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Chapter 13 Study

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

Chapter 13 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 23 Apr 2006, 03:06

Synopsis: The hnakra hunt is on and Ransom is chosen to play an honored part in it. He accompanies Hyoi and Whin in their boat. But before they can locate the hnakra, they receive an urgent message from an eldil to quit the hunt and send the hman off to see Oyarsa in Meldilorn. Shortly after the eldil leaves them they spot the hnakra comming straight for them. After a terrible fight, they defeat the monster and all three celebrate on the shore! Just then a gun shot rings out from the forest and Hyoi is mortally wounded. After making less than satisfactory amends, Ransom continues on to Meldilorn following Whin's directions.

This chapter begins in classic pulp fiction style with the hero going out to hunt down a monster along with his new found Malacandrian friends. It almost ends that way too as Ransom wins the respect of Hyoi as Hyoi finishes off the hnakra by climbing onto it's back. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote such exciting tales about Barsoom, his version of Mars. But C.S. Lewis is not content to tell a simple adventure story. He has a deeper fable about obligation to tell.

There seems to be a theme here about Darwinian natural selection, illustrated by the deadly hunt of the hnakra juxtaposed against the unnatural death of Hyoi at the hands of Weston and Devine. The Hrossa accept the possibility of death while facing an animal enemy because the hnakra does not think. It just acts out of instict as all animals do. This has me wondering if God created the hnakra to cause a survival of the fittest among the hrossa. It sounds cruel, but it is the way things apparently work on our planet. I know, there is more about the attack of Thulcandra on Malacandra later in OOTSP and it's effects. Let's focus on the story so far. In contrast, the killing of Hyoi is a deliberate act, commited by one hnau against another. It's something unknown on Malacandra because the beings there are unfallen. There is no reason for one hnau to kill or hurt another. When a non-sapient beast kills it is more like a natural catastrophy rather than a deliberate act. Volcanos do not kill out of anger. Nor do hurricanes and eathquakes. It's just random acts of nature. And the hnakra is part of Malacandra's nature.

But even more importantly, there is Ransom's obligation to follow the eldil's advice to quit the hunt and travel to Meldilorn. At first he is relived to to so. Yet he has a pang of conscience (or so he thinks) and desires to continue the hunt. Fate plays a hand when the hnakra comes at their boat. I'm not sure if getting out of it's way would have been possible at this point. Hyoi fought the monster with Ransom and Whin's help and won. If they had just sent Ransom on his way to Meldilorn then and there, things may have gone for the better. But like all hunter's, they took the opportunity to celebrate. In their pride, Hyoi fell into the cross-hair's of an English rifle. Even though Hyoi forgave Ransom by proclaiming him "Hmân hnakrapunt", Ransom remained full of guilt not just because of his actions but because of those of his fellow Thulcandrans. This chapter goes beyond a boy's adventure to show us the profound effects of humanity's fall from grace. Nature may be random, but it is not cruel. Only a being with free will can commit cruelty.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 13 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 23 Apr 2006, 04:08

Monica began the comments with "foxes are fit; but rabbits multiply faster" :
Hey, K.

Interesting points, as usual. I haven't read the chapter yet -- will get to it tonight -- but I wanted to ask you what you meant by this:

"This has me wondering if God created the hnakra to cause a survival of the fittest among the hrossa. It sounds cruel, but it is the way things apparently work on our planet."

Do you think survival of the fittest apparently works on our planet? In what way? For example, do you think foxes were put on earth to catch slow rabbits?

To which I replied "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" :
I personaly view evolution as God's means of creation. It appears to be random to those who do not belive in God. In the case of a predator such as a fox, rabbits are simply food. So there is no cruelty involved, in spite of the obvious pain felt by the unfortunate rabbits. It is only when a creature with free will commits needless acts of violence that it is cruelty. Humans can kill animals with a minial of pain in order to eat. But it is wrong for us to inflict needless pain apon simple animals. I remember reading years ago that cro-magnon people gave paid homage to the spirits of the cave bears they killed for food with shrines dedicated to the bears. They showed respect to the creatures even though they were in conflict with them.

