Perelandra – Chapter Five

SUMMARY

Ransom awakes to find his island and the island of the Green Lady adjacent to one another, separated by what appears to be a creek. She addresses him and apologizes for laughing at him, saying she was “young yesterday” and didn’t know he would find it offensive (52). The chapter centers around a conversation between the two of them. She refers to Ransom as Piebald Man several times.

He learns that she is the Queen and Mother of Perelandra and is separated from the King and Father and desires to find him. They are the only two inhabitants, the first two inhabitants, of the planet.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This chapter is mostly an extended conversation between two inhabitants from different worlds. Lots of things could go into the science fiction section, but due to the topics covered, most of that will go in the metaphysical section. But first…

The geography here is strange with these floating islands. Is there any true land on Perelandra? Will these islands be able to come together to form a large enough or compact enough mass to call a continent? If our land were floating then it seems the climate would change regularly enough to have devastating effects on plant and animal life. But with Perelandra’s different atmosphere, maybe there is less change in weather geographically – no frozen polar regions.

The Green Lady looks human except for her color. I don’t know of any green races on earth. Why would this be? The Malacandrians certainly didn’t look human. It seems that after God became man – that would be Maleldil the Younger – to come to earth, when he began making new intelligent life in his own image, he gave them physical bodies like the physical body he took on (54). So he made men in his image, though physical. He became like the men. He made other creatures in his image and gave them physical bodies like the one he had taken on. Interesting.

He also happens upon another creature who gets on well with the dragon. A furry creature and “the yellowest thing he had every seen” (56). That phrasing strikes me. The food he ate tasted so good, it was something like taste but in a completely different realm. It also reminds me of an earlier comment regarding color: that life wasn’t a color at all, “I mean, what we’d call color” (29).

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

A lot could be said here. The implications of the conversation are far stretching. I’ll cover several different points

“I was young yesterday” (51). The Green Lady uses young and old several times (pp 51, 52, 54, 56, 59) to refer to increasing degrees of wisdom or understanding of the world. As we grow in understanding, we become older. That is how she seems to view time passing. She remarks that she gets older quite quickly from her conversation with Ransom. He is introducing her to concepts that are new to her. It must be remembered that these concepts are being filtered through his fallen mind and it would be theoretically possible for him to do great harm to her understanding. But it is also true that he is sent there through Oyarsa and, presumably, by Maleldil who is able to use him for good and likely means to use him primarily in that way. Ransom has not forced himself into this situation, but has gone into it submissively by the will of another seemingly in authority.

She also refers to time as if it were coming in waves (57). This seems appropriate for one living on a planet that seems to be covered almost completely with water, so much so that its “land” floats.

“I am the Mother” (57). By the Green Lady’s “witless replies,” Ransom (and the reader) deducts that she is the first woman on Perelandra and there is but one man. They have no children yet. They are the father and mother of all who would come later, our Adam and Eve.

“Only my spirit praises Maleldil” (57). She freely admits that she lacks understanding about a great many things including death (58), but she recognizes that her lack of knowledge is not an impediment to her jobs. At this point it seems her jobs are to have children and praise Maleldil. (This isn’t shaping up to be very feminist friendly, is it?) Our book of Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A proper understanding and response to God – worship – is the foundation of knowledge. Satan succeeded in confusing this idea when speaking with Eve in the Garden. He told her the beginning of wisdom was understanding right and wrong and that type of knowledge would make us like God. He was partially right, but he twisted the truth into an ugly stumbling block, over which all creation fell. She understands rightly that her duty is to praise Maleldil and not be him. She is to submit and rule only in submission.

“What is dead” (58). Death hasn’t yet visited Perelandra. Ransom is the deadest thing ever to float in its waters. She seems enamored of it by Ransom’s rudimentary description and wonders if Ransom has been sent there to teach them death. Ransom responds by clarifying that it is a terrible thing that looks and smells ugly. “Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it,” (58) he says, referring to John 11:35.

“But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maleldil is rolling towards us?” (58). Here waves refer to events and not just the passage of time. You can see them coming, they are felt when present, and then you can watch them roll away. (That is when floating among them at least. On land they would seem quite different, crashing the shore and not moving the viewer.) Here she is stating that she freely accepts all things Maleldil sends as good. This is appropriate and in line with Romans 8:28. Yet in our fallen world, some good things still come with pain and, when passed, leave us to lament (as the wave rolls on). At this point Ransom breaks into her world, I would almost say inappropriately, to point out that her finding him instead of the King was something like this. She was saddened that he was Ransom and not the King. He could see it in her face. She seems to accept this, but tells him “You make me grow older more quickly than I can bear.” At this point Ransom has some regret of his words, and had indeed spoken “against his better judgment” (59). This idea is drawn out more on pages 59-60 again using the imagery of waves, this time carrying the swimmer in overwhelming ways.

MISCELLANY

“O Piebald Man.” The Green Lady never asks Ransom his name, to this point, and nor does he ask hers. But she refers to him as piebald, meaning an animal having two colors and most often used to describe horses. Ransom is of course half sun-burned, half pale coloring.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

First Contact

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