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Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3

An archived study of the second book of Lewis' theological science fiction Space Trilogy.

Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3

Postby Kanakaberaka » 25 Nov 2004, 06:45

This particular chapter study has really gone adrift, like Perelandra's floating islands. So I will now tie it all down.

Up to this point Ransom has been conversing with the Green Lady from across a narrow strait between the island he is on and the one occupied by her. When he asks her permission to cross over to "her island" she asks him "Which do you call my island?". apparently she has no idea of ownership. This is odd because she also knows that she is the Queen of her world. Maybe Lewis is trying to show that there is more to royalty than material possesions. After Ransom swims over he takes a nap and the conversation is continued.
It proves to be a very frustrating conversation for Ransom as he attempts to get a straight answer about who the King is. Apparently the Green Lady and her male companion are the first couple to populate Perelandra. To make matters more confusing, the Green Lady thinks that Ransom is also the King of his own world. When he explains to her that our own "Queen" (Eve) died long ago, the Green Lady suddenly understood Ransom's situation. She also changed her attitude towards him as a mere commoner. I found this rather odd since as a lone Queen she has no experience in talking down to the lower classes. I would have imagined she would have an almost democratic view of her world's future community. Yet Lewis notes that her tone of vioce changes apon hearing this news from Ransom. I realize that she is not simply putting on airs and that there should be no need for false modesty in such an unfallen world. Maybe it's Lewis' British background that made him comfortable with this attitude about class (Yes, I know CSL was from Northern Ireland).
Another awkward passage in this chapter was when it was noted that the Green Lady's prescence elevated the position of the animals around her from pets to slaves. I would have thought that pets were more highly regarded than people held in servitude. But I suppose that Lewis is trying to say that the animals were made almost human by her contact with them.
And yet the most disturbing comment made by the Green Lady has to be when she suggests to Ransom that he may have been sent by Maleldil to teach her about death. Ransom is at a loss for words to explain the gravity of it to her.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3

Postby Stanley Anderson » 25 Nov 2004, 16:11

Kanakaberaka wrote:This particular chapter study has really gone adrift, like Perelandra's floating islands. So I will now tie it all down.


Adrift? In what way? You mean in subject matter, or the spreading out into separate parts to cover the whole chapter? If the former, I don't see it, and if the latter, I say "Yay! That's what I've wanted from the beginning -- so much material here that the 'floating island' approach is very appropriate for the study. Or perhaps you mean something else that I am missing?


When he asks her permission to cross over to "her island" she asks him "Which do you call my island?". apparently she has no idea of ownership.


I disagree. She asks because she "owns" all the islands and is confused by a question that implies that some of them may not be "hers". The quesiton of whether "ownership" would be appropriate or understandable in an unfallen world could be debated, but I don't think that is what Lewis is implying here.

She also changed her attitude towards him as a mere commoner. I found this rather odd since as a lone Queen she has no experience in talking down to the lower classes.


Again, I would disagree. She has the animals for at least a model of higher and lower. I think "mere commoner" might have connotations that I would be uncomfortable with -- ie associations of "improper" attitudes and such.

I would have imagined she would have an almost democratic view of her world's future community. Yet Lewis notes that her tone of vioce changes apon hearing this news from Ransom. I realize that she is not simply putting on airs and that there should be no need for false modesty in such an unfallen world. Maybe it's Lewis' British background that made him comfortable with this attitude about class


I really think this is not a "political" issue about class with Lewis, but a theological one of submission and propriety and appointed roles that Lewis talks about extensively elsewhere. I think he would say that in our fallen world, we have corrupted these ideas into "mere" political issues, but that they have their proper place in God's Will.

Another awkward passage in this chapter was when it was noted that the Green Lady's prescence elevated the position of the animals around her from pets to slaves.


Again, I think there are theological issues here, but I suspect Lewis used this phraseology on purpose to bring out the distinctions in the issue more forcefully.

I would have thought that pets were more highly regarded than people held in servitude.


I am sure he has more of the Scriptural imagery in mind of a person who willingly and joyfully submits to being a "slave" for Christ.

