Perelandra – Chapter Twelve


Ransom wakes refreshed and takes a breakfast, searches the island and finds the Un-man destroying a bird. Ransom notes that the Green Lady and all other creatures on the island seem to be asleep, insulating them from the bloodshed about to take place. His opening shot is a left jab to the jaw, leaving the Un-man surprised and bleeding. It scorns his attempts at physical combat and mocks Christ on the cross before it enters into the fray.

They fight for hours and to Ransom’s surprise he seems to have the upper hand against the Enemy in physical combat. At length it flees on foot and Ransom gives chase. When it reaches the edge of the island it beckons a fish to ride, and Ransom does the same. While riding he realizes the great deal of pain racking his own body.


This relatively short chapter is mostly action. The fight is somewhat epic for two middle-aged scholarly types. There is some description of the island’s geography and environments. Then there is an interesting bit when Ransom is giving chase to the Un-man on the fish. All of the other nearby fish, and eventually birds join in, begin to give chase as well. I wonder how the Un-man convinced the fish to taxi him across the waters. Lewis says only that “it was stooping down doing something to its fish, Ransom could not see what. Doubtless it would have many ways of urging the animal to quicken its pace” (134).


Just a few things here stand out.

Psalm 17:15. Notable is that Ransom quotes Psalm 17 (129). It is a psalm of deliverance. Ransom here seems to think that he will meet death or at least great injury in his battle and yet will be satisfied in God.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. These were Jesus words Jesus spoke on the cross just before he died, roughly meaning, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). They are quoted by the Un-man at the end of his little threatening diatribe (130). Jesus cried these words out shortly before his death, a seeming victory for Satan, who is the volitional Un-man in Weston’s body. It seemed a victory to him then, for he had succeeded in getting humanity, created by God in his own image, to crucify the Second Person of the Trinity on a cross of wood. Did man think he could contend with Satan and win? Does Ransom now? The Un-man finds this idea absurd.

Many have tried to fight with him and ended up “screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad houses, or nailed on to crosses.” Satan has been victorious over many of Eve’s children, but the prophecy was that he would strike their heal and they would crush his head. He cannot see the true end. “Could He help Himself?” he says of Jesus and mocks him by crying out His final words while dying on a cross.

And yet we know there was a resurrection. We tell it. We sing it. We live it. We are it.

A torrent of perfectly unmixed lawful hatred (132). Do any of us ever experience this? Truly God does – a lawful hatred against all that is wrong and not self-serving or aggrandizing. The pure hatred of his enemy was against sin and temptation of a sinless, pristine person.


The eternal Surd in the universal mathematic (132). I’m not sure what this is getting at. I think surd is an old term for an irrational number, an infinite decimal, like pi, that can never be fully expressed. That it is capitalized makes me think it is a reference to the Un-man.

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind, so flew’d so sanded (134) from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. This expresses the aggressiveness of Ransom’s attack on the Un-man.

Another time he mentions shouting a line from The Battle of Maldon (132), an old English poem, of which we only have portions surviving, that told the story of Vikings attacking England under Aethelred the Unready.


If You Want To Throw Down Fisticuffs, Fine.


3 thoughts on “Perelandra – Chapter Twelve”

  1. Hi there,
    Regarding the reference to “The Surd in the universal mathematic”, this question came up a long time ago on the old CS Lewis news group. I put forward an answer then that might interest you.

    Ransom is recognising how Satan’s choice to disobey has been incorporated within in Maleldil’s divine plan. He is the chaotic factor that exists within the Supreme Order of the Great Dance. He is the virus that makes the vaccine, the flaw that causes the Cosmos to heal itself. Expanding into the philosophy of mathematics, integers represent discrete and complete states. Surds are numbers that create constant chaotic patterns and can never themselves be resolved. Higher mathematics show that despite their apparently chaotic appearance, Surds are ultimately useful constants that allow equations to balance and be resolved. Despite their initially upsetting effects, they are means to find answers. Pi, the best known Surd, is mapped out to incredible lengths and never repeats the same value twice. In and of itself, it is irresolvable, but it is also fundamental in the design and function of perfect geometry: spheres, spheroids, cones, cylinders etc. One cannot resolve a surd and make it whole, yet by understanding its nature, many other mysteries are harmoniously resolved and the nature of a formula is revealed.

    The actions of Satan mean that Thulcandra and it’s inhabitants have lost harmony with the divine plan. It is imperfectly manifest because of the actions of a being who is acting against the plan. However, the universe is so perfectly created, it can incorporate this non-harmonious aspect of itself to resolve the inherent imperfections in manifest being.

    I guess that Lewis calls the Un-Man a Surd in the sense that he represents the Chaos that leads Ransom to realise Order. Ransom appears to understand this intellectually and thus participates in his own equation by throwing himself back into the conflict with renewed faith and purpose. As a man of intelligence who is relying on faith, he is both surprised and not surprised at the result.

    Best wishes,



  2. Hey, glad I could help! I’m sure your Surd is your own little blessing. 🙂 I found your page by accident, it’s nice to see someone give a little credit to the cosmic trilogy. It’s a marvellous series – much forgotten here in the UK – and the phrase you mention is one of many that add remarkable depth to the text. My favourite part of the story is Ransom’s journey through the mountain, with it’s fascinating glimpses of subterranea.

    If you haven’t read them, I can recommend Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia and The Narnia Code. The emphasis is on Narnia of course, but Ward maps out the themes of Narnia in terms of Deep Heaven and medieval / pagan cosmology: each of the seven books having it’s own Eldil as a theme. If you’re interested, Planet Narnia has greater technical detail, while the Narnia Code is a lighter version with some revisions added.

    Good luck with your journey!



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