According to the Weather Channel website, the Perseid Meteor Showers will peak tonight with a possible one hundred meteors an hour in the sky. 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.
Those in ancient times, before telescopes and the modern equipment we take for granted, wondered 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 ancients 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.
In Chapter Fourteen of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 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.” 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 so much 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 brought to the world of Narnia and 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. C. S. Lewis never meant his books to be straight allegory.
It is possible, however, that part of the inspiration for Narnia came from a “fallen star.”
According to a May 2009 article in Italy Magazine, Walter Hooper, who was Lewis’s secretary at the end of the author’s life, presented an atlas to Giuseppe Fortunati, an author from Narni, Italy. Lewis had reportedly marked the town of Narnia (now called Narni) in the atlas, and Hooper claims Lewis had told him the town was inspiration for the name of his imaginary world. There also seems to be another connection with the Blessed Lucia of Narni, a visionary from the sixteenth century. Hooper speculates that she could be the source of Lucy’s name.
In studying Narnia, Italy, Lewis would have known that a huge meteorite fell there in 921 AD. The stone was so large that after it struck the river it protruded above the water by three to four feet. Could this have inspired the stars King Caspian meets in The Dawn Treader?