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Perelandra Chap. 6

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

Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Dec 2004, 00:31

Synopsis: After Ransom's talk with the Green Lady he feels the need to fidget. But he has nothing to fidget with. So he goes off to observe this new world. He sights an island made of fixed land and asks the Green Lady about it. While she is allowed to visit the place, she and the King are forbidden to live there. When Ransom explains that all the land on Thulcandra is fixed the Lady assumes that we have no place to spend the night because she thinks we have the same taboo. Before traveling to the Fixed Land they observe somthing fall from the Perelandran sky. Ransom assumes that Weston is on the way. After some brief but strenuous explorations, they watch as the sphere from Deep Heaven drifts towards the fixed island. Sure enough a man from our world emerges from the spacecraft with a folding boat and paddles to the island. Ransom and the Green Lady meet a dissaproving Weston at the shore.

I found it amussing when Ransom reflexivly reached for a cigarette only to realize that he had no pockets to hold them. This showed how bowled over he was about the Green Lady's informed innocence.
The Fixed Land appears to be the equivalent of the "tree of knowlege of good and evil" from our own Garden of Eden. So it's only natural that Ransom and the Lady investigate the place. Nature appears to be tailored for the Green Lady on Perelandra. The large fishes that take her and Ransom over to the island are tapered in the middle so that a human can ride them comfortably. On the Fixed Land there are sheeplike creatures which keep the grass mowed by grazing on it. Decades ago people would keep goats to do such a job on their Terrestrial lawns. The Green Lady is well adapted to this environment as well. Ransom has a difficult time keeping up with her as she climbs some steep rocks. When Ransom scrapes his knee during this climb the Lady asks him what it feels like to bleed. When she suggests scraping her own knee to experience the same, Maleldil talks her out of it. In our world she would no doubt be thought of as crazy for hearing voices. However, Ransom observes that something is missing from Perelandra - eldila. The Green Lady informs Ransom that there is no need for her to take orders from an eldil because she communicates directly to Maleldil. This clears things up for me regarding the absolute rule of the Oyarsa over the Malacandrans. It was only a phase in God's plan for creation.
I wonder if there is any symbolism about the number of stone pillars on the fixed island. Rasom thought at first that there were only two. He discovers there are nine apon arrival. Nine is equal to 3 times 3. Could this be a reference to three Trinities? Maybe I'm reading too much into this because nine is regarded as a magical number.
Finaly Weston arrives on the scene wearing a traditional safari outfit so common among European explorers in the tropics. Naturaly he expresses distain when he sees the nude Green Lady almost falling into Ransom's outstretched arms. Ransom was of course attempting to prevent the Lady from approaching Weston. But Weston can only assume base motives on Ransom's part.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby a_hnau » 06 Dec 2004, 19:47

Hi, K. Thanks for this, I have read it but am struggling a little for time to respond/marshal my own thoughts...
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Perelandra Chap. 6 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 06 Dec 2004, 23:42

The experience of “oppression” Ransom has at the beginning of this chapter is very interesting to me, particularly since it is very like a dream I had some time ago that I once posted a description of (Allison, you’ll want to be careful here – it’s “that” dream – pass by this paragraph if you like:-). The dream was particularly horrible. In it I was lying on a stone or cement slab that extended “forever” in all directions around me. The horrible part was that right on top of me was another slab extending in all directions leaving only a horizontal “gap” thick enough only for me to squirm along on my stomach with limbs out flat. It was not even possible for me to turn my head to face the other direction – I could only look out “over” my right shoulder. Well, you can imagine how claustrophobic it was. In fact, it was so horrid that when I woke up, I couldn’t get rid of the confining feeling for a while – I had to get up out of bed and walk around. Even now, it gives me shivers just typing the description in.

Lewis’ description of Ransom feeling “crowded” by the very atmosphere was very much like my dream to me. But I loved his “resolution” of the confining feeling where, when he “gave in” to it, “it became not a load but a medium, a sort of splenour as of eatable, drinkable, breathable gold, which fed and carried you and not only poured into you but out from you as well. Taken the wrong way, it suffocated; taken the right way, it made terrestrial life seem, by comparison a vacuum.”

This passage, too, is one particularly explicit example of the changing point of views that I have mentioned before that Lewis uses extensively in the Space Trilogy (and in his other writings too) and a key aspect of the books’ connection to the medieval cosmological view presented in The Discarded Image (primarily, in this case, the medieval idea of the air or “space” being filled with “beings” or “thingness”, nothing left “empty” or wasted)

We recently saw a “Nature” or some such program on PBS about a place on Madagascar called “Ankarana” which reminded me very much in parts of the green columned island that Lewis describes in this chapter. Anyone else see that special on TV?

