Regrettably chapters Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra lack titles. I may sometimes suggest titles for chapters as we go along. You, the reader, are invited to do so as well in the suggestions section. Let’s keep them tongue-in-cheek, shall we?
The book opens rather mundanely. There is a bit of a scuffle, possibly criminal, but nothing remotely sci-fi occurs in the first chapter apart from a brief mention of an odd shape blotting out the stars which is all but missed if you aren’t paying close attention.
Our soon-to-be hero is on a walking tour across the english countryside looking for a place to pass the night comfortably. At first identified only as the Pedestrian, Elwin Ransom is later described as “The Ransom, you know. The great philologist.”
While walking past a small cottage he runs into a woman who comes out thinking he is her Harry, a relative, probably a son, who seems to be somewhat mentally retarded and works for a professor doing odd jobs around his estate which is just up the way a bit. She implores Ransom to have a look for him as he passes by and he promises to do so.
Shortly later, he is none-too-happy with his promise as he has trouble even getting into the estate. It seems guarded by a large gate, an uninviting hedge, and no one to answer the call of a stranger. Our “hero” regrets the promise he made to the lady, but feels duty-bound to attempt to follow through. He bounds through the hedge and upon resting a moment hears a scuffle from around back of the house.
Thinking the boy Harry is in trouble, he runs around back, admitting the “last thing” on his mind is an adventure. Once around back he meets Weston, a physicist, and Devine, a college schoolmate with whom Ransom did not get along well. At first visibly upset at being intruded upon while scuffling with Harry, Devine and Weston settle down, invite Ransom in for a bite to eat and offer a place to spend the night. Though Ransom is concerned something criminal was going on when he interrupted, he seems satisfied enough by their explanation of trying innocently to help the boy find his way to the wash-room.
There is little here save one sentence occurring during his run around the back of the house: “He had a momentary vision of a tall chimney, a low door filled with red firelight ,and a huge round shape that rose black against the stars, which he took for the dome of a small observatory: then this was all blotted out of his mind by the figures of three men…”
This “huge round shape:” could it be something other than the roof of a small observatory?
It’s no secret that CS Lewis was a thoughtful and dedicated Christian and that his writings, even the fiction (some would say especially the fiction) reflect this. It will come up time and again in the Trilogy, though not heavy-handedly or preachy. It’s almost more in line with magic realism, at least in the Trilogy. So a discussion of this will come up as the books unfold. There is really little here in the first chapter of the first book, though, to point in that direction.
I can’t help but consider names in things I read:
- Ransom – a payment for the release of a prisoner
- Weston – one from the west – western England? Western civilization?
- Devine – as a name it can refer to a small animal like a young deer. I can’t help but think of it as an alternate spelling of the word “divine.” However it also bears a similar initial spelling as the word “devil.”
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.