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

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,226 Ratings  ·  156 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 struct ...more
Hardcover, First edition, 347 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Brittany Petruzzi
Jul 10, 2012 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
...more
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
...more
Douglas Wilson
Jan 12, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-study
This one is right at the top.
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
...more
Sarah
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
Melinda
Aug 04, 2008 Melinda rated it it was amazing
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
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
...more
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
...more
Tom
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
...more
Sarah
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 m ...more
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 "children' ...more
Ruth
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
...more
Zachary Fletcher
Apr 20, 2016 Zachary Fletcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
At face value, Ward's argument--that each of the seven Narnia books was written to reflect the spirit and symbolism of a particular planet in medieval cosmology--sounds like the sort of groundless conspiracy theory a money-strapped hack might dream up to sell a few books. That was more or less my assumption when I went to see him speak at my university last fall, and yet by the time his presentation was finished I was making a beeline for the book table.

Turns out there's plenty of reason to beli
...more
Kris
Very analytical, scholarly, and purely insightful. Five stars merely for the amount of effort that was obviously put into this enormous academic achievement. But this is for the die-hard Narnia lover who wants more insight into their function and purpose. Only read this if you've read all of the Narniad, and have at least some experience with Lewis's Ransom trilogy. If you want a shorter, much-condensed version, see The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens.

While I thoroug
...more
Gwen Burrow
Sep 22, 2011 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
Sue
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
...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
CJ Bowen
Sep 05, 2009 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
...more
Sylvia
Jan 08, 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
E.L.
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.
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
...more
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, 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
Nathan Albright
Apr 12, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
In C.S. Lewis’ essay ‘The Grand Miracle’ there is the following quote, which is quoted in the introductory material to this book: “There then comes to you a person saying, “Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the messing passage which is really the centre of the whole work.” The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in th ...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.
Loren
Dec 17, 2014 Loren rated it it was amazing
Sometimes literary critics see what they want to see and find what they want to find. This tendency towards literary deconstruction makes me overly skeptical and cautious. As they say, the main things are plain things, and the plain things are the main things. If it's too subtle, maybe it just isn't there.

But I have been sufficiently convinced. Ward has had his "Eureka" moment - he has discovered something truly new and amazing and, most importantly, real. I could be jealous, but in all honesty
...more
Wayne Craske
Aug 28, 2015 Wayne Craske rated it liked it
Thks is the first book of pure literary criticism that I have ever read. Although I've given it a three star rating, I'll amend that with regard to other circumstances if you bear with me.
I picked it up some years ago, probably shortly after it was released, and then left it on my 'to read' pile, where it got gradually more and more buried by other books. Recently, I read the biography of McGrath on Lewis, in which he mentions this book. Curious if that was the one I had, I looked it out and fin
...more
Curtis Runstedler
Nov 06, 2015 Curtis Runstedler rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book about the role of the planets in the works of C.S. Lewis. I've never been a big fan of the Chronicles of Narnia (I did enjoy The Screwtape Letters and want to read Out of the Silent Planet) and his 'wooden allegories' as Tolkien once called them, but I love his academic writing (especially The Discarded Image), and he really made me fall in love with the medieval and Renaissance periods all over again. Ward has a sharp eye for interconnectedness, although I was hoping he ...more
Jeremy
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.
Michael
Critics and readers alike have often felt that there was some hidden key to understanding C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia septology, and in Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Michael Ward convincingly and insightfully spells out exactly what this secret key must be: the seven medieval planets. Throughout his scholarly and poetic writings, and even in his Ransom trilogy, Lewis admired the planets, and felt that they had "permanent value as spiritual symbols." Thi ...more
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  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
  • What I Learned in Narnia
  • The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis
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  • Christian Mythmakers: C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, Dante Alighieri, John Bunyan, Walter Wangerin, Robert Siegel, and Hannah Hurnard
  • The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event
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  • Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning
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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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