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Chapter 18 Study

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

Chapter 18 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 May 2006, 15:47

Synopsis: After a night of rest in one of the guest houses, Ransom is awakened early the next morning by the voice of an eldil. He is directed through ranks of visiting Malacandrians to the center of Meldilorn to await the arrival of Oyarsa. At last Oyarsa arrives and he and Ransom have many misunderstandings to clear up. But before Ransom can tell Oyarsa about the doings of Maleldil on Thulcandra, a hunting party of hrossa approaches.
One interesting detail pointed out at the begining of this chapter is the types of humor prefered by the various hnau. -
...the sorns seldom got beyond irony, while the hrossa were extravagant and fantastic, and the pfifltriggi were sharp and excelled in abuse ...
So the intellectual sorns prefer subtle reverses of meaning, while the romantic hrossa enjoy hyperbole. And the pfifltriggi, being artists utilize critisism as humor.

At the crack of dawn, Ransom finds himself awakened by an eldil. He is summoned to appear before Oyarsa so quickly that he misses the opportunity for tea, if any were available on Malacandra.

Ransom is fearful at the almost invisible arrival of Oyarsa. And Oyarsa notes this :
"What are you so afraid of, Ransom of Thulcandra?" it said.

This reminds me of what angels announce at their appearances before mortals in most of the New Testament - Fear Not, as in Luke 2:10 :
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy..."
C.S. Lewis expressed a dislike for Victorian stlye angels saying that instead of "Fear not" they should say "there, there" to a human audience. Lewis corrects this impression by showing us an archangel type being who's very appearance inspires terror in the hearts of mortals just because of what he is.

Which brings up another question about what sort of being Oyarsa is. The pagans of Earth would have condidered him a god. But in Lewis' cosmology, what sort of angelic being would he be? The Seraphim are said to be closest to God himself. But I have the impression that Oyarsa is a Principality by this definition I found at a Catholic website :
Principalities rule over the lowest hierarchy, guarding countries and charged with making announcements to mankind. They govern souls and bodies.

Assuming that Lewis is following the traditional hiearchy of angels, Oyarsa has quite a few ranks of angels above him. This would explain quite a few of the questions that Oyarsa asks Ransom after Ransom explains his situation to him. This fearsome spirit being appears to be in the dark about what Maleldil has done on our planet. This has me puzzled. I have always thought that all unfallen angels were in communion with God. That is, always in constant communication with the Almighty. Couldn't someone in the angelic spheres share some news with the Oyarsa of Malacandra over the course of almost 2000 years? Too busy keeping watch over all those hnau I suppose.

What I enjoyed most about this chapter is that we are given a look at the fall of Lucifer from an extra-terrestrial point of view. At the damage he inflicted apon another planet and how Lucifer's opposite number fended off his attack.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 18 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 May 2006, 16:13

Stanley Anderson began the comments posting "Malacandrain Humour and other Myths" :
(the subject line is a parody on a book I once gave to my parents -- all of us are of Scandinavian ancestry to the hilt -- called "Scandinavian Humour and Other Myths", a very funny book by the way. And it makes a parallel reference to the idea Lewis brings out in the Space Trilogy about myth on Earth being true in some sense on the other planets:-)

Yes, the initial paragraph of the chapter on humour among the hnau of Malacandra is intriguing. One wonders what more of the details of this subject would be like. For instance, since the pfifltriggi were "sharp and excelled in abuse", I wonder if the gentle hrossa might be heard saying, of pfifltriggian humour, that "they're a little to coarse for my tastes with their blue language -- it seems like every other word is the pf-word".

I wonder what group would be most susceptible to punning? Perhaps the sorns? They were also supposed to be the ones that make least account of their females. Might there be a Sorn Jack-Benny-like standup-comedian whose famous line was "Take my wife -- please"?

I suppose there would be some visual humour too. I can see a pfifltriggian carving on a rock showing the tiny Ransom sitting on top of Augray's shoulders, evoking the sort of smiles that we might get upon seeing that photograph of the tiny little yellow bird sitting on the hippo's back.

