Perelandra – Chapter Four

SUMMARY

Ransom awakes to the new world and meets his first Perelandrian beast – a red dragon about the size of a St. Bernard. It stays with him for a while before flying to another island. He also encounters a kind of natural shower made by “trees” and the ocean water which leaves him quite refreshed, and then breakfasts on some small green berries.

After a while the dragon and several birds fly to a specific island that he can see from his own. Several fish also travel toward that island and one of them carries a person on its back. The person climbs onto the other island. Ransom attempts to get the attention of the person and is finally successful. The person at first seems overjoyed to see him but, to Ransom’s dismay, he has been mistaken for someone else. Finally Ransom can tell that this other person is a green lady. When she gets close enough to see him, she laughs. Ransom supposes this is due to one half of his body having a bit of a suntan while the other half is totally white.

Ransom tries to communicate to her by yelling across the expanse of sea, but his efforts come to naught. Finally, as night is falling, he jumps into the water and attempts to swim the distance between the islands. But soon there is nothing but dark. Panicking, he continues swimming and finally arrives on an island, unsure if it is hers, his, or another.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Perelandra has at least one intelligent native being, or hnau, to use the Old Solar. We don’t know much about her. She’s green. She speaks Old Solar but doesn’t seem to have a very wide vocabulary (50). She is somehow able to travel underwater with the fish, and comes of from it, almost as if she is birthed from the sea (46). This is strikingly familiar as in Roman mythology, the goddess Venus was born from the sea, as depicted in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. This could also be connected to the Neo-platonists referenced in OOTSP who believed that the goddess of love, Venus, pointed people to divine love. (But that may be going too far; only Lewis would know.)

There are also other, less intelligent, creatures on Perelandra. The dragon, a number of birds and some fish like creatures who carry our Green Lady of Perelandra to her island. We know little of these except that the dragon seems quite friendly in a puppy dog sort of way.

There is also plant life. One type of fruit has been previously discussed. We add some delicious breakfast berries and a curious tree that sprouts bubbles of sea-water that can give a refreshing shower.

As in OOTSP, Lewis develops things slowly (I would venture to say a little too slowly in these first few chapters). But he gives an apt description of the world through multiple senses. There seems more to taste and smell here than in OOTSP which focused more on touch and feels (along with sight and sound of course). I don’t know if that is by design or not.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Just a few things here. For one, lets mention his loneliness. Initially, even though he is completely alone and unsure if there is another single inhabitant on the planet (going so far as to wonder if he were put there to be “its first inhabitant… the founder, the beginner”), he is completely comfortable and doesn’t feel as alone as he felt on Malacandra (44). Once he sees another person – the Green Lady – he is overcome with loneliness and feel trapped. He longed to meet this person and apart from her “the rest of the world was now pure nightmare” (46). His loneliness didn’t spring merely from being alone, but from missing people. When he thought there were none, he wasn’t worried. But when he felt separated from humanity – or hnaunanity – he felt utter despair.

Then, later when Ransom is laughed at by the Green Lady, he doesn’t find it funny at all (48-49). Had Oyarsa of Malacandra asked him to do something very challenging, he would have tried his best to oblige. But to be laughed at, something so easy, yet seemingly beneath him, he is appalled. I’m reminded of Naaman who was commanded to do something simple and initially rebuffed the idea.

Finally there is the idea of the Myth present in this chapter. For Lewis, myths carried truth that were otherwise inaccessible to man in our current rational modern state. He awakes to find a small red dragon nearby and is reminded of the garden of Hesperides (40). The Hesperides were nymphs who lived in an idyllic garden. And, though I hate to quote from wikipedia, the article is quite concise when it says “The Garden of the Hesperides is Hera’s orchard in the west, where either a single apple tree or a grove grows, producing golden apples that grant immortality when eaten. The trees were planted from the fruited branches that Gaia gave to Hera as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus. The Hesperides were given the task of tending to the grove, but occasionally picked apples from it themselves. Not trusting them, Hera also placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon named Ladon as an additional safeguard.” Note the dragon. With Lewis’ knowledge of mythology, its easy to see why his protagonist’s mind may have gone to this image. He sees himself as living this myth. But wait, there’s more…

Maybe he wasn’t reliving a myth but was a myth. One could only imaging future generations of Perelandrians, thousands of years later, telling each other the ancient myths of the man who came from another world, from the heavens, to inhabit their planet:

A re-enchantment fell upon him. The golden beast at his side seemed no longer either a danger or a nuisance. If a naked man and a wise dragon were indeed the sole inhabitants of this floating paradise, then this also was fitting, for at that moment, he had a sensation not of following an adventure but of enacting a myth. (42)

Oh, and by the way, both Ransom and the Green Lady of Perelandra seem to be “naked and unashamed.”

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Man’s Best Friend

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