Thread: Planet Narnia
Anyways, for those not familiar, it is a fairly new book by Michael Ward proposing a rather bold claim: All 7 narnia chronicles are based each on one of the 7 pre-Copernican "Planets", each planet having a personality and particular character associated with it. (These would be the same planetary personalities that descend on Ransom at the end of That Hideous Strength). The tie-in with Tolkien here is that Tolkien bears rather a large part of the responsibility for (inadvertently!) concealing this imaginative key to the chronicles, (seeing as his disdain of their mixed mythological imagery is well-known: others have seemed to follow in his steps and see a 'hodge-podge' of imagery in the chronicles, not least of which is the strange appearance of Father Christmas in a world that knows the name Aslan, not Christ). Ward contends that there is a hidden depth that ties all the seemingly random mixes of mythological symbols together. (Had the Chronicles been submitted to the full intellectual critique of Tolkien and other Inklings, this 'hidden' key might not have gone unnoticed by scholars for nigh well half a century).
Anyone read it? Heard of it? Thoughts?
Ward's website is http://www.planetnarnia.com/
The sevent planet, Uranus, was discovered in 1781, which is quite post-Copernican.
1.Luna (Moon) 2.Mercury 3.Venus 4.Sol (Sun) 5.Mars 6.Jove (Jupiter) and 7.Saturn.
Add Mongo and the Planet of the Apes, and hey presto! now there's 9.
this might come as a shock, but the six books of LOTR plus the Hobbit also follow a planetary design, and of course were written much earlier than the narnia stuff.
It is not polite to pull people from one forum to another. For that reason, I have copied Joe-v's argument of April 18, 2009 below in case any Planet-Tolkien members wish to speak for or against it.
Last night I saw the BBC documentary on the revelation that CS Lewis' seven Narnia books each purposely correspond in their content to one of the seven ancient planets. This discovery was made to seem like one of the most important literary insights of our time, and in the documentary JRR Tolkien was said to be a 'jerk' because he didn't like Lewis' Narnia stories, especially their mythological inconsistency-allowing Father Christmas, etc. It was implied that Tolkien just couldn't comprehend the depth and brilliance of Lewis planetary schema, and that that grand design somehow made allowance for the sloppy aspects of the Narnia mythology that Tolkien didn't like.
In all, Lewis' planetary inspiration and content was made to seem one of the most profound, original and brilliant things imaginable, and it's modern discovery made to look equally profound and brilliant, while JRR Tolkien was made to seem like a grumpy man who just couldn't comprehend the depth of his friend CS Lewis' brilliance.
I am now going to change each of those perceptions.
The whole 'Planet Narnia' thing is not so amazing after all-as Tolkien had already done it much better in The Lord of the Rings.
If the discovery of Planet Narnia is one of the most perceptive and original of our time, or maybe any time, than I personally can hardly contain my own brilliance right now. Dr Michael Ward spent five years researching his thesis, from conception to publication. This, below, took me a leisurely hour and a half.
But how could the books of Lord of the Rings correspond to the seven planets when there are only six books? Well, I'm sure you've heard of The Hobbit.
The plan runs: The Hobbit: Sol. LOTR Book 1: Saturn. Book 2: Venus. Book 3: Mars. Book 4: Mercury. Book 5: Luna. Book 6: Jupiter.
The solar symbols and themes of: the Sun, gold, treasure, Dragons/Dragon-slaying, generosity, freedom and enlightenment, riches, and opposition to greed, all feature very prominently in The Hobbit. An adventure, and slaying the dragon, brings treasure and riches. Episodes such as under the mountain and in Mirkwood illustrate the lack of the sun, in darkness, and evil. Saved by eagles-solar symbols? Getting the ring-the most powerful 'treasure' of all. The dragon is slayed-Apollonian solar symbolism. Bilbo, having no need or desire for his fair share of the treasure, refuses it-but gets home wealthy, with riches, anyway. (Opposition to greed, generosity, and still riches, treasure.) Trolls-anti-Sun monsters-are turned to stone by the rays of the rising Sun. The Ring is an evil, anti-Sun treasure-confering invisibility, so light does not bounce off it to make it visible, while the Arkenstone-a large gem has it''s own inner light-is a solar treasure.
