Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dawn Treader Stars and the Perseid Showers

If you use Google as your search engine, you can't help but notice that the Perseid Meteor Showers are back. This time of year the earth moves through a section of space containing small particles. Some of these are pulled by the earth's gravity enough to fall into our atmosphere and be burned up in a blaze of glory.

Since I am off from my "real" job this week, I was able to sit outside and observe some of these "shooting stars." I live in a community outside of town, so the "light pollution" is still a problem, but I was able to, with patience, see some of the "big ones." (To give you an idea, on this very clear night I was able to see all the stars of the Big Dipper, and, if I strained hard, sometimes I could make out all the stars of the Little Dipper after my eyes had adjusted.) I did not have the spectacular views of those lucky enough to be farther away from city lights, but was privileged to see some of the marvelous display before the moon appeared over the trees in the east.

I can imagine those in ancient times, before telescopes and the modern equipment we take for granted, wondering what these streaks of light were, and what they might portend. Even in our modern world we use the term "shooting star." Meteors do look like stars, and the ancient sometimes described them as "falling" or "wandering" stars.

The Bible takes up this concept, based upon what humans could empirically observe at that point in history, and uses it as metaphors for fallen angels (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:4) and apostates (Jude 1:13). The phrase "wandering stars" in Jude is a translation of the Greek asteres planetai, and the word for "wandering" (planetai) is a form of the Greek word from which we get the English word "planet." The Greeks thought of planets as wandering stars, since they do not fit the fixed pattern of the stars as seen from earth.

So, what does this have to do with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader?

In Chapter Fourteen, King Caspian and those with him meet Ramadu, who discloses that he is a "retired" star. Eustace comments that "In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas." To which Ramadu replies, "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of."

For the ancients, it did not matter what stars were "made of," but what they meant. In Genesis 1:13, God tells us that the stars were put in place to "serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years." [NIV] Humans eventually learned to steer ships by the stars. You don't have to have a modern perspective on the universe in order for the stars to have meaning–and a very practical meaning at that!

In the passage where Ramadu reveals he is a star, he also points out they have already met another star, Coriakin, the Magician who was given charge of the Dufflepuds. It seems that Cariakin was given this responsibility as a "punishment" for something he had done. Neither star in the book seem to correspond well to the metaphors in the Bible, but Narnia is unlike our world in many respects. But C. S. Lewis never meant his books to be straight allegory.

Note to those who follow my Blog: Since I last posted here a month ago, some exciting things have been going on for me personally. I have begun writing for an online news service,, as the national Hobbits, Narnia & Spirituality Examiner. That, along with my duties as the "Fantasy Editor" for Hollywood Jesus, is keeping me busy. To keep up with all I am doing, may I suggest that you follow me on Twitter? Here is my Twitter link: InklingBlogger. If you do not have a Twitter account and do not care to start one, you can view my recent "tweets" in the column to the right just under the Voyage of the Dawn Treader count-down.