The following day the village gets ready for the hunt as hrossa from other villages also show up to join in. Ransom joins Hyoi and Whin in their boat. There are dozens of boats each with hrossa hoping to be the victor in the hunt. The hnakra is quite fierce and will attack as soon as he sees one of the boats.
As they are paddling along, searching for the hnakra they are visited by an eldil who informs them that Ransom shouldn’t be with them, that he should go straight to Oyarsa. Ransom again cannot see the eldil but he can hear it though he notes that its voice is fairly high. “He realized a very little difference in his ear would have made the eldil as inaudible to him as it was invisible.” The eldil warns that the other two men – the “bent hnau” – are searching for him and if they find him outside of Oyarsa’s presence, “there will be evil.”
Hyoi asks if the eldil has a message for his wife, but it responds, forebodingly, that it does have a message, but that Hyoi “will not be able to take [the message].” No more is said of this, though it would seem to indicate that Hyoi will be killed before seeing her again. The hrossa want to obey the advice of the eldil, but Ransom begs them to continue the hunt: “There is time for that after the hunt. We must kill the hnakra first.”
As Hyoi begins to argue Whin sees the hnakra swimming toward them. Whin begins paddling as Ransom and Hyoi throw spears at the hnakra, but Ransom strikes the death-dealing blow into its open mouth while Hyoi sits astride the beast on its back. Ransom shares an embrace with Hyoi, surprised at having a moment with a non-human intelligent life. Hyoi pronounces them hnakrapunti.
At just that moment a gunshot is fired. Ransom hears it and sees Hyoi shot. Immediately realizing that it is Weston and Devine, he tries to apologize to Hyoi for what has happened but does not know the correct words. Hyoi quietly utters in Ransom’s ear “Hman, hnakrapunt.” Ransom speaks to Whin advising him to do what his people decided but recommending death for all three earthlings, but Whin explains that they do not take hnau life, only Oyarsa can do that.
After hiding and talking for a moment, Whin explains to Ransom how to reach Oyarsa in Meldilorn and Ransom disembarks.
Several striking things from this chapter jump out. I have covered some of the Malacandrian cultural aspects in this section, but I will put them in the metaphysical section today, as it blends better there for this discussion. Yet I will remark that I think this shows, to me, how science fiction is an excellent melding of the physical and metaphysical: when you stretch or alter the “laws” of the universe, the veil covering that “little lower layer” is ripped away.
Let’s consider for a moment the hnakra. It seems to enjoy the hunt as much as the hrossa. It seems to be a wild and terrible beast that will attack whichever boat it first detects and will fight there to the death, either of itself or the hunters in that boat. It apparently has quite a strong outer covering and is “nearly invulnerable except through his open mouth.” He has speed on his side while the hrossa have intelligence and numbers of course. Also, Ransom catches the “metallic glint of [its] sides.” What type of natural protective armor does it have? Something strong to be sure. And it wielded “shark-like” teeth.
I will pause here to discuss, briefly, the struggle between evolution and creation, or at least an intelligence-driven origin of species. What of species on other planets sharing similar anatomies or physiologies to those on our own planet? Shall we say that these features are beneficial for survival and propagation? Thus, maybe they would evolve on different planets. We might also say that an intelligence favored certain “components” in his creatures and so it (or He) could use them on different planets. Or course all this novel is merely fiction and I have my doubts that there is other intelligent life in our physical realm. But without any actual knowledge I must grant that it could be a question we may someday be asking.
I will come now to the eldil, but I realize that I have very little here to add. This creature, if it is a creature, is as much a mystery as it was before. We know little of its corporeal substance or if such even exists. It isn’t visible, at least to Ransom’s eyes. Yet it does speak, and so it physically moves air molecules in some way. We also know that it speaks authoritatively to the hrossa. We see this as Whin states, “It is not a question of thinking but of what an eldil says. This is cubs’ talk.”
Hyoi is the victor of the hunt (in that it was his party which killed the hnakra), which is what he had longed for his whole life. He also ends up dead, though not as he had imagined it coming. I think he would take comfort in the fact that he died as a hnakrapunt. He had also stated that the best drink of all would be “death itself in the day I drink it and go to Maleldil.” This hunter culture loves the hunt, but does not worship the hunt. The hunt is not an idol. Most valuable to them is Maleldil (which represents a dedicated idolatry if Maleldil isn’t the true God). This is shown in Hyoi’s love of the hunt, of life, of family, but also in his strongest desire being to depart this life and go to Maleldil at the appointed time. This mirrors Paul’s claim in Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Chris and to die is gain.”
It is clear that the hrossa enjoy the hunt and, to some degree, live for the hunt. It is an important time for them as a people. It is also clear that they view the hunt as part of their purpose in life. The hunt is also worship of Maleldil. It is similar to Eric Liddell’s statement, “God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” (Though he may not have actually said this, it demonstrates the point that doing something to the glory of God is worship.)
We also see Ransom’s growth in this chapter. As he participates in the hunt, he realizes that just a few months earlier he would not have wanted a “post of honour and danger in an attack upon an unknown but certainly deadly aquatic monster.” He feared he would lose his resolve at the appointed moment, yet he thought there was something in the Malacandrian air or Hrossan culture that was changing him. He later feels his courage waver after the visit from the eldil, when he sees a way out of the hunt. It no longer seemed necessary, so it no longer seemed possible. I suspect many Christian martyrs have felt similarly. Yet he remained strong, with his new friends, wanting to “leave a deed on his memory instead of one more broken dream.” And we see indeed that it is Ransom who strikes the final blow as he “flung shaft after shaft into the great cavern of the gaping brute.”
He once had nearly shrunken from the “troublesome duty” of helping an old lady find her son due to a darkened terrestrial gate and hedge row: “He did not want to [jump through the hedge]. A nice fool he would look, blundering in upon some retired eccentric… [He] flung [his pack] over the gate… now he must break into the garden if only in order to recover the pack. He became very angry with the woman, and with himself, but he got down on his hands and knees and began to worm his way into the hedge.” Now he is hman hnakrapunt.
PROPOSED TITLE CHAPTER
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water…