--Stanley
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Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 25 Nov 2004, 16:14

Here are some comments so far on the 'next' section (not sure if part 3 goes to the end of the chapter or not). I may have more later (I left my copy of Perelandra with a bunch of little yellow sticky notes on the pages at work for the long weekend)
------------------
I always have a pleasant smile for the line about the wallaby-like beast being the yellowest thing that Ransom had ever seen. It's such an odd description from an "intellectual" point of view - sort of like saying "that is the B-flattest note I have ever heard - and yet I know exactly what Lewis means. Angelee, in a poem about our beloved chocolate Labrador retriever, Strider (now passed away), described him in one of the lines as "the brownest thing that God has ever made" - and he was!, whatever that means:-) (and as an appropriate side note, Ransom later sees some trees that are browner than any he had yet seen)

When the dragon and the wallaby-like creature are leading Ransom to the Green Lady, Lewis describes him as passing through a wood, then an alley of bubble trees and then into fields of silver flowers that grew waist-high. This reminds me very much of the scene in THS where the author is walking into Bragdon Wood. It is the third section of the first chapter. Try reading the part of that section that leads into the wood. Though the scenery is of different particular objects and background, there is the same progression, of the "wooded" area of the buildings to the tunnel-like areas and bridge paralleling the alley of bubble trees and finally to the field of flowers/Bragdon wood itself. We can even see a parallel to the "goal" of seeing the Green Lady with reaching Merlin's Well in the THS passage. In my mind these two passages, despite their different settings are remarkably similar, and both wonderfully Joy-ful in the Lewisian sense. I also note that the "sea" of silver flowers waist-high is another of the water-like images of Joy that Lewis uses throughout and in his other works that I have mentioned in previous posts (and indeed very reminiscent of the Silver Sea section of Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

By the way, this is probably totally wrong, but I couldn't help thinking, in the description of Ransom walking through the alley of bubble trees as a sort of parting of the Red Sea, with the bubble trees "holding back" the water on either side of Ransom (although I suppose he was drenched by some as he walked through)

In my previous post I mentioned the merging together of mental, spiritual and physical action in this unfallen world seen in Ransom's physical exhaustion after talking with the Green Lady. The description of the Green Lady continues this idea when it begins "Opposites met in her and were fused.." and on through the rest of the paragraph. "All this against a golden sky which looked as if it were only an arms length above her head", and "The beasts raced forward to greet her..." and the rest with the frogs and birds and such all around are very like a Medieval painting with its gold-leaf skies, or the very "busy" Medieval tapestries - I'm thinking of the mille fleurs (thousand flowers) tapestries, the Lady and the Unicorn, and the Hunt of the Unicorn set in particular. I can't help thinking that Lewis had these sorts of things in mind in his images of Perelandra.

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Guest » 26 Nov 2004, 14:01

Hi, Stan!

Singing grace, oratorio ... I don't particularly remember that passage from when I re-read Perelandra ... oh, within the past year-and-a-half it must have been.

So my initial thought (which may in fact have little to do with what Lewis was about, there) had to do with the Eucharist, and the fact that traditionally, the entire Liturgy is sung. One might sing grace before a meal, and it would be a most gracious grace; but for the sacramental Meal which is more than physical sustenance, an Oratorio would not be overdoing things, at all.

You know the Mozart Ave verum corpus, of course ...?

Pace e bene,
~Karl
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Floating Downstream

Postby Kanakaberaka » 27 Nov 2004, 14:52

Adrift? In what way? You mean in subject matter, or the spreading out into separate parts to cover the whole chapter? If the former, I don't see it, and if the latter, I say "Yay! That's what I've wanted from the beginning -- so much material here that the 'floating island' approach is very appropriate for the study. Or perhaps you mean something else that I am missing? - Stanley

I'm just being a bit over dramtic about the latter, Stanley. The reason I have done chapter 5 in parts rather than one large study has more to do with the fact that our home PC was unable to connect with our ISP for about a week. It turned out to be a loose cable connection caused by our move to our new house. But it looks as if I'm drifting myself here.
What I was trying to refer to is the fact that most posters took the initiative to move beyond the little tid bits I had written in each posting on to other things in this chapter. I was hoping that everyone would focus on the subject I had started and add their own thoughts on to those particular postings. Since I had a limited amount of time at work to post this study, I thought that posting a little at a time would work well for this deep chapter. Next time I will simply go back to my original format and write a synopsis followed by by thoughts and observations on the whole chapter. That way other posters can feel free to branch off within the chapter as much as they desire.

