Planet Narnia

Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward, is one of my recent favourites. I recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.

I came across Planet Narnia in the library at Huron University College while searching for books to read on another book by C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces. (If I may digress, Till We Have Faces, in my view, is Lewis's best novel; indeed, I would go so far to say that, excepting some of his better academic works, it is his masterpiece). I read it voraciously, and so thoroughly enjoyed it that I wrote a review of it which I posted on my defunct LiveJournal, and even went so far as to post a portion of that review on a site dedicated to reader reviews of Planet Narnia; you can see my humble contribution here.

In my view, Planet Narnia is to the Chronicles of Narnia as Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon is to The Lord of the Rings; that is, it is a work of literary criticism the insight of which is so brilliant it outshines other works. Put another way, I view Planet Narnia as a sun with respect to the Chronicles of Narnia, brightly illuminating every place. Other works of literary criticism on the Chronicles are like the stars, providing a dim and feeble light but often pretty to look at in their own right, or else like the moon, capable of brightening some aspect of the Chronicles but not as strongly as the sun can.

But what is it about Planet Narnia that makes it such an insightful and penetrating work? To discover that is the purpose of this marginal commentary, by peering closely at Planet Narnia and seeing by what means Dr Ward appears to so accurately delve into the Chronicles of Narnia.
Three editorial notes: 1) The edition from which I am quoting is the paperback edition published by Oxford University Press in 2010. 2) I am also omitting the endnotes which Ward, obviously, includes in the work, but I will refer to most of the sources he cites or refers to in the notes in passages I quote from. 3) References to works from the Chronicles of Narnia will be to the chapter in which they are located, as there are about as many different editions of the Chronicles as there are publishing houses.

