Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Seventeen

SUMMARY

The following day, Ransom and Augray continue traveling to Meldilorn. They reach the handramit earlier spoken of by Whin and descend into it. There is a large lake here with an island in it. The island is Meldilorn. Augray passes off Ransom to an hross ferryman, saying that Oyarsa has called only for Ransom and not himself.

He’s told there are huts for sleeping, food to be had if he asks and that Oyarsa will call on him when ready – which may be a few minutes or several days. Ransom explores Meldilorn as other native Malacandrians arrive. He feels shy and generally remains solitary, eating the groundweed and taking a nap.

Upon Meldilorn there is a great “monolithic avenue” like a “much larger stonehenge,” but no temple or traditional buildings – other than the huts for visitors. Upon close inspection of the monoliths he sees several symbolic images carved into them. On some he sees representations of the hnau of Malacandra and Oyarsa. On another he sees representations of the planets, each with a figure, similar to Oyarsa, except for the one representing earth. On that one the figure had been “cut as if to erase it.”

His inspection is interrupted by a hammering sound which turns out to be a pfifltrigg carving a rough likeness of himself (as human but not necessarily as Ransom) in a pictoral representation of himself, Weston and Devine landing on Malacandra. He then has an interesting conversation with the pfifltrigg, whose name is Kanakaberaka.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Malacandra: The first paragraph introduces a sandstorm: “sand caught up from the great northern deserts by the winds of that terrible country.” I’m no meteorologist, but it seems like if there isn’t enough air to breath, there wouldn’t be enough for a massive sandstorm. This seems a stretch, Mr Lewis.

Meldilorn is an island in the middle of a great lake which is shallow enough for a sorn to wade through. There is further discussion of interesting Malacandrian flora growing on it.Upon parting with Augray, Ransom offers his watch as a gift, but Augray declines, saying the pfiffltriggi will have more use of such an item and appreciate it more. But we also learn that Augray is surprised earthlings need watches to keep the time. Maybe we care more about temporal precision than Malacandrians, or maybe they always know the time to the minute (like Jack Reacher).

Upon Meldilorn there is a group of upright monoliths, similar and larger than Stonehenge. This ties loosely into the third novel of the Trilogy which incorporates medieval and ancient England into the overall mythology of the series.  This is certainly not something noticeable in the first reading of the series, nor is it terribly consequential.

Eldila: As he looks around the island he feels “the island was having a look at him.” He was previously told there were eldila all over the island, and now he notices variations in the light on the ground, as if their is some type of “light-wind” (my term). Given the earlier explanation, though cryptic, of the eldil bodies and movement, maybe this is the result of so many eldila around, and the text seems to say as much. Maybe his eyes are beginning to adjust to see them.

Engravings: Most interestingly in this chapter is a page and a half description of the engravings on the monoliths – pictographs you could a call them I guess. There were pictures of hrossa, sorns and pfiffltriggi along with the fourth unnamed and extinct hnau. They seem to tell a story of the hnau on the surface of Malacandra being attacked, possibly just killed by the cold and lack of atmosphere, and of Oyarsa creating and leading them into the handramit, with the sorns building towers, the hrossa channels, and the pfiffltriggi digging caves.

“Ransom wondered whether this were a mythical account of the making of the handramits or whether they were conceivably artificial in fact.” I found this sentence, at first, difficult to understand, thinking it was asking something like – Are the pictures mythical or artificial? The idea of the true myth that Lewis discussed crossed my mind but didn’t seem to fit. On further thought, I think the “they” toward the end of the sentence refers to the handramit instead of the pictures. Was this a mythical accounting of the making of the handramit or was it a true account? Was the handramit carved out by Oyarsa to save the hnau of Malacandra? I think this is the true question Ransom was pondering.

Then there is the representation of the planets:

Mercury is first, whole Malacandrian name we do not know. It is depicted as closest to the sun, as a little ball, “on which rode a winged figure” with a trumpet. Mercury is named after the Greek god who was a messenger or herald. Interesting imagery as a trumpet could be carried by a herald and blown before an announcement. The figure is also described as “something like Oyarsa,” that is Oyarsa from the previous series of pictures.

Next comes Venus. Another flaming figure rides the planet and looks female with two bulges that resemble “udders or breasts.” Our own Venus is named after a female god.

This is followed by earth. And “where the flame-like figure should have been, a deep depression of irregular shape had been cut as if to erase it.” This seems connected to earth being the silent planet. Our own Oyarsa, if he exists still, no longer speaks with the others.

Mars is next, but isn’t, in this picture, represented as a ball but as the vantage point. This proves to Ransom that Malacandra is indeed Mars.

Pfiffltriggi: Finally Ransom meets a pfiffltrigg who is working on a visual representation of the three earthlings arriving on Malacandra. It was odd-looking to Ransom, “more insect-like or reptilian” than the others and with a small sloping forehead and brain-case held behind the ears. It sat hunched forward, supporting itself with its elbows while using its hands to work on the engraving. It was built like a frog with strong many-fingered hands. It was also described as similar to Arthur Rackham’s dwarfs. It worked oddly, keeping its tools close by and the most frequently used tools in its mouth.

As Ransom observes the image it has carved, he recoils from “disgust,” but states the pfiffltrigg, named Kanakaberaka, must see them like that. To which he replies that it must not be too realistic or “those who are born after” will not believe it is accurate. It seems he is more interested in telling the story as a narrative than getting the details just right. This may have implications on our own histories and origins. Only Lewis would know for sure.

Ransom then asks about the language and Kanakaberaka says that the hrossa language is the language they use when talking to each other. They use the hrossa language because the hrossa are best with words. The best poetry is in the hardest language “as the best pictures are made in the hardest stone.”

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

I don’t want to say a lot here. I think most of the “meat” of this chapter fit well into the Sci-fi space. Just a couple of quick comments:

Again we have a picture – a literal picture this time – of something being wrong with Earth, or Thulcandra. The Oyarsa is gone/dead/cut-off… we don’t know. We don’t know why or how, though I’ve speculated before that it has to do with the Fall and Earthen hnau being bent.

Secondly I just want to touch on the end of the conversation between Ransom and Kanakaberaka. There is a fundamental misunderstanding, between the two cultures, of why we work. The Malacandrans seem to work from a pre-Fall mandate to have dominion over their creation – the pfiffltriggi digging, the hrossa hunting hnakra as we were once commanded. See Genesis 1:28. But after the Fall, mankind’s relationship with work was twisted (or bent). Work was now fraught with toil. See Genesis 3:17. Men work so that they can have food to eat and live. Malacandrans work to worship Maleldil the Young.

