Perelandra – Chapter Seventeen (Part 1)

SUMMARY

This (somewhat overwhelming) chapter consists of the “coronation” of the King and Queen. The Oyarsa of Perelandra hands over her share of dominion of the planet to them. They honor her and ask her to remain with them for a time as an adviser. They honor Ransom and thank him for his work against the Un-man. Then they converse making very high statements of praise to Maleldil. Finally it comes time for Ransom to leave. He gets into his “coffin,” is bid farewell and begins his journey back to the Silent Planet.

SCI-FI ASPECT

A short word on his travel back to Earth. He uses the same form of transportation. His eyes are covered with just the Perelandrian flowers. When he arrives on Earth – way back in chapter two – there is no mention of a piebald appearance. The only explanation for this that I have is a narrative inconsistency.

Later the King, Tor, speaks of the “Dark Lord” of Thulcandra and of making war against him and freeing Thulcandra from his grip (182). An interplanetary war falls within the realm of science fiction, but here it also falls within the realm of what we may call eschatology or the study of the last things. Notable is how the King calls it the beginning, and this is reminiscent of the conclusion of Lewis’ The Las Battle (which had not yet been written) where all that has taken place in the Chronicles and on Earth is only the title page of a great story yet to unfold.

METAPHYSICAL

There is much here and I doubt I’ll do it justice. With that, lets begin:

“There was a great silence on the mountaintop… (177).” Much is happening on Perelandra in this chapter that is grand beyond words. How can one set up something like this? How can one get across to his readers the gravity and profundity of the situation. The eschatology of Perelandra is unfolding in the crowning of the King and Queen, under the Great Heavens, attended by all their subjects, great creatures of the heavens and one blood-washed image bearer of Maleldil the Young. Revelation 8:1 tells us “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven.” When the seventh seal was opened all heaven held its breath. None spoke. There was silence. Here, also, the gravity of the event can be met appropriately only with silence.

Ransom breaks this silence. His words honor the King and Queen of Perelandra, but also Adam and Eve in their sinless state. So great these creatures were, before the fall, we would respond with silence and with longing for their presence. Lewis tells us that before these two we would be tempted to commit idolatry. The face bears the image of its Creator so well, so perfectly and yet “it could never be taken for more than an image…the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same” (178). Its wonderful that it reflects so perfectly and its wonderful because it is clearly a reflection of something much greater.

What is going on here is picked up mid-sentence from Oyarsa Perelandra. She is turning over all control of the planet to the King and Queen, she lists several physical traits of the planet along with its animal life and “waves whom yet you know not” (177). Waves previously described the passage of time and, more specifically, the events that time brings with it.

Living on the Fixed Land (179). Here, the Green Lady, the Queen of Perelandra, gives an account, her understanding, of the law, the prohibition against living on the Fixed Land. She explains that the reason to live there would be so that she could control where she would be when she arose the following day. In doing that she would be saying to Maleldil – I don’t want to be where you would carry me over the waves on the floating land. I want to be where I choose to be. “Not thus but thus,” she explains, to control her life by her own power instead of living in and trusting and loving the power of Maleldil.

With this understanding, breaking this prohibition (which seemed at first to me quite whimsical and arbitrary) is not dissimilar to breaking Adam and Eve’s commandment. They were told to obey God and not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They decided they would set up their own law. They would decide for themselves what was good and what was bad and they would live by their own wisdom instead of the wisdom of Elohim.

If they stopped trusting Maledil, then, as the Queen put it, “how could we ever have climbed back into love and trust again?” (179).

The knowledge of good and evil (179). Further, the King, goes on to point out that he know understands evil. He has come to understand it, “though not as the evil one wished us to learn.” He has gained wisdom that includes and understanding of evil but not in a way that requires participating in it. Participating in it helps you understand it in one way, but blinds you to what it truly is. I am reminded of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He seemed to gain an understanding of all that is empty by throwing himself into the emptiness completely. The King’s understanding of emptiness is greater than Solomon’s understanding. It reflects the way in which God understands evil, by seeing it and all its effects from outside and not from within.

Maleldil… His Father… Third One (180). The Trinity. Maleldil, the Second Person has been made much of. His Father was mentioned in OOTSP but I don’t recall mention thus far in Perelandra. Here we add in the Third Person. It is a cursory summation, to be sure. But all three of the Trinity are touched upon here, further girding the Christian worldview present throughout the Trilogy.

The King’s Prophecy (181-183). The King’s prophecy bleeds into what we would call our Eschatology, our study of “Last Things,” as Ransom so astutely points out. There are three major divisions here:

The first is of the King speaking of the rise of his own people on Perelandra. The crux of it being: “We will fill this world with our children. We will know this world to the centre.” This is a fairly reasonable restatement of God’s initial command to Adam and Eve – to fill the Earth and to have dominion over it. Reigning dominion involved naming things and we see the King doing that here.