Ward's argument shows that Lewis himself provided the interpretive key to the Chronicles, albeit indirectly. First, he discusses Lewis's interest in and knowledge of a 'hidden' or 'cryptic' element of certain kinds of literature:
Lewis... declared himself to be interested in imaginative 'hiddenness'; it is a major element in his thinking as a literary critic.
In 1940 he gave an address... entitled 'The Kappa Element in Romance.' 'Kappa' he took from the initial letter of the Greek word [krypton], meaning 'hidden' or 'cryptic'. Lewis later reworked the talk... and although he dropped the term 'kappa'... the hidden thing itself was still his main concern. By this stage of his career he tended to call it by a number of different terms, of which 'atmosphere' is the most common. [p. 15] Ward writes that the address was reworked into the essay 'On Stories' which has been published in various collections of essays, including On Stories, and Other Essays on Literature (published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1982). Later in Planet Narnia (on pp. 19-21), we see why Lewis would have a professional interest in 'imaginative hiddenness': it is a feature of many works which he studied as a matter of course, including the Faerie Queene (the link is to a basic summary of the work) of Edmund Spenser. Ed. note: the word 'krypton' has been transliterated.
We may infer from Ward's discussion of Lewis's interest in this 'kappa element' that one of the reasons why the 'astrological atmosphere' of the Chronicles was not discovered before is that critics of the Chronicles have not had an apparatus capable of discerning it:
Lewis... once complained how his critical interests 'have no vocabulary.' Historical criticism and character criticism had, in his view, by long practice perfected their own terminology... . 'But the things I want to talk about have no vocabulary and criticism has for centuries kept almost complete silence on them.' [pp. 15-6] The quotations in and the drift of this passage are from the essay 'Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?' in Selected Literary Essays. Ward goes on to write that Lewis, in that work, mentions literary critics who have been working on that very aspect of literature, but notes that Lewis did not refer to any concepts or terms of theirs that he might have been able to use to develop his conception of a 'kappa element'.
Ward discusses a few terms and definitions Lewis uses with respect to this 'kappa element' or 'atmosphere', the most important of which is the distinction between 'Contemplation' and 'Enjoyment' as defined by Samuel Alexander in Space, Time and Deity:
[In his diary Lewis refers to Alexander's] 'truthful antithesis of enjoyment and contemplation.' [Lewis] was later to describe this antithesis as 'an indispensable tool of thought.' ... [Lewis] applied what we might call 'the Alexander technique' to many departments of life in addition to literary criticism and he thought it so useful that he eventually wrote his own essay on the subject, 'Meditation in a Toolshed,' in which he recast 'Contemplation' and 'Enjoyment' as follows:
I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, ninety-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.
'Looking along the beam' is what Alexander had called 'Enjoyment' (participant, inhabited, personal, committed knowledge) and 'looking at the beam'is what he had called 'Contemplation' (abstract, external, impersonal, uninvolved knowledge). For Lewis, this distinction was so fundamental that he was prepared to divide conscious knowledge accordingly: 'Instead of the twofold division into Conscious and Unconscious, we need a three-fold division: the Unconscious, the Enjoyed, and the Contemplated.' [p. 17] Ward spells out how Lewis applies this antithesis in literary criticism as it relates to the concept of 'atmosphere', as we shall see. 'Meditation in a Toolshed' (from which, obviously, Ward quotes Lewis) is published in the collection God in the Dock. (It may have been published in other collections; Ward cites it from a work called Essay Collection, which was published by HarperCollins in 2000.) Lewis's statement that we ought to divide conscious knowledge into what is enjoyed and what is contemplated (as well as his comment about the truthfulness of Alexander's antithesis of enjoyment and contemplation) is from Surprised by Joy; that Lewis includes Space, Time and Deity in his 'biography of ideas' should give us some idea of its importance to his conceptual life.
The object of Lewis's literary investigations, the 'kappa element' or 'atmosphere', then, is something meant to be 'enjoyed' rather than 'contemplated':
When Lewis writes [in 'On Stories'] that the elusive, atmospheric state of being that may be captured in romance is to be 'enjoyed,' he means it... in the Alexander sense: the atmosphere should be entered into so that it comprises our whole imaginative vision. If we attempt not to Enjoy, but rather to Contemplate [the atmosphere of stories]... we will find the quality going dead and cold in our hands, because we will have stopped 'living the story.' For this atmosphere is not one of the abstractions of literary criticism, but a description of 'concrete imagination' in practice, the full tasting of a work of art on the imaginative palate. If we are properly to Enjoy it, we must 'surrender ourselves with childlike attention to the mood of the story.'
It is for this reason that 'atmosphere' is so difficult to put into words, for really, in any given work of art, it is that whole work and its total effect, not any dessicated critical account of it, which is the thing Lewis is trying to categorise. If the atmosphere could have been communicated in any briefer way than the whole work, presumably the artist would have done so. Since the artist has not done so, we must be content to accept that every part of the story is necessary for the intended effect on our literary taste-buds. ...
And this since atmosphere has to be Enjoyed, rather than Contemplated, it is, in a sense, invisible. ... [T]he inner meaning of a romance cannot be flagged up by the author without altering its true nature. It has to remain hidden, woven into the warp and woof of the story so that it comprises not an object for Contemplation but the whole field of vision within which the story is experienced. The kappa element is more like seeing than it is like something seen. Just as one cannot take out one's eyeballs and turn them round in order to look back at one's optical organs, so one cannot jump out of this 'state of being,' this mode of Enjoyment consciousness. It is, by its very nature, though knowable, not explicit. [pp. 17-18] This elucidation of the 'kappa element' should suffice for our purposes. The line about 'surrendering ourselves' comes from Lewis's biographical essay on Edmund Spenser, now published in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. I also omitted a lengthy quotation from 'Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?', but it is one which is germane to our discussion, so I will briefly make a note of it. Basically, Ward quotes Lewis to demonstrate the importance of his claim that, when considering the 'atmosphere' or 'kappa element' of a work, 'we must not discriminate between what we imagine to be the "important" and "unimportant" aspects of [that] work'. This is important for his own argument since it is based on taking a closer look at details in each of the books of the Chronicles, details which, in the sixty or so years since their publication, most critics have considered to be unimportant. Now, 'atmosphere' is, I think, a good term for describing what Lewis and Ward are trying to get at - Lewis, of course, would write the Chronicles as a way of demonstrating his point, and Ward wrote Planet Narnia in order to demonstrate that this is, in fact, what Lewis did - for, as with the real atmosphere, so with the literary one (of, say, a romance): it is a quality which permeates and fills the whole work, and without which the vitality of the work would not exist. Actually, Ward's work in Planet Narnia could be influential with respect to the literary criticism of other works, in that others might begin to look at a wide variety of literary works in order to explore their 'atmosphere'; it may be, however, that this kind of criticism could only be imperfectly applied to other works, because Lewis set out to accentuate the atmospheric and 'Enjoyable' quality of the Chronicles, while it is likely that most writers before and since Lewis have not devoted the same kind of attention to a similar quality in their work. Moreover, the 'very nature' (as Ward puts it) of the thing being considered makes it difficult to examine critically - the whole point of 'atmosphere' is that you breathe it; it is meant to be Enjoyed, and as such, it is difficult to Contemplate.
Ward's preliminary investigation also looks at other aspects of 'hiddenness' in Lewis's work and life in order to build his case for what he considers to be Lewis's organising principle for the Chronicles, and of course he also describes in some detail the seven planetary heavens of mediaeval cosmology. It is necessary to have some understanding of these in order to grasp Ward's argument. Another concept of particular importance to the Chronicles is that of astrological influence. This is the view (accepted, usually with qualifications and limitations, by most mediaeval thinkers) that the planetary bodies cause changes in terrestrial objects (for instance, by changing soils and rocks into metals) and people (thus, certain kinds of behaviour were said to be characteristic of people influenced by Saturn, or Jupiter, &c.; the temperamental qualities 'saturnine,' 'jovial,' and 'mercurial' derive from this concept, as does 'lunacy'). Astrological influence, it need hardly be said, is today neither well-known nor well-received, but it is an apt metaphor for the process of literary 'Enjoyment', and, as Ward points out with respect to the mediaeval cosmological model, something that is not factually true may possess aesthetic truth (see pp. 27-30).