With three different types of hnau, I suppose ethnic humour abounds there. But cautious of offending their Malacandrian brothers, I would guess they engage more in telling "dumb Thulcandran" jokes -- "Hey! Did you hear the one about the Dumb Thulcandran who tried to make a joyful noise unto Maleldil and couldn't?" (Thulcandra="Silent Planet").

There would surely be a whole slew of jokes along similar lines -- eg.
"Why did the Thulcandran cross the interplanetary heavens?" "Answer: To get to the other handra", and "they're all left-handra-ed",

"How many Thulcandrans does it take to change a torch wick? Answer: Three, two to kidnap a third one from Thulcandra, bring him to Malacandra and force him to do it in exchange for sun's blood".

Not only are Thulcandrans silent, they are blind as well -- can't even see an eldil clearly. Did you hear about the Thulcandran spaceship that crashed into the eldil officer holding his hand up in an effort to prevent them from crossing interstellar space? When being issued the ticket, Weston told the eldil "I'm sorry officer, I didn't see the stop sign".

Then there are the eldlilla mimes wearing white gloves that imitate the dark eldils of Thulcandra trying to get out of Thulcandran air-space, their hands butting up against imaginary invisible barriers and being "boxed in".

They must have their comedy movies too. One of the most well-known, I'm sure, would be "Monty Pfifltrigg and the Holey Granite". Fans can quote most lines from the movie by heart and are fond of saying things like "What is the speed of an eldil carrying a message from Oyarsa?" and being answered with "Do you mean in a handramit or a harandra?", or describing in detail the hilarious scene where a rebellious Thulcandran challenges Oyarsa to a dual. First Oyarsa disembodies the man's left arm. Still challenging him, Oyarsa disembodies his right arm, then his leg, then his other leg. As Oyarsa turns to depart, the limb-less man yells out "It's only a flesh wound -- come back!". Or how about asking the Thulcandran what his favourite colour is, and the Thulcandran stumbles because he has experienced new colours that he has no names for.

(whew, better stop for a while),

I responded to Stanley with "No Laughing Matter" :
Here we have the chapter where Ransom faces judgement before Oyarsa and all you can focus on is Malcandrian humor, Stanley! (I could not resist throwing in a bit of pfifltriggi abuse).
I wonder though if Lewis opened chapter 18 with these comments about humor to add some levity before having Ransom face Oyarsa?

Stanley shot back with "Laughing Matter and Energy" :
[from k]:
>I wonder though if Lewis opened chapter 18 with these comments about
>humor to add some levity before having Ransom face Oyarsa?

Except that there isn't much levity there. Ransom can't quite understand the humour and the reader is not really presented with a "funny" scene (unless the comment at the end of the paragraph that "he went early to bed" has a sort of dry, wry, humour to it.)

But your comment gives me the opportunity to post some comments that Monica and I had made to each other by email on this very section. She had referred to the Malacandrian's humour and their unfallen state and my theory (which I have mentioned on these forums several times in the past) about humour being a result of the Fall (and I always have to stress to those who may not have heard this theory before that this does not AT ALL imply that humour is evil, just as Christ's sacrifice and Resurrection are a "result" of the Fall, but that does not mean that they are evil either) Anyway, here are the comments:
[from Monica]:
If humour really came about as a result of the fall (and it's just a theory, I know, not fact necessarily) then is humour possible on an unfallen planet like Malacandra? Or is Malacandra not entirely unfallen because of its history of evil? I never get the feeling that it's unfallen. It somehow doesn't feel like unfallen Perelandra.

