I have just recently finished reading Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Michael Ward that came out quite a few years ago. I first heard of this book through the BBC documentary on the Narnia Code and then I got to hear a lecture by Ward on this very subject. But it has only been recently that I sat down and read it all and got the bigger picture that Ward was trying to convey.
I found his book to be a delight to read and I want to share with you 5 reasons why:
1. The Hidden Depths of Narnia
In his book Ward reveals the mystery behind Narnia that goes beyond the Christian allegory. Those hidden depths are found in the night sky – the 7 medieval planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Lunar, Sol, Venus, Mercury) which CS Lewis used to enrich each of the 7 stories of Narnia. Ward argues that each book represents a planet and he goes to great lengths to show this to his reader by highlighting the imagery used by Lewis and how it correlates to each book. It may sound far-fetched, but actually as you read Wards book and his evidence for it, it is rather compelling.
I rather like this hidden part in Narnia, that there are mysteries and depths that don’t seem so obvious at first glance. But once you start digging you start to see how the book functions behind the curtain and you begin to see meaning behind various things that happen in the story: like Father Christmas turning up in the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe or why everything seems so bleak and cold in the Last battle.
2. Captivating our imagination
When I was reading Planet Narnia, I couldn’t help but be captivated again by this Nanian world and along with that, CS Lewis’s desire to engage our imagination in Christian theology. Ward shows us points where we see CS Lewis’s theology being revealed on the page in the form of a lion or the dedragoning of Eustace or events like it. As a Christian it is hard to ignore this beauty and this truth of Narnia. It makes me go back again to my bible and be captivated again by the Christian story.
If we see theology as dull or even if we are finding our Christian walk a dry and barren place, then Ward invites us to go through the wardrobe and be re-captivated by the Christian Story (the gospel) once again.
3. Pointing to Christ
All the way through Ward points us to Christ. He shows us how each planet is represented in the book and in Aslan and finally in Christ. It was such a helpful reminder of who Christ is and how the Narnia books can help us on this journey.
The fact that Ward does this by revealing the mystery of the 7 planets makes the picture of Christ in these books more beautiful and more real. You see parts of Him that you may never have seen before and its a real joy to discover.
4. Well Researched
I couldn’t help but notice how well researched this book was. There were many quotes from the books, from other CS Lewis books, from other critics and from scripture. It felt like reading a well researched paper or PhD but it is much more accessible. It isn’t an exceptionally hard read but it is at times stretching and the content is certainly enriching.
5. Looking Along the Sunbeam
Ward shoes us that Narnia is a meaning drenched universe. He helps us see more deeply the imagination of Lewis, his love for the night sky, his love for story and for Christ. Mixing all these things together is just gold dust for me.
What I think this book does is help us look along the sunbeam to see a richer, more beautiful world than we have seen before. Now you don’t have to look along the sunbeam, you can simply enjoy the light and everything that the sunbeam illuminates. But if you do cast yours eyes into the glare of the sunbeam, you may find more meaning, more joy and richness that captures the heart.