Perelandra – Chapter Thirteen


Ransom rides through the night chasing the Un-man. As he rides he notices the mermen creatures (or whatever they are) watching him and eating seaweed. Being hungry, he partakes of some of the seaweed as well which changes his though process to make him feel he is an inhabitant of the sea instead of land. Fearful, he desists from the seaweed.

Tired and hungry, he sleeps and awakes and has a crisis of faith, wondering if all of this is worth it, if the King and Queen should really rule an oceanic planet and if there actions really make a big difference. Presently he meets the Un-man coming back toward him, speaking as Weston.

The Un-man – now called Weston’s voice, then Weston, then Weston’s voice, then the voice, and even “the creature” once – and Ransom discuss God, spirits, religion, life and death. Ransom questions whether or not this is Weston returned in his mind or if this is a trick of the Un-man. Finally the Un-man – or Weston – is frightened by darkness and noise, grabs onto Ransom and pulls him underwater.


What of these underwater creatures? Though night, there is light from some type of phosphorescence in the water (138), which has previously been mentioned. They are apparently grazing. They seem to lack intelligence but are very man-like. There’s is the underwater world and that idea seems to stumble Ransom later as he is considering the meaning of the Queen and King ruling such a sea-covered planet. Ransom never makes contact with these creatures.

They remind me of Tolkien’s dwarves. The Silmarillion gives and account of their origins. They were created by the Vala Aule – basically a type of arch-angel. But Iluvatar was not yet ready for these intelligent creatures to come to his world, so he confronted Aule. Repentant Aule prepared to destroy his creations, but Iluvatar stayed his hand, sanctifying them and yet putting them to sleep until a time he deemed appropriate.

These mermen remind me of a sleeping dwarf. They are created but their intelligence, or “soulishness”, has not yet been breathed into them. They are in a kind of a state of suspended animation, not yet complete. Maybe this is Lewis’ take on evolution, which was previously mentioned in discussing OOTSP.

And what of this taste of the seaweed, as well as other things: “It gave knowledge as well as pleasure” (138). Knowledge from mere taste. Interesting. It sure makes studying more appealing. Its as though he understood the perspective of the mermen from eating their food. Is affections went toward the underworld – or the sea, over and against the land, floating islands, breathable air and the Fixed Land.

Then there is Weston turning up again. What are we to believe about him. Is this a return of Weston’s consciousness to his own body or is it merely a trick of the Un-man? My own guess is that the Un-man is allowing Weston’s consciousness to shine through as an attempt to get at Ransom, but I am not convinced. Whatever the answer to that question is, it seems obvious that Weston has been seriously affected by the events of the oppression of the Un-man. He is now in a the pit of despair, talking about life as the outer skin and death as the flesh of a fruit. He is consumed by the fear of death. He is truly without hope. It reminds me of descriptions I have read of Voltaire’s death, tormented with fear – though the veracity of these accounts is questionable. The mindset is also reminiscent of an account of Adoniram Judson hearing the last words of a deist friend just before he died. Weston’s despair is striking. Whether or not it is truly Weston is questionable.

It seems that the chapter ends as they are overtaken by large breaking waves “Breakers, you fool!” (145). Maybe they are approaching the Fixed Land, or maybe they are just among large waves. Either way, Weston or “the creature” (145) grabs Ransom and hauls him under water. Is this merely the panicky ravings and a man scared out of his wits, or is it the Un-man resurfacing and trying to drown Ransom?


Briefly, pages 139-140 contain an collection of doubts on Ransom’s part. I saw doubt and not disbelief. Doubt is a result of lacking in knowledge while disbelief is a result of lacking in faith. And faith is not a quantitative thing but a qualitative thing. It is a thing which one either has or has not. It is a thing which Ransom has and which Weston, having been in contact with the exact same beings upon the planet Malacandra, has not.

Previously we have seen thoughts almost if not completely put into ones head by outside forces which we could call truly spiritual forces or beings but which Lewis, in this Trilogy, explains somewhat differently (see the discussion of the eldila in OOTSP). This first happened to the narrator while on his journey to Ransom’s home in the first chapter. It will happen again and may be happening here. I would say at least that Ransom’s thoughts, his doubts, are at least somewhat influenced from outside of his one mind or soul.

I will not go into the nature of the doubts, but suffice it to say that they come against him as an assault on his spirit, upon his heart, his convictions, his faith, his chest as Lewis would put it (see The Abolition of Man). This is followed quickly by an assault upon his mind, upon his reason, as he encounters and converses with the Un-man, or is it Weston? (It is, I believe, the Un-man using Weston’s personality and voice and even allowing his experiences to work against Ransom.)

He begins arguing what I’ll call the superficiality of life. I’m sure there is some better term for it. But he is arguing that what happens on this side, in what we call life, is short and matters little. It is enjoyable and so should be lengthened as much as possible because what lies beneath it is terrible. What lies beneath is the fundamental substance of what really is, the real experience of life after death.

So what is to be believed as real? This life that we live or what comes later. The joy we have in life – is it merely superficial while some darker reality is waiting. Or is the experience of this life and its joy fundamental, of real import. Is it made of solid stuff or just an outer covering?

At any rate, this ranting seems to have little effect on Ransom who responds, “How do you know what death is like? God knows, I’d help you if I could. But give me the facts. Where have you been these few days?” (145). Whats left of Weston is left totally absorbed and defeated by the death and Hell he’s experienced over the last several days of domination by the Un-man.


Ransom’s Doubts


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