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Perelandra Chap. 11

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

Perelandra Chap. 11

Postby Kanakaberaka » 24 Mar 2005, 06:50

As night falls on Perelandra, Ransom talks to God in the darkness - And his questions are answered!

This whole chapter takes place in the dark. Yet paradoxicly Ransom's purpose is illuminated as he calls out to Maleldil. The darkness is discribed as heavy, almost suffocating as it surrounds Ransom. This reminds me of a painting of Christ mentioned in the writings of G.K. Chesterton. The Saviour is very darkly painted, however He gives off light to the rest of the painting causing it to glow. The clear voice speaking in Ransom's head is there to give directions to him. The conversation reminds me of Christ's agony in the Garden of Gethsemene because Ransom is told bluntly about his duty to face the dangerous challenge ahead of him rather than just comfort.
But Maleldil's message does not go through unhampered. Ransom's own "voluble critic" chatters away during much of the revelation. The term voluble has an interesting definition. It's most obvious definition means fluent and talkative of course. But it also means "turning easily on an axis" or in botany "twisting like a vine". So there is a deeper meaning to Ransom's voluble self. It is the weak human tendency to twist in the wind, to go with the flow of things rather than oppose an adversary. This appears to be Ransom's case. And Maleldil wants to make sure Ransom fulfills his role in opposition to the Un-Man on Perelandra.
Heroic illustrations fill Ransom's mind at one point. He remembers the story of "Horatius on the bridge". Lewis is refering here to an ancient Roman story of how Horatius almost single handedly held off an attack by the invading Etruscans so that a bridge could be demolished, cutting off their advance on Rome. Horatius is gravely wounded, suffering the loss of an eye. And yet he fights on untill the bridge collapses into the river. Horatius dived into the river and by some accounts managed to swim to safety on the other side. Though in other versions of the story he dies trying. Ransom is well aware of the possibility of death while opposing the plans of the Un-Man.
Finally the Voice in the darkness reassures the professor by telling him "It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom". There is a bit of confusion here since our hero's name is not really in fact "Ransom". Remember Lewis' statement in the last chapter Out Of The Silent Planet that names have been changed to protect the identities of all involved. So what might be Ransom's real name? We are told that it was derived from "Ranolf's son", but I think his true name might refer to another way to discribe Christ's saving mission to humanity. The voice went on to say "My name is also Ransom". So Ransom's "real" name could be some reference to Our Lord's purpose to redeem humanity. Out of curiosity - Can anyone think of alternate names for Elwin Ransom that would have the same significance?
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 11

Postby Sven » 27 Mar 2005, 03:17

Here's a possiblity. There is an Icelandic name that is also 'Ranolf's son', Runolfsson. I did a quick Google, and came up with

Ari's vernacular History of the Icelandic people, Islendingabok, contains a second reference. It is worth noting that one of the bishops connected with commissioning Ari's history was Bishop Thorlak Runolfsson, whose mother was a granddaughter of Thorfin Karlsefni mentioned in the Groenlendinga Saga. In his reference, Ari takes for granted that Vinland itself needed no elaboration. Speaking of Greenland, Ari says,

" They found there human habitations, both in the Eastern and Western parts of the country and fragments of skin boats and stone implements; from which it can be concluded that the people who had been there before were of the same kind as those who inhabit Vinland and whom the Greenlanders call Skraelings."


Also, Elwin is a variant of a good Germanic name, Alvin.

Perhaps our pedestrian's name was Alvin Runolfsson, and, being a philologist, making multi-lingual puns on his own name, like Runolfsson to Ransom, would have been his idea of a humor. I'm sure Maledil is quite capable of taking a bit of humor and making the connection to a religous point.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 11

Postby Steve » 27 Mar 2005, 13:01

I can identify with Ransom's attempted arguing that it would be unreasonable for his efforts to be so crucial in the fate of Perelandra. I've been tempted to think that myself about life, ie "will there be people in hell who could have been saved if I'd shared the Gospel with them."

On the one hand, it does seem perfectly logical that God in his infinite mercy would not arrange things so that someone else's eternal destiny depended on whether I was obedient or not. On the other hand, as Ransom's thinking leads him, if free will exists, who can set a boundary on how significant it could be?
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Fighting Words

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 Apr 2005, 23:04

At one point Ransom's voluble self fears certain death at the icy cold hands of the Un-man. - "When", he asked, "did I ever win a fight in my life?" - I can really sympathyse with Ransom on this point since I must admit the same. The need for this physical combat comes from the fact that Weston's body is the Devil's one foothold on Perelandra. Without a physical body, the Evil One would be cast out into The Deep. This has me wondering why, instead of a fist fight, Ransom couldn't have performed some sort of exorcism to cast the Demon out of Weston's body. Wouldn't it have been possible to save Weston's soul as well as defeat the Demon? Maybe Lewis simply wanted some slam-bang action in this novel, but somehow I doubt it. What could be the significance of this fight of mortal flesh against a possesed mortal?
so it goes...
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Re: Fighting Words

Postby Steve » 03 Apr 2005, 12:17

This has me wondering why, instead of a fist fight, Ransom couldn't have performed some sort of exorcism to cast the Demon out of Weston's body.


