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

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  693 ratings  ·  117 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
Kindle Edition, 388 pages
Published (first published January 15th 2008)
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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
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
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
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
Douglas Wilson
This one is right at the top.
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
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
Anne Hamilton
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Julie Davis
I borrowed The Narnia Code on my Kindle, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership. I liked it so much that when I found it was the simplified version of Michael Ward's previous book, Planet Narnia, I picked it up. For one thing I wanted to read Lewis's planets poem which is continually referred to in The Narnia Code but never given in full. Planet Narnia gave the appropriate section of the poem which was very satisfying.

This book is the fleshed out version that I wanted with all the scholarly refere...more
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  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
Michael Ward signed a copy on September 20, 2013, at Houston Baptist University.
Jason Farley
C.S. Lewis sure was cool. I hope to pretend to be as cool as all get out some day.
Ben Zornes
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...more
Daniel Wright
If you want to think effectively outside the box, then it helps to have an excellent idea of what is inside the box. Ward does not hesitate, in this book, to make it quite clear that he does. He litters his work with footnotes and scholarly references which underlining, apart from displaying his extraordinary erudition, that he is not some fruitcake with another crazy idea. Moreover, the level of work that has gone into it mean that, even if his central thesis is incorrect, the reader cannot hel...more
Melody Cantwell
Could I rate this book higher than five stars, I would.

I have read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia (the Narniad) multiple times, and while I thoroughly enjoyed them from childhood to adulthood, I always feel slightly uncomfortable with them--they were a series, yet they were not cohesive. The Last Battle was a nearly polar opposite from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And where did The Horse and His Boy fit in? It takes place within the storyline of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardro...more
Heatherjoy
This review is in part much more reflective of the reader than the book. This book is an academic treatise on the unifying theme of the Chronicles of Narnia (Narniad). I acquired the book after hearing the author speak some years ago on the topic of the book. In hindsight, I probably should have listened to my husband and bought the popular level version rather than insisting on reading the one we have. The work is excellent and thorough and outlines a clear and well-supported case for the conne...more
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
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