If you've ever wondered about the real deeper meaning behind C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, wonder no more. (If you thought you were the only one, rest assured that even Lewis's best friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, didn't get it either.) Michael Ward, Oxford professor and Church of England minister, has cracked The Narnia Code.
Ward's findings were originally published in his seminal book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, an in-depth look at the Medieval cosmology which influenced Lewis in the writing of many of his books. This book, The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens, is a distillation of the earlier book's themes, made more accessible.
In this version, Ward adopts a more conversational tone. While he talks about the Medieval cosmology, Lewis's conception of myth and its uses in the Christian life, and how these elements come through in the Chronicles of Narnia, he doesn't delve as deeply here, nor does he rely so much on referencing source documents and Lewis's other writings.
The Narnia Code is also more obviously apologetic. Ward ends with a call to faith in Jesus Christ, pointing out how thoroughly Lewis draws our attention to the Son of God throughout the series. In the second person of the Trinity all things come together, and Ward demonstrates the beauty of Lewis's efforts to make him paramount in his writing, even his fantasy fiction.
So what is this book really about? Medieval thinkers envisioned the Seven Heavens (represented by the planets) as representing seven aspects of God's character. But these representations were indirect, for these Seven Heavens also stood for seven gods and goddesses of Classical mythology, and these in turn were used to proclaim truths about the one true God.
After an Ah-ha! moment of clarity, Ward realized that Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, long criticized for their lack of imaginative consistency (why does Santa show up in Narnia? or Bacchus?), were actually rooted in the Medieval cosmology and imagination which revolved around the Seven Heavens.
The Narnia Code chronicles both Ward's discovery, and the key points of the scheme itself. It's easy to read, engaging, and will cause readers to fall in love with Narnia for the first time, or renew fires gone cold. This is an excellent book to introduce high school students to Ward's ideas; we'd recommend older readers go straight to Planet Narnia.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviewshere.
Did you find this review helpful?