He also plans to “make the nobler of the beasts so wise that they will become hnau and speak.” This is similar to the talking animals of Narnia which Lewis would later write about. It strikes me as odd and not something mankind should undertake upon earth. I suppose the serpent spoke to Eve. Genesis doesn’t tell us that she was taken aback. Maybe animals spoke before the fall, but I doubt that very much. This epoch will last ten thousand years and end with tearing open the “sky curtain” or Perelandra’s cloud-cover so that “Deep Heaven will become familiar to the eyes” of the children of the King and Queen. How this would be done I do not know but it is a long time hence. Patience.

Second, there will be a changing in the physical bodies of the people of Perelandra, for it is “Maleldil’s purpose to make us free of Deep Heaven.” It seems that they will take on some type of spiritual or more ethereal bodies and not be Perelandra-bound, but more spiritual as the eldila are. This seems not so different from the biblical description that we should be changed in the twinkling of an eye. We shall be made different. Christ’s body was different in some ways following the resurrection. The glorified bodies, as we would say, seem to be what the King here has in mind. (Though I may be way off here. Speculation.)

Last, he has plans for Thulcandra. He plans to end “the siege” of Earth, to remove the “black spot.” He plans to rend the moon and at least temporarily to darken the sun so it is not seen from Earth. This is not unlike some interpretations of some of the biblical prophecies regarding what are thought of as the end times. There are different ways to view these prophecies but this description seems in line with the Pre-Millennial view.

He refers to everything that has happened up until that point as “before the beginning.” Ransom explains here that we think of this as the end. The King considers it more of a false start before the real story is begun. This again is similar to the as yet unwritten Chronicles of Narnia, wherein the final story, The Last Battle, ends by explaining that everything that has taken place so far is merely the first page of a much grander story.

All this he calls “the beginning of the Great Game, the Great Dance” and admits “I know little of it yet” (183).

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The Revelation

Perelandra – Chapter Sixteen

SUMMARY

Ransom’s travels bring him to meet two Oyarsas who turn out to be his friend from Malacandra (who is called Malacandra when, as well as Perelandra’s own Oyarsa. They converse much and tell Ransom this is the day the King and Queen take over ruling Perelandra from the Oyarsa. They make themselves more visible to honor the King and Queen their first two attempts (as great and terrible stormy creatures and has wheels) are unacceptable but finally become embodied resembling large people with singular expressions and differing colored auras. Countless animals arrive and stand to one side of the area land which is referred to as “the holy mountain” (168) and is apparently not forbidden to the King and Queen. Finally they arrive and greet the other creatures regally. The Oyarsas bow low before them.

SCI-FI ASPECT

The Oyarsa: The Oyarsa have returned. They show themselves in a few different way which are all interesting. There are two of them speaking and their voices are the same. Lewis posits that we cannot see them, that when they want to be observed they stimulate the areas of our minds that would ordinarily be responsible for vision. Maybe hearing their voices is done in the same way.

It is also clear that Perelandra rules his (her? its?) planet differently than does Malacandra. He has been watching over and ruling all things except the King and Queen and on this day he will hand his rule over to them. On Malacandra, Oyarsa takes a more direct authoritative role among the people. It seems Thulcandra’s fall and redemption are the corner that was turned regarding their role.

The forms they take are quite interesting. The first is almost without description. The description given is hard to comprehend. “A tornado of sheer monstrosities… darting pillars filled with eyes, lightning pulsations of flame, talons and beaks and billowing masses of what suggested snow volley through cubes and heptagons into an infinite black void” (169). Wow. This reminds me somewhat of the cherubim Proginoskes in L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (which had not yet been written). It seemed at first to be a group of dragons and singling one out was difficult. Its body was both solid and ethereal in different ways. It also reminds me somewhat of what I will call the Glory Signs of God’s presence as described in the Old Testament. Wild and almost chaotic on the surface, but actually just difficult for our senses to grasp and probably more ordered than anything we’ve ever known.

There next form is that of “concentric wheels moving with a rather sickening slowness one inside the other” (170). This is similar to the Ezekiel 1:16 description of some living creatures the prophet saw or envisioned (I am not sure which): “their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.”

Finally they become “two human figures,” much taller than people, strong, naked and without sexual characteristics but still gendered – Malacandra male and Perelandra female. They stand at an angle – similar to when Lewis met Malacandra in chapter 1 – since their true “down” is not the planet’s surface, but some other plane in the Deep Heavens. They appeared to be moving, as they indeed were moving to keep up with the planet of Venus since it is not stationary within the Deep Heavens and they naturally are but must move to keep up. They had aura’s of differing colors that could not later be identified by Ransom.

On their faces they wore clear singular expressions. They were expressions of charity, though not like humans who are always “blossoming out of, or hastening to descend into, natural affection.” Instead, “pure spiritual intellectual love shot from their faces like barbed lightning. It was so unlike the love we experience that its expression could easily be mistaken for ferocity” (171). It was a fierce love. I cannot do justice in describing what this means. It would seem to be protective and jealous, wholly sacrificial and dedicated, not waving, not concerned with mere feeling, completely given to the object of that love which we must consider to be Maleldil.

