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Chapter 7 Study

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

Chapter 7 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 27 Mar 2006, 01:01

Synopsis: Devine awakes Ransom from his meditations to get his first glimpse of Malacandra's surface. There is a very dramatic opening of the manhole hatch outside. Ransom is pushed out by Weston hands first on to the planet's soft, pink, springy surface. Ransom is surprised to discover such a pleasent pastel world. But his desire to take in the sights is soon interrupted by the need to unload the vessel's cargo into the shack that Weston and Devine built during their previous expedition. They have lunch after doing so. But not without the arrival of "guests". Odd looking creatures appear on the far shore. Weston and Devine draw their revolvers to force Ransom to accompany them. Ransom looses his nerve and screams in terror at the approach of the alien beings. Then without warning a vicious monster jumps out of the water to attack them! Ransom uses this distaction to run off around Weston's sphere and into the Malacandran wilderness.
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It's one small step for Ransom, one giant leap for Hnau-kind!
Devine can't resist being sarcastic even during such a traumatic time for Ransom. The use of the word "Manhole" for the air tight hatch has me wondering. Is it a common nautical term for such round openings or was Lewis thinking of something like a sewer cover? There's an air of the subterranean about it.

What a surprise for Ransom that Malacandra is not as bad as he imagined it. At least not at first sight. Ransom mavels at the water color picture appearence of the landscape. He takes in the colors befor he can make sense of the shapes. the first sight he does recognise is a small hut built of native materials, yet obviously of human dimensions. Sadly it is only a structure left there from Weston's previous landing. And it's Ransom's job to fill it up with supplies from the vessel. Yet he manages to take in the wonder of his surroundings just the same. Ransom notes: "Before anything else he learned that Malacandra was beautiful; and he even reflected how odd it was that this possibility had never entered into his speculations about it. The same peculiar twist of imagination which led him to people the universe with monsters had somehow taught him to expect nothing on a strange planet except rocky desolation or else a network of nightmare machines."

Devine suggests they break for lunch, against Weston's advice that they finish the task at hand. Lucky for Ransom that Devine gets his way. Ransom wolfs down his humble food in antisipation of escape. "He was a little afraid that his companions might notice, and suspect, his new achievements as a trencherman; but their attention was otherwise engaged." I looked up the meaning of the word "trencherman" and found out it means a hearty eater. I had never heard of this word before, but it sounded like someone who spends his days digging trenches, something that would surely stoke one's appetite. I thought it might have something to do with Ransom's taking in the scenery rather than mouthing down the food.

Soon the simple meal is interrupted by the arrival of what appear to be sorns. I wonder now if Ransom's panic might have been avoided if Weston and Devine had been a bit more carefull about not mentioning anything about human sacrifice aboard the vessel. Pulling out thier revolvers was certainly a mistake as far as convincing Ransom to go along with them. Especialy considering how alien the sorns appered: "Spindly and flimsy things, twice or three times the height of a man. His first idea was that they were images of men, the work of savage artists; he had seen things like them in books of archaeology. But what could they be made of, and how could they stand? -so crazily thin and elongated in the leg, so top-heavily pouted in the chest, such stalky, flexible-looking distortions of earthly bipeds... like something seen in one of those comic mirrors. They were certainly not made of stone or metal, for now they seemed to sway a little as he watched now with a shock that chased the blood from his cheeks he saw that they were alive, that they were moving, that they were coming at him. He had a momentary, scared glimpse of their faces, thin and unnaturally long, with long, drooping noses and drooping mouths of half-spectral, half-idiotic solemnity."

Later Ransom will change his view of the sorn or seroni as they are called. But this is his first impression. I think someone here mentioned that the sorns reminded him of the statues of Easter Island.

But at this point in the story, Lewis puts in a deus-ex-machina in the form of an aquantic preditor. A very common device in all those pulp fiction type adventure stories I am fond of. The monster's attack causes Weston to shoot at it while Devine panics and Ransom uses the pandemonium to make his escape. Now Ransom will be on his own to discover the real Malacandra.

