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Chapter 11 Study

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

Chapter 11 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Apr 2006, 03:25

Synopsis: Weeks pass and Ransom finds a place in the village of Hrossa. But more importantly he learns enough of their language to be able to communicate with them. He was mistaken in thinking that the Hrossa were paleolithic in their thinking. Yes, their tools apeared crude. But their knowlege of astronomy and talent for song is better than Ransom's own. There is also the first mention of the pfifltriggi and the nature of the sorns (or seroni) in this chapter. Finaly after many questions the conversation turned to Ransom's encounter with the water monster. When the hrossa figured out that it was a hnakra they dropped everything to organize a hunt for the rare and dangerous beast.

Lewis does a little time telescopeing at the begining of this chapter in order to get to the interesting parts. I imagine that as a philologist he may have been tempted to include a lot more information about how Ransom learned the language of the hrossa. Thankfully he limited this to a few select words. So we arrive at the point where Ransom has enough command of the language to carry on simple conversations. And yet the hrossa are not so simple themselves. They have a tradition of songs and story telling. The example that Ransom gives, where one hross narrarates a story while three others break in from time to time to sing reminds me of an American musical or a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta - part spoken word with musical interludes. If only Ransom had a fuller appreciation of the hrossa language at the time!

And speaking of language appreciation, I keep on picking up bits and pieces of foreign phrases from Lewis. In chapter 11 the French phrase is "faute de mieux" which means "for lack of something better". Ransom uses this to discribe eating the pinkish weed on Malacandra when there is nothing else available.

Then the conversation turns to where Ransom came from.
" In answer to their questions he began by saying that he had come out of the sky. Hnohra immediately asked from which planet or earth (handra). Ransom, who had deliberately given a childish version of the truth in order to adapt it to the supposed ignorance of his audience, was a little annoyed to find Hnohra painfully explaining to him that he could not live in the sky because there was no air in it; he might have come through the sky but he must have come from a handra."

The hross named Hnohra goes on to point out the planet Thulcandra from which Ransom came. But none of the hrossa knows why it is called the Silent Planet. Ransom is told to ask the seroni, beings he is reluctant to meet. Astronomy is not the only advanced subject the hrossa are converscent in. Ransom thought that the hrossa might need to be evangelized, but soon discovers that that they have their own advaced beliefs in spirituality. Not superstition and myths, as one might assume from poeticly minded people. Their word for the Creator is "Maleldil" who lives with the "Old One". And neither are physical beings like the Malacandrians or Ransom. And then there's Oyarsa who rules Malacandra. The hrossa are not sure about wheather of not he is hnau (again, go ask the seroni).

This brings up the definition of "hnau" or intellignet physical beings with souls. Ransom is shown a golden bowl illustrating the three races of Malacandra. Needless to say he is surprised to discover a world where three distict races can co-exist without one killing the other two off. This truely is an accomplishment. Although we should keep in mind that the Malacandrians are unfallen. The pictures on the bowl also confirms the fact that the seroni are in fact the sorns, which Ransom was almost handed over to. The golden bowl itself reveals what it is Weston and Devine have traveled here for, material wealth. Lewis uses this one small prop to give us much information about what is going on in his story.

Ransom is reluctant to give away information about the people of his own handra. Understandable so because of what happened to Dr. Cavor in H.G. Wells' "First Men in the Moon". Cavor spoke about the bravery and honor of fighting a war to the Selenites in our Moon. So naturaly they locked him up to prevent the arrival of more Earth men.

Time to change the subject for sure. And the hnakra is just the thing to do it. The hrossa recognise the beast from Ransom's discription and, like devoted anglers, drop everything in order to send out a hunting (or is it a fishing) party. Shades of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick! Ransom follows his friend, Hyoi out to his boat.

