Michael Ward's book, "The Narnia Code" is the condensed version of his best-selling book, "Planet Narnia." In "The Narnia Code" Ward proposes the thesis of a "hidden logic" to the creative choices of C.S. Lewis while authoring "The Chronicles of Narnia" series.
Ward's basis for his thesis is based on Lewis' poem "The Planets."
Each of the seven "Chronicles of Narnia" books correspond and bear characteristics of the "seven heavens" as referenced to in pre-Copernican model of the universe. The "seven heavens" consisted of the seven planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and each planet's respective deity (Sun, Moon, Mars/Tyr, Mercury/Woden, Jove, Thor, and Freya) which comprise the seven days of the week.
Many different theses have been proposed as to Lewis' original intent when he authored "The Chronicles of Narnia." The various theses rang from the classical virtues to the seven deadly sins and have been linked to the seven sections of Spenser's " The Faerie Queen." Ward's thesis is the latest to join the list.
C.S. Lewis, himself wrote to a group of Maryland, Fifth Graders in 1954 the following words in regard to the underlying theme or code of "The Chronicles of Narnia"... "I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia'; I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen."
Do you remember when you first read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis? Many people, like me, trace their love of fantasy fiction back to that moment. As I gobbled up each of the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia series, I entered a world of knights, chivalry, valor, magic and wonder -- that awakened in me a fresh wonder at the divine influence in all of life.
As I went on to other fantasy tales, largely by Christian authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen Lawhead, I encountered more intricate worlds and elaborate tales than what I found in Narnia. But the overt symbolism in the first Narnian tale, hinted at so much more beneath the surface of the Narnia tales. Reading Lewis' space trilogy I once again encountered symbolism that I couldn't quite grasp, but that was alluring and powerful nonetheless.
So a few years ago, when I learned of a new book by Michael Ward entitled "Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis", I was captivated and just had to get it. That scholarly tome, whose hardback edition boasted 347 pages and almost 60 pages of endnotes, was a delight to work through. Bit by bit, Ward shared the thrill of his discovery -- the long sought after, unifying key to the Narnia stories. It was a bit of a chore to go through all the scholarly citations, but along the way I learned a great deal about all of Lewis' works, not just the Narnian chronicles.
Now, however, the fruit of Ward's scholarly research is available for a wider, general market audience. Based on an earlier documentary/DVD, Tyndale House has published an accessible paperback entitled "The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens".
I was able to pick up this smaller book from Tyndale. It's only 191 pages with an easy to read font. To be sure, some of the finer points from Planet Narnia don't find their way into the condensed edition. Still, one will find all the joy (and significance) of Ward's discovery, a fascinating explanation of the pre-Copernican planetary model, and a detailed exposition of each Narnian chronicle according to the new insights gained from Ward's study. The interested reader could certainly move on from "The Narnia Code" to "Planet Narnia" if he or she so chose, but most will be satisfied by the tale as told in the smaller work.
I don't want to ruin the book by explaining in detail all of Ward's discoveries. I will just note that he finds a planetary connection between Lewis the scholar's appreciation for the pre-Copernican view of the planets as influencing mankind in various ways, and Lewis the author's intricate method of creating a unique atmosphere that permeates each of his seven Narnian tales.
I can say this, however, you will be convinced by Ward's discovery. And it will give new life to the Chronicles of Narnia. You'll never read them the same way again. And Christ's glory will be seen anew in all its wonder, illuminated in many small yet wonderful ways by Lewis' intricate crafting of these wildly popular stories.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
I wanted to like this book, The Narnia Code, really. I heart the Chronicles of Narnia, I think I've read them at least half a dozen times. And now I've picked them as the first chapter books to read to my four-year-old, and she loves them too. When I read the synopsis above, I was excited about the theme of the book and the subject. But I have to admit, I had a really really hard time reading it.
It wasn't that it didn't cover any of the things it said, but you could tell that it had been a "scholarly work" to begin with in it's formulaic writing style. For each chapter, there was a thesis paragraph, the body broken down into reasonable subgroups, a review paragraph, and a sentence or two about the next chapter.
The content was interesting enough, including background about why our days of the week are called what they are (based on the Roman names for the planets) and in-depth information about each planet as it related to one of the Narnia chronicles.
I think what I really didn't like about was the overall conspiracy theory about CS Lewis and the Narnia books. I'll leave them as what they are, excellent allegorical children's fiction, and be satisfied with that.
This is a "lite" version of Planet Narnia, absolutely faithful and with much of the same text, but less of its detailed scholarship that is better suited to those more familiar with medieval literature, and/or those wanting more of a dissertation style rather than just a good read. I bought one copy of each and find them both wonderful as well as convincing in regards to the authors' thesis. It evoked fond memories of reading the original series for me - and now, of course, I want to read them all again! "Well done!"