Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Nineteen

SUMMARY

Ransom’s previous conversation was interrupted by a procession approaching Oyarsa. He watches as Weston and Devine, surrounded and guarded by a group of hrossa who carry three of their own (dead at the hands of Weston and Devine) arrive. Hyoi’s brother leads them and explains that they’ve killed Hyoi in cold blood but the other two were killed in panic as the hrossa surprised them.

Oyarsa questions Weston and Devine asking why they have killed his hnau. They, of course, cannot see him and assume it is “witch-doctor” using ventriloquism and Weston sets upon addressing a sleeping elderly hross who he thinks is in a trance. Ransom finally sets them straight and implores them to answer Oyarsa honestly. Weston speak in the hross language, though very poorly, while Devine acts annoyed at everything. Weston at first tries to scare them and then to impress them with a necklace of beads. Oyarsa questions their sanity and repeatedly asks why they have killed his hnau. Weston finally tries to tell them that Ransom is “very bent” and that they have brought him to Malacandra, obediently, as a sacrifice to Oyarsa.

Finally Oyarsa sends Weston to the guest house to have his head washed with cold water in an effort to clear his thoughts. In his absence the hrossa mourn their loss. At the conclusion of this, at Oyarsa’s signal, a pfiffltrigg touches each of the fallen hrossa with a crystal-like object and their bodies disappear. Presently, Weston rejoins the group.

SCI-FI ASPECT

Just a few short notes here…

One, it is interesting that in the absence of human companions, Ransom initially fails to recognize Weston and Devine as fellow-humans. They appear very strange to him indeed. Their lower legs seemed so thick, he “hesitated to call them legs;” he noted their “pear shaped” bodies. They looked heavy and walked oddly. I’m reminded of the pfiffltrigg’s representation of men and how off Ransom found it.

Again is the fact that Oyarsa, and the eldila, are almost completely invisible to humans, to the point that Weston assumed an old sleeping hross in a trance and projecting his voice.

METAPHYSICAL

Last things first: following the mourning song, what exactly happens to the bodies? At a word sign from Oyarsa, a pfiffltrigg “touched each of the three dead in turn with some small object that appeared to be made of glass or crystal,” then their was a “blinding light” and “something like a very strong wind… Then all was calm again, and the three biers were empty.”

Their bodies are simply taken away. Gone. The song they sang previously seems to describe their souls leaving their individualness behind and joining all other past souls and maybe their God, Maleldil the Young, though it is highly symbolic and poetic. But these lines seem to point to it:

Let it go hence, dissolve and be no body. Drop it, release it, drop it gently, as a stone is loosed from the fingers drooping over a still pool. Let it go down, sink, fall away. Once below the surface there are no divisions, no layers in the water yielding all the way down; all one and all unwounded is that element.

They go on to describe the next world as being “the second life… coloured… second… better… First were the darker, then the brighter. First was the worlds’ blood, then the suns’ blood.”

This is certainly their depiction of the afterlife, heaven. It is seen as a place that is better, a place of hope. I am reminded of elsewhere in Lewis’ fiction, of Reepicheep longing to go to “Aslan’s country” and the conclusion of The Last Battle:

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (The Last Battle, Page Last)

From Weston, in this chapter, we have a classic case of blame-shifting. He claims the death of Hyoi to be the fault of Ransom for running away. He and Devine were just trying to do what they were told, to “bring man, give him your big head.” But Ransom had run since he is a “very bent man.” This is what stirred up the trouble and was the cause of the killing by Weston’s reasoning. Oyarsa sees through this farce and sends Weston to have his head bathed. Weston shows his own bent nature in his explanation and blame-shifting.

Is Ransom bent? I would say so and think Ransom would say so. But if we look at degrees of “bentness,” Weston is at the top, while Ransom is trying his best to sort things out, even going so far as to recommend to the Malacandrians that they kill all three Thulcandrians, himself included.

MISCELLANY

Regarding the beads Weston tries to use in his attempt to win over the Malacandrians, Lewis writes, “Weston at this point whipped out of his pocket a brightly coloured necklace of beads, the undoubted work of Mr Woolworth…” Who is this Mr Woolworth? With a little research (aka Google) I’m confident he refers to Frank Winfield Woolworth, an American businessman who had a chain of “5 and dime” stores which spread to several foreign countries and was popular in England during Lewis’ lifetime.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Civilizing the Heathen or Which One’s the Heathen?

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Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Eighteen

SUMMARY

Ransom sleeps in one of the Meldilorn huts and is awakened early by an eldil summoning him to Oyarsa, at the avenue of monoliths. He goes willfully yet fearfully to find countless hnau of all three varieties present and awaiting the meeting between himself and Oyarsa. Countless eldila are also present.