Yet it has me wondering. What if Ransom had not overheard Devine's conversation with Weston? What if the two had managed to hand Ransom over to the sorns without incident by fooling him into thinking that all they wanted was a diplomat from Earth? Of course that in fact is what they wanted. No, I do not think that they could have fooled Ransom so easily. But it does make you wonder how differently the story could have gone.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 7 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 27 Mar 2006, 02:32

Steve opened with these comments :
This is a very interesting chapter. Lewis does the best job of rendering that staple of early science fiction -- the plausible sounding idea that landscapes on different planets with different gravity would be so different from earth landscapes. We have the waves, tall and upright, the tree sized plants that aren't woody.

I can still remember believing in this idea and being excited about watching the first Apollo mission to land near mountains (I think it was Apollo 14), looking forward to TV images of these impossibly slender needle peaked lunar mountains that I'd read about most of my life, only to discover that there in the background was this hill, whose shape could easily have been any hill within bicycle range of my California home.

Interesting idea about what would have happened had Ransom gone with the Sorns -- probably would have gotten right to the end chapters, Ransom's dialog with the eldila and the eldila sending them home again.


Monica had this to say to Steve :
On the line of 'alternative endings' I came across a book in the library I thought you might have read. It's called "Alternate Generals" and it's a series of stories of what-would-have-happened-in-military-history-if.... Stories, like, if, for example Confederate Colonel Joshua Chamberlain led his men in the battle for Little Round Top, with his brother leading the Union troops. (Not that that makes any sense to me.:-)

But if-then scenarios are so fascinating. What if I hadn't ran into my husband at the University? What if I'd never checked the internet for "C.S. Lewis"?

Lewis says Jesus never tells us what 'would have been' but I like to think someday Jesus just might show us where alternate roads, had we made different choices at the forks, might have led.


Steve had me wondering about an "Alternate Ending" :
You have me wondering about how the eldila might have reacted to Ransom's warning about what type of men Weston and Devine were. What if the eldila could not belive how corrupt Earthlings really were? Remember that it was only after Weston and Devine killed three Hross that they were captured. Would the Malacandrans understand original sin without experiencing it first hand? I realize that their planet was attacked by our own evil eldil thousands of years ago. But it was not the human inhabitants of "the silent planet" who did so.


Monica had this to say about my study post :
///He takes in the colors before he can make sense of the shapes. ///

Isn't it interesting that Ransom seemed to acclimate to Malacandra much sooner than he acclimated to Perelandra. Perelandra was the unfallen planet -- perhaps the perfection was harder to grasp with fallen eyes.

///I looked up the meaning of the word "trencherman" and found out it means a hearty eater. I had never heard of this word before, but it sounded like someone who spends his days digging trenches, something that would surely stoke one's appetite.///

I like your explanation better -- very imaginative. But the original word "trencher" dates back to Medieval times, when plates, or "trenchers" were first made of bread, and later made of wood or pottery.


The Big Sleep J had this to say about C.S. Lewis' use of the word Trencherman :
If this is true, then Lewis might have used the word "trencher" deliberately for the sake of enforcing the medievalistic themes that, as Stanley pointed out, run through the book. Trencher might have been an already half-archaic word in the 1930s.


I joked with Monica about "Trench Toast" :
Isn't it interesting that Ransom seemed to acclimate to Malacandra much sooner than he acclimated to Perelandra. - Monica
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Maybe it was the fact that Ransom did not find himself naked, swimming in a sea of seltzer water, as he did on Perelandra. At least he was on terra firma, or rather Mars firma, on Malacandra.
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But the original word "trencher" dates back to Medieval times, when plates, or "trenchers" were first made of bread... - Monica
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Hmmm... A Medieval version of the taco salad ! Amazing how advanced they were back then when it came to fast food.


