information about Lewis's "Planets" poem here.
Jul 07, 2015 E.L. rated it really liked it
I went into this with a healthy dose of skepticism, and ended by being convinced. Not of every jot and tittle, but of the overall design and pattern. This book didn't change the way I viewed Narnia or Lewis, merely deepened my understanding and love for both the man and the world he created. Not to mention contributed to my growing appreciation for medieval philosophy and world view.
May 18, 2012 Annie rated it it was amazing
I never thought that I could love the Chronicles more than I already did - until I read this book. It's nothing short of enlightening. I highly recommend that after reading each planet chapter, you read the corresponding book. It enhances the whole experience. Just brilliant.
Oct 16, 2015 April marked it as to-read
Shelves: inklings
"Read this book." John Piper

"Best book on C. S. Lewis of the year" Randy Alcorn

"We agree!" -Other theologians.
Sam Lonberg
Feb 10, 2015 Sam Lonberg rated it it was amazing
So good. Fascinating argument for the underlying connection of the Narniad. Overwhelming evidence in support of his conclusion, that reads fairly easily. Highly recommended.
Jason Farley
Aug 08, 2008 Jason Farley rated it it was amazing
C.S. Lewis sure was cool. I hope to pretend to be as cool as all get out some day.
Ben Zornes
Jan 28, 2016 Ben Zornes rated it really liked it
I heard about Michael Ward’s seminal work, “Planet Narnia” a few years back, but only recently got around to reading it. In reviewing it, I want to take it from a few different angles: Lewis’ secret aim in writing the Chronicles and my personal delight in Ward’s discovery, the book itself, and the benefits and danger points of this volume.
First, I’ve always noticed that each book in the Narniad seems to have a different quality or flavor; I could never put my finger on it, but there always se
Joel Zartman
Jul 08, 2013 Joel Zartman rated it it was amazing
One of the things one wonders about as one approaches the end of the collected letters of C.S. Lewis is how he words his negative replies to inquiries about more Chronicles of Narnia. He speaks as if the idea is exhausted; there can be no more Chronicles than the seven written; as if he had a good and perfect reason that he simply doesn’t bother to go into. And it leaves one wondering because it would seem that he can’t have run out of good things he might say, and since the Chronicles evidence ...more
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“However politically desirable a republic might be, it remains unable to compete imaginatively with monarchy because monarchy in principle more completely mirrors the nature of divine authority. One of the great imaginative advantages of the genre of fairy-tale or romance is to allow for the presentation of such a principle. In fairy-tale the author can leave behind the shallows of the ‘realistic’ novel, and is free to show the reader something better than mundane norms. What might it be like if human kings really did exhibit perfect kingship? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe attempts an answer.” 0 likes
“Since God is the Father of lights, even the dim and guttering lights of paganism could be ascribed ultimately to Him. Christians should feel no obligation to quench the smouldering flax burning in pagan myths: on the contrary, they should do their best to fan it into flame.” 0 likes
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