Perelandra – Chapter Ten


Much of this chapter also is a summary of days and days worth of conversation between the Green Lady and the Un-man. It tells her many stories of great tragic women from Earth. Ransom interjects as well. Sometimes his statements seem to help his cause. Other times they are easily parried or even used against him. At one point he looses his temper and begins speaking in English, an episode which most certainly hurt his cause in the Green Lady’s mind, though she understood little of what he actually said.

While the Green Lady sleeps the Un-man continues destroying creatures and vegetation of Perelandra. Occasionally Weston’s voice would break through and make little sense. Ransom pitied and prayed for him and worried that he or the Green Lady could end up just like that (111).

Over time it seemed like the general campaign was moving in favor of the Un-man. He had inspired the Green Lady to try to be brave and courageous, to take this step on behalf of the King and her children. One day when Ransom awakes, he finds that the Un-man has made itself and the Green Lady clothes from the feathers and skins of animals in order to show her she could be much more pretty. He produces a mirror and she quickly decides she is prettier without the clothes, which Ransom agrees with, though he finds them an improvement for the Un-man as it covers some of his hideous ugliness.


There’s not a lot to mention here. The one thing that springs to mind is the sound of “some beast I have never heard before” that is “very like a low growl” (109). I’m not sure what this is. Ransom says he thinks he knows but the Green Lady cuts him off a bit too soon. It may be something simple that I am just missing.


This chapter is short on science fiction and long on the metaphysical, though the two are not unrelated here. There is still the Un-man inhabited and controlled by this outside force, an idea not “alien” at all to science fiction. But there is not a lot of unbroken ground here to speak of.

The Un-man changes his strategy of attack. Previously he was taking a more direct line of arguing with the Green Lady, with his remarks about how Maleldil made this law and desired for her to break it. Now he has switched to a more subtle attack, telling her story after story of women who rose up and raged against the machine. Against social norms, against overbearing male headship, against back-to-the-wall circumstances. He is, what we would say today, setting a narrative. He is attempting to reshape her reality by painting her into a big picture, or a stage as Lewis says in the end (118). If and when she accepts this alternate narrative of a woman, such as herself, doing the hard thing, taking the Great Risk or undertaking a Great Deed (112), then she is set up to go and do something against all expectation, caring little for the law of Maleldil as she has accepted a new and greater law.

This narrative-setting is common in our modern era. There are many current narratives in our society that aren’t built on truth. The narrative is that gun crime is out of control and we much get rid of guns and ammunition for the children’s sake. The truth is that gun crime is at a modern historic low. There is too much gun crime and murder, but overall things are moving generally in the right direction. The narrative is that many modern conservatives and even Christians hate transexuals and want to discriminate against them in the use of public bathrooms. The truth is that lots of people – many of them are conservative or Christians – are concerned that sexual predators will pose as transexuals and use the laws to enter bathrooms and attack young helpless girls. Maybe these fears are unfounded and they can be argued against, but the narrative doesn’t argue against the rational fear, it recasts the rational fear as irrational hatred. There are many such narratives and they cut both ways, though many on the cultural left have used Alinsky’s rules for radicals to try to effect social change. Some of these rules have to do with taking control of the narrative, thus it seems many of the modern mainstream cultural and social narratives are set up to deliberately cut against conservative or even Christian thought.

Further, the Un-man is relentless and untiring. He uses that to tire the body and mind of the Green Lady and Ransom as well (112). This is true of temptation in our own lives.

Finally the Un-man uses the clothes. This too is part of his narrative-building. Why clothes? Is he teaching “female vanity” or something that seems worse to Ransom: “lasciviousness” (115)? In the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, they make the clothes after the sin to try and cover it up. Here the Un-man makes them prior to the sin in hopes of setting up for it.

She also learns Fear (116-117) which she does not like. The Un-man (called The Stranger repeatedly by the Green Lady) tries to comfort her by telling her it will pass. “It will never go away if you do what he wishes. It is into more and more fear that he is leading you.” This is true, but seems ultimately lost on the Green Lady who finally uses the mirror to determine the robe does not improve her looks.