Many here may be familiar with my “chessboard” parallel theory of That Hideous Strength”. I tend, almost subconsciously, to look for parallels (it’s probably a lot to do with what makes me good at mathematics, I think), and, true to form, this chapter in particular, is making me notice another set of “parallel” situations between Ransom and the Green Lady. For instance, when he is telling her about Earth and how there are no floating islands – only fixed land amongst the oceans – she asks where he lives then. This strikes me as very similar to her own confusion when Ransom, in an earlier conversation asks to come to “her” island, and she does not understand, since they are all “her” islands.

Later when Ransom describes the many fixed lands of Earth, she says “How do you endure it?…Does not the very thought of it crush you?” This is strikingly like Ransom’s own feelings of confinement that I mentioned above. These, and other examples to come, are almost like parallel “experiences” from fallen and unfallen points of view. She say next, “Where will this end?…I have grown so old in these last few hours that all my life before seems only like the stem of a tree, and now I am like the branches shooting out in every direction. They are getting so wide apart that I can hardly bear it.” Again, this feeling is very akin to Ransom’s feelings of being overwhelmed by the richness and beauty of his relatively short time on Perelandra so far. In her case it is an “intellectual” overwhelming, while Ransom experiences more of an overwhelming of “physical” sensory experience – and the two, again, tend to become “one” on this unfallen world.

I was amused by a sort of literary “pun” that Lewis uses. As Ransom and the Green Lady are talking, she suggests asking the King when they are both surprised by the object falling from the sky. Here is the passage.
-------------------
“Yes, the King, by all means,” said Ransom. “If only we can find him.” Then, quite involuntarily, he added in English, “By Jove! What was that?”
------------------
The “pun” is that in The Discarded Image, Lewis describes the qualities of Jupiter as kingly – it is the king of the planets, and here, just after mentioning “the King”, he immediately says “By Jove”, “Jove” of course being a synonym for Jupiter.

Later when the Green Lady suggests going to the fixed land about a mile away, Ransom says “Let us do this. If we can swim so far.” I wonder what tone he has here. Is there a sort of sarcasm, as though he were saying “Oh sure Lady, ha! You think we can swim all that way?” That almost seems out of character, or “against” the tone of the place, particularly since earlier his “little lie” was thrust back at him almost physically by the air around him. Or perhaps the line is simply one of wonderment, not unlike the reaction in the Gospels of the boy with the two small fishes and five barley loaves – “but what are these among so many?” I wonder about this line only because I tend to imagine how all these bits would be acted if it were filmed (this comment belongs more properly in the Perelandra movie thread of course), and it would get a distinctly different reading if it were sarcasm as opposed to “wonderment”.

We get more of the “water” scenes of Joy when they arrive at the fixed land. “Best of all, down the middle of the valley – and welcome to Ransom’s eyes and ears as a glimpse of home or of heaven – ran a little stream, a dark translucent stream where a man might hope for trout.” There is another example when they are at the top of the ring of stone pillars. “It was from this direction [where the archipelago of islands lay] that the wind came; the smell of those islands, though faint, was like the sound of running water to a thirsty man.” I’ll also note quickly the sight of the islands from this height – “the richness of its colours – its orange, its silver, its purple and (to his surprise) its glossy blacks – made it seem almost heraldic.” Here is another of those medieval images that Lewis draws upon so heavily in the Space Trilogy and Perelandra in particular. As a personal side note, this description reminds me also of how the “southern” half of Rama in Arthur Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” is described, for those who have read that book.

In the long paragraph where Lewis recounts the ideas and philosophies of Weston and “scientifiction”, I am reminded of a sort of “corrupt” version of Christian evangelism in its desire to spread to other worlds. I am fascinated by Lewis’ description of it as “fear of true ‘immortality’”, obviously referring to the Christian idea rather than the “living forever” idea of the scientifiction philosophy. And the contrast of the two and in fact, of the eldil or Oyarsa on Perelandra with scientifiction is interesting. The latter’s drive is to dominate the other worlds and subject them to humanity, while the eldil’s glory is to decrease and make us “older till we were older than they – that they could fall at our feet. It is a joy we shall not have.”

The Green Lady says of this Joy, “Not that it is better joy than ours. Every joy is beyond all others. The Fruit we are eating is always the best fruit of all.” Isn’t this how many of us have expressed our “favourite” Narnia book? – ie whatever one we are reading at the moment?

