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Chapter 17 Study

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

Chapter 17 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 30 Apr 2006, 01:40

Synopsis: With Augray's help, Ranson descends into the next handramit to behold Meldilorn. Within an almost circular lake stands a gently sloping island. Ransom is ferried over by a hross who tells him about the guest houses along the shore. Ransom however avoids the other guests by going further inland up the incline of the quiet island. Along the way Ransom comes apon several carved stones which tell the history of Malacandra. While deciphering the carvings he comes apon one of the artists who created such works. It is of course a pfifltrigg. And Ransom is asked to pose for a carving. Ransom learns more about the languages and customs of the Malacandrians from the pfifltrigg sculptor.
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This is THE pfifltriggi chapter. Yes, other hnau play important parts and only one pfifltrigg appears 2/3 of the way into this chapter. But it seems that Lewis wants us to get to know the artists by observing their works. When Augray calls for a ferry to Meldilorn with a gong near the shore Ransom has a glimpse of pfifltriggi craftsmanship. Too short a study it seems because the hross ferryman arrives before he's able to figure out what sort of story the carvings on the artifact are trying to tell. Ransom offers Augray his wristwatch as a gift for guiding him through the dangers of the harandra. But Augray reluctantly turns down Ransom's gift, explaining :
"This gift ought to be given to a pfifltrigg. It rejoices my heart, but they would make more of it. You are likely to meet some of the busy people in Meldilorn: give it to them. As for its use, do your people not know except by looking at this thing how much of the day has worn?"

"I believe there are beasts that have a sort of knowledge of that," said Ransom, "but our hnau have lost it."

So we learn that the Malacandrians are born with certain abilities which we need mechanical devices to accomplish. And that the pfifltriggi enjoy such things for their craftsmanship rather than utility.
Ransom appreciates the hospitality of the stone guest houses along the shore. But he feels uneasy about being observed by numerous eldils which inhabit the island. When the solid bodied hnau begin to arrive by ferry and wading, Ransom decides to retreat to higher ground inland. He even prefers to eat groundweed rather than to go down to the guest houses for food and risk conversing with other hnau. I can sympathise with Ransom's feelings about socialising with strangers at a time of anxiety. I am sure I would do the same myself. I would also do what Ransom did next which was to spend his time examining the carvings on the numerous stone slabs around Meldilorn.
Ransom learns the history of Malacandra from these carvings, although he is not sure if it is a mythical representation or reality. He also determines that Malacandra is in fact what we call the Planet Mars through a carving of the solar system. There's a symbolic carving of Mercury with a horn and of Venus with breasts. But the symbol for our own planet has be deleated from the graphic. While pondering this, Ransom's train of thought is interrupted by a persistent noise. It's made by a pfifltrigg at work on another carving. Ransom is asked by the pfifltrigg to pose for his latest work. His name is Kanakaberaka and he's the first hnau in Meldilorn which Ransom talks to. And it was about time, because there is only so much that works of art can tell anyone. Ransom is informed that all three hnau have their own languages, but they choose to speak the language of the hrossa because their's is the best when it comes to discribing things. And their poems can not be properly translated into the other languages. It seems ironic that the Malacandrian hnau who's appearance is least human, also in fact insect or reptile like, should be the one to bring Ransom out of his shell on Meldilorn.
Kanakaberaka explains to Ransom how the pfifltriggi mine their own materials for carving and Ransom replies that on his planet the work if divied up so that some workers spend all their lives mining ore without ever seeing the finished product. Kanakaberaka is shocked to hear this and asks what motivation we have for this. Payment for expenses like food, explains Ransom. The pfifltriggi division of labor reminds me of what G.K. Chesterton discribed as Distributism. The notion that every landlord should be his own tenet and every tenent should be his own landlord. In other words, we should all be responsible for our own work and reap all of the rewards which come with it.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Kanakaberaka
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Original Chapter 17 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 May 2006, 18:18

Stanley Anderson began with some "early chapter notes" :
Boy, lots of stuff in this chapter too! Not sure where to start, except at the beginning.

Lewis writes, about Ransom's first view and impressions of Meldilorn, "But he had not looked for anything quite so classic, so virginal, as this bright grove -- lying so still, so secret, in its coloured valley, soaring with inimitable grace so many hundred feet into the wintry sunlight." This is almost a perfect description of what Lewis describes of the Medieval cosmological view and the way it affected the medieval artists in their creations.

I was amused by his description of Ransom's expected (but laid aside by that point) vision of Meldilorn as an "American complexity of offices". I guess being American, I don't have anything else to go by, but I might have thought "complexities of offices" to be a universal phenomenon of large urban areas, not specifically "American". But perhaps some of you non-Americans can tell me if it is different elsewhere? (And I recognize one answer might be that where such things occur elsewhere in the world, it is due to American influence).