Along the way Ransom encounters a hross pup named Hrikki who appears to be talking to an imaginary friend. She tells Ransom that it is an "eldil" she is speaking to. I wonder if Lewis' choice of Hrikki's name may have been inspired by Rudyard Kipling's "Rikki Tikki Tavi" ? The hrossa do have a passing resemblence to a mongoose.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 11 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 10 Apr 2006, 12:35

Monica joked that "Hrikki could be after Hrikki Hricardo " :
Doesn't Desi Arnez sound like he's starting most words with an 'H'? Hlucy, Hi don't have time for hyour games.

///I imagine that as a philologist he may have been tempted to include a lot more information about how Ransom learned the language of the hrossa. Thankfully he limited this to a few select words.///

For those of us non-philologists with a little bit of the philologist in us, there isn't ENOUGH information! If Lewis had beefed up this whole area, and thrown in a few appendices, he could have left himself the a similar Tolkien legacy of all those fans who have learned Elvish as an actual language.

To which Stanley Anderson responded :
I LOVE THIS! It hearkens back to the good ol' forum parody days that we see too little of these days (I still have fond memories of the Bob Newhart parody you did once). What would an I Love Lucy version of OSP be like. Hrikki is the hross of course, but what would Lucy and the others be? I would tend to think of Lucy (and Ethel too, perhaps) as Pfiffiltriggi. Hard to imagine Fred as a sorn -- he probably needs to be a hross too. Of course I don't think Malacandrians probably engaged in interspecies marriage, so I suppose they all have to be hross.

With that assumption, the episode would have to revolve around Hrikki bringing a famous interstellar traveler by the name of Helwing Hransom home for dinner and Hlucy in her typical maniacally excitable way at the prospect of meeting a famous person plots to show Hransom how sophisticated and well-met with other humans she is and ends up inviting Hweston and Hdevine over for the same dinner date. Well, you can imagine the fireworks when those three get together.


Stanley then posted his own thoughts "over and under" :
This comment is not really related specifically to chapter 11, but this is as good a place to post it as any I suppose.

I was thinking about how Ransom's experience on both Malacandra and Perelandra was not (primarily) "on the surface" of the planets but on "facsimiles".

On Malacandra, most of the activity occurs down in the handramits, the "cracks in the world" that were opened up by the Oyarsa to allow life to exist away from the desolate surface that presumably was rendered unfit by the interplanetary war between Thulcandra and the other Oyeresu early in the history of the Field of Arbol.

And on Perelandra, the great portion of Ransom's experience is not on the "fixed land", but on the floating islands. Here it is not that the fixed lands are ruined as on Malacandra, but rather sort of the opposite -- the inhabitants are not quite ready for the glory of the fixed lands until the end of the book. In fact, in both Malacandra and Perelandra, Ransom's experiences on the "main surface" of the planets is only as a sort of "passing though" temporarily -- on Malacandra, to take a short-cut across the harandra to get to Meldelil, and on Perelandra (except for the ending of course) as a kind of lookout for other islands when he visits the fixed land with the green lady and meets Weston.

In fact, as I think about it, even in THS we see a bit of this. On Malacandra he lives "under the surface" in the handramit, and on Perelandra, he floats on the surface on "tenuous" islands, and on Thulcandra he lives "above the surface" on the hills where St. Annes is located (reference the scene in the chapter "Fog" where Jane has taken the train to St Annes and looks out over the fog to see St. Annes and the other seeming-paradisial "islands" that rise up above the lower fog-infested areas where the NICE has its influence.)

Not sure what to make of this, but it does suggest another example of Lewis' affinity with the "hierarchical" and ordered and layered structure of the Medieval cosmological view of the world and universe.


I posted "Digging Deeper" :
This isn't really a reply to your "over and under" posting, wandering Stan. It's just that I did not include enough about Ransom's introduction to the pfifltriggi in this chapter. Do they remind you of a certain race from "The Lord of the Rings" ?
- "It is very deep there, it goes to the roots of the world. The best things that can be dug out of the earth are there. The Pfifltriggi live there. They delight in digging. What they dig they soften with fire and make things of it. They are little people, smaller than you, long in the snout, pale, busy. They have long limbs in front. No hnau can match them in making and shaping things as none can match us in singing. "

Sounds a lot like the dwarves if you ask me. Their homeland appears to be a strip mined version of Moria.