To which Monica replied saying "both behaviours are successful adaptations" :
I hear ya'. Thanks for expanding on the idea.

After reading the chapter, I'm not sure whether I agree with you that it was the time taken for celebrating the victory that caused Hyoi's tragic death, or whether it was the delay caused by Ransom not listening to the Eldil. Either way, you are correct in saying that pride was the problem -- although it was a tragic, pitiable kind of pride. It breaks my heart to read this line: "It did not seem possible at this moment that he might be the hnakra-slayer; that the fame ... might be handed down to posterity in this world that knew no other man. But he had had such dreams before, and knew how they ended."

Who can blame Ransom for his desire for glory? How many have had that same dream and not resisted? It's really a tragic chapter all around: disobedience, the death of the innocent, and the shame at the failure of our evil humanity.

Larry W. had this to say about chapter 13 :
Edgar Rice Burroughs' books are enjoyable in their own way, but they are mainly entertainment and do not have the depth of C. S. Lewis. Lewis himself probably did not a very high opinion of pulp science fiction authors such as Burroughs. I think there is a place for books of entertainment, although they it cannot be regarded as great literature.

I don't believe that Lewis would be a supporter of Darwinian evolution because he emphasizes God's creating and people, animals, and plants do not evolve in his stories. But he apparently is not against hunting animals for food or destroying a monster that is supposed to be a threat. For these lesser creatures, it might be survival of the fittest.

Larry W.

And I admitted being a "Pulp Fiction Addict" :
I can't help myself, Larry. I love the cheap thrills found in John Carter of Mars and the Doc Savage paperbacks. And the funny thing is that my appreciation of these shallow adventures has lured me into reading the works of C.S. Lewis. After I discovered Lewis by reading "The Screwtape Letters" I went out and purchaced "Out of the Silent Planet" simply because it was a science-fiction story. Naturaly I read the rest of the Space Trilogy soon after. I've been hooked on CSL ever since.

As for Lewis' view on evolution, I remember reading that he did not dispute the material facts of it. However he did reject certain philosophies attatched to the scientific facts. Notably the idea that it is a totaly random mechanism for adaptation. My statement about the hnakra being the cause of survival of the fittest on Malacandra is based on the fact that it is an animal rather than hnau. It is a blind force of nature not to be confused with bent hnau such as Weston and Devine.

so it goes...

To which Larry W. replied :
Yes, I confess that have also enjoyed Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars. But I always felt that C. S. Lewis' books were better for me to read-- more enriching for the mind. Burrough's books are not the worst when one considers some of the popular books and magazines on the newsstand today. But C. S. Lewis is far better for the intellect.

I thought that Lewis would have been more of a creationist. For example, Aslan created Narnia-- He did not simply allow it to evolve. But to my knowledge you are correct. I don't remember reading that he agressively opposed the basic ideas of the theory of evolution except if it would deny that God created the world and its creatures, along with their adaptations to survive. It may be that other things in Christianity were more important to him than the creation vs. evolution debate.

Larry W.

Next Stanley Anderson posted "Pride and Prejudice" :
In this post, I will tend to pose more questions than observations.

The hrossa all hope to be the one that kills the hnakra. Is this a sort of unlikely pride in an unfallen world? It is of course parallelled by Ransom's longing to be the hman hnakrapunt. This seems to contradict the idea that pride -- a sort of "me first" attitude -- is at the root of all fallenness, if Malacandrans are unfallen. But I wonder if Lewis had something in mind like what he talks about in Screwtape Letters (is it? I may have that wrong) about a sort of childlike appreciation of accomplishments well-done where it really is appreciation for the accomplishment and not so much the person who did it, so that one could be justly "proud" of oneself for an accomplishment because the accomplishment itself is good aside from one's own involvement. But it DOES seem a sort of twisted path to think that here in this case. I guess one could say that they are all excited and joyful when the hnakra is killed and do not resent the person who is the hnakrapunt, so perhaps the desire to be hnakrapunt is ok as long as it is secondary? Not sure.