Oooh! I am so entranced by his description of the richly decorated pillar of stone that the large gong was on (did anyone else think of Digory when the sorn rang the gong?:-).
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"What chiefly struck him [Ransom] was a certain balance of packed and empty surfaces. Pure line drawings, as bare as the prehistoric pictures of reindeer on Earth, alternated with patches of design as close and intricate as Norse or Celtic jewellery; and then, as you looked at it, these empty and crowded areas turned out to be themselves arranged in larger designs."
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This is SO exactly like what I feel and describe about what I call my Fractal Theory of art that I have mentioned here before. It thrills me to see Lewis talking about the idea long before the concept of mathematical Fractals was even a subject for investigation. (Although the "aesthetic" concept is very Medieval, I think, as can be seen in its manifestation in cathedral architecture and various medieval paintings and sculpture and ornamentation and even the cosmological view in general -- cycles within cycles, epicycles within epicycles.

If I can be indulgent and sidetrack a bit, I have posted before some of the doodles I do in boring meetings at work (one is displayed below with a couple others to be seen at the link below). The reason I post them again is to point out that I have done lots and lots of these type of doodles over the years, and some of them turn out nicely, and others (the majority, of course) just are not "right".

And in my view, the reason that some are better than others (and the ones at the link are only a selection of the "good" ones), is precisely because they display this "Fractal" quality. That is, although hard to describe precisely, it has to do with there being "detail" at different levels -- not just tiny point-work all over, or entirely all just large blobs, but a "conjunction" at all levels. I picked the word "conjunction" because I don't know what else to use -- a simple "mixture" wouldn't do it. There must be "order within order" in some hard-to-describe way.

Of course I'm not suggesting that my doodles below are "great art", but they do display something of that Fractal quality I'm talking about here. (Sorry to side track so far:-)

Well, that's enough for now. Maybe more about the later parts of the chapter in another post sometime.

--Stanley


There's more to see at Stanley's "Sketchy Details" page :
http://pweb.jps.net/~sangreal/drawn.htm


I gave Stanley my view of "The Ugly American (office)" :
I was amused by his description of Ransom's expected (but laid aside by that point) vision of Meldilorn as an "American complexity of offices". I guess being American, I don't have anything else to go by, but I might have thought "complexities of offices" to be a universal phenomenon of large urban areas, not specifically "American". - Stanley
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Perhaps we should consider the era in which OOTSP was written. Late in the 20th Century office buildings were indeed the same the world over. But what were office buildings like in pre-WWII England? I have a feeling that the British were less utilitarian in the design of their more impressive edifaces. And don't forget that the Bombing Blitz must have destroyed many of these traditional buildings only to be replaced by "American Complexity" after the war.

I like your "Doodles" Stanley, but I have seen some original Celtic designs, ones with interlacing ribbons refered to as knots, which I think Lewis must have been inspired by. And they have the odd effect of appearing complex and primitive at the same time. I will try to find an example to show you what I mean.

Oh one more thing, In your TDI study you mentioned a word for an image with three elements. What did you call the word for it? I would like to use it in an afterword about the three types of Malacandrian hnau at the end of the OOTSP study.


Macwilson had this to add about celtic knotwork :
Stephen Lawhead's site has several examples of Celtic knotwork that you can download. Just click the link, then hit "Wallpaper" in the left-hand column.

Image


Here's a link to Stephen Lawhead's website :
http://www.stephenlawhead.com


Monica refered to chapter 17 as "your chapter" :
I suppose if everybody is pointing out what is personal to them in this chapter - you with the pfifltriggi and Stanley with the American building and the sketches -- I suppose I ought to point out the bit on women:
"The sorns make least account of their females and we make most."

Does that mean the intelligentsia don't value their women as much as the labourers do?


I responded with "Funny you should mention it" :
I'm not sure about whether or not intellectuals value their women any less or if CSL was making a remark about his own circle of friends at the time. I do find Kanakaberaka's remark of personal interest. One of the reasons I chose to post under his name is because of the importance women have in my life. All my attention back in 1999 seemed to be devoted to my wife, daughter and mother-in-law. everything either depended on them or they depended on me. This was especialy true in the last two years of my mother-in-law, Louise's life when I had to check in on her just about every day.

If I get around to it I think I might post a "Kanakaberaka Bonus" rather than a study of chapter 18 this Monday. It will be about why I chose that character as a posting name.


Monica expressed interest :
///All my attention back in 1999 seemed to be devoted to my wife, daughter and mother-in-law. everything either depended on them or they depended on me. This was especialy true in the last two years of my mother-in-law, Louise's life when I had to check in on her just about every day.///

I remember you talking about that at the time, K. I didn't realize your mother-in-law had passed away. I'm sorry. By all means, post a K. bonus. It would be interesting to hear why you chose the K. name.
so it goes...
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Kanakaberaka
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