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Chapter 12 Study

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

Chapter 12 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 10 Apr 2006, 12:40

Synopsis: As Ransom helps Hyoi prepare for the hnakra hunt, Ransom wonders if the hross ever go to war against the other hnau. This changes the whole conversation with Hyoi into a profound philosophical one. Ransom learns remarkable things about the virtures of the Malacandrians. The conversation ends with Ranson's question about not being able to view an eldil.
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News about the hnakra cut short Ransom's debriefing with the hrossa elders. Ransom was relived because he did not want to say much about things like war on Thulcandra. However, his curiosity about whether or not the hrossa go to war is sparked by the preparations Hyoi makes for hunting the hnakra. In spite of his military precision, Hyoi does not know what Ransom is talking about. Soon it becomes obvious that the hrossa find the idea of attacking a fellow hnau incomprehensible. From there the conversation goes on to reveal that the hrossa only have physical love for a year or two during their lives in order to keep the population steady. I'm not sure if I can sympathize with the notion that sex is strictly for procreation. Even my own Catholic Church allows natural family planing so that married couples can continue intimacy without neccessarily having more children.

The whole point of this talk is to show that the Malacandrians follow a moral lifestlye as animals follow their insticts. It simply comes naturally to them. This reminded me of the fourth voyage in "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift. On his final voyage Gulliver encounters intelligent horses who call themselves "Houyhnhnms" (pronounced "hwinnim"). Not only are the Houyhnhnms sapient, they are highly moral as well. They share the Hrossa's ideal of abstaining from sex in order to control their own population. Through their own morality they have created an equine Utopia. I wonder if Lewis was inspired by Swift's famous work? Is it just a coincidence that most of the Houyhnhnms' words begin with "h", just like the hrossa? I have a feeling that Lewis built apon Swift's notion of a totaly moral non-human society. Lewis left it up to Devine and Weston to play the part of the "Yahoos", the devolved, ape-men.

But the Hrossa are not weaklings. Hyoi lets Ransom know that that he is unafraid to risk death by encountering the hnakra. He even says that the presence of the deadly beast makes life worth living. This is quite different from the pastoral island of Swift's Houyhnhnms where the only adversaries are the lothsome Yahoos. And their only offense seemed to be throwing their own excrement.

Finally Ransom asks Hyoi who was it he was talking to when they first met. It was an eldil of course. And it disturbs Ransom that he cannot discern such creatues as the hrossa can. Since the cub, Hrikki had no trouble doing so, could this be a reference to our need to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Lewis also added quite a few additional Malacandrian liguistic notes in this chapter. I will leave those for Stanley to write about since he's better on it than I am.

so it goes.
so it goes...
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Kanakaberaka
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Original Chapter 12 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 23 Apr 2006, 02:58

Monica began the comments with these observations :
[From J.K.]:
: the hrossa only have
: physical love for a year or two during their lives in order to
: keep the population steady. I'm not sure if I can sympathize
: with the notion that sex is strictly for procreation.

You may not need to sympathize with the notion. It's possible that the hrossa are created to only NEED physical love during the period of procreation. It may not be that they constantly supress desire.

:I
: wonder if Lewis was inspired by Swift's famous work? Is it just
: a coincidence that most of the Houyhnhnms' words begin with
: "h", just like the hrossa?

I brought this point up earlier in the discussion and Steve made a similar point to yours. I suspect if all three of us have considered a Gulliver connection, that it is a very real. The more I get to know Lewis's work, the more I believe he was often inspired by other authors.

:This is quite different from the pastoral island of
: Swift's Houyhnhnms where the only adversaries are the lothsome
: Yahoos. And their only offense seemed to be throwing their own
: excrement.

This is the reason I enjoy this book so much more than Gulliver's Travels. Swift was unmerciful on the human race, bitingly scathing; while Lewis is gentler on our weaknesses.