In addition to Planet Narnia, helpful works on the seven mediaeval heavens in the Lewisian canon include The Discarded Image, the essay 'Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages' in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, the three novels - Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength - of Lewis's 'Cosmic Trilogy, and a poem Lewis wrote called 'The Planets' (re-published in The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper). Indeed, it was a line from 'The Planets' - 'winter passed and guilt forgiven [89-90]' - which led - say, influenced - Ward to uncover the secret of the Chronicles (see Planet Narnia, pp. 244ff.).

It is time to turn to Ward's exploration of the 'kappa element' or atmosphere, the 'planetary influence' that pervades each of the books of the Chronicles of Narnia. There are seven books in the Chronicles because this corresponds to the number of extra-terrestrial planets in the mediaeval cosmology: in order (of their distance from the Earth), the Moon (Luna), Mercury, Venus, the Sun (Sol), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (see the second chapter of Planet Narnia, entitled 'The Planets', pp. 23-41). Each book is predominantly 'influenced' by one planet; that is, its atmosphere or 'donegality' (to use the term coined by Ward to define this quality) relates to the characteristics of its 'presiding' planet. This will become clear during the course of this marginal commentary.

Obviously it would be too much work to produce a marginal commentary that deals with each Narnia book and its corresponding mediaeval planet. Such a post would be too long to read, not to mention in contravention of copyright law. My focus, then, will be on one planet, Jupiter, which Ward - and we may as well say Lewis, too - associates with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

