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All you ever wanted to know about Narnian astronomy

Cobalt Jade
NarniaWeb Nut

Found this interesting article about Narnian stars and planets from Mythopoeic scholar Rush Berman. Enjoy!

Topic starter Posted : June 11, 2024 10:25 am
Narnian78 liked
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@cobalt-jade haven't read it yet, but - planets? Intriguing!  Since their world is flat....

Update:  Now I have had a quick read-through. I can't say I agree with all of it, but some of it is very good. The writer Ruth Berman seems too keen on the idea of a battle in heaven, with Coriakin one of the rebels. That is not the way I read the books, although refererences to the literature that Lewis would have been familiar with seem reasonable.  I was also surprised that she named Tarvil and Alamba as planets, rather than stars.
I'll check out Prince Caspian again.

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

Posted : June 11, 2024 2:47 pm
NarniaWeb Guru

I always wondered if Narnia had any planets like Saturn.  Although to my knowledge no ringed planets were mentioned in the books I would think there would be at least one ringed planet in the Narnian sky. Everything beautiful in our world would have its counterpart in Narnia.  It seems like Aslan would have created something like Saturn in his own special world. 🙂

Planets aren’t mentioned very often in the books. I remember that they were mentioned briefly in the “cosmic dance” described by Doctor Cornelius when he told Prince Caspian about Miraz threatening his safety.   But other than that there is little said about them, although constellations are mentioned at least several times. However, I think it was a good idea to use Holst’s The Planets in the Focus on the Family Narnia Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I am not sure if Lewis ever listened to that piece of music.  Although it would seem like something he would like I don’t know if he actually appreciated classical music about other worlds.

Posted : June 12, 2024 8:22 am
Member Moderator

Very interesting article! Thanks for posting it.

Quick impressions: She makes some very interesting points, but I can’t help noticing a tendency to draw parallels between Narnian astronomy and ours. Some make sense to me while others I’m not as sure about. Details to follow.

I’ve been an avid amateur astronomer nearly all my life, and I’ve come to realize that when I read fiction, I (not always consciously) notice any astronomical or cosmological references and compare and contrast them to our own (for example, Tolkien is careful to mention the phases of the moon as a measure of time passing).

I did this with Narnia when I first read it. The article mentions various ways Lewis describes travelers seeing “new stars” or “southern stars” (for example), in a way that is consistent with our spherical earth but not with a flat Narnia. I noticed this apparent inconsistency when I first read the books all those years ago, but was caught up enough with the story not to worry about it. To me, the idea of seeing new and unfamiliar stars added to the adventure and excitement the characters were experiencing. (And it parallels my own experience; for example, when I first traveled to the far south of Texas, the positions of the stars changed, and I saw Canopus, the second-brightest star in the sky and forever hidden from view where I live, for the first time).

I always thought of Tarva and Alambil as planets based on their behavior; our fixed stars don’t move around like that. But that doesn’t mean the Narnian stars don’t behave that way. The writer mentions possible parallels to Venus and Mars, but I didn’t think of them that way.

The image of the bright morning star that Lucy watches as dawn approaches in LWW is one of my favorite images from the books. While I imagined it resembling how I’ve seen Venus low in the dawn as the sky brightens, I’ve thought of it as a special Narnian object, not directly related to Venus.

Regarding the three Narnian constellations mentioned in PC (the Ship, the Hammer, and the Leopard), she writes:

“These names are evidently not simply different names for the same constellations, but are composed of different stars in different arrangements, not directly equivalent to Terran constellations. The Narnian Leopard could correspond to the Zodiac’s Leo, and the Ship to Argo Navis (the ship Argo [from the Jason legend])…”

I interpreted the text the same way, that they are distinct constellations; that seems a straightforward reading and is how we would describe constellation/star groupings today.  But I always considered them unique Narnian creations rather than parallels to our own star groupings or zodiac.

The image of stars singing at the creation in MN also reminded me of the citation from Job 38 (the morning stars singing together) and still gives me goosebumps.

I liked the idea that stars were individuals, and that even in our world, they are more than just “big balls of gas burning billions of miles away” (to quote The Lion King). I’d not thought about Coriakin’s offense as being more than just an individual transgression of some sort, though the idea of some sort of war in heaven could certainly have been something Lewis thought about. As the writer points out, he certainly would have been aware of the idea from the literature.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

Posted : June 13, 2024 2:31 pm
johobbit liked
NarniaWeb Guru

Do you like it that the stars in Narnia are real people?  They were real people within the fantasy world of Narnia. At least C. S. Lewis created them in that way. Or is the idea too far from reality to be believable?  I actually like the idea and it doesn’t matter much to me if stars in our own world are only glowing spheres of gas like our sun.

Posted : June 16, 2024 6:44 pm
Courtenay liked