This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

Perelandra Chap. 1

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

Perelandra Chap. 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 17 Oct 2004, 23:47

Synopsis - The first chapter of Perelandra opens much like chapter one of Out Of The Silent Planet - with a pedestrian walking along a country road. Only this time the hiker is the narrarator, presumably Lewis himself. He struggles along against unseen forces who make innocent things appear ominous to him. Finaly he arrives at his destination, Prof. Ransom's cottage, only to find an ominously shaped box and a nearly invisible being who is apparently an eldil. Ransom arrives shortly there after to apologize for being late and explains all the odd happenings to his guest.
-----------------------------------------------------------
I expected the first chapter of this book to mention the characters from the first book. And the three Malacandrian races are named. But as he walks from the Worchester railway station the narrarator focuses on one type of extraterrestrial being in particular. The eldila, angelic beings without any material bodies to be seen by humans. He goes into great detail about what these eldila are. Along the way to Ransom's place he is assaulted by negative thoughts from some unseen menace. These turn out to be our own fallen Terrestrial eldila.
But that's getting a little ahead of the story. Before Ransom makes his dramatic entrance, his guest enters the cottage to find it dark and empty. Or maybe not! There is one very special and noble guest present who would be nearly invisible if it were not so dark. The Oyarsa of Malacandra has chosen to visit Ransom's humble abode and calls out in his bloodless voice to the guest, mistaking him for Ransom. I suppose we Thulcandrans all look alike to Malacandrian eldila. The icey casket adds a creepy touch to the proceedings which follow. It makes you wonder what's in store for Ransom in a rather morbid way.
C.S. Lewis was so into the supernatural nature of the eldila that he includes a footnote about their appearance. It's an excerpt from an author named Natvilcius. I have not been able to find any information about this scholar on the internet. So I wonder if the footnote was simply a plot device invented by Lewis to suspend our disbelife. Somehow I doubt it. Unlike H.P. Lovecraft who invented whole ficticious books for his stories, Lewis would not intentionaly mislead us just for the sake of a good story. The footnote mentions that the glow of angelic and demonic beings may not be their bodies but rather their sense organs or the surface of their bodies which exist in another reality. This sounds to me like the discription of an aura, which is one of those New Age gimmics. It's amazing how pop-culture can turn a scholarly speculation into a fad.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

Re: Perelandra Chap. 1

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 Oct 2004, 15:59

I have to say, this book is going to be very frustrating for me by doing it a chapter a week. There is so much to ponder and talk about in it, I want to go paragraph by paragraph, however unrealistic that would be:-) I simply won't know where to start or end.

But I'll do what I can as I have time. For the moment, I'll just note that I strongly recommend Lewis' "Preface to Paradise Lost" for fascinating connections and illuminations into Lewis' ideas in Perelandra (as I've mentioned before, I'm tempted to call it "Preface to Perelandra, at least":-). And of course, as with OSP, The Discarded Image is an invaluable resource for all three books of the Space Trilogy.

Well, that's all for now. More later.

--Stanley
(by the way, it should be noted -- so that's what I'm doing right now I guess -- for those newcomers who may be finding this study without having been here long enough -- there was one already done last year for Out of the Silent Planet back on the old forum format, which is gone now unfortunately. But I believe K has said that he kept an archive of it and can send it to whoever might want to see it. (is that correct, K?)
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Perelandra Chap. 1 -- overall chapter comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 Oct 2004, 20:29

I want to make comments about small sections of the chapter in other posts, but here I'll give some of my impressions of the chapter as a whole.

I think this chapter is simply a masterfully done study of a gradual progression from discomfort to outright terror -- so much so, that ironically, every time I reread the chapter I break out into laughter. The sequence of events that Lewis writes about are so seemlessly interwoven with the development of that terror and so "rationally" executed that I just laugh for pure joy at the ingenuity of his storyline here. And at each stage of the development, it seems like this must be the culmination of the effect, only to have the next inevitable step shatter that impression and reveal an even deeper seated form of terror. It just doesn't let up.

And yet, unlike many currently popular "methods" of portraying such intensity with the subtlety of a sledge hammer (one particularly popular adaptation of a favourite book comes readily to mind -- what could I be thinking of?:-), Lewis doesn't pound the reader over the head, but suggests and cajoles the terror out of him, making it all the more recognizable and unnerving.

