Perelandra – Chapter Fourteen


Ransom is pulled deeply down underwater and is forced to hold his breath for longer than he thinks possible. He finally comes to rest on a pebbly beach with the Un-man still holding on to him. He presently finds himself fighting against the thing once more and squeezing its throat until he thinks he must be dead. He is surrounded by pitch dark and thinks he is on a beach at night.

Soon however he realizes he is in a cave, having come up into it from the sea. In pitch darkness he begins climbing and finds a small stream. He follows it up into a great hollow room with a cliff that looks down into a huge fire. While climbing he realizes he is being followed and figures it is probably some subterranean creature that he would rather not meet. He finally sees the Un-man followed by an incredibly ugly creature which he at first takes to be the Un-man’s creation but later realizes it is just a strange Perelandrian bug or maybe reptilian creature. He knocks the Un-man out, possibly delivering a fatal blow, with a thrown rock and then throws the body into this great underground fire, now rid of it for good.


A great deal of space is devoted to the description of and Ransom’s journey through this subterranean cavern, stream and beach. It may seem unlikely for Ransom and the Un-man to end in such a place, deep within the bowels of Perelandra, but one must not discount Providence in Lewis’ narrative. I will at once brag on and complain about Lewis’ prose here. He does an excellent job describing the dark, closed in, trapped, almost hopeless space that Ransom is seeming a prisoner to. It is excellent and I hate it. It feels like I’m there, trapped in the closed, dark and lonely place. This would be a terrible place to be. It, along with the Un-man’s influence, takes a toll on Ransom’s mind who despairs:

Suddenly and irresistibly, like an attack by tanks, that whole view of the universe which Weston (if it were Weston) had so lately preached to him, took all but complete possession of his mind. He seemed to see that he had been living all his life in a world of illusion. The ghosts, the damned ghosts, were right. The beauty of Perelandra, the innocence of the Lady, the sufferings of saints, and the kindly affections of men, were all only an appearance and outward show. What he had called the worlds were but the skins of the worlds: a quarter of a mile beneath the surface, and from thence through thousands of miles of dark and silence and infernal fire, to the very heart of each, Reality lived – the meaningless… (154)

But I am venturing into the realm of the metaphysical at this point. Suffice it to say, this was a fairly oppressive place and Lewis description is perfect. The prose is fairly oppressive as well. It reminds me of a Jack Reacher book where he is similarly underground in a tight space trying to find a way out, or of the St Louis City Museum with its claustrophobic miseries (or labyrinthine delights if you are “set up” that way).

Then there is this creature. How hideous does it seem with all of its eyes and “many jointed legs.” And yet, without the Un-man present the terror it caused melted away.

Lastly there is this “sea of fire” (156). He seems to be under some type of volcano, too near its magma for any comfort. Even the water of the small river is hot (154)


Chief here I think is the description of the oppressive feeling and irrational fear that overcomes Ransom and his seeming acceptance of the Un-man’s argument from chapter thirteen about the fundamental reality of death and “what lies beneath” opposing the superficiality of life and living on the surface. I think Lewis makes clear (at least in this story though I suspect it reflects his actual convictions) his understanding of real spiritual warfare. There was initially a type of warfare that involved structured arguments and persuasions, temptation and a defense against it. It was waged chiefly between Ransom and the Un-man over the Green Lady’s decision.

Following is an obviously physical stage where Ransom is physically attacking the Un-man. To the civilized “Western Man,” this may seem the most out of place part of the warfare, but Lewis makes clear its necessity, as early as the second chapter. Here in chapter fourteen we also have, and it has been previously mentioned, as purely spiritual portion of the warfare between the two. An attack at Ransom’s core, causing him to feel terror and fear and despair. This warfare between the two has truly been of body, mind and spirit, which I suspect was Lewis’ purpose.


The End of the Un-man


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