Friday, June 20, 2008

A Mid-Summer Night's Dream for Venezuela

Summer Solstice. What they used to call Mid-Summer. This Mid-Summer night, the latest Chronicles of Narnia Walden/Disney film, Prince Caspian, opens in cines throughout Venezuela. Mid-Summer is mentioned in the book (in the middle of Chapter 15), but not in the movie.

The Christmas Season certainly was appropriate for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some have thought that summer was the wrong season for Prince Caspian, but perhaps it is a bit of providence that it is playing this time of year. Michael Ward, the author of Planet Narnia, may have been incorrect when he suggested that the month "Greenroof" was equivalent to our month of March. It seems to me that June, the time when the trees are completing their Green Roof over the forests, is probably the correct seting for the book. Plus, early apples might be found in June, but never in March. (Of course, this one small objection does not negate all the fine work Ward has done.)

Some have suggested that Lewis's reference to Mid-Summer is somehow Satanic. This is despite the fact that Chapter Twelve ("Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance") is obviously an admonishment against occult practices. (For my view on Bacchus, see Divine Revelers: The god of wine helps awaken Narnia.)

God Himself is the One who gave us Mid-Summer. This goes back to the beginning when he created everything. Genesis 1: 14-18 (NKJV) declares:

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to
divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for
days and years; "and let them be for lights in the firmament of the
heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. Then God made two great
lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the
night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens
to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the
night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was

The placement of the Sun and Moon and Stars is God's idea. Recognizing the cycle of the seasons is (or should be) recognizing Him.

Happy Mid-Summer!

1 comment:

Mark said...

Update: I sent a message to Dr. Ward through his web site around the time this article was published. I received a gracious response from him today, which he was delighted for me to share. The correspondence is given below.

First, let me tell you that I enjoyed your book immensely. It is obvious you have put a lot of thought and study into this.

I am wondering if you have thought of this. In a recent article you talk about Prince Caspian’s relationship to March. However, apples would not have been on the trees in March, and in one of the Bacchus scenes, Mid-Summer is mentioned. Early apples can be found at Mid-Summer, especially in warmer climes. If you have time, I would
appreciate any comments you might have. You can use the e-mail address I have provided or comment on my Blog.

I suppose you can tell I am thinking about mid-summer, this being summer solstice!

Best wishes for your success.

Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2008, 1:47 PM

Dear Mark,

Thanks for your email. I’m glad you thought well of ‘Planet
Narnia’and I’m grateful to you for taking the trouble to write and let me know. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply.

About ‘Prince Caspian’ and the month of March. Yes, you’re right: the precise time-frame of the book is a bit of a puzzle.

On the one hand, there are apples on the trees, which suggests late September or October. At least, that’s what they’d suggest if this was modern-day England.

On the other hand, there are Bacchanalian festivities, which suggest March. (As a classically educated scholar, Lewis would have known that such Bacchanalian rites took place on the sixteenth and seventeenth of March.) At least, that’s what they’d suggest if Narnia was ancient Rome.

On the third hand, there is that line about the woods rushing at the Telmarines like a storm ‘in full fury on an autumn evening’. Does this mean that this WAS an autumn evening, or only that it was LIKE a storm on an autumn evening?

On the fourth hand, there is that line in the final chapter about the fire crackling ‘as a woodland bonfire on midsummer night ought to do’. Again, does this mean that it WAS midsummer’s night? Or does it just mean that this bonfire was so marvellous that it was LIKE what a bonfire on midsummer’s night ought to be? Given that Caspian escapes
from his uncle’s castle on ‘a summer night’ and Lucy sees
’summer constellations’, the former interpretation would seem to be the correct one.

On the fifth hand, when the children get back to England, ‘the summer term’ lies before them. The summer term in English schools usually begins in early April or late March, months before midsummer’s day.

Of course, English time and Narnia time are not related, so you might say that this fifth point is irrelevant to the question of timing within Narnia.

However, my whole argument in ‘Planet Narnia’ is that Lewis wrote the Chronicles carefully. The apparent carelessness of the time-frame in PC is just that: apparent, not real. It only seem careless if we think that Lewis would be principally concerned with linear thinking and strict chronological logic. It’s this kind of thinking that
arraigns Lewis for introducing Father Christmas into LWW. Father Christmas doesn’t belong in a world which doesn’t know a character called ‘Christ’, - not if we’re thinking logically; but if we’re thinking atmospherically he DOES belong in a Jovial world such as LWW presents, because Father Christmas is the Jovial character par excellence.

So, with PC: my point isn’t that ‘Greenroof’ is the Narnian
equivalent of the English month of March, - a period of time running between February and April. My point is simply this: that in the real world March is the ONLY month named after one of the seven planets, and that in Narnia Greenroof is the ONLY Narnian month that Lewis ever names. Given all the other Martial elements in the tale, I think this isn’t
coincidental. Nor is it coincidental that the children, once they’re back in England, find themselves in late March or early April. That is just what we’d expect, given the particular connection between Mars and March and given the fact that they have just been through an intensely Martial experience. They have got through “March/Greenroof” (that is, a Martial season in their lives) to midsummer in Narnia; now they are about to enjoy summer all over again in England. (It’s rather as how Orual enjoys two harvests, one immediately after the other in TWHF, chapter 21.)

Lewis isn’t concerned with strict logic; he’s concerned with
atmosphere. (He said as much to George Sayer; see Sayer’s biography of Lewis, page 191.) In this regard, we can see why apples play such a large part in the story, even though they belong neither in March nor midsummer.

Apples DO belong in a Martial story from the atmospheric point of view because Mars’s sister, Eris, the goddess of war, was famously associated with the apple of strife. Colluthus talks about how Eris “took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple, and devised the scheme of signal woes”. Lewis alludes to this passage
in the closing paragraph of ‘The Problem of Pain’ when he mentions the ‘golden apple of selfhood’ which becomes the ‘apple of discord’. I feel sure that this is why he features apples so strongly at the beginning of PC when the children find ‘large yellowish-golden apples’ all over the orchard. Even Cornelius adds ‘an apple or so’ to Caspian’s packed meal in his satchel. The way the taste of the roasted apple works all through the meat from the bear (Ch. 10) is a good image of how the Martial flavour works its way through the whole story of ‘Prince Caspian’.

With kind regards,


Dr Michael Ward