Planet Narnia (by Michael Ward)

This is one of those books whose title kept appearing on my radar. A recommendation by Amazon, a comment by a friend, a reference in a blog... so, at first skeptical but eventually curious, I put it on my wishlist and was given it last Christmas.

'Planet Narnia' is something of a mind-blowing book on several levels. In a nutshell, it proposes that there is a unifying key to the Narnia septet: that each of the books is influenced by one of the mediaeval 'planets': Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Luna and Sol (the latter two being respectively the moon and sun).

Michael Ward 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, some of which went a little over my head. The book could have said the same thing, just as convincingly, in about half the length.

I found that I could not read more than about ten or twelve pages at a time without taking a break, so it has taken me more than two weeks to finish this book. In a way, that isn't a bad thing since it enabled me to ponder the theories in some depth in the meantime.

I believed fairly quickly in the overall argument. Ward coins the useful term 'donegality' to refer to the essence of each book. The word refers to the overall 'big picture' feel which, he claims, is influenced by one of the seven planetary archetypes.

Thinking about the Narnia books, some of which I had not read for a while, I could immediately sense the planetary influence as suggested by Ward in three of them, and was easily convinced by his arguments about another two. I am very dubious about the two remaining ones, however, and have written at some length about the theories elsewhere ('On Intuition, Narnia, and a little mediaeval astrology...')

Anyone wishing to get a feel for the theories without reading this tome could check the author's site (particularly the FAQ page) but for an in-depth understanding of the theories, and (in my view) fascinating new light on the entire series, I would recommend this book.

Just don't expect to read it in one sitting.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 8th March 2012

1 comment:

Catherine said...

Fascinating review. I will have to look this book up. I love the Narnia books.