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Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on Narian codes

The author of the Planet Narnia book left a message in the comments of my earlier blog. He felt that perhaps the BBC programme did not show his theory off to its best advantage.
Having dealt with television and knowing that 3 minutes tv time came mean three hours real time, I had a look at his website. I also only watched until the discussion about the planets ruling the days -- which is something I had come across before in my research for the Romans.
The website did confirm what I thought -- namely Mr Ward has never written fiction for publication and that he has never had to construct a world which exists over a series of books. Equally he has not had to deal with the editor/author relationship when you are speaking about commercial fiction. Sometimes, it can be difficult to say when various themes are decided. The entire revision process throws new connections up and thus it would be improbable that he could do a code to that extent over 7 books and not have his editor know that he was up to something. Also Ward does not mention (it could be in the book) Lewis fighting to keep some imagery in that has no relationship to the story and that he would have only fought for IF he was doing this code. It would be in the editor/author relationship that you would see this happening rather than in his relationship with his reading group. Editors are very powerful beings in the commercial world, particularly in the 1950s.
In the FAQ, I learnt that Lewis held critics who searched for hidden meanings in contempt. Thus, I would doubt that if he had put a puzzle or riddle into each of his books, that he would have done so to the degree that Ward suggests. Also he would have been targeting a single person/specific group of people particularly with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It could be that the correspondance has not survived.
In addition to Father Christmas, this book is the book where the world most reflects English values -- umbrellas, books in a library, sewing machines are all mentioned in this book but not again. It was also geared towards the Christmas book market and someone may have felt that including Father Christmas would help increase either the chances of publication or sales.
You can tell there was some discussion with his editors about order etc and that Lewis lost the argument. This is because he turned in books in a different order to the publication (Horse and His Boy was sent in fourth and published fifth), and indeed apparently began the books in a different order. Although knowing what I know about world building etc and discussions with editors, the later point is not necessarily significant but the sending in of the manuscripts is.
Editors have a habit of saying -- well we would like you to... or can you possibly think about writing this one first. Then they may change their mind.
I know there is a question about the order in which to read the books. I started with Prince Caspian as that was the book my mother bought for my brother. I then borrowed the rest from a neighbour. So because they are stand alone, in one sense the order does not matter. In another, they were edited (and therefore revised by Lewis) in a specific order. Going by order of publication, this puts Voyage of the Dawn Treader third which if you believe Ward's theory is dedicated to the Sun. Sunday is also the Lord's day and this is the first book where Aslan specifically goes on at the end about being Christ. The Christian allegory is a bit clunky at times imho. and as a child, I skipped over it in my rereadings. But because of the trinity and the importance of three, plus the use of sun imagery, you could say that it helps prove the publication with The Lon, The Witch and The Wardrobe being first.

But Mr Ward and I do agree one important point -- Lewis created a magical world that stands the test of time. And he had the right to create the world however he wanted, and not to the dictates of Tolkien.

I am a writer and not a literary critic. I create worlds for my books. But ultimately the most important thing is the story and the story dictates all.

2 comments:

Jane Holland said...

I loved the Narnia books as a child. Now, they have all been spoiled for me by the belated realisation that Susan was clearly disapproved of by Lewis for being interested in lipstick and nylons. So she didn't get to go to heaven with the others.

That seemed to me so horrifically unpleasant an inference about adult women that I couldn't read any of those books in the same innocent way again. Sad, really.

Michelle Styles said...

Yes, I know about the Susan problem. My daughter gets angry about that as well.