When she does not desire to keep the robes, nor mirror (nor does she understand the purpose of keeping things for possible future use) the Un-man hits her hard. Having made her consider herself as great, he now belittles her current self as being “like the beasts” (118) only worrying about one day at a time, instead of preparing for future days and taking precautions to be happy. This would seem like prudence but in the Green Lady’s world it is not.

She is made by Maleldil and he is watching over her in such a way that she need not worry about the future. As Jesus said, we should worry about one day at a time, not the future’s meals or clothes (Matthew 6). Maleldil is providing for her everything she needs. Her needs are not her concern but His. He is the need-meeter, the provider and protector. She need not worry about those things. Consider the Hebrews in the OT when they wandered in the wilderness for years on end. God gave them manna from heaven to sustain them in this time. He was all they needed. Yet there were some who attempted to collect extra manna and keep it. It did not keep. And their provision they tried to make for themselves did not pay off. They were merely to listen to and trust their God. He would provide all they needed. In the same way Jesus said I am the bread of life (John 6). There is nothing we need but him and there is nothing the Green Lady of Perelandra needs but Maleldil.


Lewis compares the Un-man to Mephistopholese (110), the maker of lies originating in German folklore, a worker of Satan, who goes and deceives in order to collect men’s souls and to Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost (110), a “sombre tragic Satan.” Allow me to quote Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book Four, lines 37-92. Note the solemn and depressed mindset:

O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere
Til pride and worse ambition threw me down,
Warring in Heav’n against Heav’n’s matchless King.
Ah wherefore! He deserved no such return
From me, whom He created what I was
In that bright eminence and with His good
Upbraided none. Nor was his service hard:
What could be less than to afford Him praise,
The easiest recompense, and pay Him thanks?
How due! Yet all His good proved ill in me
And wrought but malice. Lifted up so high
I [disdained] subjection and thought one step higher
Would set me high’st and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude
So burdensome-still paying! still to owe!-
Forgetful what from Him I still received
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged. What burden then?
O had His powerful destiny ordained
Me some inferior angel! I had stood
Then happy: no unbounded hope had raised
Ambition. Yet why not? Some other pow’r
As great might have aspired and me, though mean
Drawn to his part. But other pow’rs as great
Fell not but stand unshaken from within
Or from without to all temptations armed.
Hadst thou the same free will and pow’r to stand?
Thou hadst. Whom hast thou then or what t’accuse
But Heav’n’s free love dealt equally to all?
But then His love accursed, since love or hate
To me alike it deals eternal woe!
Nay cursed be thou since against His thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell,
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threat’ning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
O then at last relent. Is there no place
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission and that word
Disdain forbids me and my dreams of shame
Among the spirits beneath whom I seduced
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue
Th’Omnipotent. Ay me! They little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vain,
Under what torments inwardly I groan
While they adore me on the throne of Hell
With diadem and scepter high advanced
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery.

Emphasis mine. Note the somber tragedy of the situation. Satan, looking back, sees he was created wonderfully, beautifully, “glorious once above [the sun],” only owing to “pay Him thanks,” which was not “service hard.” Yet Satan wanted more in his ambition, he “disdained subjection and thought one step higher would set [him] high’st.” Thus brought his fall to the such depths that “love and hate” are both “eternal woe.” So, being greatest among the fallen, he “seduced” the other fallen spirits, claiming he could find a way to throw down God from his throne and rule them all. But even that he sees as a “boast so vain” that it now “torments” him, making him fall “lower still” so that he is only the greatest “in misery.”

This somber and tragic spirit now indwells the Un-man and tempts the Green Lady to destruction, in hopes of repeating the fall of humanity and yet still seeming not to anticipate ultimate defeat on the cross.

Ransom mentions Aggripina and Lady Macbeth (113) to the Green Lady, two women who she would certainly know nothing of, in order to show her that her ambition to be great, but in so-doing breaking laws. Aggripina was Nero’s mother and helped him become emperor before he felt threatened by her and poisoned her. Lady MacBeth encouraged her husband to murder the king and become king. These ambitious women both met tragic ends.


The Queen and the Stranger


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