The dragon is slayed and the treasure gotten. All solar symbolism fulfilled.
Saturn: death, calamity, misfortune, sickness, old age, disaster, meleancholy, sorrow, wisdom, insight, tretchery, time (negative aspects of.)
Book 1: Birthdays. Getting older. Time passes (in the narrative, long passage of time.) Times getting darker. Dark history of the past. Black riders-hooded figures, death figures. Farmer Maggot!-maggot a death and decay symbol. Barrow Downs-burial places. Strider-a dark hooded figure. Weathertop-a old ruined fortress. Wraiths attack-Frodo might die. Death. Saturn: coldness, death. The wraith to Frodo: cold... the Wraith sword blade in Frodo: cold.
In Book 2's recap of what happened to Gandalf during the time of Book 1, Saruman, a very saturine figure, holds Gandalf, and plans doom for the world of men.
Book 1 is all about the passage of time, dark history, the past, bad news, impending doom, ruins, decay, death, and evil figures chasing. And by the end the main character might die! He's nearly dead!
Book 2 brings a major potential stumbling block, as it is supposed to be about Venus, but features Moria, the Balrog, etc, very heavily. How can this be right? Until we realize that Venus/Aphrodite is the consort or wife of Vulcan/Hephaestus, and then things explain themselves.
Venus: Love. Beauty. Earlier associated with vegetation and gardens (Rivendell: gardens, Lorien: a wood.).
Venus: the morning star and the evening star. Arwen: the evenstar, and her romance with Aragorn is hinted at in this book.
In mythology Hesperus, the evening star, has a western garden in which his daughters guard a grove of immortality-giving apples.
Eldrond is the father of Arwen, and Elves are immortal, but she must choose mortality to be with Aragorn.
It is said of Aphrodite that any man would fall in love with her just by seeing her-similar to with Galadriel.
Frigg: has power of prophesy, but does not tell what she sees. Freya: love, beauty, magic, prophesy, blonde, blue-eyes, beautiful, the fairest Goddess.
Vulcan: God of beneficial and hindering aspects of fire. Fire's destructive capacity. Volcanos.
Hephaestus: mining, metal-working, blacksmiths, craftsmen, metals, fire, volcanos. The manufacture of arms, jewelery, armour.
(The rings: jewelery, out of fire. Positive and negative. The elves' ring has helped them. The one ring is the ultimate evil, and destroying it will destroy everything they have made.)
The dwarfs mining too deep, and the balrog: certainly the negative aspects of mining and fire!
Jewelery: the ring-negative. Positive manufacture of arms-Sting, the sword Bilbo gives Friodo in Rivendell, and armour-the Mithril shirt that saves his life in Moria.
We are shown contrasts in the positive and very negative aspects of Vulcan and Hephaestus-type themes. And the whole book (from the Council of Elrond at least) is about undoing one aspect of this-the creation of the ring, by another-throwing it back to the fire. Council of Eldrond agree the ring must be destroyed-cast into the fires of Mount Doom from where it was made.
The Balrog-fire demon.
Book 2: Meetings. Fellowship. (Union.) Moria. Balrog. Lothlorien. Galadriel: the fairest. All men come under her spell. The mirror. Desire for the ring-Boromir. Sam's love for Frodo, keeps them together. Desire, love, fellowship.
Book 2 is about meetings, unions, love, beauty, prophesy, desire, (Venus/Aphrodite/Frigg/Freya), and mining, mines, metals, fire, the ring, going to the crack of Mount Doom, and a Balrog fire demon! (Vulcan/Hephaestus). It about the positive and negative aspects of both things. Boromir's desire for the ring has broken the Fellowship and forced Frodo to go off alone, however Aragorn and the others bonds to Frodo and the purpose of the Fellowship remain and will remain until then end-with important implications for the rest of the story.
