That Hideous Strength – Preface

That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups

Lewis makes a few notes in his Preface to That Hideous Strength that I think are noteworthy. The first is to pick on the fact that the novel is subtitled A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups. This subtitle is regrettably left off the cover of my edition though it appears on the title page. The novel begins in a quite mundane manner; “hum-drum” is Lewis’ word. He explains that this is fairy-tale tradition. The fantastic grows out of the mundane. The cottage or the woodcutter may seem fantastical to us, but that is only because we have been conditioned to associate those things with fairy-tales, while the original hearers of the fairy-tale would think a woodcutter a very normal everyday thing.

As That Hideous Strength (which will often be abbreviated THS) begins with a discussion of married life and a description of some college grounds, we will see that the fantastic springs out from that. On that note I would add my own opinion that THS indeed begins very “hum-drum.” The fantastic that follows can scarcely be imagined. So stay the course. Diligence will be rewarded.

Secondly, Lewis explains that the ideas he tries to get across in THS are quite similar to the ideas contained in the Abolition of Man, a three chapter essay that you can read in its entirety online at the time of this writing. I do recommend reading it. It is excellent though I prefer the manner these ideas are addressed in THS to the Abolition of Man. Still, they compliment each other quite well.

Finally Lewis goes on to make a quick attribution to Olaf Stapledon, who I was not familiar with prior to reading this preface. He was a science fiction writer himself as well as a bit of a philosopher – a philosopher that Lewis did not agree with often. Lewis also mentions “Numinor,” misspelling the name of an island from Tolkien’s Middle Earth writings. It is rather nice to see the “inklings” excited about each others’ work. A last note correctly, by my experience anyway, explains that, though THS is the last part of a trilogy, it can be read as a stand-alone novel quite nicely.

Now, Onward!

That Hideous Strength

So I took a break from this project, obviously. I wanted to read some other things.

A few notes before I start:

One – the edition I’m reading is a Scribner edition and it looks like this: 51qy8pnfsal-_sy344_bo1204203200_

That’s for the page numbers. If you have another edition, the page numbers will be off.

Secondly I just want to explain that this book will be a little harder because of the length and the length of the chapters. This book has 17 chapters in about 370 pages, so that’s about 21 pages per chapter. Silent Planet had 22 chapters and a post-script in about 150 pages, so you are looking at more like 6 pages per chapter on average. Perelandra was in between on chapter length, but closer to Silent Planet. All that to say that postings will be less often and I may even break down some of the chapters; I don’t know. I’m just going to get started and see where it goes.

I also wanted to comment on the cover art and invite anyone who knows much about it to comment further. The picture is by Kuniko Craft and I really like it. It contrasts a lush plant filled landscape with a desolate crater-covered one. Life and death. Sterility and Virility. It really fits the story well. Finding a picture for a cover that fits well and is not just a scene is not easy, but it works quite well here. (Its been a few years since my last reading of That Hideous Strength, but I can’t recall a scene that would be depicted by this picture. I may be wrong.) The artist is Japanese, born in 1940. She has a wikipedia page and a website. She has done a lot of fantasy type illustrations among other things. I think it was done specifically for the book, but I’m not sure.

There is a short preface written by Lewis, but I’m going to visit that in a separate post.

Perelandra – Chapter Seventeen (Part 2)

The delay. A lot of false starts and long pauses on this one. It was difficult.

SUMMARY

Beginning on page 183 there are a series of statements which aren’t attributed to any specific character: “For the conversation that followed  – if it can be called a conversation – though [Ransom] believes that he himself was sometimes the speaker, he never knew which words were his or another’s, or even whether a man or eldil was talking.”

ON THE CONVERSATION

“Blessed be He” (183 – 187). This phrase is repeated several times, always concluding one of the statements made by the other characters. It is meant as the concluding idea of what was previously said. They say varying things about the nature or work of Maleldil and follow it with Blessed be He. They aren’t trying to judge how is ways are good or bad. They are merely trying to exalt his ways and show this by concluding with a statement glorifying, magnifying or praising him.

