Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Eighteen

SUMMARY

Ransom sleeps in one of the Meldilorn huts and is awakened early by an eldil summoning him to Oyarsa, at the avenue of monoliths. He goes willfully yet fearfully to find countless hnau of all three varieties present and awaiting the meeting between himself and Oyarsa. Countless eldila are also present.

Oyarsa arrives and is likewise invisible. He converses with Ransom about how and why he came to Malacandra, and why he had spent is energy avoiding Oyarsa. Oyarsa describes how Thulcandra used to have a great and bright Oyarsa who became bent and then declared war on the other planets including Thulcandra’s own moon as well as Malacandra, such that Maleldil by Oyarsa’s arm opened the handramits for the hnau to live. Finally the others had to imprison him on Thulcandra.

He also tells Ransom of Weston’s and Devine’s first visit to Malacandra, how they would not come to him, then left and returned with Ransom. Ransom explained that they believed Oyarsa was a great beast or god or both who wanted to eat a Thulcandrian.

Chiefly Oyarsa would like to know why Ransom and the other Thulcandrians came to Malacandra (Ransom: brought against his will to trade for gold, Devine: for gold, Weston: to conquer a new planet for Earth) and what has happened regarding Maleldil’s dealings with Earth’s bent Oyarsa.

SCI-FI ASPECT

There is little to say about the being or person of Oyarsa that has not been said already of the Eldila. He is mostly invisible to Ransom’s eyes. His voice was more unhuman than any yet, sweet and remote, “with no blood in it.” He cannot see Ransom well either. Both Oyarsa and the other eldila are very old, having been around since before Thulcandra was populated.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

This chapter is “chock-full” of the metaphysical.

First, I will just say that, to me, it seems like the eldila are essentially equivalent to angels while Oyarsa is an archangel. This may be to broad, (or maybe too specific), but they played a role in a spiritual war long ago, binding a bent Oyarsa on earth.

It is a bit confusing when you consider the italics. My convention here has been to italicize the words that are italicized in the book and not the other words. Generally that makes Malacandrian words italicized, but proper names such as Meldilorn and Maleldil and Hyoi not italicized. But Oyarsa isn’t italicized so that seems like a name. But Thulcandra also had/has an Oyarsa: “Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world.” So it would seem a common noun and not a proper noun.

Ransom is somewhat surprised to learn that the eldila were watching him before he arrived on Malacandra and had been present along the journey, though they did not understand his language on the ship. So Ransom asks if Oyarsa knew of the journey before they had evenly left Earth. His response: “No. Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no message comes from it.” Thulcandra is outside of heaven. This reminds me of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Two seperate things, from our veiwpoint as well as from Oyarsa’s though for completely different reasons.

Oyarsa’s description of the war with Thulcandra’s Oyarsa could be an alternate account of the biblical treatment of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. It is often somewhat reminiscent of Milton’s description of Satan in Paradise Lost, as he comes from outside of earth or the solar system to find Adam and turn him against God. I appreciate Oyarsa’s telling of the war and the mystery of what follows:

There was a great war, and we drove [Thulcandra’s Oyarsa] back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into.

This brings to mind several biblical passages and concepts. A great war in heaven bringing down a great spiritual being is described, with a lack of detail most modern readers would desire, in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. It is also interesting that they bound him in the air of his own world. In Ephesians 2:2 he is called the prince of the power of the air – a pretty odd turn of phrase. And lastly he explicitly states how they wish to look into Maleldils dealings with Thulcandra. He actually states this twice. This immediately calls to mind 1 Peter 1:12. This salvation Peter writes about was prophesied in part and studied and inquired upon. It pointed to the sufferings and glories of Christ (who is likely called Maleldil in OOTSP) and is now revealed by the Holy Spirit through the good news preached. It is so great that even angels long to look into it.

Specifically they long to look into the stories and strange counsel and terrible things Maleldil has dared in wrestling with the Bent One. Wrestling indeed. Look at Aslan’s treatment by the White Witch in Narnia. Look at Christ himself, giving himself up to the hands of sinners to put on a cross of wood, to be hung up for death. Yes he’s wrestled with the Bent One rather than give up our planet and our people “utterly.”

Now I do not think, nor am I trying to argue, that this book or this passage is strictly allegory. Where x represents y and we all go crazy trying to figure out what the great tall flower trees are really trying to tell us. But I am arguing, and have previously, that Lewis is writing science fiction piece that fits within the mold of his Christian worldview, even his Western Christian worldview. There’s no one-to-one correlation, but there is a mysterious powerful personal ruler of the heavens, one who we may call God, but who is known as Maleldil on Malacandra. What do our spiritual and religious traditions look like from outside our world? I would say Lewis treatment of these things is nothing less than stunning.

There is much more to think about and discuss of this chapter than I will put down here, so I will leave the discussion alone for now.

MISCELLANY

I found this line particularly amusing and wanted to restate it. Ransom finds himself trying to describe Weston’s actions and motivations, explaining that Weston searches for other planets for our race to populate so that we will never die out and last forever. (Recall that Augray has already shared that is not Maleldil’s way.) To this Oyarsa asks, “Is he wounded in his brain?” What a great line!

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Take Me To Your Leader!

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