Monica replied "good one, K! " :
Excellent point. It explains all that eating-with-one's-hands that went on in the Middle Ages. Ripping open those little packages of plastic knives and forks was too time-consuming.


The Big Sleep J had this to say about Ransom's first impression of Malacandra and my speculation about what would have happened if he had be handed over to the sorns :
The favourite of old-fashioned sci-fi illustrations (or should I say stereotype) is odd Salvador Dali-esque landscapes and such. Lewis makes the landscape seem less alien without making it seem mundane or commonplace. The pink color reflects the idea that Mars has always been "The Red Planet". Off course instead of being like a bad Dali-immitation it ends up being like a water color painting.

-----------------------------------------

Off course, it would have been interesting. Ransom might have been carried away by the fierce creatures kicking and screaming with the two "scientist" probably telling them to "be civil". Ransom in turn would probably call for help. The sorn would take him too, uh, the Hrossa (correct term & spelling) to be educated. Nah, I like Lewis' way more.


I responded with "Hello Dali" :
Something to keep in mind is that Salvador Dali took familiar objects and twisted them around in surealistic ways such as melting clocks and unexplained gaps in his paintings. C.S. Lewis on the other hand has Ransom observing an alien landscape with a feeling of odd familiarity about it. Lewis compares unfamiliar things on Malacandra to common objects like a cauliflower or roll of fabric and house plants. While Dali takes things we are comfortable with and makes them appear bizzare.


Robin posted :
I found Lewis descriptions of Malacandra to be unique, I loved the soft pastels colors and the unusual shape of things - it was so "other worldly" alsmost like describing a different dimension. I still have difficulty to this day picturing the sorna, they appear to be tall elongated humanoids with big heads. I'm curious to know how you all see them as..


I replied with a comment about the appearance of the Seroni :
Someone here mentioned that he thought the sorns may have been inspired by the huge statues of Easter Island. If I ever complete some sketches of them to my satisfaction I plan on sending them to Stanley Anderson so he can post them.


Stanley Anderson posted this wonderful "Hnau group photo" :
Here is a scan of a drawing by my favourite illustrator, Tim Kirk. I have lots of wonderful drawings of his that I'd love to scan and display if I had the chance but this will have to do for now.

--Stanley

Image


Stanley commented on this whole chapter with "office gossip" :
[from K]:
>Ransom mavels at the water color picture appearence of the landscape.

At first I misread this and thought it said "the water cooler picture appearance". I immediately imagined those six sorns were standing next to the blue water (this being the Malacandrian equivalent of a water cooler) shootin' the bull and chatting "down the hall" as it were. One of them nudges another and says "Hey, you hear the latest rumours about Augray? They say he stormed into Oya's office and demanded an assistant to help with all his astronomical work. I hear the Big Slanted One caved in, saying that just by chance he had a temp from Thulcandra coming soon and not to worry." Suddenly another of the six exclaims "Wow -- get a load of the stalks on that creature across the water cooler [mock wolf call]. Do you suppose that is the new assistant? You're on your own, gals -- first one across gets dibs on him".

>What if Ransom had not overheard Devine's conversation with Weston?

Sort of like wondering what if Edmund hadn't deserted the other three to go over to the Witch? Actually, not much different perhaps. They would have handed Ransom over and demanded their gold from the Pfiffltriggi and probably gotten into the same trouble as they eventually did anyway?
------------

Well here are my own comments on the chapter:

Sort of like the trencherman question, I had never heard the term "brown study" and was going to ask our British Wardrobians what that mean, but I found it in my dictionary as meaning sort of lost in contemplation. I wonder where the term comes from?

I notice that Ransom's first view of the planet has been carefully set up. It must have been important as a visual scene, at least, to Lewis since he makes a point of having Weston and Devine be frustrated that the shutters were stuck so that they could not look out except by the manhole. I suspect Lewis wanted to help convey, even before he gets out, the uncertainty of what Ransom himself could make out even after getting out onto the surface of the planet. In this first glimpse he can only see a circle of pink with the silhouetted shadows of Divine and Weston bobbing around in front of it (it's a very strongly visual image isn't it? I would hope that if any movie is ever made that this scene would remain intact as described -- well of course all the images in the book too, but we know what would happen if Peter Jackson got hold of the rights).