"It was in obedience to something like conscience..." that Ransom urged them on to kill the hnakra. Again, is that "something like" meant to be a good thing in that even if he hadn't learned full obedience yet? That even the submission to something like it, was heading in the right direction (Lewis has the Oyarsa say later that Weston still had possibility of redemption because he was not yet totally self-absorbed like Devine -- he still put something else above him even if it was not yet Maleldil.)

Here is a purely mechanical literary question: As the hnakra attacks, Hyoi shouts "Back" and Whin begins backpaddling, so presumably they are moving backwards now. Then Whin shouts "Shore!", and Lewis writes "There came a shock that flung him [Ransom] forward almost to the hankra's snapping jaws". I don't quite get what is happening here. I'm thinking that if the boat is going backwards towards the shore and hits it, that Ransom would be flung backwards by momentum AWAY from the hnakra, not forward toward the hnakra. Am I missing something here? Or did Lewis get his physics backwards?

One of the things I have meant to point out more often to indicate its prevalence in Lewis' writing, especially in the Space Trilogy, and especially since it has an effect, I think, on my contention that he is showing Ransom's (and the reader's, hopefully) gradual "conversion" to the Medieval outlook, is Lewis' "style" of writing about something before letting you know what it is he is writing about. Of course all good writers know the rule "show, don't tell", but I sometimes see Lewis doing this sort of thing to an e...exc...exce...excess -- there -- I said it (I can hardly bear to say bad things about Lewis:-). In the Space Trilogy, and in OSP in particular, I think it serves a purpose as I've indicated above, but it is very "noticeable" to me. Anyway, here is an example which I think is not in excess in this case, but illustrates the technique:
At that moment Ransom was deafened by a loud sound -- a perfectly familiar sound which was the last thing he expected to hear. It was a terrestrial, human and civilized sound; it was even European. It was the crack of an English rifle"

It is interesting that Ransom has to describe to the hrossa guns as "throwing death at a distance" to indicate that Weston and Devine are around even though the hrossa cannot see them. "But these other, where are they?" Whin asks Ransom. I find this to be a curious parallel to the fact that Ransom cannot see the eldil and the hross can tell from Ransom's eyes that he cannot see the eldil. Thus, the the hross has to explain likewise to Ransom that the eldil are there even though he cannot see them too.

One other item I wonder if it might be an error:
"I am wondering," said Ransom, "if they saw me. It is for me they are looking. Perhaps if I went to them they would be content and come no further into your land. But why do they not come out of the wood to see what they have killed?"

The structure of that paragraph makes it appear that Ransom is speaking the entire thing. But I think the last sentence there must have meant to have a "Whin asked" attached to it, since it doesn't make much sense for Ransom to ask it. And two paragraphs down, Ransom answers the question by saying "They are afraid of the hrossa -- That is why they do not come out of the wood"

Finally, when Whin says Ransom must obey the eldil's instructions and Ransom worries that the others will think he is afraid to look on their faces in shame, but Whin indicates that obedience is more important (here is the better obedience that Ransom obeyed only "something like" before?), Whin says "It is not a question of thinking but of what an eldil says. This is cubs' talk". Does this indicate, again, that even though they are unfallen, they must learn obedience, since it seems to imply that cubs could stray from obedience by their cobness? Seems odd to me

Well, actually one more finally -- in connection with the talk of the horses in Gulliver's Travels, I keep wanting to follow the other names and spell Whin as Hwin, but curiously enough, Lewis uses that name (ie Hwin) for a horse's name in Narnia (The Horse and his Boy). What a convoluted mass of connections is this?:-)


Stanley corrected his typo saying :
cobness? I meant "cub-ness" of course

To which I kidded him with "The "Georgia Peach" :
Oh, I thought you meant that Ransom should stop acting like Ty Cobb. The famous baseball player was no role model when it came to his personality.

Steve commented on "The crack of an English rifle" :
Not of course to be confused with the shiftless and overly refined sound of a French rifle, or the loud guttural report of a German rifle.

I guess though, that Lewis as a WWI veteran probably learned to tell from the sound the difference between the rifles issued to British troops and the rifles issued to German troops. Is Ransom a WWI vet also?

Monica responded with "cracking me up" :
Oh, VERY VERY good, Steve. Makes one long to know the 'hauntings' of the various nations' rifle sounds. The 'order' of the Chinese rifle, perhaps, the 'freedom' of the American rifle, the 'reserved and polite' riccochet of the Canadian.