“My eyes have seen Mars and Venus. I have seen Ares and Aphrodite” (172). It is clear to Ransom that these two are who our twisted mythology truly represent. This hints at Lewis’ philosophy of the true myth. The Oyarsa confirm this conviction and further gave somewhat of an explanation: that deep within the fallen Oyarsa of Thulcandra there lives the memory of the “gods with whom he once consorted is still alive” (172). This trickled down to humanity in mixed up and sometimes perverse ways.

METAPHYSICAL

Lewis wrote early in the book “The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, broke down” (11). That’s true and it makes dividing this discussion into two separate parts difficult at times.

“Small one.” On page 169 the eldila tell Ransom to be comforted because the world is not resting on his shoulders – “Look, [Perelandra] is beneath your head and carries you.” (It did not carry the eldila in the same way, they moved through Deep Heaven to keep up with it.) Ransom had felt that everything was on his shoulders, that the Queen’s decision was his responsibility. But they explain that he is small, that it is his role to “receive and be glad.” Maleldil is in charge of what is Maleldil’s. God is on his throne, ruling and administering in his own way. He is doing what he sees fit. The “greater thing” he did on Earth – taking on flesh and laying down his life in love – was not to be done on Venus because he had already done it on Earth. On Venus he did a great thing, but not the greater thing, in saving the King and Queen of Perelandra from original sin and keeping them and their world holy and pristine.

Now Romans teaches that “all creation” is fallen (Romans 8:18-22). It is “subjected to futility,” “groaning,” “wait[ing] with eager longing… [to be] set free from it’s bondage to corruption.” But here, in Lewis’ Trilogy, the different planets are not all subject to the Fall. Perelandra is free of it as Malacandra was. The border referred to in OOTSP at about the orbit of our moon holds in the Fall to keep it from affecting the rest of the Deep Heaven.

Ransom’s not carrying the burden of Venus, though he was certainly an instrument in its deliverance from evil, is not unlike 1 John 5:3’s reference to keeping God’s commands, which are not burdensome. Ransom wears no heavy burden. He is free to be happy and receive God’s good gifts, and being a part of His ministry to Perelandra is one of those.

“Only Maleldil sees any creature as it really is” (173). This is an interesting idea. What do angels look like? What does anything “look” like? How does God “see” it. Certainly God could “perceive” before he created our physical realm and light itself. Without light, what would be the purpose of vision? These are questions, but “there is no holding place in [my] mind for an answer.” I cannot fathom the answers or even understand the questions. What is the nature of existence and how is it perceived on a spiritual, that is God’s, level.

“Be still” (174). What is in two words? The psalmist’s “Be still and know that I am God” comes to mind. Ransom was wondering if the King and Queen could leave the island before nightfall. He needn’t wonder things like that. First, this is not the Fixed Land, but the holy mountain. There is no prohibition against staying on the Holy Mountain as their is the Fixed Land. But secondly, and more importantly, why question God? Why question his ways? Where was Ransom when he made these seas? When he set the Fixed Land and Holy Mountain in place? As Job was not right to question God, nor is Ransom. He is to be still and know that Maleldil is sovereign?

What glory it would have been had Maleldil been present, in person, to greet the King and Queen here! He walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve yet their sin separated them. It would not be unfathomable for him to have been on Perelandra, except that I’m not sure Ransom could have been present, though I think he could. “But he is in the body of Maleldil and his sins are forgiven” (167). Forgiven and imputed righteousness Maleldil would see his own righteousness in place of Ransom’s sin, as He will for all of us someday.

MISCELLANY

“Archaic statues from Aegina” (171). You can google these statues to get a better look. Striking is that at least one of them has the hair, carved from stone, standing straight back from it’s head, as was the description of the eldila.

“His name in his very own tongue is Elwin, the friend of the eldila” (167). The name would be translated for us to be friend of the elves. The eldila, here, substitute themselves in place of the elves. An interesting turn, especially being that Lewis was a close friend of Tolkien, who wrote much of elves, though his elves would have less in common, it would seem, with Lewis’ eldila, than would his Valar or Maiar.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The Steward and the King

Perelandra – Chapter Fifteen

SUMMARY

With the Un-man finally dealt with Ransom slowly makes his exit from the cave. He sees many strange things along the way. He stops when he meets the outside world high on a mountain and rests there for several days, eating fruit and drinking water until he begins to heal. He heals well except for a wound to his heel made by human teeth that will not stop slowly bleeding, a wound which he cannot recall having sustained. He also etches into the stone an inscription commemorating the life and death of Weston.

He then begins his journey from the mountaintop, meeting a strange singing animal that seemed quite shy. He finally arrives at a mountain pass that seems somehow holy. He feels he is beckoned in by Maleldil but also that he profanes the area with his presence. There he fines a “coffin, open and empty… brother to the coffin-like chariot” that brought him to Perelandra.