Good question, never thought of it before.

Possible answers (I'm kind of greenlighting here)
1) an exorcism wasn't really possible because Weston wasn't repentant. (His one cry for help was only momentary).
2) If Ransom had had the faith, he could have performed an exorcism. But being an imperfect servant of God, all he could think of was fighting (which was nonetheless better than doing nothing).
3) Lewis intended the book for a secular audience, and thought putting in an exorcism would lose them.
4) Lewis never thought of the idea, or he himself wasn't positive that exorcisms could really work in his own day and time.

I think #3 and #1 are the most probable, #2 and #4 are pretty improbable.[/quote]
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 11

Postby Stanley Anderson » 19 Apr 2005, 16:02

I find this chapter hard to say much about since it is itself essentially a running commentary. Writing commentary about commentary seems almost circular somehow.

But here are a couple observations anyway:

Whatever happened here would be of such a nature that earth-men would call it mythological. All this he had thought before. Now he knew it. The Presence in the darkness, never before so formidable, was putting these truths into his hands, like terrible jewels.


Talk about mythological – I couldn't help but get the image of the Silmarils from Tolkien's Silmarllion in Beren's hand from this description. I wonder if Lewis had that in mind, even though it wasn't yet published (he might have heard it straight from Tolkien in their Inklings readings of course)?

When Lewis talks about the terrible silence in this scene too, it reminds me very much of the ending of Till We Have Faces where Orual gets much the same answer from the gods as Ransom gets from Maleldil here. And again later in the scene we read this evocation of what would become a familiar theme in the Narnia books:

In vain did his mind hark back, time after time, to the Book of Genesis, asking "What would have happened?" But to this the Darkness gave him no answer. Patiently and inexorably it brought him back to the here and now demanded. Almost he felt that the words "would have happened" were meaningless.


There was question in this thread about Ransom simply exorcising the demon out of Weston's body and whether that were a possibility. I think one of the main themes of the book was the re-merging of physical action with spiritual action in a mythological way in this unfallen world – the idea being that part of the fall was to "separate" things into discreet "sides" when they were meant to be united in one as Christ is fully man and fully God and other theological doctrines about God and his creation.

But from a purely cause and effect point of view, if one wants to pursue it that way for the fun of it, I suppose one might look to the demons that Jesus exorcized in Scripture that "needed" to go somewhere else and were sent into the herd of pigs. Perhaps it is that in this unfallen world, there is no "unclean" herd of pigs for the demon to flee into and so the body must be destroyed. And too, there is the parable about demons being cast out of the "house that was swept clean" and gathering seven more demons and going back so that the state of the man was worse than before. Again, perhaps the fight was to prevent such a recurrence? Just idle conjectures about something that probably doesn't need an explanation besides just that it is part of the story.

Just a typo note: on page 149 of my edition near the bottom is the sentence: "On the other hand, you might say that he had delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom." I would assume that there is a "been" missing and that it should read, "…that he had been delivered…" – is this typo in other people's editions?

At the end of the chapter after Ransom's excruciating ruminations in the night, we read this:

"I have cast your Enemy into sleep," said the Voice. "He will not wake till morning. Get up. Walk twenty paces back into the wood; there sleep. Your sister sleeps also."


Although the situation and conditions are very different, still, Ransom is a sort of Christ figure in the book (and in THS) and I wonder if a parallel to the Garden of Gethsemane and the disciples falling asleep while Christ prayed was intended here?

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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pork and beens

Postby Guest » 21 Apr 2005, 13:49

FROM STANLEY: Writing commentary about commentary seems almost circular somehow.

Circular or perhaps linear -- one step further removed. They say there are only two kinds of stories: circular and linear. Circular, where the hero leaves home and returns a better person; and linear, where the hero leaves and home and ends up somewhere else a better person.

FROM STANLEY:
There was question in this thread about Ransom simply exorcising the demon out of Weston's body and whether that were a possibility. I think one of the main themes of the book was the re-merging of physical action with spiritual action in a mythological way in this unfallen world – the idea being that part of the fall was to "separate" things into discreet "sides" when they were meant to be united in one as Christ is fully man and fully God and other theological doctrines about God and his creation.