I wonder if Lewis is referring to an actual poet and actual image from an actual poem or whether he is only suggesting and idea? Anyone know?

Finally, I just note with curiosity the contrast between the richness of the pastel colours of Malacandra and what seem like the more "pure" intensity of the colours of Perelandra. Both worlds are unfallen, but Malacandra has been the scene of past battles. Perhaps it's "whitening" or lightening (ie the "pastel-ness") of its colours represent that "disfigurement" while Perelandra, yet unscathed still retains the pure-ness of the colours of its landscapes and people (note that the green lady is not some light tint of green but the green like a beautifully coloured green beetle). It makes me wonder if Earth in its fallen-ness would be equally disfigured as Malacandra, but in the opposite direction -- a darkening or greying of colours. And in fact, one of the effects we see in the Thulcandrian book of the trilogy, THS, is the fog that greys (not lightening as in pastels) everything out in Edgestow. I feel like things are "dark" not only in atmosphere, but in visual appearance at NICE too, but I can't think offhand if that is explicitly described in the book, or only my extrapolated feeling here. Interesting to think about anyway.

--Stanley


I responded to Stanley with "Ransom's Studies" :
They would have handed Ransom over and demanded their gold from the Pfiffltriggi and probably gotten into the same trouble as they eventually did anyway? - Stanley
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Ah, But those tricky Pfifltriggi would substitute fool's gold for the real artical, at Ransom's suggestion. Then Ransom would remain on Malacandra as the Thulcandran Ambassador while Weston and Devine would return to Earth with a shipload of worthless hematite.
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I had never heard the term "brown study" and was going to ask our British Wardrobians what that mean, but I found it in my dictionary as meaning sort of lost in contemplation. I wonder where the term comes from? - Stanley
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Hmmm... Could it be a reference to those "little brown girls" mentioned in "The Pilgrims Regress" ? Someone once suggested they could be a reference to women of primitive tribes pictured in National Geographic in their natural glory. Could it be that Devine caught Ransom oogling one of Weston's National Geographic magazines?


Monica responded to Stanley's "office gossip" posting :
[From Stanley]:
"brown study" ....I wonder where the term comes from?

I checked the internet and found this, not that it's a cure for wondering.
_____________________________________________________________
The expression dates back to the sixteenth century. We’ve lost the original meanings of both halves of the phrase, so it has long since turned into an idiom. Brown does refer to the colour, but in the late medieval period "brown" could also mean no more than dark or gloomy.

The first example is found in a book called Dice-Play of 1532: “Lack of company will soon lead a man into a brown study”.
_____________________________________________________________

Will K. say that Lewis used this medieval expression to buttress Stanley's view about the medieval elements in the book? :-)

[From Stanley]:
///I wonder if Lewis is referring to an actual poet and actual image from an actual poem or whether he is only suggesting and idea? Anyone know? ///

I don't know, but again, I checked on the internet. I didn't find anything that included the sense of "rising sea" and the words "turreted walls" except once: the exact expression was found at:

g.irisz.hu/ ~leto/scan/scifi/C.S.Lewis/CS_Lewis_-_Out_of_The_Silent_Planet.html

Not surprisingly.

[From Stanley]:
///Divine and Weston.....I would hope that if any movie is ever made that this scene would remain intact.///

With the Divine Miss M. (Bette Midler) playing Devine, I suppose? And maybe a nasty Shelley Long could be Weston?

///It makes me wonder if Earth in its fallen-ness would be equally disfigured as Malacandra, but in the opposite direction -- a darkening or greying of colours.///

That gave me an actual frisson, one of those little physical moments when the new heavens and the new earth become for a moment almost tangible. Imagine how wonderful the opposite direction will be when it gets turned around again, in the right direction.