Lastly, as Ransom began to explore the island, he had a certain feeling: “The sense of awe which was increasing upon him deterred him from approaching the crown of the hill, the grove and the avenue of standing stones.” Is this a holy place?

MISCELLANY

I’ve already touched on this, but just wanted to point again to Arthur Rackham. He was a British illustrator of books and contemporary of Lewis. Lewis wrote of the joy he felt at seeing Rackham’s illustrations. I don’t know of any personal connection between the two or if they ever even met.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

On Holy Ground

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Sixteen

SUMMARY

Ransom awakes in Augray’s tower feeling relieved but still concerned about meeting Oyarsa. After breakfast, Ransom and Augray begin the journey to Oyarsa, mostly with Ransom riding on Augray’s shoulder. They bring the breathing device. Along the way they discuss the hrossa and the pfifltriggi. They see the “old forests of Malacandra” – the reddish or pinkish stuff that Ransom had seen shortly after landing. The old forests, now “petrified,” used to be inhabited by flying hnau before the atmosphere became to thin to sustain life. Augray tells them they have few books, that its better to remember and that Oyarsa remembers important things if the hnau forget.

They spend the night among other sorns who are very curious and ask Ransom many questions about his home world, its people, plants and  animals, geography, history, weather and a great many other things. The two most interesting things to the sorns are the fact that there is but on kind of hnau on earth and that earthlings spend a lot of time focused on transporting themselves and other resources. The conversation is “tiring and disagreeable” to Ransom.

SCI-FI ASPECT

On the seroni: Augray provides a somewhat different viewpoint of the hrossa than we, and Ransom, have previously considered. He is neither flattering nor disparaging, but his comments do lead Ransom to state, almost objecting, “I like the hrossa.” He thinks they use too little forethought in avoiding likely future hardships – such as Ransom possibly dying from exposure by taking the route they suggested. He appreciates that they fear not death, as we have noted, but that they do not seem to think reasonably about it. He further discusses the pfifltriggi, stating that they enjoy making things, but mostly only if it is pleasant to look at, but do not value making useful things, which the seroni sometimes design.

His comments are interesting enough regarding the other hnau but I think they really do a good job helping us understand the seroni. They are more of the thinkers than the other two – who I guess we could call “doers” and “feelers.” They plan and try to avoid danger and procure a good future. We’ve already seen they make cheese. They do not value things for being beautiful or meaningful, but for being useful, especially for thinking, investigating or exploring. We learn later that though they value knowledge they do not keep books, but prefer remembering. Augray tells us that the hrossa used to write many books of poetry but have generally stopped and no longer have many as they claim “the writing of books destroys poetry,” which is consistent with Hyoi’s description of a great line of poetry being great because of all that went before and after it, that the line repeated on its own would be “less splendid.”

On the surface of Mars: Also in this chapter we see a close up of what Ransom previously saw as a “great billowy cumular mass of rose-colour” which seemed at first to be a cloud. “It looked like the top of a gigantic red cauliflower – or like a huge bowl of red soapsuds.” (Chapter 7) Mars looks red from earth. This would be the reason why… the old forests that once grew when Mars was warm and had a thicker atmosphere still stand, now petrified. Augray also tells us how there were hnau there that are now dead, who had feathery coats and could fly. It begs the question of whether or not they could have been the evolutionary ancestors of sorns. They are not named. It seems a Darwinian evolution would be inconsistent with Lewis’ worldview, but he may have had some type of God-guided system in place which could account for it. An essay here goes into more detail on Lewis’ views on evolution and it seems he wouldn’t have argued against it early in life – when OOTSP was written though he may have several years later. He certainly believed in an historic Adam and wrote a nice Evolutionary Hymn later in life.

Augray seems authoritative in his statement that it isn’t “Maleldil’s way” for a world or race to last forever. With Malacandra’s atmosphere thinning, could this be the twilight of the planet as a home to “hnau?” The idea of the now passed flying hnau and the old forests, now petrified, continue to haunt Ransom in the end of the chapter. A race, a world, a culture lost.

METAPHYSICAL

(Given the last chapter’s description of spiritual beings having bodies that move quickly, I wonder if metaphysical should be a category at all…)

On Oyarsa: First I just want to touch on Oyarsa and the extinction of the flying hnau. Ransom seems surprised Oyarsa didn’t stop it from happening. Augray’s response is telling I think. He does not say that Oyarsa did what he could but was unable. He says that stopping it would not have been Maleldil’s way. This clearly shows that Oyarsa is Maleldil’s servant on Malacandra. Oyarsa works in accordance with Maleldil’s will. He is under Maleldil, which is not a surprise but a reinforcing of what the hrossa have previously told Ransom.

And what of earth’s Oyarsa? The seroni were “astonished” by what Ransom told them of mankind, especially of war, slavery and prostitution. There immediate reaction is to say that earth has no Oyarsa. But Augray corrects them, I think accurately: “It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself.” We all want to rule. We all want our way. We all elevate ourselves to a position of moral authority and clarity, saying what is right and wrong when we have no jurisdiction over such matters. Lewis cited Lord Coleridge in an essay when had written, “We are often compelled to set up standards we cannot reach ourselves and to lay down rules we could not ourselves satisfy.” We can’t even live up to our own standards. We have attempted vainly to usurp God’s role as ruler. How this happens in the mythology of Lewis’ Space Trilogy and the role our own Oyarsa plays, we do not yet know. I hope Lewis elaborates on it later. But for now let it suffice that we have war and slavery and prostitution because we all want to be a little Oyarsa.

“They cannot help it,” said the old sorn. “There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These creatures have no eldila. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair – or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on a level with it – like a female trying to beget young on herself.”

Only one kind of hnau: The seroni are also surprised at earth having one kind of intelligent being, or hnau. They felt that if we had more than one, then we would be forced to consider the other hnau’s point of view. A different type of community would be present. We assume everyone should think and believe and act just like we ourselves, but if we had others that were obviously different then we would be forced to broaden our sympathies. I also think its notable and correct that Lewis (or at least Ransom) does not consider different races of men different hnau. We are of one blood. We are one people. But if there were other hnau on our planet, we could compare our thoughts “with thought that floats on different blood.”

And I really like that phrasing – that our thoughts float on our blood and are at the mercy of our blood.

On Dominion: In the end of the chapter Ransom is haunted by this extinction and loss of much of the surface of the planet:

He thought only of the old forests of Malacandra and of what it might mean to grow up seeing always so few miles away a land of colour that could never be reached and had once been inhabited.