Completely agreed. Ransom had to fight with his own hands. 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood' but our wrestling against spiritual powers often feels like a physical fight. I bet Christ felt it so on the cross. (And P.S. I loved your pigs reference. The pigs MUST have some kind of physical explanation.)


FROM STANLEY:
Just a typo note: on page 149 of my edition near the bottom is the sentence: "On the other hand, you might say that he had delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom." I would assume that there is a "been" missing and that it should read, "…that he had been delivered…" – is this typo in other people's editions?


I have the 'been' in my edition.
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Re: pork and beens

Postby .Ælfgifu. » 22 Apr 2005, 08:46

A further point on the idea of simply exorcising the demonic being from Weston: what would Weston's role in the process be? By all appearances he had called for and embraced the possession. Would he want to be set free? Would it be possible for Ransom to exorcise him against his will? Even if it was, the chances are that Weston would cry out to be repossessed. It certainly seems unlikely that Weston would invite the Holy Ghost in to defend himself (considering that he thinks his 'Force' and the Holy Spirit are the same thing). As long as he remained alive and unconverted on Perelandra, he gave the Bent One a foothold there which (the Lady having resisted the temptation) was no longer the will of Maleldil. The only real answer was therefore to destroy Weston's physical body entirely, thus preventing the Bent One from having any physical bridgehead outside the Moon's orbit.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 11

Postby Ebbingkneeser » 23 Apr 2005, 12:37

[quote="Kanakaberaka
This whole chapter takes place in the dark. Yet paradoxicly Ransom's purpose is illuminated as he calls out to Maleldil. The darkness is discribed as heavy, almost suffocating as it surrounds Ransom. This reminds me of a painting of Christ mentioned in the writings of G.K. Chesterton. The Saviour is very darkly painted, however He gives off light to the rest of the painting causing it to glow. [/quote]

I felt a bit of an awakening experience when I read these sentences at the beginning of chapter 11: "The darkness was packed quite full. It seemed to press upon his trunk so that he could hardly use his lungs: it seemed to close in on his skull like a crown of intolerable weight so that for a space he could hardly think. Moreover, he became aware in some indefinable fashion that it had never been absent, that only some unconscious activity of his own had succeeded in ignoring it for the past few days."
These words reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is
shining through it all the time. Thomas Merton

I think I love reading C.S. Lewis so much because he is always opening my eyes to transcendent realities. The imagery he uses in Chapter 11 is so palpable (the suffocating darkness, the fear of long metallic nails ripping off flesh, Ransom's epiphany at the end of the chapter) that it brings front and center ideas that I had "just sort of wondered about" before.

Eb
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Salvific Imagery

Postby Kanakaberaka » 25 Apr 2005, 03:22

Ebbingkneeser wrote:
... The imagery he uses in Chapter 11 is so palpable (the suffocating darkness, the fear of long metallic nails ripping off flesh, Ransom's epiphany at the end of the chapter) that it brings front and center ideas that I had "just sort of wondered about" before.

Eb


At Mass about two Sundays ago we sung a hymn which mentioned Jesus being embraced by death (on the cross) only to break death's grasp in triumph much like a wrestler. It reminded me of Ransom's fight against the Un-Man in the next chapter. More about that later.
so it goes...
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Piggies

Postby Kanakaberaka » 25 Apr 2005, 03:58

Stanley Anderson wrote:
There was question in this thread about Ransom simply exorcising the demon out of Weston's body and whether that were a possibility. I think one of the main themes of the book was the re-merging of physical action with spiritual action in a mythological way in this unfallen world – the idea being that part of the fall was to "separate" things into discreet "sides" when they were meant to be united in one as Christ is fully man and fully God and other theological doctrines about God and his creation.

But from a purely cause and effect point of view, if one wants to pursue it that way for the fun of it, I suppose one might look to the demons that Jesus exorcized in Scripture that "needed" to go somewhere else and were sent into the herd of pigs. Perhaps it is that in this unfallen world, there is no "unclean" herd of pigs for the demon to flee into and so the body must be destroyed. And too, there is the parable about demons being cast out of the "house that was swept clean" and gathering seven more demons and going back so that the state of the man was worse than before. Again, perhaps the fight was to prevent such a recurrence? Just idle conjectures about something that probably doesn't need an explanation besides just that it is part of the story.

--Stanley


I never thought about the fact that an evil spirit, once expelled from it's host, might find a new home in another victim. On an unfallen world such as Perelandra this would be a tragedy since it would most certainly be an innocent victim. Do you remember that scene in "The Exorcist" where the younger priest invites the demon Pazuzu into himself in order to free the possesed girl? The priest then had to sacrifice his own life in order to expell the demon.
You do bring up a good point about the need for physical action against this agent of evil. After all, Jesus was the Incarnation of God who's mission was to save us from our sins.
so it goes...
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