With that, I’ll quit for now,
--Stanley
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My thoughts exactly

Postby Kanakaberaka » 07 Dec 2004, 14:08

a_hnau wrote:Hi, K. Thanks for this, I have read it but am struggling a little for time to respond/marshal my own thoughts...

Thanks for stopping by, but I have the feeling that Stanley has more insight into this novel than I do. I will do what I can to keep the study going with whatever time I've got. The first thing I'll do is reply to Stanley's posting which I must digest this morning before scribbling down my own thoughts.
so it goes...
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my thoughts elsewhere

Postby Guest » 07 Dec 2004, 14:50

Kanakaberaka wrote: I have the feeling that Stanley has more insight into this novel than I do.


Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn't. But without you there would be no study. You set the jumping off point. You lead the followers. And you respond to posts and keep the threads going. Thanks!

(I've e-mailed my response to Stanley's post for this week, but I'm still following the Wardrobe discussion. I suppose we'll break a bit over Christmas?)
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Kanak talks back

Postby Kanakaberaka » 08 Dec 2004, 23:55

Stanley Anderson wrote: The dream was particularly horrible. In it I was lying on a stone or cement slab that extended “forever” in all directions around me. The horrible part was that right on top of me was another slab extending in all directions leaving only a horizontal “gap” thick enough only for me to squirm along on my stomach with limbs out flat. It was not even possible for me to turn my head to face the other direction – I could only look out “over” my right shoulder. Well, you can imagine how claustrophobic it was. In fact, it was so horrid that when I woke up, I couldn’t get rid of the confining feeling for a while – I had to get up out of bed and walk around. Even now, it gives me shivers just typing the description in.

Aaaack! The worst nightmare I can remember is getting a parking ticket on my car. I felt anxious apon awaking, only to realize that the place I parked my car in the dream did not exist in reality.

Many here may be familiar with my “chessboard” parallel theory of That Hideous Strength”. I tend, almost subconsciously, to look for parallels (it’s probably a lot to do with what makes me good at mathematics, I think), and, true to form, this chapter in particular, is making me notice another set of “parallel” situations between Ransom and the Green Lady. For instance, when he is telling her about Earth and how there are no floating islands – only fixed land amongst the oceans – she asks where he lives then. This strikes me as very similar to her own confusion when Ransom, in an earlier conversation asks to come to “her” island, and she does not understand, since they are all “her” islands.

What struck me most about the Green Lady's reaction to Ransom's discription of our planet was that she assumed that the same rules applied to us as to her. She was still quite "young" on that point.

I was amused by a sort of literary “pun” that Lewis uses. As Ransom and the Green Lady are talking, she suggests asking the King when they are both surprised by the object falling from the sky. Here is the passage.
-------------------
“Yes, the King, by all means,” said Ransom. “If only we can find him.” Then, quite involuntarily, he added in English, “By Jove! What was that?”
------------------
The “pun” is that in The Discarded Image, Lewis describes the qualities of Jupiter as kingly – it is the king of the planets, and here, just after mentioning “the King”, he immediately says “By Jove”, “Jove” of course being a synonym for Jupiter.

I thought the same about the juxtapose of these two words as well. The first time I read "Perelandra" I may have thought that "the King" was in fact making his grand entrance. Ironic that instead of a Perelandran King, it's a Thulcandran professor falling from the sky.

Later when the Green Lady suggests going to the fixed land about a mile away, Ransom says “Let us do this. If we can swim so far.” I wonder what tone he has here. Is there a sort of sarcasm, as though he were saying “Oh sure Lady, ha! You think we can swim all that way?” That almost seems out of character, or “against” the tone of the place...

I am as sure as you are that there is nothing whatsoever sarcastic about Ransom's remark about going to the fixed land. It was simply a question about how they were going to travel there. Lucky for Ransom that it turned out to be large fish that carried them, though the floating islands could have drifted over to the fixed islands as well.

As a personal side note, this description reminds me also of how the “southern” half of Rama in Arthur Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” is described, for those who have read that book.

Didn't the Raman's build everything in sets of three? I will have to read that book again. I did not care much for the sequel though.

In the long paragraph where Lewis recounts the ideas and philosophies of Weston and “scientifiction”, I am reminded of a sort of “corrupt” version of Christian evangelism in its desire to spread to other worlds.

Could it be that Lewis was lampooning the New Age movement of his time rather that true, objective science? Lewis mentions elsewhere that a professor such as Weston would not be taken seriously in reality. I wonder if the same can be said today?
so it goes...
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Re: my thoughts elsewhere

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Dec 2004, 00:01

Monica wrote: But without you there would be no study. You set the jumping off point. You lead the followers. And you respond to posts and keep the threads going. Thanks!