I think this speaks to humanity’s seeming inner drive to explore. The Malacandrians do not seem as troubled about it as Ransom, though perhaps they have merely grown used to the idea so that it no longer seems fantastic. Or perhaps, it goes back to our command from our Creator to have dominion over the earth. Maybe our internal drive to explore is hard-wired into us by that command.

We dream. We explore. We conquer. We build. We even write science-fiction novels.

MISCELLANY

Ransom begins the chapter feeling that he has reached “The last fence.” I think this is a reference to a poem by William Henry Ogilvie that deals with death.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Sitting on the Shoulder of Giants

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Fifteen

SUMMARY

Ransom meets a sorn, who seems friendly. His name is Augray, hence Augray’s tower. They have a long conversation and Ransom sees earth through the sorn’s “telescope” and discovers that it is known as Thulcandra by the Malacandrians.

SCI-FI ASPECT

On Other Planets:  Ransom, the sorn deduces, is from Thulcandra. He doubts Ransom could be from a planet he calls Glundandra, because it is so heavy its natives would be “flat like plates.” Maybe he is speaking of Jupiter. Jupiter is thought to have some kind of solid or liquid core, though its exact makeup is still much of a mystery. (Come on, NASA!) Jupiter’s gravity is about 2.5 times earths, but that wasn’t known in Lewis’ day. Only its impressive size was known. With the contemporary scientific knowledge of the late 1930s, I don’t think the description is bad for Jupiter, but it probably wouldn’t hold up to what we know today. Would a creature be “flat as a plate?” Probably not. But likely shorter and “squattier” than earthlings. Its probably Jupiter that he calls Glundandra.

He also doubts Ransom could be from “Parelandra.” (Now the title of the second book is Perelandra with an “e,” not Parelandra with an “a.” But my book has an “a” in its spelling on p91. Possibly a later spelling revision was done, though this could be an error by the book-printer.) Augray thinks Perelandra would be very hot and a native would not survive on Malacandra. This leads me to believe he is speaking of Venus or Mercury,  but likely Venus since Mercury is so very cold at night with thousand degree swings in temperature. It really doesn’t matter much more for this book anyway. It is just knowledge Augray possesses that he uses in his deductions. At this point we have no idea how Augray gained this knowledge though he does have a telescope of sorts we’ll see later. It may just be that and deductive reasoning – planets closer the sun are warmer, larger planets have stronger gravity.

On the Seroni:  It does seem that the seroni are much more intelligent than the hrossa, as the hrossa have previously said, in their own way. Though the hrossa excel with “poems and fish and making things grow.” More evidence of the seroni’s intelligence follows, medicine, more advanced food, animal husbandry, knowledge of Oyarsa, and of the other planets as we have seen.

When Ransom mentions that he has trouble breathing at this geographic location – thin air at this altitude – Augray gives him some type of medicinal inhalation which helps him immensely. Albuterol?

For food, Augray gave him the usual vegetables along with an agreeable drink and some type of cheese made from the milk of the tall yellow animals Augray had previously encountered. The seroni herd and milk these animals, which was at once encouraging and frightening to Ransom as he recalled Homer’s Cyclops was a herdsman as well.

The sorn was whitish or creamy in color, very tall and with very long limbs. Its knees stuck up higher than its head when seated. And it was covered with a feathery coat. Its face was “too long, too solemn and too colourless,” but otherwise similar to a human face. And the sorn does not place the initial “h” at the beginning of words.

Miscellany:  They also discuss Oyarsa. He is the greatest of the eldila, doesn’t die or breed. There is apparently one such being on each planet, though on earth there seems to be none. Why Oyarsa wants to see Ransom we don’t know but Augray assumes Oyarsa would want to meet anyone from another planet. He also explains that earth is the silent planet because earth’s Oyarsa – if there is one – never speak’s to Malacandra’s Oyarsa.

In the end, Augray shows Ransom earth through his telescope-like device. Ransom sees the earth floating there, seemingly upside down and recounts that as the “bleakest moment in all his travels.”

It would seem, at the close, that there are other inhabited planets, at least by an Oyarsa to rule them. Glundandra is not a silent planet and neither is Perelandra. What of the others in our solar system? We can only speculate that they have Oyarsa. Only earth is “the silent planet.” But why? That mystery is yet to be revealed.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

On the Oyarsa:  A couple questions come to mind from this chapter; the main one being why does earth lack, or seem to lack, an Oyarsa? Lets consider Oyarsa’s nature and role and Lewis’ background. Lewis is writing from a Western Christian worldview. So what are these Oyarsa and what is going on here? They seem to be what we would call incorporeal or angelic type beings tasked with ruling a planet’s intelligent, and likely non-intelligent, inhabitants. Each planet has one, making them a type of oligarch. They have power or authority from their creator, presumably from Maleldil the Young. The other eldila seem to be their messengers or servants. The Oyarsa are not worshiped but seem to encourage worship of Maleldil – that would be part of their role in keeping order.

But earth is the silent planet. Why? Maybe the line of communication is broken, or maybe there is no Oyarsa. Maybe earth’s Oyarsa doesn’t want to communicate with the others. The Fall may come into play here. Due to earth’s inhabitants, men, turning away from their creator, as accounted for in Genesis three, earth has become silent. (This is speculation at this point; it has been years since I’ve read OOTSP.) Maybe earth had no Oyarsa and men (and women) could communicate with the other Oyarsa. Maybe earth’s Oyarsa left, died, or was bound by men’s decision to rebel and worship themselves. Maybe his privilege of communicating was revoked. At worse it may be that Lucifer was earth’s Oyarsa but he rebelled and was cast aside – though that explanation seems particularly bleak. Whatever the explanation is, I believe it has something to do with earth’s inhabitants being “bent” and the initial “bending” would be what we know as the Fall.

Lewis is constructing his own cosmology here that he is trying to keep consistent with the Christian worldview as we understand it. He is trying to answer questions: What if other planets are inhabited? What is their relation to God? To each other? To us? Do they know sin? Are they fallen? It seems that the Malacandrians’ relationship to Maleldil the Young is less intimate than man’s relationship to God prior to the Fall. But at the same time, they do not seem stained with the same sin as man is after the Fall.

On spiritual beings:  Secondly and more confusingly (?) is the question of the bodies of the eldila and how they relate to light and movement. I found this section to be the most confusing of the book so far. I have previously said that the eldila seemed incorporeal, but Augray denies this. Still, they may still be said to be incorporeal from our vantage point.

