Perelandra – Chapter Sixteen


Ransom’s travels bring him to meet two Oyarsas who turn out to be his friend from Malacandra (who is called Malacandra when, as well as Perelandra’s own Oyarsa. They converse much and tell Ransom this is the day the King and Queen take over ruling Perelandra from the Oyarsa. They make themselves more visible to honor the King and Queen their first two attempts (as great and terrible stormy creatures and has wheels) are unacceptable but finally become embodied resembling large people with singular expressions and differing colored auras. Countless animals arrive and stand to one side of the area land which is referred to as “the holy mountain” (168) and is apparently not forbidden to the King and Queen. Finally they arrive and greet the other creatures regally. The Oyarsas bow low before them.


The Oyarsa: The Oyarsa have returned. They show themselves in a few different way which are all interesting. There are two of them speaking and their voices are the same. Lewis posits that we cannot see them, that when they want to be observed they stimulate the areas of our minds that would ordinarily be responsible for vision. Maybe hearing their voices is done in the same way.

It is also clear that Perelandra rules his (her? its?) planet differently than does Malacandra. He has been watching over and ruling all things except the King and Queen and on this day he will hand his rule over to them. On Malacandra, Oyarsa takes a more direct authoritative role among the people. It seems Thulcandra’s fall and redemption are the corner that was turned regarding their role.

The forms they take are quite interesting. The first is almost without description. The description given is hard to comprehend. “A tornado of sheer monstrosities… darting pillars filled with eyes, lightning pulsations of flame, talons and beaks and billowing masses of what suggested snow volley through cubes and heptagons into an infinite black void” (169). Wow. This reminds me somewhat of the cherubim Proginoskes in L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (which had not yet been written). It seemed at first to be a group of dragons and singling one out was difficult. Its body was both solid and ethereal in different ways. It also reminds me somewhat of what I will call the Glory Signs of God’s presence as described in the Old Testament. Wild and almost chaotic on the surface, but actually just difficult for our senses to grasp and probably more ordered than anything we’ve ever known.

There next form is that of “concentric wheels moving with a rather sickening slowness one inside the other” (170). This is similar to the Ezekiel 1:16 description of some living creatures the prophet saw or envisioned (I am not sure which): “their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.”

Finally they become “two human figures,” much taller than people, strong, naked and without sexual characteristics but still gendered – Malacandra male and Perelandra female. They stand at an angle – similar to when Lewis met Malacandra in chapter 1 – since their true “down” is not the planet’s surface, but some other plane in the Deep Heavens. They appeared to be moving, as they indeed were moving to keep up with the planet of Venus since it is not stationary within the Deep Heavens and they naturally are but must move to keep up. They had aura’s of differing colors that could not later be identified by Ransom.

On their faces they wore clear singular expressions. They were expressions of charity, though not like humans who are always “blossoming out of, or hastening to descend into, natural affection.” Instead, “pure spiritual intellectual love shot from their faces like barbed lightning. It was so unlike the love we experience that its expression could easily be mistaken for ferocity” (171). It was a fierce love. I cannot do justice in describing what this means. It would seem to be protective and jealous, wholly sacrificial and dedicated, not waving, not concerned with mere feeling, completely given to the object of that love which we must consider to be Maleldil.

“My eyes have seen Mars and Venus. I have seen Ares and Aphrodite” (172). It is clear to Ransom that these two are who our twisted mythology truly represent. This hints at Lewis’ philosophy of the true myth. The Oyarsa confirm this conviction and further gave somewhat of an explanation: that deep within the fallen Oyarsa of Thulcandra there lives the memory of the “gods with whom he once consorted is still alive” (172). This trickled down to humanity in mixed up and sometimes perverse ways.


Lewis wrote early in the book “The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, broke down” (11). That’s true and it makes dividing this discussion into two separate parts difficult at times.

“Small one.” On page 169 the eldila tell Ransom to be comforted because the world is not resting on his shoulders – “Look, [Perelandra] is beneath your head and carries you.” (It did not carry the eldila in the same way, they moved through Deep Heaven to keep up with it.) Ransom had felt that everything was on his shoulders, that the Queen’s decision was his responsibility. But they explain that he is small, that it is his role to “receive and be glad.” Maleldil is in charge of what is Maleldil’s. God is on his throne, ruling and administering in his own way. He is doing what he sees fit. The “greater thing” he did on Earth – taking on flesh and laying down his life in love – was not to be done on Venus because he had already done it on Earth. On Venus he did a great thing, but not the greater thing, in saving the King and Queen of Perelandra from original sin and keeping them and their world holy and pristine.

Now Romans teaches that “all creation” is fallen (Romans 8:18-22). It is “subjected to futility,” “groaning,” “wait[ing] with eager longing… [to be] set free from it’s bondage to corruption.” But here, in Lewis’ Trilogy, the different planets are not all subject to the Fall. Perelandra is free of it as Malacandra was. The border referred to in OOTSP at about the orbit of our moon holds in the Fall to keep it from affecting the rest of the Deep Heaven.

Ransom’s not carrying the burden of Venus, though he was certainly an instrument in its deliverance from evil, is not unlike 1 John 5:3’s reference to keeping God’s commands, which are not burdensome. Ransom wears no heavy burden. He is free to be happy and receive God’s good gifts, and being a part of His ministry to Perelandra is one of those.

“Only Maleldil sees any creature as it really is” (173). This is an interesting idea. What do angels look like? What does anything “look” like? How does God “see” it. Certainly God could “perceive” before he created our physical realm and light itself. Without light, what would be the purpose of vision? These are questions, but “there is no holding place in [my] mind for an answer.” I cannot fathom the answers or even understand the questions. What is the nature of existence and how is it perceived on a spiritual, that is God’s, level.

“Be still” (174). What is in two words? The psalmist’s “Be still and know that I am God” comes to mind. Ransom was wondering if the King and Queen could leave the island before nightfall. He needn’t wonder things like that. First, this is not the Fixed Land, but the holy mountain. There is no prohibition against staying on the Holy Mountain as their is the Fixed Land. But secondly, and more importantly, why question God? Why question his ways? Where was Ransom when he made these seas? When he set the Fixed Land and Holy Mountain in place? As Job was not right to question God, nor is Ransom. He is to be still and know that Maleldil is sovereign?

What glory it would have been had Maleldil been present, in person, to greet the King and Queen here! He walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve yet their sin separated them. It would not be unfathomable for him to have been on Perelandra, except that I’m not sure Ransom could have been present, though I think he could. “But he is in the body of Maleldil and his sins are forgiven” (167). Forgiven and imputed righteousness Maleldil would see his own righteousness in place of Ransom’s sin, as He will for all of us someday.


“Archaic statues from Aegina” (171). You can google these statues to get a better look. Striking is that at least one of them has the hair, carved from stone, standing straight back from it’s head, as was the description of the eldila.

“His name in his very own tongue is Elwin, the friend of the eldila” (167). The name would be translated for us to be friend of the elves. The eldila, here, substitute themselves in place of the elves. An interesting turn, especially being that Lewis was a close friend of Tolkien, who wrote much of elves, though his elves would have less in common, it would seem, with Lewis’ eldila, than would his Valar or Maiar.


The Steward and the King


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