Perelandra – Chapter Two

SUMMARY

Ransom greets Lewis and seems somewhat surprised he made it successfully with the fallen eldila trying to turn him back (confirming my earlier suspicions). Ransom then tells Lewis that Oyarsa of Malacandra has asked him to travel to Perelandra for a job (of which he knows nothing about at this time). Lewis will see him off and meet him upon his return. Oyarsa will let him know when it is time. They make preparations. The “casket” will be his spacecraft and Oyarsa will propel it there himself. Ransom gets into his craft and Lewis secures the top, then it simply disappears. Lewis shuts up the house and goes back to the city.

The story picks up with a little more than a year passing and World War II raging on. Finally Oyarsa notifies Lewis that it is time for Ransom’s return. Lewis summons a doctor who is trustworthy and known well by both men to attend Ransom’s return with him, in the event that Ransom needs medical attention upon arriving. They see his craft float slowly in from the sky (not simply appearing as it previously disappeared). Ransom emerges in seemingly great health. He appears ten years younger with a great beard. Only his heel is cut and has been slowly bleeding for some time. Then they have tea and he spends several hours recounting his trip to Perelandra.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Space Travel: First, there’s interplanetary travel. Its not quite as exciting in this book as in OOTSP. It seems sort of magical on the surface. Ransom will be traveling in some type of synthetic coffin shaped box that seems to be nothing more than a box. He will be transported by Oyarsa of Malacandra – how he traveled to the silent planet we still don’t know.

Interestingly, Ransom will travel in some form of hypersleep – “I shall be in some state of suspended animation” (24) – which has been featured in numerous science fiction films including the Alien, the recent Interstellar, and at least one older episode of the Twilight Zone. I’m not sure when the first references to this deep sleep for the purposes of long distance travel were written. The idea of putting people into a deep frozen suspended animation when they were dead or imminently dying began in the mid 1960s. This travel hypersleep definitely predates that movement. A Russian poem was written referring to it as early as 1922, but I can’t track it down nor do I know if there is an English translation.

Venus: There is a short discussion of the Venusian day and weather. The planet is covered with clouds and thus the surface is impossible to see from earth. Two schools of thought are presented. One is that Venus has normal days and nights, much like earth. The other is that Venus spins once per revolution in such a way as to keep one face of Venus always opposed to the sun and the opposite face in darkness. This is called synchronous rotation and our moon does it. Ransom seems to think this would necessitate there being no air on the dark side. That doesn’t follow scientifically. There would be no sunlight and probably very little, if any, life would be permitted by those conditions. Late in the chapter, following Ransom’s return, he shares that Venus has normal days and nights. A man named Shiaparelli is cited as proposing the synchronous orbit theory. There was a real-life astronomer named Shiaparelli (1835-1910) who studied Mars. (He described channels on its surface which could reflect Lewis’ idea for the handramit there.) I can find no information that he undertook any great study of Venus.

In truth a rotation of Venus lasts 234 earth days while a year on Venus lasts 225 earth days. So a day there is slightly longer than a year, which is weird when you think about it.

Old Solar: The language Ransom learned on Malacandra, the language of the hrossa, he now calls Old Solar, or Hressa-Hlab on Mars or Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi. It was an original language for all intelligent creatures. But earth has lost it “when our whole tragedy took place” (23).

Return: When Ransom returned, he didn’t simply appear as he had disappeared leaving. His craft was seen in the distance and arrived “normally.” Ransom had changed: “almost a new Ransom, glowing with health and rounded with muscle and seemingly ten years younger… the beard which swept his chest was pure gold” (27). It seems the time on Venus did him some good, injecting some youth or health or virility into the aging bookish man.What could have caused that?

METAPHYSICAL

Spiritual Warfare: I just want to touch on this briefly again. What I had speculated in writing on chapter 1 – that the feeling Lewis had on his travels, the feelings of doom and the suspicion of the eldila – Ransom tells us that was indeed these fallen eldila attacking Lewis’ mind. He calls it the “barrage” (19). He says its best not to listen or give an answer to their nagging questions, just to “keep straight on… They like drawing you into an interminable argument.” This reminds me immediately of the temptation of Eve in the Garden. The serpent drew her into an argument where he could play with the “facts” and win a little bit at a time. Lewis’ popular Screwtape Letters is a drawn out fictionalized argument of just that sort.

Elsewhere Ransom describes his mission of which he knows little. But he seems to suspect he must single-handedly fight some “powers and principalities” and speaks of it thusly:

Is it odder than what all of us have to do every day? When the Bible used that very expression about fighting with principalities and powers and depraved hypersomatic beings at great heights (our translation is very misleading at that point, by the way) it meant that quite ordinary people were to do the fighting…  Now your idea that ordinary people will never have to meet the Dark Eldila in any form except a psychological or moral form – as temptations or the like – is simply an idea that held good for a certain phase of the cosmic war: the phase of the great siege, the phase which gave to our planet its name of Thulcandra, the silent planet. But supposing that phase is passing? In the next phase it may be anyone’s job to meet them… well in some quite different mode. (21-22)

And I won’t comment on his comment regarding our translation “at that point” except to say: I don’t know.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The Departure and Return

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