Augray seems to be saying that if a body moves fast enough it may as well be in all places at once. It is moving so fast that it is everywhere at the same time, thus “so fast that it is at rest, so truly body that it has ceased being body.” A theoretical physicist would probably have something good to say about this, but I am at somewhat of a loss.

He describes light as the fastest thing which our senses touch, thus it is “on the edge” of our senses. But an eldil moves much more swiftly so that other, slower, things are less corporeal to an eldil than the things we can experience. What is corporeal to us is more like a cloud to an eldil. This seems to me to be a description of the nature of a spiritual being who lacks a body. He has a type of body, but not our type. Still, it is quite hard for me to get my head around (as we say). Thus I put it in the Metaphysical section instead of the Science-y section because it seems to deal, though almost scientifically, with a subject we consider spiritual. It is very interesting. I would call it very strange. But Augray says it is “not strange… [just] beyond our senses.”

“But it is strange that the eldila never visit Thulcandra.” Well, at least there is something he calls strange…

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE: (This chapter reminds me of the first verse of Kashmir)

To Sit With Elders of the Gentle Race

 

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Fourteen

SUMMARY

Ransom travels toward Meldilorn to find Oyarsa as far as the tower of Augray, through handramit and over the harandra, doubting himself some along the way, in fear, but ultimately maintaining his resolve. At the tower he finds a sorn. He considers his situation along the way.

SCI-FI ASPECT

In this chapter we have an elaboration on Malacandra’s geography and climate. (Climate may not be quite the right term, but I’m sticking with it.) His journey begins with him crossing a section of the Handramit near Hyoi’s village. He travels generally uphill, surrounded by the “silent, purple half-light of the woods” which ends abruptly less than a hundred feet from the foot of the mountains. These mountains, previously described as steep and greenish, here rise “almost perpendicular” from the ground, much more dramatic than earths mountains, supposedly due to less gravitational pull.

He manages to make it to a road and travels up it between and into the mountains, an “insanely steep, hideously narrow staircase without steps… on the pale green surface of rock.”

As he travels further up in altitude he begins noticing changes in the climate. Initially it just began to get cold very quickly to the point that he could see his breath and his fingers grew numb as he went “from an English to a Lapland winter.” Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region. It was severe enough that he was afraid that a break for a rest may be a permanent stop so he pressed on. Presently he noticed, looking toward the handramit, a fog covered it, and the sky was sharper. There was more light everywhere. Everything was more crisp and clear – like a cold winter’s morning as opposed to a hot summer morning – less humidity in the cool air. He realized the atmosphere must be quite shallow and that there was “very little air above him.” The atmosphere was mostly in teh handramit, which didn’t cover much of the planet’s surface.Most of the surface was “naked or thinly clad.”

(I can’t keep from thinking Lewis means something with this turn-of -phrase, possibly regarding earth being covered with a heavy atmospheric blanket, as our people cover ourselves following the Fall of Man. Maybe this “blanket” has is associated with ours being the silent planet?)

As the sun began to set, he began to have concern that he may not survive the night, thus he began looking somewhat frantically for this Augray’s tower, wondering what it would look like. Then he sees the light – firelight – from a cavern, “that smoother cavern of green rock.”

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Chiefly of interest here is the second, and quite long, paragraph of the chapter. Recall that Ransom had initially thought he was being taken to Malacandra to be given to the sorns – or seroni – and saw himself as possibly a sacrifice they would kill. His discussion with the hrossa regarding the seroni was encouraging but he suspected that maybe the seroni were of a super-intelligence and that the hrossa had only a limited knowledge of them.

Then there is Oyarsa who he is specifically going to meet. Might Oyarsa be a sorn, their leader or chief? He thought he recalled that Oyarsa was no sorn, but he was beginning to doubt what he had heard. Maybe Oyarsa was “that very idol to whom the sorns wanted to sacrifice him.” Might Oyarsa be a god? But the hrossa worship one god only – Maleldil the Young. It was hard for him to imagine the hrossa “worshipping a bloodstained idol.” With these thoughts Ransom’s resolve wavers.

To be sure, Ransom was previously told that Oyarsa was no god, neither was he (it?) hnau, so it couldn’t be a sorn. This reminds me of Eve just before eating the apple. She is tempted and doubt creeps into her mind. Then doubt gives way to disbelief and outright rebellion. What will Ransom do when doubts assail? Will it give way to disbelief or will he remain strong in his resolve.

He had heard the eldil speak and he knew it was real, and that “Oyarsa was a real person if he was a person at all.” Eventually he trusts the eldil who he heard and the hrossa who he (I will say) loved. As Whin said, “It is not a question of thinking but of what an eldil says.”

We will learn more of these eldila and of Oyarsa. To that I look forward.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

On the Road

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter 13

SUMMARY

The following day the village gets ready for the hunt as hrossa from other villages also show up to join in. Ransom joins Hyoi and Whin in their boat. There are dozens of boats each with hrossa hoping to be the victor in the hunt. The hnakra is quite fierce and will attack as soon as he sees one of the boats.

As they are paddling along, searching for the hnakra they are visited by an eldil who informs them that Ransom shouldn’t be with them, that he should go straight to Oyarsa. Ransom again cannot see the eldil but he can hear it though he notes that its voice is fairly high. “He realized a very little difference in his ear would have made the eldil  as inaudible to him as it was invisible.” The eldil warns that the other two men – the “bent hnau” – are searching for him and if they find him outside of Oyarsa’s presence, “there will be evil.”

Hyoi asks if the eldil has a message for his wife, but it responds, forebodingly, that it does have a message, but that Hyoi “will not be able to take [the message].” No more is said of this, though it would seem to indicate that Hyoi will be killed before seeing her again. The hrossa want to obey the advice of the eldil, but Ransom begs them to continue the hunt: “There is time for that after the hunt. We must kill the hnakra first.”

As Hyoi begins to argue Whin sees the hnakra swimming toward them. Whin begins paddling as Ransom and Hyoi throw spears at the hnakra, but Ransom strikes the death-dealing blow into its open mouth while Hyoi sits astride the beast on its back. Ransom shares an embrace with Hyoi, surprised at having a moment with a non-human intelligent life. Hyoi pronounces them hnakrapunti.

At just that moment a gunshot is fired. Ransom hears it and sees Hyoi shot. Immediately realizing that it is Weston and Devine, he tries to apologize to Hyoi for what has happened but does not know the correct words. Hyoi quietly utters in Ransom’s ear “Hman, hnakrapunt.” Ransom speaks to Whin advising him to do what his people decided but recommending death for all three earthlings, but Whin explains that they do not take hnau life, only Oyarsa can do that.