Lewis the protagonist in this chapter plods along on his way to Ransom's house, intellectually contemplating the ideas of eldilla which turns to vague fear. Lewis the walker attempts to allay this vague fear by thinking about "something else" -- the dreariness of the road. But this gives him the sudden jolt of realizing he has forgotten his pack. More intellectual contemplating about eldils, but he feels like he is walking against a headwind in a perfectly still evening. A fog begins to develop reflecting the "fogging" of his mind (the image of fog and its obscuring effects paralleling the psychological state of the characters is a recurring one that we see in THS also). "Logical" deductions and possibilities about his own and Ransom's psychological state begin to weigh more heavily on his mind. Well, this goes on in its inimical and yet inevitable way until Lewis gets to the house, finding no one there (of course), has the match go out, another one break, hits his shin, another match blows out, discovers a coffin-like object, trips over the lid, detects the odd smell, and finally to hear the ghostly voice.

It is all so deliciously set up to evoke that foggy terror that Lewis wants to convey here. I just love it! I enjoy reading this chapter very slowly and just savouring each little buildup sentence by sentence.

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: Perelandra Chap. 1

Postby a_hnau » 18 Oct 2004, 20:41

Hi, all. Just to respond to a couple of points;

- Natvilcius is a Latinisation of "Nat Whilk" (Anglo-Saxon for "I don't know") - this was a pseudonym that Lewis used for some of his writings. Lewis is just playing with us.

- as regards eldila, something very much like them appears in Charles Williams' play The House of the Octopus
Urendi Maleldil
User avatar
a_hnau
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England

Re: Perelandra Chap. 1

Postby Sven » 18 Oct 2004, 20:59

a_hnau wrote:- Natvilcius is a Latinisation of "Nat Whilk" (Anglo-Saxon for "I don't know") - this was a pseudonym that Lewis used for some of his writings. Lewis is just playing with us.


Well done that hnau!
I've just rushed over and scribbled that at the bottom of the appropriate page of my copy of the book for future reference. I knew about 'Nat Whilk', but I never would have picked up on this usage.
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.
User avatar
Sven
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 2873
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Greenbelt, MD, near Washington DC

The Undiscarded Image

Postby Kanakaberaka » 19 Oct 2004, 00:58

--Stanley
(by the way, it should be noted -- so that's what I'm doing right now I guess -- for those newcomers who may be finding this study without having been here long enough -- there was one already done last year for Out of the Silent Planet back on the old forum format, which is gone now unfortunately. But I believe K has said that he kept an archive of it and can send it to whoever might want to see it. (is that correct, K?)
--------------------------------------------------
Yes it is, Stanley. But the OOTSP is still available in the old forums archive section. If anyone has trouble finding it, I can e-mail the study chapter by chapter, if neccesary. BTW - That study was all done at the begining of THIS year, not last. It seems like years ago now that you mention it.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

Too Gradual for me

Postby Kanakaberaka » 19 Oct 2004, 01:14

Maybe I've read too many Doc Savage thrill a paragraph adventures to appreciate the gradual build up of tension you discribe, Stanley. I hate to admit that I found most of the walk to Ransom's cottage tedious rather than forboding. I kept on thinking "Enough speculation about eldila. Get Ransom back into the story". It did not even occcur to me when I first read this opening chapter over 20 years ago that it was our own terrestrial eldila putting those negative thoughts into the narrator's mind. It seemed like plain old indecision to me at the time.
Once he enters Ransom's place and encounters the Oyarsa of Malacandra it's another story.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

Re: Too Gradual for me

Postby a_hnau » 19 Oct 2004, 09:27

Some random thoughts;