SCI-FI ASPECT

There is much detail in this chapter of Ransom’s environs on Perelandra and some discussion of its fauna. Of note are the differing subterranean world and the surface.

There is the description of the “great earth-beetles” drawing a “flat car” which carried a “mantled form, huge and still and slender” (157). He goes on to say the “inside of this world was not for man” (158). It seems to be the domain of some other god-like beings to whome he may owe “a prudent and courteous apology for trespass.”

Upon the surface, he meets many other living creatures over the next few weeks of rest and travel. Most notable is this singing creature. It is quite bizarre. It was quite shy, forcing him to “hide-and-seek with it for the best part of an hour” (163). It was like a dog, taller than Ransom, black and shiny with a great round white belly, and it “sang of joy in its thickcoming trills.” It tried to constantly evade him. But “it was not fear. When he called to it it came nearer.” Yet he let it go, for it seemed to pursue it would be “an injury to its fawn-like shyness” (164).

There is not an explicit mention as to whether or not this land he is on is the previously visited Fixed Land or some other land much farther away. Given its size and variety I believe its a different country altogether. It seems much larger and different from the previously described Fixed Land. It also seems that Lewis would refer to his previous stopover there if it was the same place.

The style also is somewhat varied from some of the earlier passages. It seems less novel-like and more like some epic prose, almost biblical in “feel” reminding me of McCarthy or Melville, though not as difficult.

Lastly I would like to but mention that there is another one of these odd space-craft here to carry Ransom back to his home planet, and yet two chapters remain.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

The high place. First I would like to note this holy place (165). It is a high place, not unlike places considered holy in OT times. Moses went up on a mountain – Mount Sinai – to get the ten commandments. It was also on Mount Horeb that Moses met God at the burning bush. The people of God inappropriately had their “high places” of worship in the OT times. I’m not completely sure what these places were, but they were certainly raised up. Other religions venerate mountains, such as Mount Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods.

His desire to approach mixed with a healthy portion of trepidation is also reminscent of Moses on Mount Horeb. “This is the holiest and most unholy thing I have ever done” (165) he states as he enters that place and he almost expects to see angels guarding it, not unlike Milton’s Eden.

The low place. Let’s also compare this to the subterranean world he visited. It seemed home to another type of being. It also seemed as though he shouldn’t be present there, but not in the same way. It didn’t seem a holy place, guarded by Maleldil, but a different type of place altogether ruled differently, though not apart from Meleldil’s will. Of its inhabitants, Lewis writes, “The thing… was no doubt his fellow creature. It did not follow that they were equals or had an equal right to be in the under-land” (158). He felt as though there may “be some way to renew the old Pagan practice of propitiating the local gods of unknown places in such fashion that it was no offence to God Himself but only a prudent and courteous apology for trespass.”

This idea is very strange. It is very mystical and practical all at the same time. It makes one wonder how very different the Pagan and Christian practices really are. They are similar in a great many ways, involving a deity, an offense and a “propitiation” to atone for that offense. The Pagan raises the lesser deity to a greater place than deserved and forgets the Christian Deity altogether, but the sin and the sacrifice are present in both.

There is no mention of this under-world as being a holy place. It certainly is ruled by Maleldil but not in so specific a way as the high place he later visits.

The bleeding wound. Lastly there is the issue of the wound on the heel (160). It appeared a human bite, though he could not recollect the specific injury. It did not look unhealthy, but would not stop slowly bleeding. It wasn’t until he entered the high holy place that the bleeding “left no visible trace” (165).

I think there is much to say about this bleeding heel, but lets be brief. First there is a biblical reference, given to Eve after she and Adam had sinned, something Ransom was instrumental in stopping for Perelandra’s counterpart, the Green Lady. Genesis 3:15 states “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is taken to mean that, though Satan succeeded in causing Eve to sin and fall, ultimately the offspring of the woman (in Christ, consequently) would destroy Satan and his power, though not without taking an injury himself. This is seen as being fully manifest in Jesus’ death on the cross. He was hurt for sure, going so far as to taste death before resurrecting. But in his pain, his death, he crushed Satan. Then he rose again on the third day, something Satan is unable to do. So it can be said that Satan’s head is crushed while only his heel is injured.

Ransom has crushed the head of the Un-man on Perelandra. But his heel has been injured. Surely this is more than coincidence. Maybe there is a necessary condition to satanic head-crushing. You cannot do it unless you yourself pay some type of a price, a heel injury. He has done the unthinkable in wrestling with the Un-man and winning, but it is not without paying a price. It is not without taking on an affliction within himself that he could do this. In this way, he is a Christ-figure in the book.