After hiding and talking for a moment, Whin explains to Ransom how to reach Oyarsa in Meldilorn and Ransom disembarks.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Several striking things from this chapter jump out. I have covered some of the Malacandrian cultural aspects in this section, but I will put them in the metaphysical section today, as it blends better there for this discussion. Yet I will remark that I think this shows, to me, how science fiction is an excellent melding of the physical and metaphysical: when you stretch or alter the “laws” of the universe, the veil covering that “little lower layer” is ripped away.

Let’s consider for a moment the hnakra. It seems to enjoy the hunt as much as the hrossa. It seems to be a wild and terrible beast that will attack whichever boat it first detects and will fight there to the death, either of itself or the hunters in that boat. It apparently has quite a strong outer covering and is “nearly invulnerable except through his open mouth.” He has speed on his side while the hrossa have intelligence and numbers of course. Also, Ransom catches the “metallic glint of [its] sides.” What type of natural protective armor does it have? Something strong to be sure. And it wielded “shark-like” teeth.

I will pause here to discuss, briefly, the struggle between evolution and creation, or at least an intelligence-driven origin of species. What of species on other planets sharing similar anatomies or physiologies to those on our own planet? Shall we say that these features are beneficial for survival and propagation? Thus, maybe they would evolve on different planets. We might also say that an intelligence favored certain “components” in his creatures and so it (or He) could use them on different planets. Or course all this novel is merely fiction and I have my doubts that there is other intelligent life in our physical realm. But without any actual knowledge I must grant that it could be a question we may someday be asking.

I will come now to the eldil, but I realize that I have very little here to add. This creature, if it is a creature, is as much a mystery as it was before. We know little of its corporeal substance or if such even exists. It isn’t visible, at least to Ransom’s eyes. Yet it does speak, and so it physically moves air molecules in some way. We also know that it speaks authoritatively to the hrossa. We see this as Whin states, “It is not a question of thinking but of what an eldil says. This is cubs’ talk.”

METAPHYSICAL

Hyoi is the victor of the hunt (in that it was his party which killed the hnakra), which is what he had longed for his whole life. He also ends up dead, though not as he had imagined it coming. I think he would take comfort in the fact that he died as a hnakrapunt. He had also stated that the best drink of all would be “death itself in the day I drink it and go to Maleldil.” This hunter culture loves the hunt, but does not worship the hunt. The hunt is not an idol. Most valuable to them is Maleldil (which represents a dedicated idolatry if Maleldil isn’t the true God). This is shown in Hyoi’s love of the hunt, of life, of family, but also in his strongest desire being to depart this life and go to Maleldil at the appointed time. This mirrors Paul’s claim in Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Chris and to die is gain.”

It is clear that the hrossa enjoy the hunt and, to some degree, live for the hunt. It is an important time for them as a people. It is also clear that they view the hunt as part of their purpose in life. The hunt is also worship of Maleldil. It is similar to Eric Liddell’s statement, “God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” (Though he may not have actually said this, it demonstrates the point that doing something to the glory of God is worship.)

We also see Ransom’s growth in this chapter. As he participates in the hunt, he realizes that just a few months earlier he would not have wanted a “post of honour and danger in an attack upon an unknown but certainly deadly aquatic monster.” He feared he would lose his resolve at the appointed moment, yet he thought there was something in the Malacandrian air or Hrossan culture that was changing him. He later feels his courage waver after the visit from the eldil, when he sees a way out of the hunt. It no longer seemed necessary, so it no longer seemed possible. I suspect many Christian martyrs have felt similarly. Yet he remained strong, with his new friends, wanting to “leave a deed on his memory instead of one more broken dream.” And we see indeed that it is Ransom who strikes the final blow as he “flung shaft after shaft into the great cavern of the gaping brute.”

He once had nearly shrunken from the “troublesome duty” of helping an old lady find her son due to a darkened terrestrial gate and hedge row: “He did not want to [jump through the hedge]. A nice fool he would look, blundering in upon some retired eccentric… [He] flung [his pack] over the gate… now he must break into the garden if only in order to recover the pack. He became very angry with the woman, and with himself, but he got down on his hands and knees and began to worm his way into the hedge.” Now he is hman hnakrapunt.

PROPOSED TITLE CHAPTER

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water…

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Twelve

SUMMARY

Ransom works with Hyoi on his boat and they converse. The work feels like war preparation to Ransom so he tries to engage Hyoi on the subject of war, but makes little progress. Hyoi doesn’t seem to have a concept for war, nor can he imagine a reason for taking up arms against other hrossa, nor the seroni or pfifltriggi. He trusts Maleldil that there will always be enough food and land for his people, and so there should never be a reason to need to fight other hnau for these things.

In the course of the conversation, Ransom and Hyoi discuss love and having children and whether the hross would try to repeat that inappropriately just because it is enjoyable. (I’m not sure here whether he is speaking specifically of sexuality or more generally of romantic love and childbearing and rearing. I feel its the latter, but that the sexuality is definitely involved.)

They then discuss the hunting of the hneraki (plural of hnakra), that the hrossa try to kill the hneraki and vice versa. Hyoi speaks, essentially, of how it is the will of Maleldil for them to hunt each other and how they are enemies but still care for each other. Hyoi tells of a time when he was high int he mountains and had a wonderful experience where the hneraki dwell. And finally they speak of the eldila which Ransom cannot see. Hyoi tells Ransom he has different eyes than the hross and so maybe that is why he cannot see them. “But whether your eyes can ever see them I do not know.”

SCI-FI ASPECT

Not a lot to cover here. The conversation meanders some into the more sci-fi oriented but is mostly metaphysically focused – discussions of war, love, hunting enemies, life and death, and finally touching on the eldila.

METAPHYSICAL

Ransom and Hyoi cover several topics here:

War and Peace. Previously, Ransom had tried to stay clear of the topic of war, remembering Well’s Cavor. Now he broaches the subject but has a hard time even getting Hyoi to understand what he means. Hyoi’s poetic mind seems to have a hard time staying on point and he moves from topic to topic in a stream-of-consciousness type way. It becomes clear that Hyoi and his people, trust Maleldil to provide all that they need: “But Maleldil will not stop the plants growing.” This is an almost Edenic understanding of the world around him, of the harmony he shares with it, and how this Maleldil administers it.