After that found in the novels in the 'Cosmic Trilogy', the most important imaginative treatment of Jupiter by Lewis before he wrote the Chronicles is in his poem 'The Planets', and what Lewis writes about Jupiter in 'The Planets' is significant with respect to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Accordingly, I will quote the passage (also quoted in Planet Narnia) and then see what Ward has to say about it.
The following lines are the relevant portion:
Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music—measureless the waves'
Joy and jubilee. It is JOVE's orbit,
Filled and festal, faster turning
With arc ampler. From the Isles of Tin
Tyrian traders, in trouble steering
Came with his cargoes; the Cornish treasure
That his ray ripens. Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, of good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted,
The myriad-minded, men like the gods,
Helps and heroes, helms of nations
Just and gentle, are Jove's children,
Work his wonders. On his wide forehead
Calm and kingly, no care darkens
Nor wrath wrinkles: but righteous power
And leisure and largess their loose splendours
Have wrapped around him—a rich mantle
Of ease and empire.
... [W]e focus on the imagery of these lines, noting some of the recurrent themes in Lewis's presentation of Jupiter: his 'kingly' aspect, his 'festal' aspect, his association with waves and the passing of winter, 'winter passed/And guilt forgiven.' 'Jove's children' means mortals who exhibit his influence, not necessarily young people. [pp. 54-5] This quotation from 'The Planets' is taken from lines 79-101. There's a lot to look at. Ward doesn't delve into extensive detail of this passage itself, mainly because by this point a number of these images and themes have already been introduced in Planet Narnia in his discussion of some of Lewis's other works. For my purposes, the quotation from 'The Planets' serves to reveal and to sum up Ward's exploration of the Jovial characteristics which would later be found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Before I do, I would like to digress briefly and note that this section of the poem is enhanced greatly by reading it in conjunction with listening to the movement 'Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity' from Holst's The Planets Suite. Indeed, on p. 74 (in another context), Ward refers to the suite, to which Lewis had listened (although it transpires that, in general, he thought 'Jupiter' to be the weakest movement; listening to it you can kind of see why; the delicate parts are rather precious). The line 'measureless the wave's/Joy and jubilee' ties in well with the arrival at Cair Paravel of the four children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and their subsequent coronation:
'The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach. ... That evening... the four children all managed to get down to the beach again and get their shoes and stockings off and feel the sand between their toes. But next day was more solemn. For then, in the Great Hall of Cair Paravel ... in the presence of all their friends and to the sound of trumpets, Aslan solemnly crowned them and led them to the four thrones[.] [LWW17]'
Ward will refer to the 'waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach' in a different context, on pp. 75-6. In any case the above passage from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is certainly an example of the kind of thing suggested by the line 'measureless waves'/Joy and jubilee'. Meanwhile, as Ward himself at one point discusses, the line 'of winter passed/And guilt forgiven' could stand in as the pithiest review of the plot of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. As we saw, it was this line that led to Dr Ward's breakthrough. If you add the line 'Of wrath ended/And woes mended', that would make it the second pithiest review. '[J]ocund revel,/Laughter of ladies' characterises Lucy's and Susan's romp with Aslan after his return from death (LWW15), as well as recalling the triumphal celebrations following the coronation scene in the seventeenth chapter. Peter and Edmund both eventually deserve the epithet 'lion-hearted'. All four children become 'helms of nations', and I don't think it is happenstance that Queen Susan is called Gentle, or King Edmund Just; it ties in well with the continuation of the line, 'helms of nations/Just and gentle'. Along similar lines, Aslan is named as 'King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea [LWW8]', which fits in well with the royal imagery used of Jupiter in 'The Planets.'
My breakdown of the Jovial segment of 'The Planets' is not as well done as Dr Ward's look at Lewis's pre-Narnian literature (and of concepts he wrote about in post-Narnian literature but surely would have known before), but already I think you can see, if only in part, why Ward comes to the conclusion that the Chronicles of Narnia are imaginative attempts to enable 'Enjoyment' of the seven mediaeval heavens. I have omitted Ward's discussion of the 'Tyrian traders' and their 'cargoes' (tin, Jove's metal), who also happen to appear in a much earlier poem, the 'Prologue' to Spirits in Bondage, one of Lewis's earliest works. Ward writes that '[a]lthough the "Prologue" does not explicitly mention Jupiter, it is so strikingly similar to the lines from "The Planets" and it heads up a collection in which sidereal imagery is so prevalent, that it may justifiably counted as one of Lewis's Jovial poems; in fact, the earliest. [p. 56]' See pp. 55-6 for Ward's discussion.