- Does anyone else know Voyage to Arcturus (David Lindsay)? There seem, at least to me, to be significant parallels between it and Perelandra, and we know Lewis knew the book.
- the thoughts that occur to Lewis on the walk to the cottage are put there by the Tellurian eldila - very reminiscent of Screwtape - I suppose Screwtape and Wormwood are trying to gain the patient's soul i.e. damnation in general, whereas the attack on Lewis is intended to mar a highly strategic event (Ransom's intervention on Perelandra - I guess the Tellurian eldila are aware of what's planned?)
- the sense of the eldila being the frame of reference and the whole of Earth seeming 'slanted' in their presence is repeated in THS when the eldila visit Ransom in his upper room at St Anne's.
- I like what Lewis says, 'even if the whole universe was crazy and hostile, Ransom was sane and wholesome and honest' - the power of character. Dare I say that this reflects in some small way the impression of Christ we gain from the the New Testament? Ransom is certainly a Christ-figure in the Trilogy.
- when Lewis says "I wasn't sure whether I liked 'goodness' so much as I had supposed" I'm reminded of The Silver Chair when Jill first meets Aslan - she needs to drink from the stream, but dare not do so under Aslan's gaze. "There is no other stream", said the Lion.
- the last paragraph of chapter 1 must allude to Faust or some other story of medieval magic - is it Lewis who says that deals with the Devil in the Middle Ages seemed to be nothing much more than a way of losing your soul on singularly unfavourable terms? 'They achieved not to great powers nor to much certainty'
Urendi Maleldil
User avatar
a_hnau
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England

Voyage to Arcturus

Postby Kanakaberaka » 19 Oct 2004, 11:29

a_hnau wrote:
- Does anyone else know Voyage to Arcturus (David Lindsay)? '

-----------------
Yes, I read it years ago after seeing it mentioned by Lewis in one of his essays. I mentioned it in the Out OF The Silent Planet study in the chapter where Rason meets Augray the sorn.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

Re: The Undiscarded Image

Postby Stanley Anderson » 19 Oct 2004, 13:56

[from K]:
>BTW - That study was all done at the begining of THIS year, not last.

Yes, I meant to type something like "over the last year" but it came out wrong. Sorry 'bout that.

>But the OOTSP is still available in the old forums archive section.

Not that I need to see it since I participated in it, but when I try to go to the old forums I get to the main screen, but there are no posts there. Am I doing something wrong? Or are they archived someplace else?

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: Too Gradual for me

Postby Stanley Anderson » 19 Oct 2004, 14:45

[from k}:
>It did not even occcur to me when I first read this opening chapter over
>20 years ago that it was our own terrestrial eldila putting those negative
>thoughts into the narrator's mind. It seemed like plain old indecision to
>me at the time.

Nor was it supposed to occur to you. It was supposed to seem like plain old indecision to the reader. That was one of the points of the whole episode of his walk to Ransom's house, and one that Lewis makes in Screwtape (as a_hnau mentions) and several other places -- that we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalites and powers and the rulers of darkness (although Lewis changes that a bit when Ransom gets off-planet to Perelandra, of course:-). It was an attack by the enemy, but done in such a way as to make the subject (ie, Lewis the walker) unaware of the attack (thus the symbolic nature of the fog to obscure clear vision that Lewis the author uses in the scene -- and as I mentioned, also to the same effect in THS)

>I hate to admit that I found most of the walk to Ransom's cottage
>tedious rather than forboding. I kept on thinking "Enough speculation
>about eldila. Get Ransom back into the story".

I rather saw the speculation about the eldila as part of the device Lewis uses to build the tension. It is the curious transformation of intellectual speculation into visceral fear that the author is trying to achieve. Additionally, in fact, he even uses tediousness (in Lewis the walker's sense) as part of the "plot" to build it up where he thinks "This is a long, dreary road. Thank goodness I haven't anything to carry" at which point he remembers his forgotten pack. The dreariness in the walker's mind is part of what sets him up to be "available" for the terror that the enemy is trying to induce in him.

But of course a writer doesn't want (or want very much of anyway) dreariness to be part of the reader's experience -- or I should say, an author may want a reader to sense dreariness as part of the story, but not to feel dreary in the act of reading. At this point we would have to simply differ as to taste in style. Rather than finding it tedious, I savour that whole section, as I said, almost sentence-by-sentence. But not in the way I might savour an action-packed adventure setting. That first part of the book has a different purpose, which purpose would be ill-suited if done in the current movie-setting obligatory method of pounding, breathless activity. Indiana Jones-type action has its place (and unfortunately most movie makers these days think it is the ONLY place to be), but there are other ways of evoking things.

>Once he enters Ransom's place and encounters the Oyarsa of
>Malacandra it's another story.

And I maintain that the buildup of the previous section is what make the culmination of his encounter with the Oyarsa so "other story-ish". We as the readers have been set up to be in a state of uncertainty and confusion by Lewis the walker's many fits and starts and stumbles, and his apparent "inner voices" telling him to "go back, go back", so that when he finally does hear an actual voice we must look around in silence, as it were, at this sudden "actual" ghost that is not the walker's imagination. But even then it is not an earthly voice. Then to see his friend (Ransom) arrive and begin conversing with it in an inhuman-like way is like having his one remaining support knocked out from under him (temporarily of course). No, to me, that scene is all of a piece with the entire chapter.