Man fell and God became man to save. And now man, made in the image of God and redeemed by God is doing what he could not have done without bearing that image and that redemption. He is, as we have seen, Maleldil’s representative on Perelandra. Through him Maleldil worked his will. This is not the same as God-Incarnate but they idea of Ransom being not his own but of God is underlying.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The Bleeding Gift

Perelandra – Chapter Fourteen

SUMMARY

Ransom is pulled deeply down underwater and is forced to hold his breath for longer than he thinks possible. He finally comes to rest on a pebbly beach with the Un-man still holding on to him. He presently finds himself fighting against the thing once more and squeezing its throat until he thinks he must be dead. He is surrounded by pitch dark and thinks he is on a beach at night.

Soon however he realizes he is in a cave, having come up into it from the sea. In pitch darkness he begins climbing and finds a small stream. He follows it up into a great hollow room with a cliff that looks down into a huge fire. While climbing he realizes he is being followed and figures it is probably some subterranean creature that he would rather not meet. He finally sees the Un-man followed by an incredibly ugly creature which he at first takes to be the Un-man’s creation but later realizes it is just a strange Perelandrian bug or maybe reptilian creature. He knocks the Un-man out, possibly delivering a fatal blow, with a thrown rock and then throws the body into this great underground fire, now rid of it for good.

SCI-FI ASPECT

A great deal of space is devoted to the description of and Ransom’s journey through this subterranean cavern, stream and beach. It may seem unlikely for Ransom and the Un-man to end in such a place, deep within the bowels of Perelandra, but one must not discount Providence in Lewis’ narrative. I will at once brag on and complain about Lewis’ prose here. He does an excellent job describing the dark, closed in, trapped, almost hopeless space that Ransom is seeming a prisoner to. It is excellent and I hate it. It feels like I’m there, trapped in the closed, dark and lonely place. This would be a terrible place to be. It, along with the Un-man’s influence, takes a toll on Ransom’s mind who despairs:

Suddenly and irresistibly, like an attack by tanks, that whole view of the universe which Weston (if it were Weston) had so lately preached to him, took all but complete possession of his mind. He seemed to see that he had been living all his life in a world of illusion. The ghosts, the damned ghosts, were right. The beauty of Perelandra, the innocence of the Lady, the sufferings of saints, and the kindly affections of men, were all only an appearance and outward show. What he had called the worlds were but the skins of the worlds: a quarter of a mile beneath the surface, and from thence through thousands of miles of dark and silence and infernal fire, to the very heart of each, Reality lived – the meaningless… (154)

But I am venturing into the realm of the metaphysical at this point. Suffice it to say, this was a fairly oppressive place and Lewis description is perfect. The prose is fairly oppressive as well. It reminds me of a Jack Reacher book where he is similarly underground in a tight space trying to find a way out, or of the St Louis City Museum with its claustrophobic miseries (or labyrinthine delights if you are “set up” that way).

Then there is this creature. How hideous does it seem with all of its eyes and “many jointed legs.” And yet, without the Un-man present the terror it caused melted away.

Lastly there is this “sea of fire” (156). He seems to be under some type of volcano, too near its magma for any comfort. Even the water of the small river is hot (154)

METAPHYSICAL

Chief here I think is the description of the oppressive feeling and irrational fear that overcomes Ransom and his seeming acceptance of the Un-man’s argument from chapter thirteen about the fundamental reality of death and “what lies beneath” opposing the superficiality of life and living on the surface. I think Lewis makes clear (at least in this story though I suspect it reflects his actual convictions) his understanding of real spiritual warfare. There was initially a type of warfare that involved structured arguments and persuasions, temptation and a defense against it. It was waged chiefly between Ransom and the Un-man over the Green Lady’s decision.

Following is an obviously physical stage where Ransom is physically attacking the Un-man. To the civilized “Western Man,” this may seem the most out of place part of the warfare, but Lewis makes clear its necessity, as early as the second chapter. Here in chapter fourteen we also have, and it has been previously mentioned, as purely spiritual portion of the warfare between the two. An attack at Ransom’s core, causing him to feel terror and fear and despair. This warfare between the two has truly been of body, mind and spirit, which I suspect was Lewis’ purpose.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The End of the Un-man

Perelandra – Chapter Thirteen

SUMMARY

Ransom rides through the night chasing the Un-man. As he rides he notices the mermen creatures (or whatever they are) watching him and eating seaweed. Being hungry, he partakes of some of the seaweed as well which changes his though process to make him feel he is an inhabitant of the sea instead of land. Fearful, he desists from the seaweed.

Tired and hungry, he sleeps and awakes and has a crisis of faith, wondering if all of this is worth it, if the King and Queen should really rule an oceanic planet and if there actions really make a big difference. Presently he meets the Un-man coming back toward him, speaking as Weston.

The Un-man – now called Weston’s voice, then Weston, then Weston’s voice, then the voice, and even “the creature” once – and Ransom discuss God, spirits, religion, life and death. Ransom questions whether or not this is Weston returned in his mind or if this is a trick of the Un-man. Finally the Un-man – or Weston – is frightened by darkness and noise, grabs onto Ransom and pulls him underwater.