To which Steve replied to Monica :
Wouldn't the Canadian rifle go "Bang! eh?"

And Jo piped in :
I expect the English rifle would miss by a mile...

Next I replied to Stanley with "Questions Answered" :
The hrossa all hope to be the one that kills the hnakra. Is this a sort of unlikely pride in an unfallen world? - Stanley

No. If I remember C.S. Lewis right, he says in Mere Christianity that Pride in not wanting to have more or do better. Pride is the desire to have more or do better than Everyone Else. And rub it in their faces. Hyoi simply wants to live up to his hrossa ideals. Not flaunt superiority.
Again, is that "something like" meant to be a good thing in that even if he hadn't learned full obedience yet? - Stanley

I have a feeling that Lewis is trying to say that Ransom's desire to stand against the hnakra was in itself a good thing. Even though abandoning the hunt to travel to Oyarsa in obedience to the eldil would have been a far better thing. Ransom chooses to take a stand against an attacking monster and wins. But Hyoi pays a deadly price for his success.
Am I missing something here? Or did Lewis get his physics backwards? - Stanley

Maybe with all the action going on here, Ransom's orientation on the boat is not certain. It's one of those action-adventure sequences where the author wants a certain outcome regardless of the circumstances.
Does this indicate, again, that even though they are unfallen, they must learn obedience, since it seems to imply that cubs could stray from obedience by their cubness? Seems odd to me - Stanley

Could it be that Whin is saying that obedience to an eldil's command might go against common sense? Remember that killing the hnakra was a good thing. However, they were told to turn tail and send Ransom off to Oyarsa. Not very heroic, but under the circumstaces, the far better action for everyone involved.

Lewis uses that name (ie Hwin) for a horse's name in Narnia (The Horse and his Boy). What a convoluted mass of connections is this?:-) - Stanley
Hmmm... I should have known that Hwin's name was another reference to the intellegent and moral horses of Gulliver's fourth voyage.

Monica had this to add :
[From K:]
///I should have known that Hwin's name was another reference to the intellegent and moral horses of Gulliver's fourth voyage.///

I've always thought it was. But it might also be meant as suggestive of the word "Whinny", the noise horses make.

I replied to her with "Whin, Place and Show" :
As a matter of fact Swift's Houyhnhnms (pronounced "hwinnims") are inspired by by the sound of a horse's whinny.

Monica replied "what are the odds?" :
Ah, of course. So the question becomes, did Lewis copy Swift copying the horse, or did Lewis cut out the middle man and copy the horse directly?

To which Stanley Anderson replied with "odd man out" :
[from Monica]:
>or did Lewis cut out the middle man and copy the horse directly? :-)

Well, hate to tell you, but that can't be it. My whole thesis is that the story is about Ransom becoming a medieval man, "medieval" of course meaning "middle ages", so one could say Ransom was becoming the middle man. Unless, of course, you are implying that Lewis writes flat, one-dimensional characters and that Ransom was simply a cut-out of a middle man:-)


To which Monica replied with "odd man cutout" :
: Unless, of course, you are implying that... Ransom was
: simply a cut-out of a middle man:-)

Are we back to paper dolls again?

Which inspired Stanley to post "paper eldolla" :
Hey! That makes me think of a Space Trilogy paper doll set -- hmmm...however, it suddenly occurs to me that one for Perelandra wouldn't lend itself to much variation of clothes, except for the feather outfit the Un-man makes for the green lady.

Nor is there much for the hnau on Malacandra except for a pouch for the hrossa and maybe a tool belt for the pfifltriggi. Hmmm...I suppose you would need real light tracing paper for eldilla?

Now, THS you could really do something with -- lots of possibilities there, I think.


So I told Stanley to "Cut that out!" :
Now, THS you could really do something with -- lots of possibilities there, I think.

Especialy for a Fairy Hardcastle cut out.

But seriously, I remember cut-out books from my childhood that had several punch-out and stand up characters who did not require a change of clothes. Of course I'm thinking about the sort made for boys rather than girls.

