:This year’s Verge conference at Trinity Western University is all about C. S. Lewis. Trinity Western is in Langley, BC, and it’s home to the Inklings Institute of Canada, co-directed by Monika Hilder and Stephen dunning. The keynote speaker for this year’s conference is Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia: the Seven heavens in the Imagination of c. s. Lewis.
Michael Ward is something of a rock star when it comes to Lewis scholarship. His book, Planet Narnia, has helped change the way many people read the Narnia books. Ward lines up the seven books of the series with the seven planets of medieval cosmology. It sounds a little daunting, especially if you don’t know much about the medieval understanding of the universe; however, Ward is amazingly lucid when it comes to his approach. The BBC has even made a film about Ward and his ideas, the Narnia code.
Michael Ward and The Narnia Code
I came to the Verge conference specifically to hear Michael Ward speak. His public lecture on Wednesday evening was packed with scholars and Lewis fans. Ward is a fine speaker: he brings you along for the ride, and he makes sure you never get lost. And he’s funny, too.
Commenting on his approach to the Narnia books, and the fact that no one has made such a connection before now, Ward said to the audience on Wednesday, “If you’re sceptical, you should be.”
Inviting the audience’s scepticism in this way was disarming, but Ward didn’t have to worry someone wasn’t on his side—the audience’s enthusiastic response made that clear. His approach just simply works. He further claims Lewis actually planned the Narnia books to line up with the planets in this way. Here, I have more trouble, but that’s a discussion for another time.
The medieval world view placed the Earth at the centre of the universe, with seven planets in the sky. The Moon and the sun were two of these seven planets, or bodies visible to medieval observers. Ward aligns each of the books in the Narnia series with one of these heavenly bodies. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for example, is the sun book. This is easier to understand at the outset, as King Caspian’s voyage is to the east, journeying into the sun and the end of the world.
If you take time to explore Ward’s book, you won’t be disappointed. It adds a level of complexity and richness to the Narnia chronicles that will keep people exploring them in new ways for years to come.