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

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4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  628 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Over the years, scholars have labored to show that C. S. Lewis's famed 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 nature of Narnia's symbolism has remained a...more
Hardcover, First edition, 363 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by Oxford University Press, NY 10016, USA
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Brittany Petruzzi
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...more
Melinda
I LOVED THIS BOOK!

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...more
M.G. Bianco
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...more
Sarah
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
Douglas Wilson
This one is right at the top.
Ryan Reeves
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...more
Ruth
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...more
Steph Miller
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
CJ Bowen
“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...more
Sarah
Jul 31, 2012 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
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 m...more
Abi
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...more
James B.
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, sho...more
Relstuart
This book is a bit dense. Written in the style one would propound to a college class rather than for the general public. If you are interested in learning more about C.S Lewis this is not the book to check out. This is a scholarly analysis of the middle ages spiritual view of the heavens and how it is manifest in the Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis' other writings (the sci-fi trilogy gets plenty of analysis too). The author subsequently published another book called The Narnia Code that is suppos...more
Annie
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.
David
First off, the bare thesis is intriguing. He convinced me of the link between the books and the planets, and the whole idea of "donegality" is awesome. I was also extremely excited to find out that Mars was also known as Mars Silvanus, which explains apparent anomalies in one of his identifications, and provides me with an excuse.

That said, it was weird for me to read scholarly stuff about Lewis instead of scholarly stuff by Lewis or contemporary with Lewis. With Ward, we've already moved into a...more
April
Sep 29, 2013 April marked it as to-read
"Read this book." John Piper

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

"We agree!" -Other theologians.
Gary Foss
I read this book a few years back, shortly after it was released. I'll not rehash the theme here, but I will note that I found it a convincing argument. Ward's book is as well researched as I can imagine any scholar of Lewis' work can be, and his writing is crisp, clear and erudite. Anyone looking for a better view of one of English literature's most popular figures should have a look at this book, and then go through Lewis' work with an eye towards the themes and ideas that Ward describes. Even...more
Jeremy
May 18, 2012 Jeremy marked it as to-read
Michael Ward signed a copy on September 20, 2013, at Houston Baptist University.
Cheryl
This is an astounding piece of scholarship that delves deeply into C.S. Lewis's life and work to reveal the vision of the Medieval Planets that unifies the Narnia series. Being an adult who loved these books as a kid--so much so that I reread them monthly--to learn that the entire purpose of almost every word in each book pointed to these powerful and historical Christian symbols of Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn--it's mind-blowing. Of course. How could any Lewis critic...more
Chad Gibbons
C.S. Lewis scholar Michael Ward claims to have found a secret that has eluded readers of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' for over 50 years.



When I hear claims like this, my 'conspiracy theory' warning bells immediately start going off. But after hearing several Lewis scholars and readers alike concede that fact that Michael Ward is indeed onto something, I decided to read the book for myself to see what all the fuss is about. After reading the book, I feel I can safely say that Michael Ward is right....more
David Manns
I found this very illuminating. The Chronicles were some of my favourite books as a child and although I was aware of their Christian interpretation, Ward's book brings a whole new level of meaning to them. And it all fits. His argument that each novel represents one of the planets of the mediaeval cosmos is well researched and convincingly argued. He doesn't stop at simply examining the Narniad either, but traces the planetary influence in Lewis's other works, his poetry and apologetics as well...more
Gwen Burrow
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
Judith Arnopp
I have always been a huge fan of the Narnian chronicles. I read and reread them as a child, read them to my own children and now read them to my grandchildren. While I was a student of english literature I studied Lewis' academic work and enjoyed considering his not-so=very-hidden religious messages in Narnia, messages that passed over my head as a child reader. I was given this book for christmas and was at first a little sceptical but Michael Ward's argument, once he has pointed out his findin...more
Brian Collins
C. S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles have often been criticized for not being as carefully crafted or coherent as Tolkien's fantastic creations. Critics have wondered why the Narnians have a Christmas or why Bacchus appears at the liberation of Narnia from Miraz. Ward argues that Lewis did have a coherent vision for these books: each book is intended to evoke one of the seven medieval planets. For instance, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was meant to evoke the spirit of Jupiter, Prince Caspian...more
Sue
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...more
Sylvia
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
Chris Griffith
A most remarkable and very fine book by any standard! Michael Ward, chaplain of theological imagination at Oxford University makes a good argument for a "heavenly" pattern within C.S. Lewis's Narniad. Each book corresponds to a different planet--in a classic medieval sense. Ward goes so far to create a new term to describe Lewis's technique of hiding these things: He calls the form of a hidden Enjoyment, "Donegality." (Drawn from the actual seaside town of Donegal, Ireland where Lewis visited as...more
Seth
Jan 05, 2013 Seth rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Any academic admirer of Lewis
Shelves: literature, cslewis
Despite being modern classics beloved by children, laymen adults, and critics alike, the Chronicles of Narnia are admittedly somewhat of a literary hodge-podge. Or so most believed. Many have attempted to build a comprehensive interpretive framework for them, but none have received wide acceptance. Michael Ward, Oxford scholar and C.S. Lewis aficionado, presents his own framework, arguing that the classic Ptolemaic solar system (not the modern Copernican) holds the key to understanding the serie...more
Joel Zartman
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
^
Aug 12, 2011 ^ rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Readers of CS Lewis' work

Personally I found this book thoroughly absorbing and positively exciting. Once he had found his direction, Ward must have found his thesis exhilarating to write.

Having first read this book from cover to cover, barely putting it down, I am now enjoying using it as a reference book, whilst I read “That Hideous Strength (unabridged)” for the first time. For that purpose Ward’s text is (so far) proving exceedingly well-structured and enlightening.

CS Lewis clearly believed that the power of the imp...more
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