And then Stanley responded to Monica :
[From Stanley]:
>///I wonder if Lewis is referring to an actual poet
>and actual image from an actual poem or whether he is only
>suggesting and idea? Anyone know? ///

[from Monica]:
>I don't know, but again, I checked on the internet. I didn't find
>anything that included the sense of "rising sea" and
>the words "turreted walls" except once: the exact
>expression was found at: g.irisz.hu/
>~leto/scan/scifi/C.S.Lewis/CS_Lewis_-_Out_of_The_Silent_Planet.html

I ran across the same site a while back trying to look for the phrase "thingummy's soap". I was hoping to find out more about it!:-)

By the way, I glanced back at my post and I apparently didn't quote the line I was referring to about the poet -- I could swear I did, but it must have slipped past. Thanks for recognizing what I was talking about anyway.

>With the Divine Miss M. (Bette Midler) playing Devine, I suppose?
>And maybe a nasty Shelley Long could be Weston?

:-) Which reminds me -- I also have Tim Kirk renditions of both Weston and Devine. If I have a chance I'll try to scan and post them too (they weren't available when the group photo was being taken:-)

>Imagine how wonderful the opposite direction will be when it gets
>turned around again, in the right direction

And that makes me think about what a small range of the electromagnetic spectrum our eyes can "see" as colours. I suppose that "right direction" will include widening that range of colours too?

--Stanley


Then Monica responded with "Madge, you're soaking in it" :
///I ran across the same site a while back trying to look for the phrase "thingummy's soap". I was hoping to find out more about it!:-)///

Oh, but you're not serious. There is no "Thingummy" of course. "Thingummy" is the antithesis of "Palmolive." In fact, "Thingummy" is the angel to "Palmolive's" Screwtape. Thingummy is thingamajig. The common man's refuge of language. It's just as if a wife said to her husband: "Honey, can you pick up a box of those new blue thingamajigs they're advertising." The honey knows what she means. He knows what a thingamajig is. He doesn't have to imitate a commercial and ask at the store for New Bounce Fabric-Softening Balls with Whitening Enyzmes. TM

All the more in Lewis's case, don't you think? Lewis hated advertising, and encouraged people to develop sales-resistance as an almost Christian virtue. He wouldn't be caught dead actually NAMING an advertiser's brand. "Thingummy's Soap" is a kind of devil's bane, a way out of the Screwtapian brainwashing of commercials.


This ellicited Stanley's response - "*pulling fingers quickly off keyboard with gasp* " :
figured that was probably the case. But you know how the Brits can be. Very understated and all. I have a friend who was once commenting about the contrast between, say, British magazine ads for speakers and American ads. The American ones would of course scream out in large bold letters something like "Sound that will blow you out of the room", while the British ads (at one time anyway, not sure how they are now) would very quietly say "the sound is quite nice, actually".

So, that, along with the odd British humour that pops up now and again, I could very well imagine the possibility of a Thingummy's Soap back in the 30's and 40's. Alas, I couldn't find it. But maybe Lewis ought to have trademarked the name, eh? Kinda catchy.

>He [Lewis] wouldn't be caught dead actually NAMING an advertiser's brand.

I agree. Which makes me think that was all the more reason he picked such a goofy sounding acronym for the bad guys in THS (unless he meant it to be seen as suggesting a French placename?:-)

--Stanley


To which Monica replied :
///(unless he meant {N.I.C.E.} to be seen as suggesting a French placename?:-)

Wither and Frost on the French Riviera. The mind reels.


Which set Stanley reeling off with "string cheese" :
But your mind doesn't need to reel. Isn't that essentially what that last scene with Wither, Straik, and Filostrato was supposed to convey (without the bathing suits of course:-)?

Erg! *mind reels anyway*,
--Stanley


Robin had this to say about Stanley's "office gossip" posting :
I think the colors of Malacandra are due to the fact that the world is old (fading as it were)...
so it goes...
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