One more exploration of Lewis's references to Jupiter outside of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is worth quoting, and that is Ward's look at a passage from Arthurian Torso:
[W]e know that Lewis had reason to associate Jupiter... with Christ himself ... . In 1948 he published Arthurian Torso, his study of Charles Williams's poetry. There he analyses 'Taliessin in the Rose Garden' (from The Region of the Summer Stars) in which Williams had written, with characteristic density, 'Pelles bleeds / below Jupiter's red-pierced planet.' About this mysterious image Lewis comments as follows:
Williams assumes that the huge reddish spot which astronomers observe on the surface of Jupiter is a wound and the redness is that of blood. Jupiter, the planet of Kingship, thus wounded becomes, like the wounded King Pelles, another ectype of the Divine King wounded on Calvary.
... With this explicit connection between Jupiter and Christ firmly established in his mind, Lewis was readying himself to capitalise upon all the scholarly and imaginative energy he had devoted to Jove over the years. [pp. 56-7] The passage which Ward cites from Arthurian Torso is on pp. 149-50. Some may not be familiar with Charles Williams, but, briefly, he was a literary critic and writer of fiction and poetry, and some of his writing had to do with the Arthurian romances. He became good friends with Lewis during the war. I am not familiar with much of Williams's work myself, but I can see how Lewis draws this connection; that Williams places a reference to King Pelles's wound so close to a description of the planet Jupiter as 'red-pierced' is meant, I think, to imply just what Lewis remarks is the case. For those of you unfamiliar with literary 'types', an ectype is a kind of 'after the fact' reproduction. To call Jupiter, or King Pelles, 'ectypes' of 'the Divine King wounded on Calvary' is to say, more or less, that because they have that wound in common with Jesus, they typify him; we are able to associate them with him and say that there is a kind of connection. Another way of putting it is that Christ has put his 'stamp' or 'impress' on Pelles and Jupiter both because of their association through their woundedness (and their kingliness). I am not sure whether I have clarified the concept here, but then, knowledge of the use of typology in literature has diminished since Lewis's day. I should qualify my comment about 'worth quoting'; there is a great deal more in the chapter on Jupiter alone worth quoting, of course, but for what I am trying to do this will suffice. My brief look at Ward's analysis of Lewis's 'Jovial' writings provides, I think, a basic outline of what he is doing. All this is a lead-up to his exploration of the Jovial imagery, themes, and motifs in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It gives us an idea of what we need to look for.
Let us move on to the main event:
In this first of the Narnia Chronicles, Lewis used Joviality in a new way. ... [H]e goes inside Jove, as it were, and writes from within specifically Jovial imagery so that Joviality is turned into a story. Jupiter is never named for our Contemplation, but is evoked in an Enjoyable fashion and, most significantly, Aslan focusses and condenses (we might almost say, incarnates) that presiding spirit. [p. 57] What Ward has been doing in the first part of the chapter on Jupiter (pp. 42-57) is drawing together what Lewis wrote, academically and imaginatively, about Jovial imagery and characteristics. He does so, as I said above, in order to show how it is present in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He makes two crucial statements in this paragraph. The first is that 'Jupiter is never named for our Contemplation, but is evoked in an Enjoyable fashion'. Going back to what we saw of the 'atmospheric' or 'kappa element' discussed early in Planet Narnia, we can see that what this means is that, rather than draw explicit attention to Jovial elements of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which, as we shall see, abounds in them, Lewis presents Joviality 'from the inside'. It is also significant that Dr Ward refers to the antithesis, which we looked at above, posited by Alexander between Contemplation and Enjoyment. Joviality in the first of the Chronicles is meant to be looked along, it is something to see by, not to look at or see through. 'Joviality is turned into a story', Ward writes, and that is as concise a summary of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as we may hope to find. The second crucial statement is that 'Aslan focusses and condenses (we might almost say, incarnates) [the] presiding spirit.' Aslan's role, or one such, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is to mediate the qualities of Joviality to the characters in the story. But of course it is developing and demonstrating both of these statements that the rest of the chapter on Jupiter in Planet Narnia is all about.
The first thing Dr Ward considers is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as 'something made'. That is (as he writes earlier in Planet Narnia of the Chronicles as a whole), 'their poetry is their principal message'; they are not 'principally works of propaganda' consisting of 'Biblical parallels or moral "points" [italics original; p. 22]'.

Based on all that we have seen thus far, what I take 'something made' to mean is to see how the message Lewis is trying to convey is 'built in' to the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Put another way, the first Chronicle succeeds in achieving Lewis's purpose to the extent that it communicates Joviality Enjoyably, as part of what it is. Looking at it another way, when, for example, we say something about what we like about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we are communicating something of its Jovial nature, because Lewis has carefully designed the work so that is Joviality is expressed on nearly every page.

My focus, then, will be on the first part of Dr Ward's analysis of the Jovial atmosphere of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (pp. 57-67); that is, on the work as 'something made' (it's 'Jovial poiema' to use Ward's term), on its literally influential expression of Joviality. The 'Jovial logos' of the work, expressed primarily in terms of Aslan's role of 'incarnating', so to speak, the 'presiding spirit' of Jupiter, I will leave for you to read for yourselves.

