Perelandra Chap. 12

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

Perelandra Chap. 12

Postby Kanakaberaka » April 29th, 2005, 3:10 am

Synopsis - Ransom awakes to find that everyone except for the Un-Man and himself are sound asleep in the daylight. A savage fist fight begins and continues much of the day. Finaly Ransom has the Un-Man on the run and a mad chase across the golden waters ends the chapter.

After awaking with reassurance from Maleldil, Ransom resigned himself to his fate. But none of Perelandra's unfallen beings would witness the violence happening around them for their sake. Maybe even witnessing such a battle would destroy their innocence.
Ransom initiates the fight when the Un-Man refuses his order to drop a dead bird. After Ransom's first punch even the Un-Man is stunned. His only reaction is to threaten Ransom by exclaiming, "Do you not know who I am?". I loved Ransom's retort - "I know what you are"... "Which of them doesn't matter". All the evil one can do is make an empty threat that Maleldil will do nothing to help him win a physical fight against himself. He goes so far as to quote, or rather remember the last words of Jesus on the cross in Aramaic : "Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani" - "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?". The Un-Man wants Ransom to belive that Maleldil was about to abandon him as well, the spiritual battle was still on. Ransom's only choice was to jolt the evil one out of Weston's body with brute force.
As they fight on it dawns on Ransom that God would not set a burden before him that he could not bear. As terrible as the fight is, Ransom begins to get the better of the Un-Man who is stuck with Weston's middle aged body. For all his evil tricks he has not made Weston's body any stronger, only less alive. It was that "living death" that frightended Ransom at the start, and now, except for the metal finger nails, it has proven to be a sham. God knew the emptiness of the Un-Man's threat, but for some good reason (possibly to keep Ransom wary of his foe) He only gave Ransom reassurance, not inside information about the fight.
C.S. Lewis gives a horribly realistic blow by blow description of this hand to hand fight. And yet as Ransom gains the upper hand and pins down the Un-Man he can't help reciting a line from "The Battle of Maldon", a poem about a Viking raid on the Essex shore in the year 991. Looking it up, that line must have been the reply of Byrhtnoth the Alderman to the Viking's demand for tribute :
"Hearest thou, seafarer, what this folk sayeth?
They will to you a tribute of spears give,
deadly points and time-tested swords,
such war-gear that you in battle will not profit from."
It reminds me of a line from a John Wayne movie where some bandits tell him to hand over the gold. The Duke replys that he has no gold to give, but he can give them a load of lead (from out of his six-shooter). Unfortunatly this bit of bragadiccio gives the Un-Man a chance to break away from Ransom's grip.
Eventualy the Un-Man gives up the fight and dives into the water to catch a ride on one of the large fish (not all of Perelandra was asleep). What happens next is a fantastic chase scene with Ransom mounted on his own friendly fish and a whole school of likeminded sea creatures aiding the pursuit. Talk about a cinematic moment! This particular chapter would fit very well into one of today's action adventure films. It begins with intriging dialogue, then goes to a no holds barred fight ending with a chase on the high Perelandran sea. Lewis must have been in tune with pop-culture, pulp fiction in this case to write such an action sequence.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 12

Postby .Ælfgifu. » April 30th, 2005, 3:48 pm

It might be just me, but if I were shouting a line from the Battle of Maldon in a life-or-death struggle, it would be:

'Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað'

'Thought shall be the harder, heart the sterner,
Spirit shall be the more, as our might shrinks'

Which, besides being one of the best-known couplets in Old English poetry, is more to do with the actual struggle than the exchange of insults at the beginning. It's the one I've always imagined. Does Lewis specify differently?

The fish-back chase always presents itself to the mind as cinematically stunning - you can sort of picture the vista of gold-green ocean and the lonely line of animals spread out against the horizon...
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Battle Fatigue

Postby Kanakaberaka » April 30th, 2005, 4:47 pm

.Ælfgifu. wrote:It might be just me, but if I were shouting a line from the Battle of Maldon in a life-or-death struggle, it would be:

'Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað'

'Thought shall be the harder, heart the sterner,
Spirit shall be the more, as our might shrinks'

Which, besides being one of the best-known couplets in Old English poetry, is more to do with the actual struggle than the exchange of insults at the beginning. It's the one I've always imagined.


You have have a point there, AElfgifu. It's just that when I read a translation of the poem that rejoiner by Byrhtnoth stuck in my mind. Now that you mention it, Ransom is tiring physicaly at the point he recites the quote as he has the Un-Man pinned down. It could be my American sense of "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" that made me think of the counter-challenge line. You on the other hand are closer to the source of "The Battle of Maldon" and are more familair to the whole poem.

Does Lewis specify differently?


Nope, It's just a passing reference of the poem's title. I googled it and found all sorts of reference materials, including a map for a minature war game which I am tempted to re-enact with some of my small scale Midieval figures.
I found it interesting that although to poem was about a battle lost to the Viking raiders, the Anglo Saxon defenders are praised as heros, at least those who fought to the death rather than retreat.
so it goes...
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Re: Battle Fatigue

Postby .Ælfgifu. » April 30th, 2005, 7:10 pm

It's certainly an interesting poem - one of the very few datable Old English poems and the only one that refers to a battle and characters we can find records of elsewhere. At the time of writing there was a large Danish army engaged in several years of extended piracy all up and down the English coast. Æthelred (immortalised as 'the Unready') was generally uninspiring and seems to have suffered from treachery more than most of his predecessors, but he was also notorious for simply buying the Vikings off with tribute. The author of 'Maldon' seems to have been trying to rouse some fighting spirit by describing the only actual resistance offered by any English nobleman - the elderly Brythnoth. The general thrust of the argument is that it is better to fight despite the odds and die in loyalty to the cause than to flee the battlefield - using what was then an already somewhat archaic form of poetry to hark back to a golden age of heroism.

The main reason I didn't think of that exchange at the beginning of the poem is that it is static; the viking messenger is on one side of a tidal causeway and Byrhtnoth is on the other with the water high between them. Besides, in the later speech there's a sense of abandonment to fate, of a choice made and then followed through to the end no matter what. There are other lines earlier on that are possible - perhaps:

'God ana wat
hwa þære wælstowe wealdan mote'

'God alone knows
who will be allowed to control the place-of-slaughter'

Or something similar. I would have thought that my first suggestion would appeal more to 'the going gets tough' - in the middle of the fight, something shorter than the counter-challenge might even appeal to Americans, non? ;)
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Pure hatred.

Postby Ebbingkneeser » May 28th, 2005, 11:57 am

About the fifth page of this chapter, Lewis writes: "Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him - a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred." I love how Lewis introduces concepts that I had never considered, but which I grasp as absolutely true as soon as I read them and can immediately relate to my own experiences. In this case, he describes the recruitment of focus and energy that is possible if we don't have to worry about being "fair" or "understanding" or "nice". So true!

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