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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,938 ratings  ·  295 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
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Trade Winds Ward deals with Lewis's detractors throughout Planet Narnia as much implicitly as explicitly. If you want his point of view on Pullman read his articl…moreWard deals with Lewis's detractors throughout Planet Narnia as much implicitly as explicitly. If you want his point of view on Pullman read his article here:

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 ·  1,938 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Douglas Wilson
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-study
This one is right at the top.
Sarah Clarkson
Jul 13, 2010 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 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating, essential read for any fans of Narnia. Michael Ward makes for a convincing argument that the Narnia series was not just a random collection of fantasy stories and fairy tales that suddenly popped into the head of a childless academic, but rather they were a calculated series designed to mimic the Seven Heavens of mythical and medieval cosmology. Ward also takes on critics of Lewis in his work, including Tolkien, which I appreciated. This is a must read if you love Narnia, ...more
Brittany Petruzzi
Jul 10, 2012 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
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of
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. Ward's case, though not perhaps established beyond all possible dispute, is at least highly plausible and greatly illuminating. This is the kind of literary criticism that all literary criticism should be, b
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
Am re-reading this book. Such a delight to read!

2008 review

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
Clay Davis
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book cover looks like it could be on a book about the solar system.
M.G. Bianco
Sep 19, 2011 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
Carol Bakker
How is it that seven such stories, authored by an unlikely novice and possessing little apparent coherence in design, should have become some of the best-selling and most influential fables in the world?

Planet Narnia is Michael Ward's answer to three questions:
of occasion (Why were they written?),
of composition (Why is the series not uniformly allegorical?) and
of reception (Why have they become so successful?)

Each Chronicle is associated by plot and ornamental detail with a planet (pre-Copern
Ryan Reeves
Oct 01, 2012 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
G.M. Burrow
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Reading Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia is like reading Jim Jordan's Through New Eyes 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 (T ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Self-praise is no recommendation, so the proverb goes. That being the case, all I will say is that Goodreads should change their five-star rating system to a more heptarchically friendly seven-star system. Whether I would then give Planet Narnia six stars, seven stars, or just stick with the present five . . . well, I don't suppose I will ever know . . . ! ...more
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Is there a secret code embedded in the Chronicles of Narnia? Is there really been an overarching structure to the hugely popular Narnia books that has escaped discovery by everyone for over half a century? Michael Ward makes the extraordinary claim that the answer to these questions is yes, and that he has discovered it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that is just what Ward attempts to lay out in Planet Narnia.

Is he successful? I think he is, and undeniably so. To a cer
Anne Hamilton
Aug 17, 2012 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
Katherine Reay
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! It's more enjoyable, I suspect, if you've read Lewis's Silent Planet books too -- especially That Hideous Strength. The title doesn't imply that, but it pulls a lot from those books too. If you have both series covered, dive into this. It's remarkable. ...more
David Haines
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the author, Michael Ward, presents and defends his excellent and insightful theory, that the Chronicles of Narnia are built upon and around the ancient and medieval ptolemaic cosmology, and the accompanying mythological imagery. He goes through each of the 7 planets, and shows how Lewis built each of the Chronicles upon the characters of one of the planets.

Each chapter looks at a specific planet, explaining (1) how Lewis articulated its mythological and imaginative literary meanin
Valerie Kyriosity
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
If the theory of the planetary armature of the Narniad were a capital crime of which I were accused, and Michael Ward were the prosecuting attorney, I'd go ahead and grab a Sharpie and mark a dotted line across the back of my neck to help guide the executioner's blade.

Although Ward proposes that his discovery might diminish enjoyment of the Chronicles (the way knowing the trick diminishes enjoyment of the illusionist's act), I can't imagine it having a deleterious effect on mine. Of course it w
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I was expecting (and hoping for) a crank's conspiracy theory but alas! was actually largely convinced by the central idea of this book. It's written using lots of literary criticism and philosophy terms that I am not familiar with, so I may have missed some nuances, but to a degree these terms felt like window-dressing, the author using them to show he is a Serious Thinker (not a crank), rather than integral to understanding the argument.
Once I had got clear in my head the ideas of the planets
Doug TenNapel
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I first set down to read G.K. Chesterton, I decided to study his quotes. His many quotes and influence on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien lead me to Planet Narnia, a book that makes one of the bolder claims about the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. As Dr. Michael Ward unfolded his premise, I was doubtful. He claimed that C.S. Lewis didn't write Lion-Witch-Wardrobe as a mere Christian allegory, but that each book was based on the seven planets of the medieval heavens. More like Holst's The Planets.

Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2021
Outstanding. A monumental work. Now I need to go re-read Narnia and the Ransom Trilogy.
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is a growing mass of literature for what appears to be an endless demand for Inklings studies or specific studies of each of that number, especially Lewis. I’ve started and stopped a number of these kinds of books because they typically fall into the fanboy/hater dichotomy and are rarely interesting to me. This is a huge exception. I’ve never read a book about Lewis himself or his work that I enjoyed as much as reading Lewis. Ward brings the full corpus of Lewis, and studies on him, into a ...more
Diana Glyer
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are so many things to appreciate about "Planet Narnia." For me, the biggest gift of this book is to call our attention back to the essential medievalism of C. S. Lewis's mind. In that way, Ward gives us more than a cohesive model of Narnia; he offers a unified field theory for making sense of all 39 of Lewis's books. There may be no more important idea for scholars and writers to really grab hold of than Lewis's medieval worldview AND how that worldview is manifest in symbols, colors, them ...more
Jan 27, 2014 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
Jason Farley
Aug 08, 2008 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.
What once was my "three favorite books" is now going to have to be my four favorites, because Planet Narnia is now one of my favorite books of all time.

Ward's perceptive, careful, and ultimately undeniable argument was humbly presented yet utterly convincing. Not only did I learn much more about Narnia--enough to make my re-reading of it with my children reach levels of new joy--but I was also stirred to love virtue more. Though a thoroughly scholarly work of rewarding literary analysis (one of
Aaron Carpenter
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's simply not fair to compare Lewis and Tolkien, but because they knew each other, read each other, and wrote similar themes and genres, come comparison is inevitable. And sadly, I have always felt that Lewis comes out the poorer for it. A mythic history like the "Silmarillion" seems to set "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" towering above the humble, "haphazard" (Tolkien's word) "Chronicles of Narnia."

Until now.

If Michael Ward is right, however - and he's convinced me that he is - Lewis
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. I’m sure it is not perfect, as I don’t follow academia of literature. So, perhaps, he has colleagues giving adequate critique.

However, my view of Narnia is forever altered. Come further up and come further in!
Wonderful. Inspiring and delectable on several levels.
Joseph Fountain
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Were The Chronicles of Narnia 'composed in a hasty and slapdash manner' as Lewis’ friend J. R. R. Tolkien stated, or 'products of a mind in psychological shock' as Lewis critic Wilson described?

Or – is there meaning more profound hidden in plain sight?

Why would a childless academic, theologian, poet, and writer suddenly decide to write a children’s story? How could the result, if it be so simple as some decried, stand the test of time and have such widespread appeal?

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