I have ideas about the significance of the three races of hnau on Malacandra. But this mythic parallel just occured to me. Does anyone else see analogies between them and popular legends?

Stanley pointed out :
Yes -- "anyone else" being Lewis himself! This is one of the points he will make later in the book when Ransom gets to Augray the Sorn's place and connects him with the Cyclops, along with comments about the eldilla, and also in Perelandra when he sees the dragon coiled around the tree and a few other places. This is a prime philosophical aspect in the books that Lewis is intent on making. I was going to possibly talk more about this later in connection with the eldilla example that Ransom will think about and their connection with the chapter in The Discarded Image about the "Longaevi".


Stanley then had "more notes on Ch 11" :
I was struck by the first paragraph of this chapter. Here Lewis describes the change from arriving on or escaping from this adventurous place to simply "being" and living there along with all the "regular" things one does when one becomes acclimated to a new place. I am reminded of how Lewis talks about reading -- particularly Medieval texts -- and the illustrations he uses that have to do with travelling. He does this in at least a couple places, and I wish I had the one that is in the first essay in "Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature" to quote from, as it goes into more depth. But the introduction to The Discarded Image uses much the same illustration, though less detailed -- and I DO have that handy. Here is the excerpt from the preface where he is explaining the purpose of the book:
My hope was that if a tolerable (though very incomplete) outfit were acquired beforehand and taken alng with one, it might lead "in" [Lewis has previously lamented scholarship that seems to lead the reader "out" of the book]. To be always looking at the map when there is a fine prospect before you shatters the 'wise passiveness' in which landscape ought to be enjoyed. But to consult a map before we set out has no such ill effect. Indeed it will lead us to many prospects; including some we might never have found by following our noses.

There are, I know, those who perfer not to go beyond the impression, however accidental, which an old work makes on a mind that brings to it a purely modern sensibility and modern conceptions; just as there are travellers who carry their resolute Englishry with them all over the Continent, mix only with other English tourists, enjoy all they see for its 'quaintness', and have no wish to realise what those ways of life, those churhces, those vinyards, mean to the natives. They have their reward. I have no quarrel with people who approach the past in that spirit. I hope they will pick none with me. But I was writing for the other sort.

In this eleventh chapter of OSP we see Ransom becoming one of those second type of travellers who begin to see what those ways of life, those churches, those vinyards, mean to the natives (and I suppose the connection to my thesis about the gradual conversion of Ransom from modern scientific man to Medieval man is apparent here).

Lewis, I think, is going against type here -- at least for the science fiction of his period -- where the protagonist is learning about the "aliens" and seeing them as real "hnau" rather than stereotypes he has picked up from the science fiction and sociological assumptions of his earthly life. And even more to the point here, as we shall see later in the book, the story goes against the typical "evil" aliens attacking mankind who (as "us") must defend against "them". Here it turns out that we are the evil or "bent" enemy and it is "them" that must be defended against "us".

I notice also the discovery that even the pinkish white weed on the ground is edible in a pinch, and that if Ransom hadn't found the hrossa, he might have "starved amongst abundance". This seems to fit in with the unfallen state of Malacandra where the hnau don't have to, as the post-fall Adam did, struggle with the ground for food. They are in the midst of abundance, even though their planet bears the scars of the interplanetary war way back when.

One humourous note: I misread one word in this section at first. Lewis writes "They slept on the ground. They seemed to have no arts...", but I at first thought it read "They slept on the ground. They seemed to have no ants..." Good thing, I thought, but an odd particular for Lewis to note at that point. Of course the next few words clarified my error immediately, but it brought a smile to my face at the time:-)

The description of the hrossa music was fascinating. It would be interesting to try to compose something in hrossa form and see what one could come up with. Oh wait. I forgot about "The Estate". Oh well, never mind (*looks cautiously around for any black helicopters hovering nearby*)

Well, gotta go. Maybe notes on the rest of the chapter later...(there's a lot to talk about in this chapter)

Carol asked "they had no ents??" :
That might be how a kiwi would say it.... and of course, if they had no ents to carry them gently, or lay them on soft pillowing banks, then they might well sleep on the ground! It is so easy to mix myths here... mixed mythafors, so to speak.