Love. Then they address the pleasure of love and the stages of life where it seems most prevelant. His understanding is that love and other pleasurable experiences are fleeting, so one would want to repeat them in order to relive that pleasure. Hyoi’s understanding of pleasure is much different. To him, truly enjoying the pleasure is in remembering it – that is when it is fully consummated: “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.”

Pleasure. Experiences – specifically pleasures here – are what make us. The pleasure is like the best line of the poem. Trying to go back only to the splendid line would kill it. It is splendid because of what comes later, just as a pleasurable experience enriches our entire life and not just the moment of the pleasure.

This is easily applicable in our lives. Our desire for comfort and pleasure is as strong as almost any other desire we have. This passage also reminds me of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Lewis isn’t exactly saying the same thing here, through Hyoi’s voice, but he is warning against chasing the repeated pleasures. Let life’s pleasure last in its remembrance.

Sin. We find Ransom using the terminology of something being “bent” to describe something morally reprehensible or sinful. Hyoi, however, scarcely has a mental classification for a person who is bent, or sinful, turning against his people, Maleldil, or acting selfishly. There seems to be some slight degree of mental illness that he is aware of, saying “and last of all they say that he fell into such a frenzy that he desired two mates,” but not of someone being sinful.

He also discusses death, though he mentions it with warm, fulfilling and full of hope, not the death we are accustomed to. Malacandra is not quite Eden, but it is much closer to it than what we currently have in our own world.

The Hunt. There have been many cultures that incorporated hunting and war as central. The vikings would likely be among these. We could also consider the buffalo hunting cultures of Native Americans. The buffalo were never the enemy, and yet their goal was to kill them and use them for survival. The buffalo provided their way of life. They hunted the buffalo and loved them. This is not quite the same as we see with the hrossa and the hneraki, but it is similar: “The hnakra is our enemy, but he is also our beloved.” They feel his joy and life, but also hunt him. And sometimes the hnakra will kill a hross: “And if he kills me, my people will mourn and my brothers will desire still more to kill him. But they will not wish that there were no hneraki; nor do I.”

As I think about the hunt, other sci-fi hunter-warriors come to mind such as the Predator and the Klingon. The Predator, especially, hunts and enjoys the hunt, but does not despise the hunted, even having mercy on those who he finds unworthy to hunt due to medical problems and such. The Klingons seem to despise many of their enemies, but their way of life as hunter-warriors is important to them apart from there enemies.

Life and Death. We see that death is not something to be feared for the hrossa, but a stage of life that they look forward to. It enhances the rest of life. Hyoi tells of a wonderful but dangerous time where he was in the vicinity of the hnakra but relying completely on Maleldil. Because he was near death, his life since has been greater:

“There I drank death because life was in the pool. That was the best drink save one.”

“What one?” asked Ransom.

“Death itself in the day I drink it and go to Maleldil.”

But he says it isn’t death that

Many of these concepts are difficult and I think beneficial to meditate on. They are given only in the conversation between the two. Its especially hard given Hyoi’s way of communicating.

Lastly we have a short discussion of the eldila. So, as at the end of the last chapter, we are left with the question, what is an eldil? “They come from Oyarsa – they are, I suppose, a kind of hnau.” Well what does that mean? Maybe someday Ransom will see one and maybe he will never be able to. It would seem he needs new eyes: “One can see by looking at your eyes, Hman, that they are different from ours. But eldila are hard to see… But whether your eyes can ever see them I do not know.”

Overall, I would call it a really interesting chapter.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE (Lets pick on Steinbeck this time):

Above Eden

 

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Eleven

SUMARRY

Chapter 11 begins with a discussion of Ransom’s viewpoint of being on Malacandra changing. He has begun to feel more at home, or at least more present in his current setting and less. He started focusing on going to another planet, then seamlessly shifted his viewpoint to leaving another planet. Finally, he is considering what it is like to actually be on another planet. This discussion quickly morphs into a discussion of the culture and life of the hrossa, but I won’t get into the details of that here, as I’m not sure what is important and what isn’t (at least for plot purposes, and anything can be revisited.)

He picks up enough of there language to begin having basic conversations. Hyoi is the name of the first hross he met, and Hnohra helped teach him their language. He tells them he is from space and they are astronomy-savvy enough to know he must mean a different planet and they wonder if it is Thulcandra which they point out to him. He is unsure. Ransom tells them he arrived with two other men who tried to kill him, but that he escaped. This opens up a discussion about someone they call Oyarsa who lives on Malacandra, seems to rule the place, is not hross or seroni, nor is he the creator (someone they call Maleldil the Young who lives with the Old One and not on Malacandra. To Ransom, this seems to border on a religious belief.

Ransom also learns of the Pfifltriggi, who live deeper in the planet, and dig for metals and make things of metal. The pfifltriggi seem to be good at making things. The hrossa are good with poetry. And the seroni are good with intellectual pursuits. Ransom also learns there is much gold on Malacandra, giving him insight into Devine’s interest in the planet.

Finally, Ransom tells them of the aquatic animal that showed up shortly after he arrived on Malacandra and enabled him to escape from Weston and Devine. They call this animal a hnakra, and this news excites them. It has been a number of years since they have had an interaction with the hnakra, who it seems they enjoy hunting.

Finally Ransom has an interaction with a “little she-hross” in which she claims to be talking to something called an eldil but which Ransom cannot see. She seems surprised he cannot see the eldil, but he assumes she is just playing pretend as children do on our own planet.

SCI-FI ASPECT

There’s a lot of discussion that could be made here, but needn’t necessarily be made, regarding the culture of the Hrossa. They seem to be a simple people. They do some farming and fishing. It seems that they have a fascination with hunting the hnakra. There is trade. There is a discussion of their primitive way of life. I’ll not get into much of that, but it may need revisiting in the future.

We have the introduction of something called a pfifltriggi. They are diggers of earth and makers of metal-works: “They delight in digging. What they dig they soften with fire and make things of it.” There is also a bit of a physical description: “They are little… long in the snout, pale… long limbs in the front… frog-like… tapir-headed, frog-bodied.”

Ransom also is trying to figure out the social structure on Malacandra as it relates to the different “races.” He finds it remarkable that there are at least 3 different types of intelligent creatures there and none of them are trying to wipe out another type.

Then there is Oyarsa who is not really described but seems to be another type of Malacandrian altogether and who exercises some form of authority over the planet.