: Finally Ransom asks Hyoi who was it he was talking to when they
: first met. It was an eldil of course. And it disturbs Ransom
: that he cannot discern such creatues as the hrossa can. Since
: the cub, Hrikki had no trouble doing so, could this be a
: reference to our need to become like little children in order to
: enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Good point!
Thanks J.K.


To which I gave this "Swift" reply :
It's possible that the hrossa are created to only NEED physical love during the period of procreation. It may not be that they constantly supress desire. - Monica
---------------------------------
The only point that has me wondering how the hrossa can have such an abrupt end to their erotic love is the fact that they consider the memory of their conjugal love to be a part of the whole. This makes sense to me if one becomes too old to enjoy the physical act of love. But if a person is still physicaly fit, I do not see why sex would not be desirable. Then again, maybe the hrossa are like terrestrial salmon and spend considerable effort to mate. And then having spawned enough young they are finished for life.
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The more I get to know Lewis's work, the more I believe he was often inspired by other authors. - Monica
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As have just about all other authors since the time of Homer ( The Greek poet, not Simpson).
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Swift was unmerciful on the human race, bitingly scathing; while Lewis is gentler on our weaknesses. - Monica
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I think that Swift focused more on practical politics rather than spirituality when he wrote "Gulliver's Travels". Lewis was interested in more profound theololgy in his fiction. Swift was known as a very pessimistic man in his time and it shows in his works. It's interesting that his great political satire had been passed off as a children's fairy tale in the 20th Century. Lewis had much to say about such serious adult works being treated that way.


Sven had this to say about Lewis and Swift :
Lewis mentions in "Surprised by Joy" that one of his favorite books at age eight was an illustrated and unabridged copy of "Gulliver's Travels". He also talks about Swift quite a bit in the essay 'Addison' in which he compares the writer Joseph Addison with Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. There Lewis says Swift a powerful and witty writer, but that he also could be a great bigot.

There have been a few essays written on Swift and Lewis, a couple are in "Word and Story in C. S. Lewis". In addition to the Houyhnhnms' similarity to the hrossa, you can compare the way the Brobdingnagian King questions Gulliver to the way the sorn question Ransom about their respective home cultures.

Selah,
Sven


I added this comment about "The Good, The Bad and The Bent" :
Another thing of interest about this chapter comes from the fact that that the hrossa have no word for "bad". "Bent" is as close as Ransom can come to expressing evil to Hyoi. It becomes apparent that the hrossa regard aberrations of normal behaviour as sickness rather than evil :

"Do you say, Hyoi, that there are no bent hrossa?" Hyoi reflected. "I have heard," he said at last, "of something like what you mean. It is said that sometimes here and there a cub at a certain age gets strange twists in him. I have heard of one that wanted to eat earth; there might, perhaps, be somewhere a hross likewise that wanted to have the years of love prolonged. I have not heard of it, but it might be. I have heard of something stranger. There is a poem about a hross who lived long ago, in another handramit, who saw things all made two -two suns in the sky, two heads on a neck; and last of all they say that he fell into such a frenzy that he desired two mates. I do not ask you to believe it, but that is the story: that he loved two hressni."

The few deviant hrossa are exceptional enough to have poems written about them. It is notable that the hross who loved two hressni saw many other things in pairs that were in fact individual. So his desire for two mates was simply following the erratic pattern of the rest of his life. Not what we would call promiscuity. The bent hrossa are more like what we would call eccentrics rather than sinners. Hyoi finds the tale of this hross so incredible that he is not sure whether or not Ransom finds it belivable. The hrossa are quite innocent of the ways of Thulcandra.


Monica had a few questions about my observation :
///The few deviant hrossa are exceptional enough to have poems written about them.///

Poems were written about them, perhaps in memory, long afteward, but what was done about them at the time? The problem with any kind of Utopian literature, is the frustrating lack of a complete, perfect, systematic scheme for how everything would work. Both Swift and Lewis give a tantalizing glimpse at worlds that seem to work better than ours, but really no way for us to imitate them. (Karl Marx tried to do the same thing in his Communist Manifesto. :-)

What did the other Hrossa DO about these bent ones? How did they assimilate the dirt-eater and the double-seer into the community? How did they prevent others from being influenced by their example? What did they tell their young ones about the aberrant behaviour? How did they explain it to themselves?