By the end the fellowship, the union, is broken, but Sam and Frodo's bond is renewed, as they together head to destroy the ring in the fire of Mount Doom. Venus and Vulcan themes together.
Mars: war, trees (the Mars Silvanus aspect), military strength, knightly discipline, courage.
Book 3: Boromir's bravery. A warrior's honorable death. Funeral boat (a warrior's funeral.) Aragorn swears to defend Minas Tirith. Uruk Hai. Saruman makes an army, plans war, and chops down trees. Rider of Rohan. Ents-tree men! Theoden. Theoden becomes a warrior king again. Helm's Deep. War. Courage. Huorns-more tree men! The Ents destroy Isengard-Tree men get martial! The End: all prepare to defend Minas Tirith and Gondor: the next, biggest, final battle is to come!
If Dr Michael Ward feels that Prince Caspian is definitely all Mars because it features war, martial ways, and trees, then notice how Book 3 of LOTR does all this and much better.
Warriors, war, battle, martial things, and tree men!
More than any other perhaps Book 4 seems furthest away from it's planet-Mercury. But when we focus on the darker aspects of Mercury-and the story by now is certainly dark-then they are there. The northern european correspondants of Mercury-Woden and Odin, are much darker and more serious figures than the Greek or Roman character.
Mercury: Messenger, travel, boundary markers, important junctions, 'Hermes at the Gate' (the Black Gate!), speech, swiftness (Smeagol goes on at them to be quick...), trickster, mistrust, lies, (Gollum/Smeagol!!!), hidden ways, boundaries, travellers, theives, cunning, a watcher by night, 'a thief at the gates', escort of the dead. Helping travellers have a safe and easy journey (what Smeagol is supposed to do/says he's going, but he is actually all lies, trickster, cunning, deceit...and nearly escort to the dead!). Patience. Mischief. Malice. Trickery. Gates, boundaries. The threshold to the dead/into death.
Clearly all these feature prominetly in this book, as Smeagol, Frodo and Sam venture into Mordor. The only big thing that stands out apart from that is Sheblob the Spider, but spiders stand for some of the same things-patience, mischief, malice, death.
Mercury/Hermes is one of the only gods who can venture into the Underworld and come back. So Smeagol, the dark Mercury character, can go into Mordor and come back, as he has done before, but it's implied that Frodo and Sam cannot, and they know this, and that they're going to die. And indeed in the end they cannot make it back, not by their own steam at least.
Book 4 about travel into Mordor and into lies, deceit, mistrust and possible death. In this book Frodo even mistrusts Sam! And Sam, thinking Frodo dead, decides he should take the ring on, to be the final dark traveller himself, to finish the task and the journey.
I know, it's about a big battle. But if you were ever going to have Moon aspects in amongst such a thing then this is it:
Moon: envious, feminine, Artemis, Diana, service, subservience, silver, wateriness, doubt, inconstancy, confusion, uncertainty. Mental powers. Prophesy. Insanity. Boundary between certainty and mutability.
Minas Tirith: the white city. Symbol: the white/silver tree.
Start: bring news that the attack is coming: prophesy, foresight.
Pippin enters service of the Steward: service, subservience.
Denethor goes mad: lunacy.
Aragorn-fulfilling a prophesy-sets out to find the undead army-shades of men of the 'white mountains'. Spirits.
Hosts of Mordor led by the Witch-King. (Witches: Moon.)
Water, tides and rivers. Corsairs expected, arriving by ship, have been defeated. Instead help arrives by ship/river.
Eowyn: envious of Aragorn/Arwen. Feminine, Artemis, Diana. Martial woman. Kills the the Witch-King.