Which had Stanley thinking of "Paper Sulva" :
I had been discussing the appeal of paper dolls with Monica a while back (which is why she made sly reference to it here:-) and I had commented (to which she agreed) that the appeal to paper dolls is some kind of two-dimensional fascination with the layers being added on in combinations that three-dimensional figures (like Barbie, I suppose) just don't have (I'm sure they have their own particular "prominent" appeals -- Barbie in particular:-). Very different and distinct. "Not requiring a change of clothes" would somehow lose some of the paper doll appeal for me. As I mentioned the "layers" -- perhaps it was a sort of mathematical thing for me? -- added to it. (There are various paper doll sites on the web by the way -- apparently it is a popular thing)

And by the way, I had said Perelandra wouldn't lend itself much to paper dolls, but it occurs to me that the scene at the end with the Oyarsas Malacandra and Perelandra trying to find the right "outlook" to present themselves to Tor and Tinidril and Ransom would lend itself to paper dolls. The only thing is, what would the 'base' figures that you put the "clothes" on be like? It's rather hard to imagine two Oyarsa Edils standing there in their underwear, eh?:-)


Monica thought of "Paper Spiderman" :
Yes. K.'s description of cut-out dolls made for boys that come without changes of clothes sounds more like a kind of paper action figure. A whole 'nother genre.

Steve wondered about chapter 13 :
I had a question about the passage where Ransom is talking about desiring the same experience over again, and asks about poetry, and Hwin answers with two different verbs for desire that Ransom didn't know the difference between. Do you think Lewis had in his mind two different kinds of desire when he wrote the passage? And if so, what would they be? The longing of joy where the longing is part of the joy, versus the longing that is disappointed when unfulfilled, maybe?

Another question about the theme that Lewis introduces here and develops further in Perelandra, of the desire to repeat the same experience over again being wrong. How does this relate to his known appreciation for reading books over again?

Stanley answered Steve :
That section is actually in chapter 12 and I had a post in that thread called "some notes on ch 12" on April 29 that mentions most of what you say here. I think we've discussed in the past (maybe years ago now?) the idea of reconciling the encore idea with re-reading books. I can't remember what points were made then, but I might suggest (if I were trying to defend both views as Lewis might) that the idea of the encore in its corruption would be trying to get the same pleasure as before out of something -- ie, trying to hold on to and find confidence in the past rather than trust to Maleldil's will for the present.

And so, re-reading a book could fall into that category if one desired (as I, confessedly, have wished often) to "read the book over as if for the first time again". But I think the more mature and "seasoned" desire for re-reading a book is to get more out of it the second and more times around. This is almost one of the definitions of what makes a book good -- that there is more (and different) to get than can be had on a first reading. In connection with the fruits on Perelandra, it might be like wanting to have the identical tasting experience (the bad "encore" exprience) in contrast with having only eaten, say, the skin of the fruit, and now one would also like to experience eating the "meat" of the fruit down to the core so that none of it is wasted. The former would be akin to encouraging staleness (ie identical repetition), while not doing the latter would be akin to wastefulness (ie turning away from and discarding the opportunity for a deeper experience).

I'm sure there is lots more that Lewis could say about the subject -- for instance, the fact that children need to learn by repetition and encore (eg the "do it again, daddy!" phenomenon) and at what point this changes from being childlike to childish in their growth. And there seems to be a need for at least some of it all through our lives. But perhaps this is because we are already fallen and, like Jesus wearing clothes in a fallen world even though he himself was unfallen, the encore desire is an unavoidable and necessary "feature", at least in certain cases perhaps, in our world now.

But this is all guesswork of course,

Monica added "the timetable of God" :
Stanley's points on the subject are excellent and quite comprehensive, but I would just add the mention Lewis makes in Perelandra about it being wrong to hear an entire symphony more than once in day.

I think part of what's wrong with the "encore" experience is simply demanding WHEN it should occur. You might get the same amount of pleasure from hearing the same symphony a second or third time, but it would wrong to try to schedule that pleasure. It's like the fixed islands. It was okay to be on them during the day, but one had to get off them during the night. Fixedness, like symphonies, is all well and good -- even in multiple doses -- but not necessarily on demand.