Thanks for your confidence in me, Monica. It's just that I get the feeling that sometimes I'm posting a study which resembles one of Holden Caulfield's reports. I wish I could get The Catcher in the Rye out of my mind.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby Guest » 18 Dec 2004, 16:37

Sorry for jumping in right in the middle; I'm new to this site and these forums, but I'm a long time fan of Lewis and the Space Trilogy. A couple of questions/observations that came to my mind when I read this chapter:

Why is the entrance of evil into Perelandra so subtle, so "humdrum"? Weston's arrival represents a turning point in the story and in the history of Perelandra, yet the actual event seems to pass with very little attention.

I love Lewis' summary of the goals of Weston and other such types - "a dream begotten by the hatred of death upon the fear of true immortality, fondled in secret by thousands of ignorant men and hundreds who are not ignorant." Lewis' observation, though applicable to his own time, seems unncanily suited to the twenty-first century, as is much of his work.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 Dec 2004, 19:37

So glad to see new people to the site, and especially those who want to add their comments to the Perelandra study! Welcome.

trogdor wrote:Why is the entrance of evil into Perelandra so subtle, so "humdrum"? Weston's arrival represents a turning point in the story and in the history of Perelandra, yet the actual event seems to pass with very little attention.


Here is the entrance of evil into Perelandra:

"Something like a shooting star seemed to have streaked across the sky, far away on their left..."

Here is another indication of an entrance into Thulcandra that I think is at least as great a turning point in our own story and history:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."

I wonder if Herod might have said to them, "Why is the entrance of this King of the Jews so subtle, so humdrum":-) And remember that Genesis tells us "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." Perhaps the episode you are talking about in Perelandra fits in exactly here? (but I am not sure exactly what "entrance" you are talking about -- see below)

I love Lewis' summary of the goals of Weston and other such types - "a dream begotten by the hatred of death upon the fear of true immortality, fondled in secret by thousands of ignorant men and hundreds who are not ignorant." Lewis' observation, though applicable to his own time, seems unncanily suited to the twenty-first century, as is much of his work.


Yes, in my own comments I mentioned the interesting phrase about "the fear of true immortality". This whole section and the next chapter are very intense -- in fact, I think the next chapter is an answer to your question above. If the intense horrors of that chapter are not the opposite of "very little attention" I don't know what is. But again, I'm not sure what you mean by "very little attention" -- do you mean attention by the author to the reader (in which case, my comments above about the next chapter apply) or do you mean attention by the Oyarsa (in which case that is a deeper question to which the subtlety of the serpent in Genesis description probably applies)?

I don't mean to sound confrontative on your first post here. As I said above, I love to see new participants. I see your post rather as a fascinating question to address and discuss, and I hope you will be encouraged to pose more questions and offer discussion. For me, this book provides interesting topics of discussion in nearly every paragraph!

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby Guest » 18 Dec 2004, 19:46

Very interesting parallel between the shooting "star" bringing evil into Perelandra and the star in the east announcing the arrival of Christ. It seems that oftentimes the most significant events in history occur in such a way that only those who are already looking for them notice them at all.

In this case, though, even Ransom gets distracted very quickly. That could be caused by the same thing that caused his fidgety-ness at the beginning of the chapter - perhaps he's just not attuned enough to appreciate the significance of his experiences.

As to your comments on the next chapter, I'm looking forward to reading it and tying it back in. I read Perelandra about six months ago, and jumped right back in when I discovered this forum. Thanks for the welcome!
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Feel Free to jump in

Postby Kanakaberaka » 19 Dec 2004, 02:09

Welcome Trogdor;
Don't worry about putting your two cents into the discussion anytime you please. I should be posting my study of Chapter 7 on Sunday. I just needed time to let the ideas percolate in my mind. And there are many ideas for discussion in that chapter. It's Ransom vesus the newly spiritual Weston. But sadly they are not on the same wavelenght. Tune in tomorrow for the details.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 6

Postby Stanley Anderson » 19 Dec 2004, 04:25

trogdor wrote:In this case, though, even Ransom gets distracted very quickly. That could be caused by the same thing that caused his fidgety-ness at the beginning of the chapter - perhaps he's just not attuned enough to appreciate the significance of his experiences.


I think it is more due to the fact that he and the Green Lady simply have no idea yet about what it is. And after the flash of light and the sound, there is nothing more for them to see from the island's vantage point. But as we shall see in the next chapter, while he and the Green Lady are looking around from the pillars of the fixed land, he begins to get an ugly feeling about what it could be. And his attention to the matter does not get distracted from that point on.

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