Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Eleven

SUMARRY

Chapter 11 begins with a discussion of Ransom’s viewpoint of being on Malacandra changing. He has begun to feel more at home, or at least more present in his current setting and less. He started focusing on going to another planet, then seamlessly shifted his viewpoint to leaving another planet. Finally, he is considering what it is like to actually be on another planet. This discussion quickly morphs into a discussion of the culture and life of the hrossa, but I won’t get into the details of that here, as I’m not sure what is important and what isn’t (at least for plot purposes, and anything can be revisited.)

He picks up enough of there language to begin having basic conversations. Hyoi is the name of the first hross he met, and Hnohra helped teach him their language. He tells them he is from space and they are astronomy-savvy enough to know he must mean a different planet and they wonder if it is Thulcandra which they point out to him. He is unsure. Ransom tells them he arrived with two other men who tried to kill him, but that he escaped. This opens up a discussion about someone they call Oyarsa who lives on Malacandra, seems to rule the place, is not hross or seroni, nor is he the creator (someone they call Maleldil the Young who lives with the Old One and not on Malacandra. To Ransom, this seems to border on a religious belief.

Ransom also learns of the Pfifltriggi, who live deeper in the planet, and dig for metals and make things of metal. The pfifltriggi seem to be good at making things. The hrossa are good with poetry. And the seroni are good with intellectual pursuits. Ransom also learns there is much gold on Malacandra, giving him insight into Devine’s interest in the planet.

Finally, Ransom tells them of the aquatic animal that showed up shortly after he arrived on Malacandra and enabled him to escape from Weston and Devine. They call this animal a hnakra, and this news excites them. It has been a number of years since they have had an interaction with the hnakra, who it seems they enjoy hunting.

Finally Ransom has an interaction with a “little she-hross” in which she claims to be talking to something called an eldil but which Ransom cannot see. She seems surprised he cannot see the eldil, but he assumes she is just playing pretend as children do on our own planet.

SCI-FI ASPECT

There’s a lot of discussion that could be made here, but needn’t necessarily be made, regarding the culture of the Hrossa. They seem to be a simple people. They do some farming and fishing. It seems that they have a fascination with hunting the hnakra. There is trade. There is a discussion of their primitive way of life. I’ll not get into much of that, but it may need revisiting in the future.

We have the introduction of something called a pfifltriggi. They are diggers of earth and makers of metal-works: “They delight in digging. What they dig they soften with fire and make things of it.” There is also a bit of a physical description: “They are little… long in the snout, pale… long limbs in the front… frog-like… tapir-headed, frog-bodied.”

Ransom also is trying to figure out the social structure on Malacandra as it relates to the different “races.” He finds it remarkable that there are at least 3 different types of intelligent creatures there and none of them are trying to wipe out another type.

Then there is Oyarsa who is not really described but seems to be another type of Malacandrian altogether and who exercises some form of authority over the planet.

Lastly, there is a reference to HG Wells (the fourth to Wells) and his book The First Men in the Moon. More on this later.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Probably the most interesting part of chapter 11 regarding the metaphysical comes in the discussion of Oyarsa and Maleldil. It seems Maleldil the Young made and rules the world. The hrossa are shocked that the people of Thulcandra are not aware of this obvious fact. It seems that Maleldil does not live on Malacandra though, but “with the Old One.” Ransom gets no satisfactory or comprehensible understanding as to who or where the Old One is. This whole discussion surprises Ransom who has wondered if he should instruct the Malacrandrans regarding religion:

Ever since he had discovered the rationality of the hrossa he had been haunted by ta conscientious scruple as to whether it might not be his duty to undertake their religious instruction; now, as a result of his tentative efforts, he found himself being treated as if he were the savage and being given a first sketch of civilized religion – a sort of hrossan equivalent of the shorter catechism. It became plain that Maleldil was a spirit without body, parts or passions.

Then there is Oyarsa who “(1) lived at Meldilorn; (2) knew everything thing ruled everyone; (3) had always been there; and (4) was not a hross nor one of the seroni,” but certainly did not make the world – that was Maleldil’s role.