Erekose had this to say :
First of all I have to admit to not having read any of OotSP books. They are on my immenseley long "to-read" list.

"Another question about the theme that Lewis introduces here and develops further in Perelandra, of the desire to repeat the same experience over again being wrong. How does this relate to his known appreciation for reading books over again? "

Not sure if this idea has been posted elsewhere but... could the context also be in the sense of repeating an experience that is pleasurable/relaxing/etc for the purpose of avoiding a current period of bad feeling/etc?

One may re-read a book, for example, because having read it once, a second/third read will enhance the experience. The imagination fills in more "imagery" etc.
BUT it may also be that some real-life event is of a nature that one retreats into a book in an attempt to displace the need to deal with the real life "lows".

This division of context would explain any apparent conflict.

(sorry if thats a bit rambling... posting this at nearly 2 AM and sort of stumbled on this by accident and got ... caught up in the idea)

Jenny had this to say :
I'm currently rereading the Pilgrim's Regress (I always forget how wonderful that book really is!), and it looks like Lewis placed the idea of a corrupting "encore" desire into yet another one of his books.

Lewis has already warned us against seeking the same pleasure over and over again in his other books, and seems he especially emphatic in the area of seeking joy. In Pilgrim's Regress, John desires the island he saw in a vision, and when he hears the song of Mr. Halfways, it unexpectedly recalls the island to his memory. When Halfways finishes his song, John begs to hear the same song over again, rather than move on to another one. Each time he hears the song, his view of the island is corrupted, and by the end, his desires have deteriorated into mere lust.

Maybe the two types of desire are along these lines; one being the pure sehnsucht - the imagery from God, and designed to point back to God, and the second being a false desire that we ourselves have made after trying to hold onto and relive the first.

As to rereading books, I think Stanley hit the nail on the head when he posted how we should not try to reread in order to get the same feelings we got on the first time around. It seems that Lewis' main concern with the "encore" desire was how it corrupts the original. After the corruption, we are left with a self-formed desire that destroys the purpose for which the original was even sent to us...
We are destroying His "pictures" and His purpose when we refuse to accept the end of one good thing and accept the new wave "which Malildel sends rolling towards us".

I don't know if this sounds like babbling, but I hope it makes some sense...anyone have comments, or ideas along these lines?

To which Stanley commented :
Just to disagree with myself and pose a different take on this encore idea, I wonder how we would square up the generally agreed upon (I think) "vice" of modern culture of always wanting something new and different and the "waste" both in material goods and in juvenile "short-attention-span" activities as seen in the need for excitement and flash at the expense of substance? I can almost hear a response from that mindset to the prospect of encore of "oh no, not THAT again -- how boring!"

One wants to react to that sort of attitude with the same deploring as to "encore" in the first, but in what way? Could it be that the bad part of it is in the demanding of new experience, as opposed to simply accepting whatever wave Maleldil sends our way at whatever rate he sends them?

just guessing,

Jenny replied to Stanley with "more ramblings..." :
You're right! I had almost forgot about the "instant gratification/short attention span" people. I belong so firmly to the other set (the "let's keep things the same" mindset has been my problem for as long as I can remember) that I forget about the people who are easily bored. I'm often told by people that "change is good", to which I reply, "why would I want to change anything when life is good already?"

Lewis' reminders of the dangers of seeking an encore strike hard and to the heart whenever I read them. Especially now, after spending a year in college at home, I'm planning to go to a college 1,000 miles from home. I know I'm supposed to be excited, but frankly, I'm dreading it. There have been so many times I have remembered Aslan's words to Lucy "Things never happen the same way twice", and times I remember that the new waves Maleldil sends us are good, and we must not try to hold on to the "old good". It is like trying to save manna for the next day.

I think you are right about demanding new experiences being just as wrong as holding on, because we are not willing to accept the good that is coming in the perfect timing - only it is on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I am. I think (dare I hope?) that I have a slightly more medieval mindset than most people my age...

The impatience for something new probably has become more prevailent in our modern age. Have your heard Lewis' address "The Great Divide"? He attributes a lot of this modern mindset to the age of the machine.
so it goes...
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