SCI-FI ASPECT

What of these underwater creatures? Though night, there is light from some type of phosphorescence in the water (138), which has previously been mentioned. They are apparently grazing. They seem to lack intelligence but are very man-like. There’s is the underwater world and that idea seems to stumble Ransom later as he is considering the meaning of the Queen and King ruling such a sea-covered planet. Ransom never makes contact with these creatures.

They remind me of Tolkien’s dwarves. The Silmarillion gives and account of their origins. They were created by the Vala Aule – basically a type of arch-angel. But Iluvatar was not yet ready for these intelligent creatures to come to his world, so he confronted Aule. Repentant Aule prepared to destroy his creations, but Iluvatar stayed his hand, sanctifying them and yet putting them to sleep until a time he deemed appropriate.

These mermen remind me of a sleeping dwarf. They are created but their intelligence, or “soulishness”, has not yet been breathed into them. They are in a kind of a state of suspended animation, not yet complete. Maybe this is Lewis’ take on evolution, which was previously mentioned in discussing OOTSP.

And what of this taste of the seaweed, as well as other things: “It gave knowledge as well as pleasure” (138). Knowledge from mere taste. Interesting. It sure makes studying more appealing. Its as though he understood the perspective of the mermen from eating their food. Is affections went toward the underworld – or the sea, over and against the land, floating islands, breathable air and the Fixed Land.

Then there is Weston turning up again. What are we to believe about him. Is this a return of Weston’s consciousness to his own body or is it merely a trick of the Un-man? My own guess is that the Un-man is allowing Weston’s consciousness to shine through as an attempt to get at Ransom, but I am not convinced. Whatever the answer to that question is, it seems obvious that Weston has been seriously affected by the events of the oppression of the Un-man. He is now in a the pit of despair, talking about life as the outer skin and death as the flesh of a fruit. He is consumed by the fear of death. He is truly without hope. It reminds me of descriptions I have read of Voltaire’s death, tormented with fear – though the veracity of these accounts is questionable. The mindset is also reminiscent of an account of Adoniram Judson hearing the last words of a deist friend just before he died. Weston’s despair is striking. Whether or not it is truly Weston is questionable.

It seems that the chapter ends as they are overtaken by large breaking waves “Breakers, you fool!” (145). Maybe they are approaching the Fixed Land, or maybe they are just among large waves. Either way, Weston or “the creature” (145) grabs Ransom and hauls him under water. Is this merely the panicky ravings and a man scared out of his wits, or is it the Un-man resurfacing and trying to drown Ransom?

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Briefly, pages 139-140 contain an collection of doubts on Ransom’s part. I saw doubt and not disbelief. Doubt is a result of lacking in knowledge while disbelief is a result of lacking in faith. And faith is not a quantitative thing but a qualitative thing. It is a thing which one either has or has not. It is a thing which Ransom has and which Weston, having been in contact with the exact same beings upon the planet Malacandra, has not.

Previously we have seen thoughts almost if not completely put into ones head by outside forces which we could call truly spiritual forces or beings but which Lewis, in this Trilogy, explains somewhat differently (see the discussion of the eldila in OOTSP). This first happened to the narrator while on his journey to Ransom’s home in the first chapter. It will happen again and may be happening here. I would say at least that Ransom’s thoughts, his doubts, are at least somewhat influenced from outside of his one mind or soul.

I will not go into the nature of the doubts, but suffice it to say that they come against him as an assault on his spirit, upon his heart, his convictions, his faith, his chest as Lewis would put it (see The Abolition of Man). This is followed quickly by an assault upon his mind, upon his reason, as he encounters and converses with the Un-man, or is it Weston? (It is, I believe, the Un-man using Weston’s personality and voice and even allowing his experiences to work against Ransom.)

He begins arguing what I’ll call the superficiality of life. I’m sure there is some better term for it. But he is arguing that what happens on this side, in what we call life, is short and matters little. It is enjoyable and so should be lengthened as much as possible because what lies beneath it is terrible. What lies beneath is the fundamental substance of what really is, the real experience of life after death.

So what is to be believed as real? This life that we live or what comes later. The joy we have in life – is it merely superficial while some darker reality is waiting. Or is the experience of this life and its joy fundamental, of real import. Is it made of solid stuff or just an outer covering?

At any rate, this ranting seems to have little effect on Ransom who responds, “How do you know what death is like? God knows, I’d help you if I could. But give me the facts. Where have you been these few days?” (145). Whats left of Weston is left totally absorbed and defeated by the death and Hell he’s experienced over the last several days of domination by the Un-man.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Ransom’s Doubts

Perelandra – Chapter Twelve

SUMMARY

Ransom wakes refreshed and takes a breakfast, searches the island and finds the Un-man destroying a bird. Ransom notes that the Green Lady and all other creatures on the island seem to be asleep, insulating them from the bloodshed about to take place. His opening shot is a left jab to the jaw, leaving the Un-man surprised and bleeding. It scorns his attempts at physical combat and mocks Christ on the cross before it enters into the fray.

