Ransom travels toward Meldilorn to find Oyarsa as far as the tower of Augray, through handramit and over the harandra, doubting himself some along the way, in fear, but ultimately maintaining his resolve. At the tower he finds a sorn. He considers his situation along the way.
In this chapter we have an elaboration on Malacandra’s geography and climate. (Climate may not be quite the right term, but I’m sticking with it.) His journey begins with him crossing a section of the Handramit near Hyoi’s village. He travels generally uphill, surrounded by the “silent, purple half-light of the woods” which ends abruptly less than a hundred feet from the foot of the mountains. These mountains, previously described as steep and greenish, here rise “almost perpendicular” from the ground, much more dramatic than earths mountains, supposedly due to less gravitational pull.
He manages to make it to a road and travels up it between and into the mountains, an “insanely steep, hideously narrow staircase without steps… on the pale green surface of rock.”
As he travels further up in altitude he begins noticing changes in the climate. Initially it just began to get cold very quickly to the point that he could see his breath and his fingers grew numb as he went “from an English to a Lapland winter.” Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region. It was severe enough that he was afraid that a break for a rest may be a permanent stop so he pressed on. Presently he noticed, looking toward the handramit, a fog covered it, and the sky was sharper. There was more light everywhere. Everything was more crisp and clear – like a cold winter’s morning as opposed to a hot summer morning – less humidity in the cool air. He realized the atmosphere must be quite shallow and that there was “very little air above him.” The atmosphere was mostly in teh handramit, which didn’t cover much of the planet’s surface.Most of the surface was “naked or thinly clad.”
(I can’t keep from thinking Lewis means something with this turn-of -phrase, possibly regarding earth being covered with a heavy atmospheric blanket, as our people cover ourselves following the Fall of Man. Maybe this “blanket” has is associated with ours being the silent planet?)
As the sun began to set, he began to have concern that he may not survive the night, thus he began looking somewhat frantically for this Augray’s tower, wondering what it would look like. Then he sees the light – firelight – from a cavern, “that smoother cavern of green rock.”
Chiefly of interest here is the second, and quite long, paragraph of the chapter. Recall that Ransom had initially thought he was being taken to Malacandra to be given to the sorns – or seroni – and saw himself as possibly a sacrifice they would kill. His discussion with the hrossa regarding the seroni was encouraging but he suspected that maybe the seroni were of a super-intelligence and that the hrossa had only a limited knowledge of them.
Then there is Oyarsa who he is specifically going to meet. Might Oyarsa be a sorn, their leader or chief? He thought he recalled that Oyarsa was no sorn, but he was beginning to doubt what he had heard. Maybe Oyarsa was “that very idol to whom the sorns wanted to sacrifice him.” Might Oyarsa be a god? But the hrossa worship one god only – Maleldil the Young. It was hard for him to imagine the hrossa “worshipping a bloodstained idol.” With these thoughts Ransom’s resolve wavers.
To be sure, Ransom was previously told that Oyarsa was no god, neither was he (it?) hnau, so it couldn’t be a sorn. This reminds me of Eve just before eating the apple. She is tempted and doubt creeps into her mind. Then doubt gives way to disbelief and outright rebellion. What will Ransom do when doubts assail? Will it give way to disbelief or will he remain strong in his resolve.
He had heard the eldil speak and he knew it was real, and that “Oyarsa was a real person if he was a person at all.” Eventually he trusts the eldil who he heard and the hrossa who he (I will say) loved. As Whin said, “It is not a question of thinking but of what an eldil says.”
We will learn more of these eldila and of Oyarsa. To that I look forward.
PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE
On the Road