Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Nineteen

SUMMARY

Ransom’s previous conversation was interrupted by a procession approaching Oyarsa. He watches as Weston and Devine, surrounded and guarded by a group of hrossa who carry three of their own (dead at the hands of Weston and Devine) arrive. Hyoi’s brother leads them and explains that they’ve killed Hyoi in cold blood but the other two were killed in panic as the hrossa surprised them.

Oyarsa questions Weston and Devine asking why they have killed his hnau. They, of course, cannot see him and assume it is “witch-doctor” using ventriloquism and Weston sets upon addressing a sleeping elderly hross who he thinks is in a trance. Ransom finally sets them straight and implores them to answer Oyarsa honestly. Weston speak in the hross language, though very poorly, while Devine acts annoyed at everything. Weston at first tries to scare them and then to impress them with a necklace of beads. Oyarsa questions their sanity and repeatedly asks why they have killed his hnau. Weston finally tries to tell them that Ransom is “very bent” and that they have brought him to Malacandra, obediently, as a sacrifice to Oyarsa.

Finally Oyarsa sends Weston to the guest house to have his head washed with cold water in an effort to clear his thoughts. In his absence the hrossa mourn their loss. At the conclusion of this, at Oyarsa’s signal, a pfiffltrigg touches each of the fallen hrossa with a crystal-like object and their bodies disappear. Presently, Weston rejoins the group.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Just a few short notes here…

One, it is interesting that in the absence of human companions, Ransom initially fails to recognize Weston and Devine as fellow-humans. They appear very strange to him indeed. Their lower legs seemed so thick, he “hesitated to call them legs;” he noted their “pear shaped” bodies. They looked heavy and walked oddly. I’m reminded of the pfiffltrigg’s representation of men and how off Ransom found it.

Again is the fact that Oyarsa, and the eldila, are almost completely invisible to humans, to the point that Weston assumed an old sleeping hross in a trance and projecting his voice.

METAPHYSICAL

Last things first: following the mourning song, what exactly happens to the bodies? At a word sign from Oyarsa, a pfiffltrigg “touched each of the three dead in turn with some small object that appeared to be made of glass or crystal,” then their was a “blinding light” and “something like a very strong wind… Then all was calm again, and the three biers were empty.”

Their bodies are simply taken away. Gone. The song they sang previously seems to describe their souls leaving their individualness behind and joining all other past souls and maybe their God, Maleldil the Young, though it is highly symbolic and poetic. But these lines seem to point to it:

Let it go hence, dissolve and be no body. Drop it, release it, drop it gently, as a stone is loosed from the fingers drooping over a still pool. Let it go down, sink, fall away. Once below the surface there are no divisions, no layers in the water yielding all the way down; all one and all unwounded is that element.

They go on to describe the next world as being “the second life… coloured… second… better… First were the darker, then the brighter. First was the worlds’ blood, then the suns’ blood.”

This is certainly their depiction of the afterlife, heaven. It is seen as a place that is better, a place of hope. I am reminded of elsewhere in Lewis’ fiction, of Reepicheep longing to go to “Aslan’s country” and the conclusion of The Last Battle:

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (The Last Battle, Page Last)

From Weston, in this chapter, we have a classic case of blame-shifting. He claims the death of Hyoi to be the fault of Ransom for running away. He and Devine were just trying to do what they were told, to “bring man, give him your big head.” But Ransom had run since he is a “very bent man.” This is what stirred up the trouble and was the cause of the killing by Weston’s reasoning. Oyarsa sees through this farce and sends Weston to have his head bathed. Weston shows his own bent nature in his explanation and blame-shifting.

Is Ransom bent? I would say so and think Ransom would say so. But if we look at degrees of “bentness,” Weston is at the top, while Ransom is trying his best to sort things out, even going so far as to recommend to the Malacandrians that they kill all three Thulcandrians, himself included.

MISCELLANY

Regarding the beads Weston tries to use in his attempt to win over the Malacandrians, Lewis writes, “Weston at this point whipped out of his pocket a brightly coloured necklace of beads, the undoubted work of Mr Woolworth…” Who is this Mr Woolworth? With a little research (aka Google) I’m confident he refers to Frank Winfield Woolworth, an American businessman who had a chain of “5 and dime” stores which spread to several foreign countries and was popular in England during Lewis’ lifetime.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Civilizing the Heathen or Which One’s the Heathen?

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