To which Stanley Anderson replied :
[from Monica]:
>Both Swift and Lewis give a tantalizing glimpse at worlds that seem
>to work better than ours, but really no way for us to imitate them.

At least in Lewis' case I don't think we were meant to nor would it be possible. They were, after all, presumably unfallen and in our fallen state, we must take a different path -- thus the need for the Resurrection. If there were another way, the Crucifixion and Resurrection would not have been necessary.

>What did the other Hrossa DO about these bent ones?

I think that is one of the blessings about an unfallen nature -- they simply had so much trust in Maleldil, that they knew that whatever happened was his Will and took joy in it. As Hyoi tells Ransom when describing his experience at the Balki pool,
--------------
"That was the best of drinks save one".
"What on?" asked Ransom.
"Death itself in the day I drink it and go to Maleldil."
--------------

>How did they assimilate the dirt-eater and the double-seer into the
>community?

Well, they wrote a song about it. They must have seen some kind of "value" or "importance" in it, if only in a "mythical" way or something. After all, Hyoi brought up the poem. In one dialogue he tells Ransom "A bent poem is not listened to, Hman." Since that song was apparently listened to, the poem itself was not bent -- they must have seen it as having some kind of value.

But again, these are unfallen creatures. As Augray tells Ransom in a later chapter, "If you died on the harandra they would have made a poem about the gallant hman and how the sky grew black and the cold stars shone and he journeyed on and journeyed on; and they would have put in a fine speech for you to say as you were dying...and all this would seem to them just as good as if they had used a little forethought and saved your life by sending you the easier way round."

--Stanley


Stanley then went on to give his own notes on chapter 12 :
Here are some random thoughts from this chapter.

I notice the contrast -- or similarity, perhaps -- between Hyoi's comment about memories of his and Ransom's first meeting on Malacandra and the development of those memories at point of death "what it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then -- that is the real meeting", and the similar but different line that is the name of a chapter in THS, "Real life is meeting". It is longingly melancholy to think that Ransom is also there at (and sort of indirectly the cause of) Hyoi's death later, so that the memory of that meeting must have had a kind of double intensity for Hyoi at his death.

In their discussion about reproduction and Hyoi's attempt to explain why they only do at one point in their lives, I think we see the beginnings of the point about "encores" that Lewis goes into in more depth in Perelandra. Hyoi uses much of the same sort of arguements that Ransom feels about tasting the fruits on Perelandra over and over.

Finally (for the moment:-) I would note the two words that the hrossa have for longing or desire. "the hrossa drew a sharp distinction, even opposition between them. Hyoi seem to him merely to be saying that every one would long for it ('wondelone'), but no one in his senses could long for it ('hluntheline'). Could 'wondelone' be associated with Lewis' special meaning of "Joy" as described in Surprised by Joy and elsewhere? (And just out of curiosity, how do you think wondelone is pronounced? I might guess "WON-de-lone" with a silent final 'e', but I suppose an alternate might be like Persephone where the final 'e' is pronounced to give something like "won-DE-lon-E". Sounds odd to me that way though.)

--Stanley


Then Stanley added "Not finally -- I had made a few more notes".... :
...that I forgot about until I pushed the post button on the previous message.

