Monday, April 30, 2007

The Seven Chronicles of Narnia

I have myself passed on the speculation that each of the Chronicles of Narnia is intentionally designed to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins of medieval theology. It is a plausible and attractive idea, as Lewis was a medievalist, author of Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, An Introduction to Paradise Lost, English Literature in the 16th Century, excluding Drama from the Oxford History of English Literature Series and The Discarded Image, an introduction to medieval cosmology. That someone like Jack Lewis, who was already smuggling orthodox Christian theology into his children’s stories, would also smuggle in the popular theology of the Middle Ages makes a certain sense.

So too with the idea that the Chronicles would each be tied in theme to one of the medieval planets of both astronomy and astrology - the five visible planets plus the Sun and Moon. Lewis explicitly tied his Perelandra series to the planets in both their physical and mythological forms. Why not the Narnia books as well?

Unfortunately for those who like to see behind and underneath things, neither is likely to be true. Lewis’s own words are available to give the disproof.


Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. Of Other Worlds



I think I agree with your order [i.e. chronological] for reading the books more than with your mother’s. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last. But I found as I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published. CS Lewis’s Letters To Children

We could, of course, line them up with whatever group of seven we choose. If we wanted to line them up with the characters from Gilligan's Island, we would have Mr. Howell for Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Ginger would go with The Silver Chair...

8 comments:

Wyman said...

Of course, he could be lying in these letters. Weren't these all excerpts from letters to children? Which, come to think of it, would be the very people he would be influencing if he was trying to sneak such medieval theology into the books. It all sound a little fishy, to me.

Jonathan Wyman said...

And how come he has different names and uses initials? He and this "J.R.R." fellow seem a little suspicious to me. I think these books were really written by Francis Bacon.

Erin said...

I think if you use initials, you can escape the tri-named trend that many serial killers follow.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

Gilligan's Island lines up with the seven deadly sins...

Ginger = lust
Mary Ann = jealousy
Mrs. Howell = sloth
Mr. Howell = greed
Professor = pride
Skipper = anger and gluttony
Gilligan = Satan (he's the one keeping them trapped on the island)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I actually included a similar list when I taught an adult SS on the 7 Deadly Sins.

akafred said...

Kate - You're much too hard on poor Gilligan. Now if bumbling were one of the 7 deadly sins....

Kate said...

Aye... but that red shirt! Surely he is the devil incarnate.