Steve commented on Stanley's notes :
Funny, the comment about not thinking of being on another planet, reminded me of our years living in Africa -- a lot of daily life in another context.

To which Stanley asked Steve :
And you think that was a more dramatic change than leaving your California life to live on the east coast? Surely that was a greater cultural change?!:-)

But really, back to your initial comment, it would be fascinating to hear more of the sorts of things about that daily life that you experienced living there and the differences with here. Would it be side-tracking too much to add some stuff here? (not for me!)

And just when are you going to come back to your childhood home for a visit so you can see us again?


To which Steve replied :
I was thinking about the how the details of this (remembering my life in Africa) worked out and how this compared with OOSP, and I came to the conclusion that it was opposite to the imagery that Lewis was trying to depict. What stood out in my memory was how much Africa was like living in the US -- earth is the same, clouds and sky are the same, plants look the same. No, not "just" like of course there were obvious differences, in the climate, in the people, in the culture. But what stands out in my mind is how the similarities in day to day outweigh the differences. This is completely different to Ransom's experience, everything on Malacandra was so different to earth.

But funny, it seems to fit our modern experience of the solar system -- probes land on other planets, and return photographs, that you have to be a specialist to not see as being very much like deserts on earth.

Not sure I'm making much sense here -- its late at night and probably time for bed.

Stanley then gave us some "last bits on ch 11" :
Just wanted to add a couple final bits before moving onto chapter 12 (I'm a little behind here, I know).

One quick bit -- Ransom is talking to the hrossa about earth.
"Why do you call it Thulc?" he asked. "Why silent?" No one knew

That just brought a smile to my face because it reminded me of the scene in the movie "Local Hero" (for those who not have seen it -- highly recommended) where MacIntire is standing near the boat with a bunch of the local guys shooting the breeze while one of them is painting a name on the boat. There is a stroller with a baby in it. Mac casually says something like "Cute baby -- whose the Father?". Silence. All the men look around at each other as though they haven't a clue.

I also note the debate between the hrossa about who knows more -- the seroni or the hrossa. This relates to something about their character as a species that comes up again in the next chapter. I got a kick out of how they were so "intent", both in determining what the differences were -- the seroni were perfectly helpless in a boat and could not fish to save their lives (it is humourous that in a later chapter, Augray the sorn will say of the hrossa, "[they] know nothing except about poems and fish and making things grow out of the ground":-), and how after hearing about Thulcandra from Ransom the hrossa began making poems about all the strange things there. And again when they hear of the hnakra they are very excited, and even the children begin making play harpoons and such.

I guess my point here is that as a species this "enthusiasm" -- or at least this particular type of enthusiasm seems to be one of their distinguishing traits. One doesn't imagine a sorn getting "excited" in quite the same way.


To which I had some "Malacandrian disagreements" :
It is noteworthy that although all three races of hnau are able to critisize one another, they do so in a reasonable manner. The hrossa point out how deficient the seroni are at boating and fishing. And yet they admit that the seroni posses much better thinking abilities. The hrossa don't try to pass off their talents as being of more importance than the seroni's. On our fallen world a courteous debate is just about non-existant. Tune in to talk radio to hear what I mean. For example, a pundit might praise entrepreneurs for our dynamic economy while at the same time dissmissing those who belong to labor unions as parasites. There is no appreciation for what the "other side" does.

And Monica had this to say about Stanley's "last bits" :
I'm reading a book called "State and Nation in Europe 1550-1650", and it brings up this common fallacy that the feudal lords, and later, the nobility, and in all times, the learned city dwellers, are somehow more intelligent than the peasants.

The prejudice of one kind of intelligence over another seems to persist in all times and in all places. One of the things I like about Lewis is that -- brilliant as he is -- he always respected the kind of Paxonian intelligence of those closer to the land.
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