This can be no simple allegory. For it isn’t to be thought of as a different fantastical world, but merely a new and unknown extension of our own physical realm. If this Maleldil, who they so revere, is real on Malacandra, then he is also real on Ransom’s own planet. So it cannot be said that Maleldil may represent some such of a person or deity. It may, instead, be said that he is a deity and his name is Maleldil. Those on Ransom’s own planet may or may not know of him. But if they do, maybe they know of him by a different name. Possibly a better understanding of the hrossan language would be helpful, as Maleldil may literally mean something, but we aren’t privy to that knowledge at this point.

It could be that Maleldil the Young represent the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, “for by Him all things were created, both in heavens and on earth… and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1). He lives with the Old One who could be the Father. But Maleldil “was a spirit without body, parts, or passions.” We know that Jesus was born a man and now has a body, though the Malacandrans may not be aware of that. One must also wonder what he means by “passions” as Jesus certainly has passion (THE passion, actually) but if he means sexuality, then I suppose one could accept that, at least in a qualified manner. All of that still remains “iffy” and we must keep in mind that Ransom lacks complete knowledge, and thus so do we.

Then there is Oyarsa. If the Old One is the Father and Maleldil the Young is the Son, then who is this  Oyarsa who knew everything and ruled everyone and was not hnau. (Hnau seems to be a created being.) The Holy Spirit? Its certainly too soon to draw any such conclusion, but the question is begged.

And lastly there is the eldil, who Ransom cannot see and who may be make-believe. And yet I am struck by the spelling – eldil – being a part of the spelling of the creator Maleldil. There is definitely more going on here than Ransom has yet fathomed.

MISCELLANY

I above mentioned Lewis’ fourth HG Wells reference.

He did not want to tell them too much of our human wars and industrialisms. He remembered how H.G. Wells’s Cavor had met his end on the Moon; also he felt shy. A sensation of physical nakedness came over him whenever they questioned him too closely about men – the hmana as they called them.

There are a couple of different things to discuss here. One is Wells’ story The First Men in the Moon. It recounts the tail of an English gentleman down on his luck meeting an eccentric scientist who has discovered how to counteract gravity. They travel to the moon and are captured. The gentleman manages an escape (bringing home gold) while the scientist remains captive and begins to learn much of the lunar people and society and make radio broadcasts to earth regarding what he has learned. He eventually tells the Moon-natives of earth’s wars and so they cut off his communication and possibly his life.

It can be safely surmised that this was a major inspiration for Lewis for this first installment of his Space Trilogy. Still there are many points at which Lewis diverges from Wells. The money-seeking gentleman and eccentric scientist are the antagonists of Lewis’ story but the protagonists of The First Men in the Moon. There is a much different ending as well, which we haven’t reached yet.

Secondly is the heart of Ransom’s fears in telling of his own people. There is much shame associated with sin and Ransom feels the weight of the sin of his people – all of them – and is ashamed to even recount our troubled and violent past. Though Ransom himself did not declare these wars, he feels the weight of the guilt as a representative of earth. It is easy to understand the hesitation he felt to describe humanity’s war-like nature and history. But what of our “industrialisms?”

Put simply this term – industrialisms – describes our systems of making and selling things. That seems to be innocent enough. After all, even the hrossa participated in “some kind of trade.” And yet it was a point of shame. My own speculation here is that it seems to represent our greed as a people. Our economic systems can be good, helping people attain things they want or need but would otherwise be unable to attain. But they can also become instruments of oppression showing that we value physical items, status and power over other individual people. We are a people given to bloodshed and greed, violence and domination – both physically and socially. I think Ransom really felt the weight of this when he interacted with a people seemingly so different from ourselves. Our social nature was something he longed to hide and not display.

It certainly paints a darkened picture of our people. I think that is a point worth pondering both individually and corporately – as a society, nations, as we move forward in time.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

A Picture of the Hrossa

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