Oyarsa arrives and is likewise invisible. He converses with Ransom about how and why he came to Malacandra, and why he had spent is energy avoiding Oyarsa. Oyarsa describes how Thulcandra used to have a great and bright Oyarsa who became bent and then declared war on the other planets including Thulcandra’s own moon as well as Malacandra, such that Maleldil by Oyarsa’s arm opened the handramits for the hnau to live. Finally the others had to imprison him on Thulcandra.

He also tells Ransom of Weston’s and Devine’s first visit to Malacandra, how they would not come to him, then left and returned with Ransom. Ransom explained that they believed Oyarsa was a great beast or god or both who wanted to eat a Thulcandrian.

Chiefly Oyarsa would like to know why Ransom and the other Thulcandrians came to Malacandra (Ransom: brought against his will to trade for gold, Devine: for gold, Weston: to conquer a new planet for Earth) and what has happened regarding Maleldil’s dealings with Earth’s bent Oyarsa.

SCI-FI ASPECT

There is little to say about the being or person of Oyarsa that has not been said already of the Eldila. He is mostly invisible to Ransom’s eyes. His voice was more unhuman than any yet, sweet and remote, “with no blood in it.” He cannot see Ransom well either. Both Oyarsa and the other eldila are very old, having been around since before Thulcandra was populated.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

This chapter is “chock-full” of the metaphysical.

First, I will just say that, to me, it seems like the eldila are essentially equivalent to angels while Oyarsa is an archangel. This may be to broad, (or maybe too specific), but they played a role in a spiritual war long ago, binding a bent Oyarsa on earth.

It is a bit confusing when you consider the italics. My convention here has been to italicize the words that are italicized in the book and not the other words. Generally that makes Malacandrian words italicized, but proper names such as Meldilorn and Maleldil and Hyoi not italicized. But Oyarsa isn’t italicized so that seems like a name. But Thulcandra also had/has an Oyarsa: “Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world.” So it would seem a common noun and not a proper noun.

Ransom is somewhat surprised to learn that the eldila were watching him before he arrived on Malacandra and had been present along the journey, though they did not understand his language on the ship. So Ransom asks if Oyarsa knew of the journey before they had evenly left Earth. His response: “No. Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no message comes from it.” Thulcandra is outside of heaven. This reminds me of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Two seperate things, from our veiwpoint as well as from Oyarsa’s though for completely different reasons.

Oyarsa’s description of the war with Thulcandra’s Oyarsa could be an alternate account of the biblical treatment of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. It is often somewhat reminiscent of Milton’s description of Satan in Paradise Lost, as he comes from outside of earth or the solar system to find Adam and turn him against God. I appreciate Oyarsa’s telling of the war and the mystery of what follows:

There was a great war, and we drove [Thulcandra’s Oyarsa] back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into.

This brings to mind several biblical passages and concepts. A great war in heaven bringing down a great spiritual being is described, with a lack of detail most modern readers would desire, in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. It is also interesting that they bound him in the air of his own world. In Ephesians 2:2 he is called the prince of the power of the air – a pretty odd turn of phrase. And lastly he explicitly states how they wish to look into Maleldils dealings with Thulcandra. He actually states this twice. This immediately calls to mind 1 Peter 1:12. This salvation Peter writes about was prophesied in part and studied and inquired upon. It pointed to the sufferings and glories of Christ (who is likely called Maleldil in OOTSP) and is now revealed by the Holy Spirit through the good news preached. It is so great that even angels long to look into it.

Specifically they long to look into the stories and strange counsel and terrible things Maleldil has dared in wrestling with the Bent One. Wrestling indeed. Look at Aslan’s treatment by the White Witch in Narnia. Look at Christ himself, giving himself up to the hands of sinners to put on a cross of wood, to be hung up for death. Yes he’s wrestled with the Bent One rather than give up our planet and our people “utterly.”

Now I do not think, nor am I trying to argue, that this book or this passage is strictly allegory. Where x represents y and we all go crazy trying to figure out what the great tall flower trees are really trying to tell us. But I am arguing, and have previously, that Lewis is writing science fiction piece that fits within the mold of his Christian worldview, even his Western Christian worldview. There’s no one-to-one correlation, but there is a mysterious powerful personal ruler of the heavens, one who we may call God, but who is known as Maleldil on Malacandra. What do our spiritual and religious traditions look like from outside our world? I would say Lewis treatment of these things is nothing less than stunning.

There is much more to think about and discuss of this chapter than I will put down here, so I will leave the discussion alone for now.

MISCELLANY

I found this line particularly amusing and wanted to restate it. Ransom finds himself trying to describe Weston’s actions and motivations, explaining that Weston searches for other planets for our race to populate so that we will never die out and last forever. (Recall that Augray has already shared that is not Maleldil’s way.) To this Oyarsa asks, “Is he wounded in his brain?” What a great line!

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Take Me To Your Leader!

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