But of course your milage may vary:-)

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: Perelandra Chap. 1

Postby Stanley Anderson » 21 Oct 2004, 20:23

[from a_hnau]:
>- Natvilcius is a Latinisation of "Nat Whilk" (Anglo-Saxon for "I don't
>know") - this was a pseudonym that Lewis used for some of his writings.
>Lewis is just playing with us.

Lewis' oft cited (and self-admitted) lack of mathematical ability has been mentioned in these forums in the past from time to time. Most recently it was mentioned in a linked article talking about the author's relationship with Lewis and used, in part, to cast some doubt on the credibility of Lewis' arguments about scientific matters. My reply to the general charge about Lewis' abilities in math has been (not just in this recent example, but other references in the past too) that as a mathematician myself, I see in Lewis' writings, regardless of any scholarly admission standards or self denigrating comments by Lewis, the same sort of qualities in logical thinking and ability to make connections between disparate subjects that I feel made me good at mathematics, along with an apparently good sense of the fundamental concepts of many of the strange and disorienting issues in modern physics. It is hard to put my finger at precise examples – suffice it to say that I have always thought that no perceived deficiency in mathematical ability in Lewis’ thought processes had any negative effect on his ability to draw philosophical and, yes, even scientific or mathematical conclusions. In other words, I have always thought Lewis was good in mathematics in ways that counted most (pun not realized until I had typed that last word!:-)

With this in mind and the connection of Natvilcius with Lewis’ pseudonym, I found the quote from N, and especially the author’s [Lewis'] comment in the footnote about the quote to be quite revealing – ie, I can’t say it for sure obviously, but it suggests that Lewis himself was implying something very much like I have suggested above. Here is the author’s comment on the quote:

“Not, of course, that Natvilcius knew anything about multi-dimensional geometry, but that he had reached empirically what mathematics has since reached on theoretical grounds.”

It is interesting too that the connection between N and the pseudonym used by Lewis suggests another parallel – that Lewis described himself as a dinosaur in that he felt more at home as a anachronistic medieval man, very likely 1627 (the date he mentions about the source of the quote from N) being the general period Lewis himself might have felt most at home with, philosophically.

And of course this all fits in nicely with my suggested recurring theme during the OSP study about the transformation from modern man to medieval man.

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: Too Gradual for me

Postby Stanley Anderson » 21 Oct 2004, 20:36

[from a_hnau]:
>Ransom's intervention on Perelandra - I guess the Tellurian eldila are
>aware of what's planned?

To some degree at least. As Ransom says at the beginning of the next chapter, "They've got wind of what's on hand..."

>- I like what Lewis says, 'even if the whole universe was crazy and
>hostile, Ransom was sane and wholesome and honest' - the power of
>character. Dare I say that this reflects in some small way the impression
>of Christ we gain from the the New Testament? Ransom is certainly a
>Christ-figure in the Trilogy.

It is also reminiscent of Puddleglum's famous speech in SC about being a Narnian even if Narnia doesn't exist.

>- when Lewis says "I wasn't sure whether I liked 'goodness' so much as
>I had supposed" I'm reminded of The Silver Chair when Jill first meets
>Aslan - she needs to drink from the stream, but dare not do so under
>Aslan's gaze. "There is no other stream", said the Lion.

Yes, and much else that Lewis talks about in other places where he suggests that in the face of true holiness and goodness, we might very well cower in fear and trembling as we see of those in Scipture who are met by angels or even "manifestations" of God himself

>- the last paragraph of chapter 1 must allude to Faust or some other
>story of medieval magic - is it Lewis who says that deals with the Devil
>in the Middle Ages seemed to be nothing much more than a way of
>losing your soul on singularly unfavourable terms? 'They achieved not to
>great powers nor to much certainty'

When Lewis the character thinks (about Ransom talking to the Oyarsa), "leave your familiar alone, you damned magician, and attend to Me", the term "familiar" refers to a spirit that guards or protects someone, and is probably of Medieval usage.

