I’m sure that many of us will have read the famous ‘Narnia Chronicles’ of C.S. Lewis either when we were children, or, as I did, to our own children.
I can remember being intrigued by the fantastic world that Lewis dreamed up in those tales. I found it difficult to understand that even a mind as fertile as Lewis’ could have created such a world without some kind of underlying framework.
The stories work, of course, simply as stories. We also recognise the powerful Christian symbolism (with Aslan representing Christ, and so on). But it is with the recent work of Michael Ward that a third layer of meaning becomes clear.
Ward’s ‘eureka’ moment came while reading a poem of Lewis which spoke of ‘Winter past and guilt forgiven’ in relation to the planet Jupiter. He realised that this perfectly summarised the plot of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So he went back to the other tales in the series and soon found other planetary allusions. These allusions are not related to the modern practice of astrology, but to the ancient view of the Solar System as consisting of the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon, each with its own mythology. So, Prince Caspian – the book in which war is most prevalent – reflects Mars, and The Silver Chair – with its lunatic prince – represents the Moon.
Lewis was, of course, an expert in medieval thought and literature, and he had written of medieval cosmology and symbolism in The Discarded Image. This ancient view of things allowed him, says Ward, ‘to communicate the idea of a meaning-drenched universe.’ God is Lord of all things; the entire cosmos speaks of his majesty and grace.
‘The Narnia Code’ was broadcast on BBC1 in April, 2009.
Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward, is published by Oxford University Press
The above summary is based on an article by Dayspring MacLeod in The Monthly Record of the Free Church of Scotland, June 2009.