Lastly, there is a reference to HG Wells (the fourth to Wells) and his book The First Men in the Moon. More on this later.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Probably the most interesting part of chapter 11 regarding the metaphysical comes in the discussion of Oyarsa and Maleldil. It seems Maleldil the Young made and rules the world. The hrossa are shocked that the people of Thulcandra are not aware of this obvious fact. It seems that Maleldil does not live on Malacandra though, but “with the Old One.” Ransom gets no satisfactory or comprehensible understanding as to who or where the Old One is. This whole discussion surprises Ransom who has wondered if he should instruct the Malacrandrans regarding religion:

Ever since he had discovered the rationality of the hrossa he had been haunted by ta conscientious scruple as to whether it might not be his duty to undertake their religious instruction; now, as a result of his tentative efforts, he found himself being treated as if he were the savage and being given a first sketch of civilized religion – a sort of hrossan equivalent of the shorter catechism. It became plain that Maleldil was a spirit without body, parts or passions.

Then there is Oyarsa who “(1) lived at Meldilorn; (2) knew everything thing ruled everyone; (3) had always been there; and (4) was not a hross nor one of the seroni,” but certainly did not make the world – that was Maleldil’s role.

This can be no simple allegory. For it isn’t to be thought of as a different fantastical world, but merely a new and unknown extension of our own physical realm. If this Maleldil, who they so revere, is real on Malacandra, then he is also real on Ransom’s own planet. So it cannot be said that Maleldil may represent some such of a person or deity. It may, instead, be said that he is a deity and his name is Maleldil. Those on Ransom’s own planet may or may not know of him. But if they do, maybe they know of him by a different name. Possibly a better understanding of the hrossan language would be helpful, as Maleldil may literally mean something, but we aren’t privy to that knowledge at this point.

It could be that Maleldil the Young represent the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, “for by Him all things were created, both in heavens and on earth… and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1). He lives with the Old One who could be the Father. But Maleldil “was a spirit without body, parts, or passions.” We know that Jesus was born a man and now has a body, though the Malacandrans may not be aware of that. One must also wonder what he means by “passions” as Jesus certainly has passion (THE passion, actually) but if he means sexuality, then I suppose one could accept that, at least in a qualified manner. All of that still remains “iffy” and we must keep in mind that Ransom lacks complete knowledge, and thus so do we.

Then there is Oyarsa. If the Old One is the Father and Maleldil the Young is the Son, then who is this  Oyarsa who knew everything and ruled everyone and was not hnau. (Hnau seems to be a created being.) The Holy Spirit? Its certainly too soon to draw any such conclusion, but the question is begged.

And lastly there is the eldil, who Ransom cannot see and who may be make-believe. And yet I am struck by the spelling – eldil – being a part of the spelling of the creator Maleldil. There is definitely more going on here than Ransom has yet fathomed.

MISCELLANY

I above mentioned Lewis’ fourth HG Wells reference.

He did not want to tell them too much of our human wars and industrialisms. He remembered how H.G. Wells’s Cavor had met his end on the Moon; also he felt shy. A sensation of physical nakedness came over him whenever they questioned him too closely about men – the hmana as they called them.

There are a couple of different things to discuss here. One is Wells’ story The First Men in the Moon. It recounts the tail of an English gentleman down on his luck meeting an eccentric scientist who has discovered how to counteract gravity. They travel to the moon and are captured. The gentleman manages an escape (bringing home gold) while the scientist remains captive and begins to learn much of the lunar people and society and make radio broadcasts to earth regarding what he has learned. He eventually tells the Moon-natives of earth’s wars and so they cut off his communication and possibly his life.

It can be safely surmised that this was a major inspiration for Lewis for this first installment of his Space Trilogy. Still there are many points at which Lewis diverges from Wells. The money-seeking gentleman and eccentric scientist are the antagonists of Lewis’ story but the protagonists of The First Men in the Moon. There is a much different ending as well, which we haven’t reached yet.

Secondly is the heart of Ransom’s fears in telling of his own people. There is much shame associated with sin and Ransom feels the weight of the sin of his people – all of them – and is ashamed to even recount our troubled and violent past. Though Ransom himself did not declare these wars, he feels the weight of the guilt as a representative of earth. It is easy to understand the hesitation he felt to describe humanity’s war-like nature and history. But what of our “industrialisms?”

Put simply this term – industrialisms – describes our systems of making and selling things. That seems to be innocent enough. After all, even the hrossa participated in “some kind of trade.” And yet it was a point of shame. My own speculation here is that it seems to represent our greed as a people. Our economic systems can be good, helping people attain things they want or need but would otherwise be unable to attain. But they can also become instruments of oppression showing that we value physical items, status and power over other individual people. We are a people given to bloodshed and greed, violence and domination – both physically and socially. I think Ransom really felt the weight of this when he interacted with a people seemingly so different from ourselves. Our social nature was something he longed to hide and not display.

It certainly paints a darkened picture of our people. I think that is a point worth pondering both individually and corporately – as a society, nations, as we move forward in time.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

A Picture of the Hrossa

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Ten

SUMMARY

After eating with the hross, Ransom travels with him to his home, or village. The journey is mostly by boat. They begin by crossing a large lake in a small boat with the hross paddling. At some point near the opposite shore they pick up a current which whisks them along at a pretty good rate. The choppiness of the water and curvy -ness of the current is enough to make Ransom a bit sea-sick. At one point they enter a more narrow stream and the elevation change is enough that the duo must walk along the side of the stream carrying the boat for a while until the ground levels out and they took to the water again.

During the journey, Ransom picks up on more of the language and realizes the harandra is the high country – mountainish areas and where he has been, while the low country, where they are headed is called the handramit. The handramit is like a large long crevice in the harandra. He also seems to get the idea that the hrossa (plural of hross) live in the handramit while the seroni live in the harandra. Ransom wonders if the sorns are the seroni.

Eventually they make it to a village of the hrossa, where Ransom is generally welcomed and cared for, though he missed seeing other humans. He also meets some of the hrossa young who are “jolly little things,” then falls asleep in the village later that night.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This chapter allows for some further language development and bonding between Ransom and the hross. Ransom also learns how the world is somewhat divided between the high- and low-country and a little of the different natives who occupy each. It makes me wonder when he will meet these others and if there are yet more “races” of natives here.

Ransom has an interest in hrossa physiology where he wonders if they ever get sick and vomit. I think this is an interesting thing thrown in though it is probably of little significance to the story. If there are aliens out there what is there physiology like? Are they green-blooded like Star Trek’s vulcans?

We also get a little bit of a further look at the general weather and geographical conditions of the planet – a quicker nightfall, the high and low country areas. And there’s that red stuff which he initially takes to be clouds… what is that red stuff? Mars, viewed from earth, is the  red planet. Maybe that’s why it was named after the ancient Roman god of war – war being bloody and all. “Behind and sometimes above the mountain peaks he could make out in many places great billowy piles of the rose-red substance which he had yesterday mistaken for cloud.” What is that red stuff?