Ward quotes at length the passing of the White Witch's winter from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (pp. 58-60, the passage is from chs. 11-12), and shows its relation to other Jovial overcomings of winter in Lewis's work:
Perhaps the best way to approach the Joviality embodied in the tale is by looking at the central turning-point in the story, the change from winter to summer. ... [I]t does depict 'new life,' but it does more. It also conveys the peculiarly Jovial spirit, for Jupiter brings about 'winter passed' ('The Planets'), 'winter overgone' (The Allegory of Love); he 'overmatches' the 'freezing wastes' and 'unendurable cold' of Saturn and defeats Frost, Wither, Winter, Stone, Steele, et al, producing 'torrents of melted snow' (That Hideous Strength). In 'The Turn of the Tide,' a poem about the nativity at Bethlehem, we are told that, at the birth of Christ, 'Saturn laughed and lost his latter age's frost / His beard, Niagara-like, unfroze.' ...
In The Lion the aestival influence of the Jovial Christ accounts for this key architectonic feature of the story: the overthrow of the White Witch's reign. She had made it... 'always winter and never Christmas ' (57)... . But this Saturnocentric world is about to be brought to its end. [pp. 57-8] I have already mentioned, based on Ward's own comments, that the line from 'The Planets', 'winter passed / And guilt forgiven' is as apt a summary of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as any you are likely to find. One critic of Ward's conclusions shows that, on the one hand, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian have strikingly similar plots, when summarised in a certain way. But he completely misses the point: anyone who reads the works as a whole could tell you that they are completely different in tone and feel, even without having any knowledge of the influence of astrological mythology on the Chronicles. The passage Ward quotes at length (which I regrettably had to omit) from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is very nearly the literal centre of the book, and is certainly its beating heart. The action of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is necessarily impossible without the end of winter, the (admittedly rushed) celebration of Christmas, and the coming of spring that chapters 10-12 recount. These chapters form the 'hinge' of the book, much like how I showed the confrontation between Harry and Aberforth in The Deathly Hallows was the hinge of that work. The connection with 'The Turn of the Tide' confirms, above all, Lewis's poetic interest in connecting Christ with Jupiter, something which he accomplishes with the greatest artistic success in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Ward shows convincingly that the plot is necessarily determined by its Jovial character. Drawing attention to its similarities to Prince Caspian is, literally, superficial and does not express the influential effect upon the action of the plot of each's presiding planetary genius.
Dr Ward also goes on to explain at length (pp. 60-2) the royal, kingly character of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, another telling connection between the book and the influence of Jupiter.

