Perelandra – Chapter Eleven

SUMMARY

As the Green Lady sleeps and the Un-man awaits her rising, Ransom considers the situation. Through much back-and-forth he comes to the decision that he must physically kill the Un-man’s body. It stands to reason that the Un-man is only there by the bridge of Weston’s body, so killing it would leave no place for it to go but the Deep Heavens. A certain Voice speaks a few times to Ransom encouraging to wage a physical battle. Then Ransom sleeps, having been told the Un-man has been put to sleep and will not wake til morning.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Again, there is not a whole lot here. Of note is that Weston’s body acts as a bridge. His arrival on Perelandra is something of a “kind of miracle [of Hell]” (119). This spiritual being that inhabited its body may be immortal, or at least not the sort of being that Ransom could kill. But Weston’s body, its vessel, was very much mortal.

Weston’s body could be destroyed; and presumably that body was the Enemy’s only foothold in Perelandra. By that body, when that body still obeyed a human will, it had entered the new world: expelled from it, it would doubtless have no other habitation. It had entered that body at Weston’s own invitation, and without such invitation could enter no other. (124)

It is not that dissimilar to the Event Horizon in the film of the same name. This gateway to Hell (What else could one call it?) and its keeper and creator – Dr William Weir – once destroyed, would close the gate at least in that particular time and place. (Note: I don’t really recommend this movie if you have not done so already. It is not for the squeamish.)

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Miracles vs Providence. Lewis doesn’t really make the distinction here that I think is worth making. He points out, as mentioned briefly above “Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did heaven work none?” (119). Lewis goes on to show that Ransom’s arrival on Perelandra is every bit the miracle that Weston’s was. He goes on to show, developing it throughout the chapter, that Ransom is Maleldil’s answer, one of His “hands” (121) in this matter of the Temptation of the Green Lady (the Green Lady of Perelandra being the other of those two anthropomorphic hands). He has put Ransom here, in this moment and place, with his very specific name (more on that later) in order to wage a battle against the Un-man.

I read or heard a quote once along the lines of “the providence of God is not unremarkable.” (I feel the quote is attributable to MacArthur or Spurgeon or maybe I heard MacArthur quote Spurgeon, but maybe both of these references are wrong.) The idea is that God arranges much in the world without bending or altering what would seem to be its natural laws. For example, when God stuck Joseph in Egypt in order to store up food to save his people from the coming famine, this was not a bending of Earth’s natural laws. When he made an axe-head float (2 Kings 6:6) or raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44) this is a bending of Earth’s natural laws. God could have provided for his people by blessing Canaan while Egypt experienced famine. Or he could have canceled the whole famine. But He did it His way for reasons I won’t get into now and don’t fully know. He could have stopped Lazarus from dying. But He did things His own way.

And yet, God’s provision for his people through the trials and tribulations of Joseph are every bit as remarkable as Elijah’s living from the bottom of the barrel (1 Kings 17:16). God’s providence in matters of life are quite remarkable, quite praiseworthy. And I would say that Ransom’s being on Perelandra was not so much a miracle at work as providence at work.Of course that odd spaceship that Ransom traveled in, seemingly powered by nothing and simply melting away upon arrival seems a bit miraculous. But technology sufficiently advanced seems miraculous, if I may be so bold as to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke.

Sense of the Presence has been mentioned before though in this chapter it is magnified. First mentioned on page 62, though we may also consider Lewis’ first person narration of his journey to Ransom’s home. Now, “Someone’s Presence” (62) seemed to speak to him: “as suddenly and sharply as if the solid darkness about him had spoken wiht an articulate voice” (119). Later, “Almost the Darkness said to Ransom…” (123). This voice, this presence seems to be that of Maleldil himself. Previously, He spoke to the Green Lady (53) during her conversation with Ransom. Now he speaks to Ransom, mostly telling him what he already knows – a gentle prodding voice or a soft whisper.

Ransom vs the Voluble Self. Lewis represents Ransom’s moral struggle with is purpose there and whether to physically fight with the Un-man as an argument he has with his “voluble self” (120, 125 among others) or his internal monologue. They go back and forth a lot. The voluble self always has an answer, a reason, an excuse for not doing what he knows he should do. It is like Moses’ excuses when he speaks with God at the burning bush. There is quite a parallel here. Maleldil is asking Ransom to do something he thinks impossible and he is finding reasons for that impossibility and giving them back to Maleldil who answers patiently yet forcefully. His way is not to be deterred.

Ransom. “It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom” (125). “My name also is Ransom” (126). Ransom here explains that his name is not from the word ransom, but a derivative of Ranolf’s son. And yet he realizes that his name is yet no accident but a feature of Providence. “The whole distinction between things accidental and designed, like the distinction between face and myth, was purely terrestrial” (125). All that was part of a pattern or puzzle, of which he now seemed an integral part. Before his birth, before his family’s name, before ransom was a word, before the world was made, everything was woven together to bring significance to this very point and place (125).

Maleldil the Young had become man and paid the ransom to save our own planet. Now he was sending another Ransom, and working through him, to save Perelandra. This was not a mere reworking of Thulcandra, nor was Thulcandra a mere pre-formation of Perelandra. All things had their meaning. And by saying “My name is also Ransom,” Maleldil was telling Ransom that if he failed, Perelandra would “be redeemed” (126). Defeating the Un-man here and now, stopping his attack and temptation of the Green Lady, was up to Ransom. But ultimately, it was in Maleldil’s hands. He is the true Ransom who redeems. “It lay with [Ransom] to save or to spill. His hands had been reddened, as all men’s hands have been, in the slaying before the foundation of the world; now, if he chose, he could dip them again in the same blood. ‘Mercy,’ he groaned” (126).

Wow. All things flow from him and through him and to him, including our actions. Without his spilled blood we would be hopeless and helpless. Note Revelation 13:8. Maleldil, slain before the foundation of the world, empowers, by that death and resurrection, Ransom to wrestle with the Un-man. And he should say with David, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. (1 Samuel 17:46)”

MISCELLANY

 

Horatius and Constantine (121). Horatius was a famous Roman soldier around 600 bc who defended a bridge into Rome against an invading army, until it was destroyed. Legend holds that he did this alone, but he was likely leading an army at the time. I assume the reference to Constantine is not so much for his bravery but his conversion to Christianity and finding victory in that. Though as a soldier and leader, bravery plays a role in that conversion. He was not afraid to do what he thought was right in converting.

The name, Ransom. Critics point to this as a major shortcoming of the Trilogy. I don’t keep with the gravity of that statement, but I do consider it a problem. The problem is not the name Ransom or the few paragraphs on it’s meaningfulness here in chapter eleven. The problem is that in OOTSP, Lewis says that the name Ransom is made up to protect his true identity. It can’t be both ways. Lets stick with the Perelandran explanation. Its merely a regrettable oversight. He just wrote one sentence too many in OOTSP.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

This Can’t Go On!

 

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