The Statements:

They begin by discussing the Great Dance. The dance has always been going on. “It has begun from before always” (183). In some ways the relationship of the Trinity can be described as a dance. Working together, living together, moving together, always giving and always receiving, always glorifying the others and at the same time each displayed as more and more perfect. The dance shows the greatness of the dancers. And in this dance no music is needed. Nothing is needed outside the Triune God in order for the Triune God to be and show who He is. He needs no subjects to display himself to for he has the other members of the Trinity at all times. He is perfect in himself and happy in his perfection. And that happiness and perfection is shown in the Dance, which does not need to “wait to be perfect until the peoples of the Low Worlds are gathered into it.” This dance is from before the beginning and until after the end.

The epic American novel Blood Meridian, written by Cormac McCarthy, also ends with a description of a dance. (I doubt McCarthy had Perelandra in mind when writing it but it is reminiscent of this work in some ways.) In it, the great anti-hero Judge Holden, or simply “the judge,” is seen dancing and playing music. He states that everyone must be part of the dance whether he likes it or not. The judge never sleeps and he says that he will never die. And yet we are meant to question that. His end seems to be forecast in the book as something hoped for. He is a great evil and his dance will be swallowed up in this Great Dance of which the eldila speak.

The statement that follows describes Maleldil’s constant “one-upping” (not Lewis’ term). He doesnt make a thing over in a different way, he makes better things after the first: “After a falling, not a recovery, but a new creation” (184).

And then this dance is “loaded with justice as a tree bows down with fruit.” The fruit, the justice, is a good thing. Further, the New Testament words for righteousness and justice are basically the same word or variations of the same word.

“And there is no equality.” None is equal or comparable to the Great Dance. It is full of righteousness and justice and there is nothing like it, as there is none like Him.He has no peers nor rivals. This Great Dance is not competing with the judge’s dance. It swallows it up and the lesser dance is gone, as Moses’ staff-serpent swallowed those of the Egyptian holy-men.

And then his infinite-ness is extolled. He resides wholly within the smallest seed and “is not cramped,” and yet all of “Deep Heaven is inside him” (184). Those who would seem to grow great in time and space are not remotely as great as Maleldil. There greatness is so much lower that it isn’t able to be compared to his greatness. His greatness is of another dimension as compared to what we can see or know. Comparisons are “as is the circle to the sphere” (184).

Lewis continues in his way to discuss the incomprehensible nature of Maleldil. I cannot go through all of that without a great deal of undependable conjecture.

Finally Ransom finds himself alone with the King and Queen. The animals and “the two white figures” have gone. The King and Queen are called Tor and Tinidril. These names seem to be taken for Tolkien’s mythology of Middle Earth.

Ransom’s Wound

Finally Tor notices Ransom’s heel wound (189), “where the Evil One bit me.” King To attempts to wash it off, hoping it will heel in such a manner but to no avail. The King and Queen had not yet seen blood and remark of it: “this is the substance wherewith Maleldil remade the worlds before any world was made.” He is speaking of the shedding of blood on the cross for the redemption of the world(s) which was foreknown “before the foundation of the world.”

It is of note also the prophecy of Genesis 3, “He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” This is complete also on the cross but is mirrored on Perelandra as Ransom killed “the Evil One,” but in so-doing his actual heel was “bruised” in such a way that, as we will see, it will never fully heel and always be a drain on him physically. And yet, as the King says, “any of his race who has breathed the air… and drunk the waters [of Perelandra]… will not find it easy to die.” Despite his wound, his visit has made him strong, has enriched his blood to make him as the men of old. 

Partings

The King and Queen feel a kind of sadness at the time of Ransom’s departing, a sadness which all people are familiar with, but the have not even a term for. “What is this that we feel, Tor?” (189). And Ransom is secured for travel in a “casket” similar to the one he arrived. His eyes were covered by the “rose-red lillies” for protection for the journey home. His arrival back on earth has already been discussed in chapter two.

 

 

 

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