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Astrology and Narnia  

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Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

[...] as an aside, I can't but wonder under what aegis an "official" C.S. Lewis website has been created. Hasn't Lewis been dead for more than half a century? Isn't it presumptuous of anyone running the website to claim to have some "official" capacity as far as preserving his works or his memory or his opinions? Perhaps the keepers of the "official" website retain some copyrights or other legal rights to Lewis's works, but I (at least) don't recognize their authority (except that it allows them to make money from Lewis's works). IN any event, the fact that these "officials" seem hostile to Ward's theory simply mirrors what I'm seeing on this board, and once again, I don't understand the motive.

I looked at the Home page of the site to see who is running it, and later found that this information is also found at the bottom of the article:
Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers. All Rights Reserved
I would say they definitely (at least currently) retain some legal rights to Lewis's works. (And it does let them make money from his works, as they produce the items to make money from.)

I disagree, though, that they seem hostile to Ward's theory. They offer "original work on and about C. S. Lewis from scholars who have written far and wide about his stories, his theology, and his world" (from the "About" text on the blog). They haven't got only Devin Brown's article, but also a review of Planet Narnia by Charlie Starr ( https://www.cslewis.com/a-review-of-the-narnia-code/ ), who is far more positive to the book.

p.s. Being an opinionated sort, I don't call the Narnia books "the Chronicles" because they were never so identified until after Lewis's death. Besides, they are not "Chronicles" which refers to "a register of event in order of time." However, "chronicle" is derived from "Cronus" (Saturn) so anyone who does refer to the series as "The Chronicles' is (unwittingly?) supporting the notion of an astrological connection.

From Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper's biography about Lewis, while telling about the writing of The Silver Chair:

[...] there was much discussion about the titles of the stories. (Green christened the whole series The Chronicles of Narnia, on the analogy of Andrew Lang's Chronicles of Pantouflia, and the name stuck.)

Green was heavily involved in reading the manuscripts and suggesting changes, and also in suggesting book titles. So even though it doesn't say at what time he came up with the name for the series, I feel that he is well qualified to have an opinion about it, and I'm not surprised that the publishers used his idea.

(It wouldnt even surprise me if the suggestion came up during the discussion of titles for what became The Silver Chair, where Green mentions it in the biography, and while Lewis was still writing the books - but I don't know about any evidence for or against it.)

I agree that they are not "Chronicles" in the sense you mention. I don't know the Chronicles of Pantouflia (My Own Fairy Book: Namely, Certain Chronicles of Pantouflia, As Notably the Adventures of Prigio, Prince of That Country, and of His Son, Ricardo, with an Excerpt from the Annals of Scotland, As Touching Ker of Fairnilee, His Sojourn with the Queen of Faery), but judging from the 1895 title they seem to have been the same kind of random choices from "historical chronicles" as the Narnian ones are.


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : April 21, 2020 9:20 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

To Coracle: I finally understand your point, which was illuminated by the Devin Brown article to which you linked. Thanks for offering it, although, as an aside, I can't but wonder under what aegis an "official" C.S. Lewis website has been created. Hasn't Lewis been dead for more than half a century? Isn't it presumptuous of anyone running the website to claim to have some "official" capacity as far as preserving his works or his memory or his opinions? Perhaps the keepers of the "official" website retain some copyrights or other legal rights to Lewis's works, but I (at least) don't recognize their authority (except that it allows them to make money from Lewis's works). IN any event, the fact that these "officials" seem hostile to Ward's theory simply mirrors what I'm seeing on this board, and once again, I don't understand the motive.

As far as Brown's essay is concerned, I find it unpersuasive.
How could Lewis (the scholar and critic) possibly have been unaware of the astrological connections between the Narnia books and the Planets, given these undisputed facts. Since he wrote one entire series of novels based on astrology, isn't it likely that it influenced another?
.......
I'll grant the point (made by both Lewis and Brown) that trying to reconstruct an author's motives and methods in writing a novel is risky. But seeing the connection between the Planets and the books of the Narniad is fun, useful in enhancing understanding, and meaningful as a form of criticism.

p.s. Being an opinionated sort, I don't call the Narnia books "the Chronicles" because they were never so identified until after Lewis's death. Besides, they are not "Chronicles" which refers to "a register of event in order of time." However, "chronicle" is derived from "Cronus" (Saturn) so anyone who does refer to the series as "The Chronicles' is (unwittingly?) supporting the notion of an astrological connection.

Thank you for your reply. Varnafinde has addressed the issue of the website (run by HarperCollins with authority but not a lot of time lately, I suspect) better than I might have done. There was a podcast fairly recently on NarniaWeb, which you may like to listen to; I think the comments section on it is still open.

"an opinionated sort"? Well, you seem to be very well read, and have come to your conclusions after careful thought.

Perhaps one reason that I (and maybe others) want to err on the side of caution in this, is that for me 'astrology' is bound up with horoscopes, the cheap newspaper ones and the sort that people pay good money to have cast for them.
I cannot see Jack Lewis as a man who would have a bar of it! This creates a bias for me, but as you see, I love his work; I have no difficulty in enjoying the Oyarses of the Space Trilogy, and the worldview that Lewis shared with his readers over ten years before he wrote the first Narnia story. I love the Narnia stories - even though I came to them late in my teens while reading English at University - and enjoy all the mythological elements in them.

I'm interested to read your connection of Chronicles with Saturn. I had always seen it as based on the Greek word 'chronos', as per this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos

Thanks for an interesting new look at things! I look forward to seeing more posts about your areas of interest in Lewis and Narnia.

UPDATE: I planned to look up Paul Ford's book, Companion to Narnia, on this, and have now done so. He mentions in his introduction, "The series was christened The Chronicles of Narnia in 1952 by Lewis's dear friend Roger Lancelyn Green, in an analogy with Andrew Lang's Chronicles of Pantouflia"

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Posted : April 21, 2020 12:40 pm
ecurb1216
(@ecurb1216)
NarniaWeb Regular

Thanks, Varnafinde. I'd never visited the "official" site before, so I was leaping to conclusions about it's antipathy for Ward based on insufficient evidence.

When was Green's title first seen in print (I wonder). I've been a Narnia fan since the 1960s (when I was a wee bairn), and my memory is that nobody called them "Chronicles" back then (my mother probably read the Narnias to me right about the time Lewis died). But maybe I'm wrong.

By the way, neither Ward nor I claim one must understand the astrological influences on each book to appreciate the series, or to understand it. Obviously, millions of people (young and old) loved the series before Ward proposed his theory, just as millions loved Emily Bronte's poems before Elizabeth Ratchford discovered that they were written by characters in the Brontes' childhood games (Emily wrote them for the characters, of course).

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Posted : April 21, 2020 2:32 pm
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