Minas Morgul-where the Witch-King and the forces of Mordor are based and came from was formerly 'Minas Ithil': the Tower of the Moon! Forces from the white city vs forces from the former Tower of the Moon led by the Witch King, who is killed by a woman warrior (Artemis, Diana.) Moon symbolism anyone?
Doubt. Boundary, change between...certain defeat, and...hope. Likely defeat...and victory!?
Jupiter: Kingly. Enthroned. Festive. Magnanimous. Prosperity. Joy. Winter has vanished. Eagles. Trumpets. Banners. Crashing waves. But tragic splendor. Blood sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice.
Story: To set up book six Aragorn and Gandalf have decided to sacrifice all in the battle to give Frodo and Sam a chance in fulfilling their task. The following story is a result of that sacrifice.
Frodo and Sam disguise themselves as Orcs. (Jupiter wore disguises).
Frodo refuses to let power go.
Smeagol unwittingly sacrifices himself to save the day.
Eagles pick up Frodo and Sam.
Aragorn crowned King, enthroned. Is married. Happiness, festivities.
King Aragorn and them all bow/kneel to the Hobbits: magnanimity.
The tree grows out of the snow. Winter and darkness over.
Crashing waves-the sea to the Grey Havens?
Tragic victory for Frodo-he cannot escape the pain of his wounds-including the sword wound in his side, like a wound of Christ-and leaves to the Grey Havens.
Tragic victory-the scouring of the Shire has happened.
In the end Sam returns, now master of Bag End, to have a happy and prosperous rest of his life. The End.
That's a quick go of it. The LOTR planetary connections are invariably much clearer and more profound than those to the Narnia books, and that was supposed to be the most important literary discovery of our time!
My discovery illustrates two points very vividly:
1: People who love CS Lewis and want to criticize or insult JRR Tolkien will always come off second best-and perhaps never more spectacularly than here and with this thing. Tolkien dismissed Narnia because it clearly didn't stand up to his own rigour in creating a fantasy mythology-because it was not up to his own standards, not because he couldn't comprehend the profound underlying symbolism. Just as Tolkien didn't keep Christian symbolism out of LOTR, but made it more subtle than Lewis' Narnia ever could, so he also has planetary themes in the books of LOTR-while maintaining his high standards for fantasy. And as Lewis started writing Narnia the year Tolkien finished LOTR, then rather than Tolkien being an uptight old man who couldn't understand Lewis' higher meaning, Lewis seems to be a lightweight and derivative imitator of Tolkien, who put planetary themes into each of his own LOTR books years earlier.
And 2: Perhaps the Narnia-and-the-planets discovery is unbelievably brilliant, or perhaps it isn't, but either way this LOTR planetary discovery is worth at least as much critical attention.
But that's unless...unless it is all a load of nonsense, this and the Narnia thing. But could it be?
Thank you for reading.
I am thinking about sending this to some big Tolkien experts--academics-- to see what they think. The Narnia thing has been given serious critical attention so why not this? I was wondering if you big Tolkien experts on here could suggest people. Who are the biggest Tolkien scholars?
Anyway, thanks a lot.
What do you think?
However I find Ward's argument in his book more convincing than yours here; Ward doesn't just point out imagery, he backs it up with evidence that Lewis had a lifelong fascination with medieval planetary imagery, that Lewis was specifically trying to revive Jovial imagery when he drafted LW&W, that he had a high view of using this kind of "hidden aura" scheme to craft a novel: in short, that he had means, opportunity, and motive.
You point out the opportunity (that Tolkien's imagery can be correlated with medieval planets) but you are short on means and motive. Why would Tolkien purposely conceal planetary imagery in the Hobbit plus the 6 LoTR books? If I were to follow your way of finding planetary imagery I would be seeing Mars in every book that contained a forest and a battle.
Now of course Tolkien MIGHT have done this on purpose, but you haven't showed me that he was likely to have done so. Ward, on the other hand, makes a pretty convincing case that Lewis was likely to have done so.