He goes on to outline some of the other visible effects upon the story of the Jovial influence:
The two subjects which we have so far examined (kingliness and the passing of winter) are clearly fundamental to the book. They do not ornament the story: they comprise the story. But there are a good many other Jovial images that supplement these foundational ones. ... [L]et us proceed by cross-referencing The Lion with the various Jupiter passages that preceded it in Lewis's oeuvre and with what is independently known of Jupiter from classical and medieval sources. By doing so we will discover that the opening Narnia tale is insolvent to the king of the gods. [p. 62] The two fundamental subjects of the book, kingliness and the passing of winter, have really already clinched Ward's argument, but the following discussion (of which I shall quote just a little) helps, in my view, settle the matter beyond any doubt. Ward's use of 'insolvent' in this context may be confusing, but another way of putting it is that Joviality is a sine qua non, an ineradicable feature, of 'the opening Narnia tale'. You cannot have The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe without its Joviality.
There are three passages in this last section of Ward's exploration of the 'Jovial poiema' that I would like to look at: a segment observing two 'kingly' motifs in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; an observation of minor Jovial elements; and the presence of Father Christmas, which until Ward's account could only be seen as, as it were, a curious anachronism or solecism.
Third, according to 'The Planets,' Jupiter influences people so that they turn into 'helms of nations,' which is just what the four children have become by the end of the tale when they are hailed, crowned, sceptred and enthroned at the helm of Narnia.
Fourth, Jovial nations are 'just and gentle,' according to 'The Planets.' It is significant that Edmund is given the title 'Just,' and Susan the title 'Gentle.' Peter's title is also Jovial. He is known as 'Magnificent,' a designation which, on the face of it, has no specific link to the semantic field out of which Lewis habitually works when writing about Jupiter. On closer inspection, Lewis is deliberately perpetuating an error Spenser made ('due to some bad Latin translation') when he mistook Aristotle's megalopropeia for megalopsychia, 'Magnificence' for 'Magnanimity.' The Jovial character is 'magnanimous' according to the Jupiter passages of both The Discarded Image and That Hideous Strength. 'King Peter the Magnanimous' is the real meaning of his name. As for Lucy's title, 'Valiant,' this is perhaps derived from Giordano Bruno's presentation of virtues as cosmic potencies or constellations: 'In this view, Fortezza (valour) assumes the place of honour.' Of the four children, Lucy is the closest to the King of the Beasts: it is therefore apt that she should be named after this sovereign moral quality, 'the palladium of every other virtue.' [p. 64] I drew our attention to the connection between those lines from 'The Planets' and the action of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I looked at Ward's presentation of the poem, above. Here is Ward's own discussion of how those parts of the poem relate to the first Chronicle. It should be pointed out that The Discarded Image was published well after the Chronicles, but Lewis would (so far as I can see) have known all about the mediaeval conception of Jupiter long before he wrote The Discarded Image (or the Chronicles) - the which is clearly demonstrated by Ward. In any event That Hideous Strength was written before the first Chronicle, so that should suffice as proof that there is a connection between Peter's title and Joviality. Incidentally, if it has not already been sufficiently demonstrated, the fourth connection Dr Ward draws between Jupiter and the first Chronicle shows the extraordinary extent to which Lewis drew upon his encyclopaedic knowledge of mediaeval literature, astrology, and cosmology, to inform (literally) the Chronicles. Far from being a 'hodgepodge', as critics both hostile (such as Tolkien) and supportive of the Chronicles have asserted, the Chronicles are remarkably coherent (see, e.g., pp. 8-11 of Planet Narnia for a fuller discussion of this criticism).
[F]inally we turn to a couple of Jove-related images, the oak and the minotaur, which may well, I suspect, have found their way into The Lion because of their Jovial connections. The oak, sacred to Jupiter in classical literature, appears three times in the opening Chronicle: we read of 'bare oaks,' 'sunny glades of oak,' and of Aslan requiring the Witch to leave her wand behind her at 'that great oak' before the parley. The minotaur (the bull-headed man) was known in classical mythology as 'the infamy of Crete', an island especially associated with Jupiter (the Cretan Jove is mentioned in That Hideous Strength), and thrice we find minotaurs named among the monsters in the slaying of Aslan. It may be asked what connection there is between Jove and the non-oak trees mentioned in The Lion (the firs, beeches, elms, and so on), and between Jove and the non-minotaur monsters (the Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, Ettins, and so forth). Is it not incumbent upon me to show that they too are present for a Jovial reason? But that is to press the argument further than I intend to take it. I am contending for an atmosphere or flavour; I am not suggesting that Lewis pedantically selected every single word of this story for its unequivocal Joviality. When Lewis needed trees and monsters, almost any tree or monster might qualify for inclusion. The tree that must not be excluded, however, would be the oak, and the monster that obviously had to be enrolled would be the minotaur. Like seasoning in a dish, they supply that Jovial tincture which, I believe, Lewis knew he should not omit at these points of creative choice. [p. 65] 'Non-oak trees' and 'non-minotaur monsters' are awkward turns of phrase, but they do not detract from Ward's main point in this passage, which is that, while Lewis retained a great deal of flexibility in terms of what sorts of choices he could make with respect to what things were going to appear in the first Chronicle, he could not fail to include Jovial elements among them. I suspect, although this is speculation (and I cannot now remember if Ward addresses this or not in Planet Narnia), that oaks and minotaurs do not appear in any other Chronicle (except oaks, perhaps, in the Jovial climax to The Last Battle, which is an otherwise Saturnine work). Dr Ward goes on to show how similar touches are applied to provide an appropriately 'Mercurial' or 'Martial' or 'Saturnine' tincture (and so on) in each of the other Chronicles.
Starting with [Roger Lancelyn] Green, several critics (none of them little and unimaginative) have cavilled at [the] inclusion [in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe] of Father Christmas. Kilby calls his presence 'incongruous'; Glover says it 'strikes the wrong note'; Schakel opines: 'To be true to his fantasy world, Lewis should perhaps have created a Narnian equivalent to our Christmas instead of taking it into Narnia.' All these are fair criticisms, on the face of it. But once one has grasped 'the real and inward significance of the work as a whole,' its kappa element, one can see why Lewis was so adamant to retain Father Christmas, despite Green's objections. Father Christmas is, in modern culture, the Jovial character par excellence, loud-voiced, red-faced, and jolly. Of The Lion's cast, he is the one most unmistakably born under Jupiter. In his copy of The Golden Bough, Lewis underlined Frazer's observation that Roman generals, celebrating a triumph, would wear the costume of Jupiter and would have their faces reddened with vermillion' [underlining in Lewis's copy of The Golden Bough] so as to imitate the rouged features of the divinity who had brought them victory. And this Jovial redness is part of the colour scheme of Lewis's palette: he uses it at many different points on the canvas and in both attractive and unattractive shades. The Witch has a 'very red mouth'; Maugrim the wolf has a 'great red mouth'; 'evil-looking red flames' rise from the torches of the Witch's accomplices. On the brighter side of the picture, honest Tumnus in his 'red muffler' has skin that is 'rather reddish' and his house is dug out of 'reddish stone'; the robin has 'such a red breast ... you couldn't have found a robin with a redder chest'; and Peter's shield bears the emblem of 'a red lion, bright as a ripe strawberry.' Understood in this context, Father Christmas's gladdeningly red cheeks and his 'bright red robe (bright as holly-berries)' are not a botch, but entirely within the spirit of the book.
... Father Christmas standing against the snow represents just that splash of vivid red-on-white that a tale of Joviality requires. He is the eye to the face of this story, the eye of Jupiter. [pp. 66-7] From the perspective of the plot, one supposes that anyone could have given Peter, Lucy, and Susan their gifts. But, in addition to making sense without respect to his Jovial nature as the choice gift-giver (since that is what Father Christmas is, a giver of gifts); the coming of Christmas is also one of the chief demonstrations that the power of the White Witch has been broken by the Jovial advent of Aslan. With all of the remarks to the effect that the White Witch's spell had made it 'always winter, never Christmas', it would have been foolish for Lewis to exclude so iconic a figure as Father Christmas; such an exclusion would have undermined, though not fatally, the Jovial nature of the passing of the Witch's winter. Indeed, no holiday quite captures the Jovial spirit as much as Christmas does. Furthermore, Father Christmas provides for those not steeped in classical and mediaeval literature or in Lewis's works the clearest indicator of what Lewis is doing in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (it is a clue that is, paradoxically, at once obvious and concealed). Everyone knows who Father Christmas/Santa Claus is. Not everyone would be able to guess that his jollity and redness are associated with Jupiter, and even fewer would be be familiar with the connection to Roman triumphal practice as outlined by Frazer in The Golden Bough. Until I read Planet Narnia, I didn't know, any more than anyone else, what to make of Father Christmas in the book; after reading Ward's book it made perfect sense. This passage also shows (although I am sure its list is hardly exhaustive) how frequently Lewis described things as 'red' in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; again, I think it is not unreasonable to speculate that 'red' is used descriptively in the first Chronicle more than in any of the others, even if there is no deeper significance to its use in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe than that it is the colour most frequently associated with Jupiter - although that is significant enough as it is.
I have reached the end of my marginal commentary on Planet Narnia. I cannot over-emphasise that I think that if you like the Chronicles of Narnia or the work of C. S. Lewis at all, Planet Narnia really is a 'must-read'. No book about Lewis's literary works (and I have read quite a few) captures what the Chronicles are about better than this one, and none other presents insights so penetrating, accounts for the phenomena ('saves the appearances'), or demonstrates so convingly how coherent the Chronicles really are, to the degree that Planet Narnia does. My marginal commentary on Planet Narnia hardly scratches the surface; in terms of the astrological motif Lewis so skilfully deployed in the Chronicles (and which has been so skilfully uncovered by Ward), its rays have hardly penetrated the crust of the book, not that Ward needs my help to transmute previous literary criticism of the Chronicles into precious metals.


