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…

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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.

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Eight

SUMMARY

This chapter follows Ransom running through the strange foreign planet upon which he has found himself. He quickly tires – out of shape from having been inactive on a spaceship for a month and continues at a brisk walk. He notes the environment around him – the almost squishy ground, something he refers to as “trees,” a series of ups and downs – small ridges he is crossing, and streams of the warm blue “water.”

He notes that the “aliens” he saw must be the sorns. And though they are much different than he imagined, they are still quite horrifying – “spooks on stilts… surrealistic bogy-men with their long faces.”

He ponders a bit upon which planet he has landed upon. The planet – Malacandra – he has not yet identified as what we call Mars. He thinks it too cool to be Venus so it is likely either Mars or our own moon.

As he travels he grows a bit cool, quite tired, very thirsty and somewhat hungry. He decides to lay down for a rest near one of the streams because they give off heat. He considers drinking the “water” but is unsure if that’s safe, so he ends up falling asleep still quite thirsty.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This relatively short chapter focuses on Ransom’s travel and surroundings through the unknown world. It doesn’t get very science-y apart from his wondering about which planet he is on. I think he is putting together that the force of gravity is less than that on earth, though its not quite explicit. It seems he favors the moon as the most likely destination. It doesn’t seem that he considers moons of other planets.

Lewis again references HG Wells, saying the Malacandrian natives “appeal away from Wellsian fantasies.” I think this makes the third reference to HG Wells thus far including the pre-Chapter one “note” in which he writes “The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H.G.Wells’s fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them.” The other was in chapter five, following Ransom overhearing the conversation between Devine and Weston. Lewis remarks that, given Ransom’s reading of “his H.G. Wells” he imagined the universe as being filled with horrible aliens.

Wells’ most notable work on that subject is War of the Worlds, a novel in which aliens from Mars attempt to take over the world. They overcome human ingenuity and warfare but are eventually fought off by a type of biological pathogen – another idea that has hung around in literature for many years.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

There really isn’t much in this chapter. What little I could draw, I’ll just leave for another day.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Lets throwback to ’80s sci-fi and call it: The Running Man

Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter 7

Long delay since chapter 6 – been out of town.

SUMMARY

After landing, the trio wiggle out of a small hatch at the bottom of the ship onto the ground. Nearby is a small hut built by Weston and Devine on a previous trip. They commence to unloading the supplies they have brought and Weston and Devine both carry revolvers. After a bit they break for lunch – earth food – and Ransom gets to take a break and observe his surroundings.

They are on a peninsula or island surrounded by blue water with high-peaked gentle waves. In the distance there are some tall mountain-like landforms and Ransom also admires the flora which seems to be at least partially made up of purple vegetables. Its all very other-worldly and quite beautiful. Ransom is surprised to realize that he never imagined Malacandra could be beautiful.

While eating, Devine notices some life-forms across the water on the opposite shore. They are tall and slender and it takes Ransom a minute to realize that they are actually alive as they don’t look like any of our planet’s life-forms. Startled, Ransom turns to flee, but is caught by Devine and Weston. A scuffle ensues which is interrupted by one of the aliens calling out to them what turns out to be a warning. When they turn, they see some other beast torpedoing toward them across the water. Weston fires his gun at it, but it arrives and attacks, jaws open. In the confusion Ransom breaks free and takes off running across the land away from Weston and Devine leaving them to whatever fate they can work out between themselves, their guns, and the beast attacking.

SCI-FI ASPECT

This is the chapter where our protagonist steps foot on a different planet… so there’s that. Pretty exciting unless you are obsessing over every detail (like me). I again enjoy the way Lewis describes the planet. It is not visual alone. He describes the tactile sensations as well as some sounds. Everything here seems to be very tall – waves, mountains, natives (I almost called them aliens, but the aliens here are the humans).  This makes sense considering the decreased gravity. However post-Mars Rover and moon pictures (if you really believe that stuff is legitimate), it doesn’t seem that less gravity really causes things to be taller or more peaked. The moon’s seas are dry and Mars’ are frozen so I guess we still have to wait and see regarding waves. I see little point in expounding too much on this. All the description is there in chapter seven if you want to review it.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

Chapter seven is admittedly light here. I will mention only one thing briefly. In past readings this chapter has left me so excited that I turn the page immediately to see what happens to Ransom next, but this time I am pausing to think and expound and I’m taken with how terrifying Ransom’s experience has been. The only humans on the whole planet were just holding him at gunpoint. The only reason he escaped was because a great beast interrupted them. And now he is running away from those people and the only space-ship around. His prospects for a long fruitful and satisfied life are pretty bleak. He’s all alone, on the run, in a completely unknown foreign planet.

His running – does that reflect the rational fear of death or the irrational fear of monsters? I would say the former.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

An Alien Encounter