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: Too Gradual for me

Postby a_hnau » 23 Oct 2004, 10:13

Thanks, Stanley. Small digression (but still within the Trilogy); I was washing up and so on yesterday, and when I do this kind of stuff, my mind is always drawn to two passages - one in OOTSP where Ransom is doing domestic work on the spacecraft on the way to Malacandra, and the other at the beginning of THS where Jane has just finished her housework - "The breakfast things were washed up, the tea towels were hanging above the stove, and the floor was mopped. The beds were made and the rooms 'done'." What occurred to me was that in the passage quoted, Lewis deliberately says the beds were made. I think this is very subtle on his part; I'm assuming that at this early stage in their marriage (six months), Mark and Jane still sleep in the same bed - so there would only be one bed to make - but I think Lewis deliberately uses the plural to avoid bringing into the mind of the reader any thought of the intimacy (or lack of it) between Jane and Mark, which he wants to introduce in his own specific terms a couple of paragraphs later. Am I reading too much into this?
Urendi Maleldil
User avatar
a_hnau
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England

bedding on the bay to win:-)

Postby Stanley Anderson » 25 Oct 2004, 16:36

[from a hnau]:
>Lewis deliberately says the beds were made. I think this is very subtle
>on his part; I'm assuming that at this early stage in their marriage (six
>months), Mark and Jane still sleep in the same bed - so there would only
>be one bed to make - but I think Lewis deliberately uses the plural to
>avoid bringing into the mind of the reader any thought of the intimacy
>(or lack of it) between Jane and Mark, which he wants to introduce in his
>own specific terms a couple of paragraphs later. Am I reading too much
>into this?

Interesting to think about, but ultimately, I suspect it may be reading too much into it. I wonder if "the beds were made" is more of simply a conventional way of talking about cleaning up. After all, Lewis certainly doesn't "avoid bringing into the mind of the reader any thought of the intimacy" between Jane and Mark. The line, "Only one thing ever seemed able to keep him awake after he had gone to bed, and even that did not keep him awake for long", is pretty clear what it is talking about I think. And Jane worries about waking him up after her dream, so she "crept out of bed and sat waiting for the first hint of morning." Wouldn't such an indication as "crept out of bed" suggest that she was not in a separate bed, otherwise, why creep? And I think one of the purposes of the whole scene is to establish their lack of emotional intimacy despite any physical intimacy they have.

By the way, even though chapter two has already started, I'll make a couple comments here about chapter one that I had made notes about but forgot to mention while replying to others' comments about it. The first rather minor observation is to note how similar both OSP and Perelandra start out -- a man walking through the countryside in somewhat disagreeable circumstances, thinking about his duty to another person.

I also "recognized" Lewis the walker's discomfort at Ransom's "change" upon returning from Malacandra. His comment is very much like one a non-Christian might think about a recently converted friend. Here it is:

"One can't put the difference into words. When the man is a friend it may become painful: the old footing is not easy to recover. But much worse my growing conviction that , since his return, the eldila were not leaving him alone. Little things in his conversation, little mannerisms, accidental allusions which he made and then drew back with an awkward apology, all suggested that he was keeping strange company"

And of course he mentions the example of Christianity directly in the next paragraph, although in this case in reference to his own fear of being "drawn in" rather than about Ransom's changes. I guess I think of it here since Jo has often posted questions about how conversion changes a person inwardly or outwardly. The quote above, metaphorically of course, is perhaps a very good answer to that sort of question.

Here is another minor observation, but I like the way Lewis conveys physical actions so clearly. After he has tripped on the coffin-like thing (which the reader has no idea of what it is or is like yet), he writes, "One's hand groped alnog the rim of a kind of low wall -- the thumb on the outside and the fingers down inside the enclosed space". This almost sensual description really gets across the action that Lewis the walker is experiencing. Rather than simply describe what the thing was, we follow the character's exploration of it. Has anyone read that line (if they read carefully and not simply skimmed) and not actually put their hand into the air in that position while imagining moving it along the edge of the thing? It is also another example of a quality that Lewis uses extensively (which I mentioned quite a bit in the OSP study too) of having the reader experience things without knowing what they are and only afterwards being told what it is, part of the "seeing it from another point of view" method that Lewis is fond of doing (and which I've mentioned the theological reasons for doing so elsewhere).

Well, lots of other things one could go into great detail about this chapter, but chapter two calls!:-)

--Stanley
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Next

Return to Perelandra

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 1 guest