  1. Astrology and astrological cosmology may be hokum as a real-life phenomena, but they are pure artistic & aesthetic gold.

    Maybe you should go diving around to see if there are any similar astrological influences in the Harry Potter novels?

    1. That's an interesting idea; I suspect not, but since I don't know Rowling's academic background I couldn't say. I did read one book which purported to show that she drew on alchemy as a literary motif, but I can't remember what that was. More to the point, Rowling's use of astrological motifs is probably more limited because she didn't write her books with the object of making the mediaeval cosmology an object of Enjoyment as Lewis did with his.

      If memory serves, Alan Jacobs's bio of Lewis points out that there are seven Potter books because there were seven Chronicles, so Rowling's series is derivative in that regard. I don't know if she knew, any more than anyone else did, whether the Chronicles were written (as it were) in an astrological key. Probably not, but there's no way of knowing for sure - until someone writes the work of literary criticism that is to the Harry Potter books what Planet Narnia is to the Chronicles.

  2. You've increased the kappa element in my day. Thanks J.

    1. You're welcome. And thank you for your comments!

  3. Aquinas,like Augustine before him, saw the nature of our relationship with God as being one of enjoyment. The knowledge of God being our ultimate end in life. And the will standing in relation to that end in three ways: as its absolute end; as the intended end toward which it orders some means; and as the joy of its journey's end, its ultimate place of rest. This puts a very enjoyable, theo-romantic spin on the cultivation of a virtuous character. I'm sure Lewis was aware of this.

    1. I think he was; at any rate I think he would have agreed that much of what he wrote, including the Chronicles, was meant to communicate that God was our end, our telos - and much more besides.


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