I ran across a fantastic article about the secret & cryptic planning that C.S. Lewis did that undergirds the entire Chronicles of Narnia.
The article is in Touchstone Magazine, and it is entitled Narnia’s Secret. It is written by Michael Ward, who wrote the book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis on the subject (just published eight days ago by Oxford University Press).
His basic concept is that each book in the Chronicles of Narnia represent one of the seven “heavenly bodies” of the Middle Ages, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, & Jupiter. These heavenly bodies were the gods of the seven heavens of medieval cosmology, and each one had different attributes which Lewis gave to his books. Not only that, but these seven heavenly bodies are mentioned in the scripture (i.e. Revelation 1:16,20; 2:1 where Christ holds the seven stars in his right hand).
This is a very fascinating topic for me because the world’s fixation on these seven goes back to antiquity—much further back than the Middle Ages. As part of that, I have actually written a scene in my book where these heavenly bodies play a major role in the cosmology of the Druids.
Not that I or anyone really understands what the Druids were like—they were, after all, a secret oral culture and little of their knowledge or beliefs survive—but as a fiction author, I had to fill in what was lost and so I fit this portion of planetary and astrological pagan belief together with the Celtic deities to show a contrast between them (as pre-Christians) and the Christians.
Also, this concept of forging a series of books based on archetypes reminds me of what L.B. Graham did with his Binding Of The Blade series of books where each book represents one of the geographic regions (north, east, south and west) with all of their archetypal associations. The final book (due out in April 2008) represents the center. See this interview with L.B. Graham to see his vision in detail.
Although it is impossible to know at this date what C.S. Lewis really did to plan his novels (barring a discovery of some lost writings), Michael Ward’s theory seems to carry some weight. Bear in mind, though, that I have not researched any of the alternative theories, and so I turn to an editorial review (posted on Amazon) by Alan Jacobs, Professor of English, Wheaton College and author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis:
“Noting Michael Ward’s claim that he has discovered ‘the secret imaginative key’ to the Narnia books, the sensible reader responds by erecting a castle of scepticism. My own castle was gradually but utterly demolished as I read this thoughtful, scholarly, and vividly-written book. If Ward is wrong, his wrongness is cogent: it illuminates and delights. But I don’t think he is wrong. And in revealing the role of the planets in the Chronicles, Ward also gives us the fullest understanding yet of just how deeply Lewis in his own fiction drew upon those medieval and renaissance writers he so loved.”
Please leave comments with your own thoughts on this theory!