I mentioned the "encore" part of Perelandra and its connection with the reproduction cycle of the hrossa. I also wonder if there isn't a similar connection with the story of the bent hross who saw all things made two -- a sort of encore in itself. And of course I have to note the possible interesting connection with the earlier scene of Ransom when he first escaped from Weston and Devine and saw himself as two and talking to himself. Of course I noted this as a turning point in Ransom's progression to Medieval Man's outlook. And the hross's bewilderment at the idea of the one who saw everything as two (this was probably of course the hrossa's poetic description of the bent hross, but it is expressed interestingly). In Perelandra, we see the Green Lady being stunned by her "growing older" at the realization that she was "walking beside herself" as though she were two people. I don't know exactly what I am thinking here or how to express it properly, but I feel like this is a sort of "development" that Lewis is exploring -- he talks about the progression of Maleldil's Will from Malacandra to Thulcandra to Perelandra. Could it be that the hnau on Malacandra are at a more "innocent" stage where they cannot yet grasp certain higher theological or philosophical modes of thought, and that it is on Thulcandra where humans beings (before the proper time and in disobedience of coures -- ie the tree of knowledge of good and evil and all) start to be able to think abstractly about themselves in a "new" way "outside themselves". And that it is this process that Ransom begins to instill in a more proper way at Maleldil's beckoning on the Green Lady in Perelandra? That is, she is growing in this way in obedience rather than in disobedience as Adam and Eve, and in ways that the Malacandrans, being the first hnau were not capable of? Rambling, I know -- as I said, I don't know exactly how to express this idea. Something about walking with Maleldil in will instead of by instinct or something. Not sure.

Also the part about the bend hross who sees all things as two is brought up as a poem of the hrossa. And yet Hyoi tells Ransom that bent poems are not listened to. This reminds me strangely of the strange warren in Watership Down where the rabbits sing strange songs about death and longing. Fiver hates it, but recognizes the truth of the songs. There is something eerily similar here, I think.

On the distinction between wondelone and hlutheline, I wonder which one the longing to kill the hnakra would fall under?

And finally (again:-), the description of seeing eldil, "sometimes you can mistake them for a sunbeam or even a moving of the leaves; but when you look again you see that it was an eldil and that it is gone", reminds me of what sparkling stars are like -- you see them sparkle at the corner of your eye, but when you look directly at them they stop sparkling (as a side note this is how you can tell a planet from a star -- planets do not generally sparkle).
--Stanley


To which I responded with "Bad to the Poem " :
I think that Hyoi was refering to poems which are bent themselves rather than good poems that just happen to be about bent subjects. Remember that there are lessons to be learned from when things go wrong as much, or even more so, as when they go right. If the poem praised the vision of the hross who saw everything in pairs then it would have been a bent poem.


Monica responded to Stanley's notes on ch. 12 "baloney - no, not your post" :
///'wondelone'...pronounced to give something like "won-DE-lon-E"...sounds odd to me....///

Oh, me too. Sounds too much like 'baloney' (which really ought to be spelled 'bologna') but still ends like 'Persephone'. Who knows how it's pronounced, but let's choose the loveliest way. The word reminds me of the word 'wanderlust' (which of course has no final 'e'.)

///I think we see the beginnings of the point about "encores" that Lewis goes into in more depth in Perelandra.///

This must have been an issue for Lewis, no? There's a song somewhere by someone with the lyrics 'I think too much. I talk too much. I eat too much. I drink too much.' I think sometimes those who are particularly afflicted with 'joy' may also be beset by the temptation to produce joy, or to repeat it, or prolong it. The whole idea of the 'fixed islands' on Perelandra, seems to deal with the same concern.
so it goes...
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Play it again Hyoi

Postby Kanakaberaka » 24 Apr 2006, 15:12

I just had to include a quote from Hyoi in chapter 12 here because I found it so profound when I read it out of context on the Wardrobe homepage a few years ago. While trying to explain why the Malacandrians follow the will of Maleldil, Hyoi says :

"And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back - if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?"


It sounds so much more profound to me when it's taken out of the text. Hyoi spoke these words in reference to sex and procreation. But when I read them out of context I thought of how nostalgia for the "good old days" can rob us of our appreciation for the present moment. This is yet another example by Lewis of his dislike of encore.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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