As for my negative thoughts about Lewis' references to royalty: I can understand why he chose such images to illustrate how the first parents of this new world would rule over it. It's just that I'm more than a bit cynical about the behaviour of real life noblemen.
so it goes...
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Re: Floating Downstream

Postby Stanley Anderson » 27 Nov 2004, 15:18

[from K]:
>What I was trying to refer to is the fact that most posters took the
>initiative to move beyond the little tid bits I had written in each posting
>on to other things in this chapter.

I think the only problem (if one can even call it that) is that it perhaps wasn't quite clear where each "section" of the chapter ended, and so responders took a guess, but I think the it worked reasonably well even so. But whatever method you feel most comfortable with is fine.

>It's just that I'm more than a bit cynical about the behaviour of real life
>noblemen.

As well you should be, since any "real life" (by which we must mean "fallen" of course) noblemen cannot hope to truly reflect the glory of the position in its intended use properly. In fact, as Jesus pointed out in both his words and his actions, true leadership and servanthood can be nearly the reverse of how they most often get applied here on this fallen Earth.

--Stanley
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Re: Floating Downstream

Postby Guest » 27 Nov 2004, 19:34

Kanakaberaka wrote:.... It's just that I'm more than a bit cynical about the behaviour of real life noblemen.

But can you demonstrate how the behavior of aristocracy, which so invites your cynicism, is intrinsically worse than (e.g.) the "anti-snobbery" (I'm not cultured, and my lack of culture is a source of great personal pride to me) that one sees in operation in some patches of democracy?

Speaking as an American (and despite the fact that Twain, among other significant American literary figures, found the European aristocracy a conveniently easy target), I find the allegedly 'level playing field' of the US a fertile farm for cynicism.

Remember HL Mencken's No one ever went broke underestimating the tastes of the American public ....

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Floating Downstream

Postby Kanakaberaka » 28 Nov 2004, 14:45

Karl Henning wrote:But can you demonstrate how the behavior of aristocracy, which so invites your cynicism, is intrinsically worse than (e.g.) the "anti-snobbery" (I'm not cultured, and my lack of culture is a source of great personal pride to me) that one sees in operation in some patches of democracy?



You have a point there Karl. A phoney sense of being "just plain folks" put on by some of our leaders can be more annoying than ritualistic formality done out of tradition. It's the insincerity of common folk wannabes that is wrong. Then there's the Rap stars, of all ethnic backgrounds, who feel need to back up their "street cred" with vulgar behavior.
I agree that there are times when we should deal with each other at arm's lenght. For example, I hired my next-door neighbor as a contractor to redo our kitchen. He often refers to me as "Sir" when dealing with matters of business, which I am somewhat uncomfortable with. But I can understand his need to keep business apart from socializing for the sake of propriety. What I hate are bosses who insist on calling their employees "associates" when they are paided to do work, not come in and associate with management and customers.
I must admit that formality can make life easier. Maybe Lewis was trying to show that Perelandra had a sort of natural order built into it .
so it goes...
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Re: Floating Downstream

Postby Guest » 28 Nov 2004, 18:24

Kanakaberaka wrote:I must admit that formality can make life easier. Maybe Lewis was trying to show that Perelandra had a sort of natural order built into it .

I agree ... one need only look at Russia in the 20s to see how a supposed 'democratization' of outlook can actually be a political tool to bludgeon 'folks with airs' ....

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 29 Nov 2004, 20:53

Karl Henning wrote:Hi, Stan!

Singing grace, oratorio ... I don't particularly remember that passage from when I re-read Perelandra ... oh, within the past year-and-a-half it must have been.


Well, Ransom didn't sing the grace. Here is the line ("it" being the berries he has just found, in contrast to the gourds he had tasted of earlier):

“A man, or a at least a man like Ransom, felt he ought to say grace over it; and so he presently did. The gourds would have required rather an oratorio or a mystical meditation.”

I was just thinking of it in terms of how each, if put to music, might differ, the latter being "oratorio" as Lewis suggests, but the former (ie grace), presumably something of a lighter, simpler piece?

So my initial thought (which may in fact have little to do with what Lewis was about, there) had to do with the Eucharist, and the fact that traditionally, the entire Liturgy is sung. One might sing grace before a meal, and it would be a most gracious grace; but for the sacramental Meal which is more than physical sustenance, an Oratorio would not be overdoing things, at all.