They fight for hours and to Ransom’s surprise he seems to have the upper hand against the Enemy in physical combat. At length it flees on foot and Ransom gives chase. When it reaches the edge of the island it beckons a fish to ride, and Ransom does the same. While riding he realizes the great deal of pain racking his own body.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This relatively short chapter is mostly action. The fight is somewhat epic for two middle-aged scholarly types. There is some description of the island’s geography and environments. Then there is an interesting bit when Ransom is giving chase to the Un-man on the fish. All of the other nearby fish, and eventually birds join in, begin to give chase as well. I wonder how the Un-man convinced the fish to taxi him across the waters. Lewis says only that “it was stooping down doing something to its fish, Ransom could not see what. Doubtless it would have many ways of urging the animal to quicken its pace” (134).

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Just a few things here stand out.

Psalm 17:15. Notable is that Ransom quotes Psalm 17 (129). It is a psalm of deliverance. Ransom here seems to think that he will meet death or at least great injury in his battle and yet will be satisfied in God.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. These were Jesus words Jesus spoke on the cross just before he died, roughly meaning, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). They are quoted by the Un-man at the end of his little threatening diatribe (130). Jesus cried these words out shortly before his death, a seeming victory for Satan, who is the volitional Un-man in Weston’s body. It seemed a victory to him then, for he had succeeded in getting humanity, created by God in his own image, to crucify the Second Person of the Trinity on a cross of wood. Did man think he could contend with Satan and win? Does Ransom now? The Un-man finds this idea absurd.

Many have tried to fight with him and ended up “screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad houses, or nailed on to crosses.” Satan has been victorious over many of Eve’s children, but the prophecy was that he would strike their heal and they would crush his head. He cannot see the true end. “Could He help Himself?” he says of Jesus and mocks him by crying out His final words while dying on a cross.

And yet we know there was a resurrection. We tell it. We sing it. We live it. We are it.

A torrent of perfectly unmixed lawful hatred (132). Do any of us ever experience this? Truly God does – a lawful hatred against all that is wrong and not self-serving or aggrandizing. The pure hatred of his enemy was against sin and temptation of a sinless, pristine person.

MISCELLANY

The eternal Surd in the universal mathematic (132). I’m not sure what this is getting at. I think surd is an old term for an irrational number, an infinite decimal, like pi, that can never be fully expressed. That it is capitalized makes me think it is a reference to the Un-man.

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind, so flew’d so sanded (134) from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. This expresses the aggressiveness of Ransom’s attack on the Un-man.

Another time he mentions shouting a line from The Battle of Maldon (132), an old English poem, of which we only have portions surviving, that told the story of Vikings attacking England under Aethelred the Unready.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

If You Want To Throw Down Fisticuffs, Fine.

Perelandra – Chapter Eleven

SUMMARY

As the Green Lady sleeps and the Un-man awaits her rising, Ransom considers the situation. Through much back-and-forth he comes to the decision that he must physically kill the Un-man’s body. It stands to reason that the Un-man is only there by the bridge of Weston’s body, so killing it would leave no place for it to go but the Deep Heavens. A certain Voice speaks a few times to Ransom encouraging to wage a physical battle. Then Ransom sleeps, having been told the Un-man has been put to sleep and will not wake til morning.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Again, there is not a whole lot here. Of note is that Weston’s body acts as a bridge. His arrival on Perelandra is something of a “kind of miracle [of Hell]” (119). This spiritual being that inhabited its body may be immortal, or at least not the sort of being that Ransom could kill. But Weston’s body, its vessel, was very much mortal.

Weston’s body could be destroyed; and presumably that body was the Enemy’s only foothold in Perelandra. By that body, when that body still obeyed a human will, it had entered the new world: expelled from it, it would doubtless have no other habitation. It had entered that body at Weston’s own invitation, and without such invitation could enter no other. (124)

It is not that dissimilar to the Event Horizon in the film of the same name. This gateway to Hell (What else could one call it?) and its keeper and creator – Dr William Weir – once destroyed, would close the gate at least in that particular time and place. (Note: I don’t really recommend this movie if you have not done so already. It is not for the squeamish.)

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Miracles vs Providence. Lewis doesn’t really make the distinction here that I think is worth making. He points out, as mentioned briefly above “Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did heaven work none?” (119). Lewis goes on to show that Ransom’s arrival on Perelandra is every bit the miracle that Weston’s was. He goes on to show, developing it throughout the chapter, that Ransom is Maleldil’s answer, one of His “hands” (121) in this matter of the Temptation of the Green Lady (the Green Lady of Perelandra being the other of those two anthropomorphic hands). He has put Ransom here, in this moment and place, with his very specific name (more on that later) in order to wage a battle against the Un-man.

