I will always be grateful to Michael Ward, author of our cover story on C. S. Lewis (p. 36), for the role he played in my son Timothy's life—even though the two have never met.
Several years ago, I came home from a delightful dinner with Ward and some mutual friends with a copy of his newly published book Planet Narnia. It makes the audacious case that the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia are laid out according to a medieval understanding of the planets and their particular qualities (Jove for joy, Mars for war, and so forth). It exploded like a firework over the landscape of Lewis studies, illuminating much in Narnia that had seemed random and obscure. And it showed just how deep Lewis's imagination and intelligence went.
My son devoured Planet Narnia. We as a family had read the Narnia books for years, but I don't think my son had ever attempted to plow through this kind of scholarly book. He was transfixed and transported by the way Ward took familiar stories and made them both so much stranger and so much clearer, more complex and more comprehensible, than before. It was one of Timothy's first encounters with the idea that scholarship—the rigorous work of paying close attention to the world—could be thrilling.
It occurred to me that Ward had done for Lewis what Lewis himself did for so many ancient texts. Before he was an apologist, a children's author, or a radio broadcaster, Lewis was a literary scholar. He paid dusty medieval texts the ultimate compliment: he loved them. He attended to them, memorized them, puzzled over their every quirk and cranny. And by loving them that much, he was able to uncover riches in them that others missed.
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