I was just going to comment on the thought that occured to me reading your lines above, that there isn't really a corresponding "wine" to the "bread" of the berries (which are described as "bread-like"), but then it occurred to me that the very water of the oceans that he can drink at will whenever he wants has a more "wine-like" effect on him than plain water. In this unfallen world it is as though Man and God are in nearly constant communion, and the ever-ready physical source of eating and drinking in that manner reflects this, I suppose.

You know the Mozart Ave verum corpus, of course ...?


If I do, not by name. But now I'm curious.

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 5 - pt. 3 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 29 Nov 2004, 21:55

(not sure if this thread’s “part” is supposed to go to the end of the chapter -- I’ll put my further comments here anyway)

After being led to the Green Lady by the dragon and the wallaby-like yellowest creature, Ransom sees her “doing something with her mind, perhaps even with her muscles, that he did not understand. Yoga?:-) But again, here is the merging of mind and body that we see as more separated presumably as a result of the fall.

When Ransom tells her that Maleldil has sent him to her world for a purpose, he asks “Do you know what it is?”. Lewis writes “She stood for a moment almost like one listening and then answered, ‘No’”. She is apparently communicating directly with Maleldil, and I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think of Ransom as saying something like “Will you please put the cell phone down and talk to me directly?”:-)

I’ve mentioned before that the Green Lady does not seem to have a direct sense of time (initially, at least). She can only refer to it indirectly as being “younger” or “older” in terms of knowledge about the world. Can this be related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I wonder? That is, that until that eating of the fruit, knowledge is “less” or “more” as time goes on, but has not yet been distilled into concepts of “good” and “evil”. In fact, it suggests to me that good and evil could perhaps be related to the direct concept of the flow of time. I’ve conjectured before along this line in a sort of quantum mechanical sort of way – that before the fall, the world was more or less a quantum wave function where all possibilities are equally present, but that at the fall, the “wave” (and interesting that the Green Lady talks of waves in describing the Will of Maleldil, eh?) collapses into distinct patterns of good and evil.

But this is getting pretty abstract and hard to convey, so onto other subjects.

Sorry again, but I had another “low” thought and wry smile when Ransom is questioning the Green Lady about the other people on the world. He says, “If you are a mother, where are your children?”. “Not yet,” she answered. “Who will be their father?” Ransom replies. Here is where I imagine (Weston-like, I'm sure) lusty thoughts of Ransom wondering to himself “I have a suggestion (wink, wink, nod, nod)”:-)

Later the Green Lady says, “Do not wonder, O Piebald Man, that your world should have been chosen for time’s corner. You live looking out always on heaven itself, and as if this were not enough, Maleldil takes you all thither in the end. You are favoured beyond all worlds.” And yet everything she mentions here about Earth is also true of Malacandra, which she has just gotten a vision of. Oh well.

When Ransom makes her aware of the idea of wanting a good other than the one given, Lewis writes, “’Oh’, said the Lady. She turned aside with her head bowed and her hand clasped in an intensity of thought. She looked up and said ‘You make me grow older more quickly than I can bear,’ and walked a little farther off.”

I’m fascinated by the parallel between Ransom’s difficulty in looking at her physical appearance (eg, he can only look at her feet initially, and later in this passage “he could not look steadily at her”), and the Green Lady’s difficulty in directly “looking” at his thoughts and ideas. She must “turn away” too.

I would point out again the merging of contrasts in the unfallen world that we, in our fallenness tend to separate, when Lewis describes her expression as “Gaiety and gravity together, a splendour as of martydom yet with no pain in it at all, seemed to pour from it”.

Just a minor observation that means very little, I’m sure, but when the Green Lady says to Ransom, “And why, O Piebald, are making little hills and valleys in your forehead and why do you give a little lift of your shoulders?”, I am reminded of the floating islands and their constantly changing (when the weather is rough, anyway – as Ransom’s emotions are at that moment) topography of hills and valleys and lifting and rolling.

Finally, the “small lie” and its effects on Ransom are again an instance of the mental and physical converging on this unfallen world. He cannot separate the “physical effects” of a lie from the telling of it as we can (or at least imagine and pretend we can) here on our fallen earth.

“The audience was at an end”, the chapter concludes, as Ransom bows and exits the “stage” almost as though he were an actor in a Shakepearean play. Another example of “myth” being enacted in the other worlds.

--Stanley
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