I read or heard a quote once along the lines of “the providence of God is not unremarkable.” (I feel the quote is attributable to MacArthur or Spurgeon or maybe I heard MacArthur quote Spurgeon, but maybe both of these references are wrong.) The idea is that God arranges much in the world without bending or altering what would seem to be its natural laws. For example, when God stuck Joseph in Egypt in order to store up food to save his people from the coming famine, this was not a bending of Earth’s natural laws. When he made an axe-head float (2 Kings 6:6) or raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44) this is a bending of Earth’s natural laws. God could have provided for his people by blessing Canaan while Egypt experienced famine. Or he could have canceled the whole famine. But He did it His way for reasons I won’t get into now and don’t fully know. He could have stopped Lazarus from dying. But He did things His own way.

And yet, God’s provision for his people through the trials and tribulations of Joseph are every bit as remarkable as Elijah’s living from the bottom of the barrel (1 Kings 17:16). God’s providence in matters of life are quite remarkable, quite praiseworthy. And I would say that Ransom’s being on Perelandra was not so much a miracle at work as providence at work.Of course that odd spaceship that Ransom traveled in, seemingly powered by nothing and simply melting away upon arrival seems a bit miraculous. But technology sufficiently advanced seems miraculous, if I may be so bold as to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke.

Sense of the Presence has been mentioned before though in this chapter it is magnified. First mentioned on page 62, though we may also consider Lewis’ first person narration of his journey to Ransom’s home. Now, “Someone’s Presence” (62) seemed to speak to him: “as suddenly and sharply as if the solid darkness about him had spoken wiht an articulate voice” (119). Later, “Almost the Darkness said to Ransom…” (123). This voice, this presence seems to be that of Maleldil himself. Previously, He spoke to the Green Lady (53) during her conversation with Ransom. Now he speaks to Ransom, mostly telling him what he already knows – a gentle prodding voice or a soft whisper.

Ransom vs the Voluble Self. Lewis represents Ransom’s moral struggle with is purpose there and whether to physically fight with the Un-man as an argument he has with his “voluble self” (120, 125 among others) or his internal monologue. They go back and forth a lot. The voluble self always has an answer, a reason, an excuse for not doing what he knows he should do. It is like Moses’ excuses when he speaks with God at the burning bush. There is quite a parallel here. Maleldil is asking Ransom to do something he thinks impossible and he is finding reasons for that impossibility and giving them back to Maleldil who answers patiently yet forcefully. His way is not to be deterred.

Ransom. “It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom” (125). “My name also is Ransom” (126). Ransom here explains that his name is not from the word ransom, but a derivative of Ranolf’s son. And yet he realizes that his name is yet no accident but a feature of Providence. “The whole distinction between things accidental and designed, like the distinction between face and myth, was purely terrestrial” (125). All that was part of a pattern or puzzle, of which he now seemed an integral part. Before his birth, before his family’s name, before ransom was a word, before the world was made, everything was woven together to bring significance to this very point and place (125).

Maleldil the Young had become man and paid the ransom to save our own planet. Now he was sending another Ransom, and working through him, to save Perelandra. This was not a mere reworking of Thulcandra, nor was Thulcandra a mere pre-formation of Perelandra. All things had their meaning. And by saying “My name is also Ransom,” Maleldil was telling Ransom that if he failed, Perelandra would “be redeemed” (126). Defeating the Un-man here and now, stopping his attack and temptation of the Green Lady, was up to Ransom. But ultimately, it was in Maleldil’s hands. He is the true Ransom who redeems. “It lay with [Ransom] to save or to spill. His hands had been reddened, as all men’s hands have been, in the slaying before the foundation of the world; now, if he chose, he could dip them again in the same blood. ‘Mercy,’ he groaned” (126).

Wow. All things flow from him and through him and to him, including our actions. Without his spilled blood we would be hopeless and helpless. Note Revelation 13:8. Maleldil, slain before the foundation of the world, empowers, by that death and resurrection, Ransom to wrestle with the Un-man. And he should say with David, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. (1 Samuel 17:46)”

MISCELLANY

 

Horatius and Constantine (121). Horatius was a famous Roman soldier around 600 bc who defended a bridge into Rome against an invading army, until it was destroyed. Legend holds that he did this alone, but he was likely leading an army at the time. I assume the reference to Constantine is not so much for his bravery but his conversion to Christianity and finding victory in that. Though as a soldier and leader, bravery plays a role in that conversion. He was not afraid to do what he thought was right in converting.

The name, Ransom. Critics point to this as a major shortcoming of the Trilogy. I don’t keep with the gravity of that statement, but I do consider it a problem. The problem is not the name Ransom or the few paragraphs on it’s meaningfulness here in chapter eleven. The problem is that in OOTSP, Lewis says that the name Ransom is made up to protect his true identity. It can’t be both ways. Lets stick with the Perelandran explanation. Its merely a regrettable oversight. He just wrote one sentence too many in OOTSP.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

This Can’t Go On!