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The Narnia Code

16 Dec

C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are loved by both the young and the young at heart all over the world. Whilst they can certainly be enjoyed on their own merits as pure, escapist fantasy adventure stories, their writer often implied that they had a deeper meaning. Lewis, a prodigious letter writer, once wrote to a young reader as follows: “I’m so thankful that you realised the ‘hidden story’ in the Narnia books. It is odd, children nearly always do, grown-ups hardly ever”. It is noteworthy that Lewis, who was otherwise quite willing to talk about his work, never elaborated as to what precisely this ‘hidden story’ was, leaving literary critics to speculate endlessly over this in the years since the Narnia novels were first published. For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that Lewis’s apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia’s symbolism has remained a mystery. That is, until a little known Cambridge scholar named Michael Ward came along recently and apparently solved the enigma. His theory was that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. In Ward’s view, the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets – Jupiter, Mars, Sol (the Sun), Luna (the Moon), Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Although this intriguing theory has not won universal acceptance, Ward certainly makes a compelling case.

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