Perelandra – Chapter Nine


Ransom sleeps and awakes alone, shortly to find a wounded frog-like creature. He ends its suffering by killing it, which proves more difficult than he’d imagined. A trail of s0-mutilated creatures leads Ransom to Weston, or what was Weston. His body seems possessed of pure evil. He looks dead, yet is alive in some way. He follows Weston to the Green Lady and finds the two already engaged in conversation.

Ransom follows the course of the conversation and tries to warn the Green Lady not to listen to Weston, or what Lewis here refers to as “it” (97) or “Weston’s body” (98). Weston tempts the Green Lady to break the command not to sleep on the Fixed Land throughout the conversation. He tells her this is a command Maleldil actually wants her to break so that she will become more wise. He also knows of Ransom’s conversation with her that took place before he had arrived on the planet, conversations Weston’s body was not present for.

Ransom interjects in the conversation several times and finally makes a good point, following which the Green Lady promptly goes to sleep. While she sleeps, the Un-man, as Lewis takes to calling Weston, begins to repeat Ransom’s name, though with nothing else to say, as a way torture Ransom. Ransom grows tired and wonders if the Un-Man will require sleep.


The Un-man. One wonders what exactly he is doing to these “frogs.” Is this just a sadistic action? Just an attempt to adulterate this pristine world? He doesn’t seem to be eating any part of these creatures. He isn’t even killing them. He’s just making them suffer. Does he get some enjoyment in that? And Ransom’s decision to kill the first one: is that the right thing to do on this world? Or is there some healing process that will fix these creatures? Is the Un-man merely trying to get Ransom to waste his time killing the poor little suffering frogs? Questions without answers. One thing for certain is that it is a wicked, cruel and disgusting thing to do. That is the kind of guy the Un-man is.

And physically, what kind of guy is the Un-man? He seems controlled or indwelt instead of a man himself. An outside force is acting on him, making him do and say the things he is doing and saying. Given Weston’s speech back in chapter 7, he seems almost to be a willing participant except that his cry for help to Ransom (82). When it was happening, he seemed to think better of it. So what of this creature that seems to need no food, no rest? As Lewis describes its sitting, “The body did not reach its squatting position by the normal movements of a man: it was more as if some external force maneuvered it into the right position and then let it drop” (105).

This Un-man is aptly named. He is no longer mere man. He is a body controlled by this Force he previously spoke so highly of.


Commentary on the arguments. The entirety of the conversation between the Green Lady, Weston and Ransom is dealing in the metaphysical. An exhaustive discussion would be exhausting. So I will try to focus, like a laser, on the crux of what the Un-man’s argument is and do so briefly.

The Un-man seems to pick up on her desire to be “older” or “wiser” (97). He uses this desire against her. He strengthens the idea by telling her Maleldil wants her to be wiser as well, which is true. Then he introduces the “twist.” He tries to convince her that sleeping on the Fixed Land will make her wiser (99), that it will give her more knowledge. This is true in a way, but not in a very positive way. And he tells her that Maleldil actually wants her to exert her own will and sleep on the Fixed Land so that she can gain this knowledge and wisdom (101). This is not true at all. But it seems to be a good argument to her and begins to win her over.

This argument is not unlike the story of Eve’s temptation. She too was tempted to reach for knowledge that she thought a good God would want to give her – knowledge and wisdom to be like Him. That sounded good to her – as it did the Green Lady or Perelandra – and so she took the knowledge. But what followed with the knowledge was not what she had imagined.

Providentially, Ransom is there to intervene. He explains that this law – not to sleep on the Fixed Land – is not a law that Maleldil wants her to break. It is a law to keep and by keeping, and obeying, then worshiping. Obedience for the sake of obedience, as a way of showing love and dependence and trust in Maleldil (101). This is quite persuasive to the Lady who says this is “the best you have said yet.”

At this point the second part of the conversation begins, basically an argument between Ransom and the Un-man about the effects of Eve’s giving in to temptation. Initially the Un-man appeals to his own age and experience and, by his reasoning, wisdom. But Ransom counters that age and experience do not automatically result in wisdom (102), which is a true statement. That’s visible in our fallen world. One can go through life shunning wisdom and no matter the age or experiences, wisdom need not have grown automatically in one’s life.

Ransom tries to explain the effects of the Fall and Eve’s sin, but the Un-man counters by describing humanities many positive points and (erroneously) claiming that those things are the effect of Eve’s sin:

Hardness came out of [Eve’s sin] but also splendour. They made with their own hands mountains higher than your Fixed Island… Because there was not always food enough, a woman could give the only fruit to her child or her husband and eat death instead – could give them all… Because knowledge was harder to find, those few who found it became more beautiful and excelled… He has not told you that it was this breaking of the commandment which brought Maleldil to our world and because of which He was made man.

This really knocks Ransom off his feet. He falls into temporary despair. How could he, mere man, hope to struggle with this Un-man, this Bent One, maybe THE Bent One of Thulcandra? And he sees the Un-man’s point, as we may also. God has brought much good out of evil. Look at Joseph’s life (Gen 37-50). Look at Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12). What was meant for evil, God has used for good. This does not mean God desires the evil. For elsewhere we see God does not tempt (James 1:13). But he does take the broken and make it whole. He gives “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61)

Ransom recovered and answered well:

Of course good came of it. Is Maleldil a beast that we cans top His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good; and what they lost we have not seen. And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will. (104)

He then challenges the Un-man to tell all, that no good came to him by Maleldil becoming man, that he got no “profit” or “joy” when he “made Maleldil and death acquainted.”

Indeed, on the cross, Jesus died buying his brothers and sisters from the father of lies, taking the wrath they deserved and sealing the fate of those people who would not follow him and certainly of the saints’ accuser – Satan, represented here by the Un-man.

Ransom makes a great and tragic point that there are good things lost that we will never see and there are some – many – of Adam and Eve’s descendants to whom no good came nor ever will, and all because of their decision to turn against our Strong Creator. And we who have come after have chosen the same. We are all marked out as sinners and in great need of great sacrifice – which Christ made – in order to know anything good at all.


The Conversation


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