Ransom further ponders the relationship between the hrossa and the sorns. Are the sorns some blood-thirsty animal-like pet the hrossa keep? Are the sorns some super-intelligent suzerain of the hrossa? We don’t yet know.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

As I’ve briefly mentioned before, when you get into science-fiction you begin to bend the normal physical laws of the universe. This opens the door to explore the metaphysics of the universe as well. Sometimes that is brilliant and beautiful ways – as in the Space Trilogy or Nolan’s Interstellar. But it can also be shocking and horrific as in the film Event Horizon.

I say that to say this: some of the material above – concerning the society of Malacandra and the interaction of the different natives – could go in the Metaphysical section instead. But alas  I placed it in Sci-Fi. It is aliens, after all. So I won’t go into anything further in this space, except to say that it can be hard to classify these things. And now some humor:

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE – To keep it “Lewisian”

The Voyage of the Malacandra Treader

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Nine

SUMMARY

The chapter opens as Ransom awakens on the side of the stream where he had lain down to sleep. His thirst wakes him up and he forgets the caution of the previous day and drinks deeply of the blue “water.” It was good, though mineralish. He carves a piece of a tree off to eat, but it is more like tasteless chewing gum and doesn’t really provide sustenance. Then he is off again. His journey today is one of a combined fleeing, exploring and searching for food. He happens upon some giraffe-like creatures eating “leaves” out of the tops of “trees.” They seem friendly and pass on.

He notices again these mountain-ish landforms in the distance. They are greenish white, irregular, very tall and sharp, enough to make earth’s mountains look like “mountains lying on their sides.” He sees then another creature walking, possibly toward him, like he had seen the day before and presumed to be a sorn. It is tall, with a “cadaverous leanness.” Its head is “narrow and conical,” with “thin, mobile, spidery and almost transparent” hands. Ransom, still fearing the worst from these sorns, flees through the woods and down hills to the bank of a lake, and there seemed to be no pursuit.

He is no sooner kneeling for a rest when another creature rises out of the lake just in front of him. It is covered with thick black hair and stands 6-7 feet tall. It has short legs with webbed fore and hind feet, stands upright with a beaver-like or fish-like tail. It has a seal-like head and mouth and wears a belt-like item about its abdomen used for carrying things.

Ransom quickly hides, hoping it won’t see him, until he hears it utter some sounds that, to his philological ear, must be language. He doesn’t utter the mere sounds of an unreasoning beast, but actual language, though Ransom no idea what he is saying. Then, the creature sees Ransom and they each watch each other cautiously and curiously. It’s obvious that they each want to meet, but they are also fearful of what the other one is.

Once Ransom speaks to it in English, it offers Ransom a beverage made from the blue “water” with some drops of a liquid it is carrying, which Ransom thinks is the greatest thing he’s ever had to drink. The creature identifies itself as a hross  – its “species” name, not its proper name. Ransom calls himself a man which the hross pronounces as hman. They attempt further communication and Ransom begins piecing together the beginnings of some Malacandrian grammar. The hross gives Ransom some odd food, which he enjoys. And though it seems friendly, Ransom can’t help but wonder about its relation to the sorns.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This is a bit of a longer chapter, but quite rich as well. Ransom observes three different types of natives – 2 that seem intelligent and one unintelligent. There is also a “first contact” between Ransom and the hross. It is possible the hross – others of its kind – has met men before since Devine and Weston have previously been to Malacandria, but judging by its actions, I would call it very unlikely that this hross has interacted with them. This first contact is rich. There are a range of emotions and attitudes present: fear, curiosity, good-will, suspicion. And how very “lucky” I will say for now that it is a lover and learner of languages – Ransom – who was kidnapped and taken to this planet. His immediate recognition that the hross is speaking is what drove this first contact.

Then something happened which completely altered his state of mind. The creature, which was still steaming and shaking itself on the back and had obviously not seen him, opened its mouth and began to make noises. This in itself was not remarkable; but a lifetime of linguistic study assured Ransom almost at once that these were articulate noises. The creature was talking.

The play between the two is almost a dance, with each initiating a bit, observing, responding in kind. It is quite successful in the end and a delight to read.

Additionally Ransom interacted to some degree with the giraffe-like creatures who aren’t yet named: “enormous pale furry creatures… [that] were slenderer, and very much higher, than giraffes.” Its interesting how Lewis “fills” the world of Malacandra. I would consider Tolkien and expert in this area, going so far as to discuss the varieties of hobbit pipe-weed. My general feeling is that Lewis does not quite measure up in the Silent Planet, but does better in Perelandra. But I enjoy his creatures none-the-less. A previous chapter had a mention of a small red creature of some sort.

Then there is further mention of the sorns (note: we have at this point only the assumption that these creatures are indeed the sorns, but I’ll call them that for now. I really can’t remember if that is accurate or not). I discussed there description in the Summary above. Ransom naturally assumes from the conversation he overhead that the sorns are evil, or at least amoral and bloodthirsty. But he really has no information at this point to support that claim. We, the readers, have little reason to think otherwise. Except that the true bad guys in the story are probably the mad scientist and his henchman (Weston and Devine). Has Weston ever read fairy tale? This can’t end well for Weston, but I digress…

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

The idea of intelligent life elsewhere opens up all kinds of thought regarding religion, philosophy, the nature of man, the meaning of life. This first contact between Ransom and the hross is metaphorically dipping your toe into an ocean of ideas. I’m not going to explore a lot of those ideas at this point, but I’ll just make a comment and ask some questions.

First, Lewis is Western and Christian, like me. And his writings express this, even (and I would go so far as to say especially) his science fiction. Now he is British and not American. There are differences. But lets get into Lewis’ mind and start considering things.

So there’s other intelligent life out there… Has God revealed himself to them? Do they sin? Is there redemption, or gospel, available to them? If they haven’t ever sinned, do they even need it? How does our contact with them then affect them? How does our contact affect us? These may be merely hypothetical questions, as there’s probably no more intelligent life out there, at least not that we will ever meet. But they certainly are interesting questions to an inquisitive mind like mine.

Consider the Chronicles of Narnia, a much more well known and more widely understood mythology by Lewis. What would Jesus look like in Narnia? What would the gospel look like? We have Aslan and his substitutional atoning death in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Will there be something similar in this other world of Malacandria? We must wait and see.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE:

Of Hross and Men.