And it is pretty amazing. I'm not saying that Tolkien isn't amazing. To acknowledge the one does not necessarily diminish the other. But I agree with Ward that Lewis is not (and shouldn't be solely viewed as) some kind of Diet Tolkien.
If I were to attempt to trace a hidden key to imagery in The Hobbit and LotR, I wouldn't start with medieval planetary imagery, because by all accounts I've heard, Tolkien's fascination lay elsewhere. Perhaps I would start by asking why Tolkien was obsessed with creating a complete mythology on his own; or I would trace his fascination with words and linguistic phenomena throughout his life's works.
your points are taken, but don't over-hype Dr Ward's book. You could judge every book with war and trees in it as being about Mars? Well Ward's argument on Prince Caspian isn't all that much more elevated than that. So why is all the Treemen action in that particular book of LOTR? Not even straying across two books? Strange, hmmm?
To use an analogy to this thing, think on the Christian symbolism in LOTR. Someone could say: 'Where is the Christian stuff in LOTR? There is none, but Tolkien was a Christian...There is Christian stuff in Narnia! Aslan is Jesus!'
But of course there is much Christian stuff in LOTR, symbolism, etc, but so much more subtle than Narnia. But of course Tolkien never shouted about it. It is for you to dig it out, or not. But it helps make and shape the thing. Perhaps similarly with the planets issue.
Oh, and sorry about the directing-people-elsewhere.
It was a honest newbie mistake, you aren't the first and you won't be the last. But please don't do it again.
But where i come from it is not polite to edit other people's posts. Capish?
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Have a nice day and have fun exploring our little Planet.
Well Ward's argument on Prince Caspian isn't all that much more elevated than that.
I agree that so far as pointing out imagery is concerned, this is true. But the main reason I don't find your argument convincing is that I don't see a motive for Tolkien to do the kind of thing that Ward claims Lewis did in the Chronicles. There might be a motive, but no one has done the research that points to it yet.
According to what I've read of Christopher Tolkien's notes about his father's work, Tolkien had a great body of mythological work (including the Silmarillion, Unfinished tales, etc) that he always seemed to be trying to pull together and revise into one cohesive "universe" that was consistent along its own history, and which was to be viewed as a particularly "English" mythology of our own world. It sounds like Tolkien's over-arching scheme was to make this mythology as "complete" and "consistent" at possible. In doing so, Tolkien may have drawn from medieval planetary imagery but that does not seem to be the theme that holds every element in the story together. (whereas Ward claims that Lewis was not only imagining what Jesus might appear like in a different world but that he was also imagining what might give his audience an experience of what the medieval mind intuitively comprehended about the jovial, the mercurial, the martial, etc). Ward contends that Lewis thought these images were both useful and almost non-existent in the minds of his contemporaries. Ward points out that Lewis thinks so highly of medieval planetary imagery that he almost makes it his mission to re-introduce it to the world.
having just read a different thread on this forum regarding some of Tolkien's inspiration(s) for Middle Earth, it appears that he primarily used his fascination with languages and ancient mythologies as source material. The imagery from such sources might overlap with the imagery from a pre-Copernican cosmos, but an overlap in imagery still doesn't imply that Tolkien deliberately set each of the six LoTR books plus the Hobbit to a different planetary theme.
Reading back along your post, it sounds like you saw the documentary but didn't read the book? I am coming from the opposite direction, having read the book but not having seen the film. Perhaps the script of "the Narnia Code" (I'm assuming that's what you saw?) didn't go into as much detail regarding Lewis' motive(s) as Ward does in the book.
JRR Tolkien was made to seem like a grumpy man who just couldn't comprehend the depth of his friend CS Lewis' brilliance.
The short story is that I think Ward's book is worth some notice and acclaim; it's easy for someone to take his moment of inspiration and apply it to another author - and as you have shown, once given the hypothesis, finding imagery is the easy part. But Ward deserves credit for making the connection in the first place.
You say don't over-hype it; I say don't under-hype it. You seem to take offense that anyone would dare to give the spotlight to Lewis - as if one cannot take both Tolkien and Lewis seriously. Tolkien has had plenty of spotlight and has, I think, achieved admirably his long-term goal regarding the creation of a particularly English mythology. Lewis gets plenty of spotlight about the Christian symbolism, but there's nothing wrong with getting excited about a new idea that Lewis had other goals in mind besides "Aslan = Jesus". No one is here doubting that Tolkien shines bright among authors like a star in the heavens. No one is even claiming that Tolkien's star is of a lesser magnitude than Lewis'. Someone is just saying: Look, everyone knows that Lewis shines on a certain wavelength, but see here! Lewis also shines along a different wavelength, and no one has really noticed that before. Does Tolkien also shine along that particular wavelength? Maybe. But I don't think quite as strongly as Lewis does, because Tolkien shines stronger in other areas.
I follow all that you have said, but also bear in mind than not all Lewis scholars endorse the planetary thing. If Ward was so right, then surely all of them would. But not all do. Although the motive seems good, the evidence is not always watertight. My reasoning is at very least like when they did the Bible Code on Moby Dick--it worked really well there too.
But I find trouble dismissing the planetarty Tolkiern thing entirely. I think that anyone, a bigger expert than me, who looks into it all more, and rereads the books with this in mind would find only deeper confirmation of it. What no-one can dispute is that deeper analysis of the Planet Narnia theory shows that they are not really 100% consistent all the time. So if Lewis was all that committed, then...well, he wasn't!!!
I hazard that the planetary LOTR scheme fits tighter than the Narnia one! I dare anyone to prove the opposite!!! Yes, i am empty when it comes to motive...but...I'm saying ther evidence speaks louder.
Thanks for the healthy consideration.
(argh, I can't find one of my books, I think I will have to go buy another).
One thing from my personal experience that is in Ward's favor about Lewis is that I myself found that I was "drawn" to certain of the Chronicles over others at certain periods of life. From talking to friends, they also seem to have the same experience. It appears that each Chronicle really does have a different "feel" that is as distinct as a personality. When I read the Hobbit and LoTR, I don't remember getting this kind of sense (but I'll have to re-read it to see if it might have such a "feel" in each book).
If Lewis wanted to make a planetary personality the "ruling god" of each book, he certainly succeeded in making each book come across as different. You can detect this difference when you listen to, say, the moviemakers who talk about the differences between making LW&W into a film that works vs. making PC into a film that works.
If Tolkien did deliberately place planetary personalities into his mythology, I think we have to take into account that 1) Tolkien did do this in an obvious manner, he called them Valar, and they are his mythological equivalent to the gods that the planets were named after (more or less). If Tolkien deliberately placed one or more Valar "in charge" of each of his books in the Hobbit/LoTR sequence, you have to ask yourself if it serves the same purpose that Ward claims Lewis had...
Without having re-read Tolkien (yet), I would say that if its there it serves a slightly different (though possibly overlapping) purpose. I would venture that such a thing in Tolkien would serve the same primary purpose of the first chapters of the Silmarillion, about the song: to show that Illuvitar is ultimately in charge. While ultimate sovereignty is a theme of Ward's book, I keep coming back to the idea that Lewis wanted people to understand by experience the different spheres that he thought medieval minds naturally moved in, and I don't think H/LoTR effectively portrays that.
[disclaimer: all comments and opinions expressed in this thread are subject to change, given the incomplete knowledge of the poster ]
Obviously Tolkien's scheme is working differently. I don't think anyone probably considered reading any of the six alone for the mood. It more clear that LOTR is definately one long story. But it is interesting how things start to be happening where they should, planetary-wise.
In a sense it could be said that how the planets might be working through the Hobbit and LOTR might be a more mature way of looking at it--like a prism...a long story goes through each of the colours, while still remaining itself.