[from Stanley]:
I agree. There is something about it that that is too "knowing"? (Not sure what I mean exactly-could this be related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?). They are unfallen in some sense, but somehow it doesn't feel as innocent as we might expect of unfallen-ness. But in OSP there is the odd passage near the end where Oyarsa tells Weston,

[Stanley quoting Lewis]:
"Many thousands of thousand years before this, when nothing yet lived on your world, the cold death was coming on my harandra. Then I was in deep trouble, not chiefly for the death of my hnau - Maleldil does not make them long-livers - but for the things which the lord of your world, who was not yet bound, put into their minds. He would have made them as your people are now - wise enough to see the death of their kind approaching but not wise enough to endure it. Bent councels would soon have risen among them. They were able to have made skyships. By me Maleldil stopped them. Some I cured, some I unbodied-"

[Stanley again]:
There certainly is something "fallen" nearby anyway. And I suppose this could account for humour (even though my theory would have nothing to do with Lewis' intents in his writing:-)

By the way, part of my theory says that just as Jesus was unfallen, but still wore clothes like Adam and Eve after the Fall, it is not unconceivable that yet-unfallen creatures could still laugh since the "concept" now exists as a result of the fall.

And the real reason I'm posting all these musings between Monica and me is to get to the final line on the matter that Monica wrote to me. She quoted one of my lines above to reply thus:

[from Monica quoting Stanley]:
>There certainly is something "fallen" nearby anyway. And I suppose
>this could account for humour..

[from Monica]:
That's sort of a paraphrase of that expression about a tree falling in a forest. "If something is fallen nearby, does anybody laugh?

What a great line -- too good to die away in email archives. So I was waiting for a chance to post something in relation to it so I could quote it here. Thanks for your reply, K:-)


Steve corrected Stanley by inquiring :
Wasn't it Henny Youngman who popularized "take my wife ... please!" ?

Stanley gave his spin, claiming :
I'm trying to utilize myth here and you're trying to confuse the issue with fact? At least "Jack Benny" resonates with "Jack Lewis":-)

I think you may be right. I'm not really old enough to remember those guys directly, and those so-called "jokes" in my post were not really good enough to be worth the effort to research the details of them:-)

(by the way, I was rather hoping they might inspire other attempts at illustrating Malacandrian humour. It seems to have lots of potential. What about it, Steve?:-)


The Big Sleep J did not get the joke (not being a native speaker of English), so he asked Stanley :
I've been wondering why is that phrase "take my wife, please" considered a joke? Is it a build up to a joke. Is it a punchline? Just wondering.

Stanley took the time to explain the joke to TBSJ :
It's a sort of pun on a turn of phrase that is normally used to illustrate something with an example. A typical "normal" use of the phrase being punned on might be in a conversation about, say, comic strips, where I might say something like "Now, take my friend Johnnie -- he creates an online comic, and it is always very..." whatever. The point is that the "take my friend Johnnie" part is (colloquially) setting up the illustration example that will follow.

But in the Henny Youngman joke, the illustration never arrives. When he pauses and says "please", we suddenly understand that he doesn't mean the phrase colloquially, but means it literally, and that he really is pleading for us to get rid of her for him. Timing is everything here...:-)

I had said this was a Sorn joke since they are supposed to make least account of their females, but the "abusive" nature of the joke also places it firmly in pfifltriggi humour territory:-)


The Big Sleep J responded :
Aha! Makes sense. Thanks...

Stanley had these speculations about our own Bent Oyarsa :
First I notice that Thulcandra -- or at least the Bent Oyarsa of Thulcandra is referred to as "he". In an earlier chapter's comments, I had noted that Augray, when getting ready to show Ransom Thulcandra through a telescope, refers to Thulcandra as "she". But perhaps Augray was only referring to the planet and not the Oyarsa.

In any case, I wonder what Thulcandra was called before the silencing? Oyarsa of Malacandra only says "...then we did not call it Thulcandra"

It is also interesting that Oyarsa says (apparently) that Thulcandra spoiled Earth before the fall ("before life came on your world"). In Genesis one of the results of the fall was that man would have to toil against the earth to produce food, but in Lewis' cosmology, even at that point, there was something "fallen" or deficient as a result of evil about the earth. Presumably Eden was a place carved out of, or protected from the other destructions? But that is probably delving too far into Lewis' fantasy vision to be of use or to make sense.

When Ransom wonders about the stone carvings showing things long ago, Oyarsa says "I see you are hnau after all". I wonder what this means. Is it that one of the distinguishing characteristic of hnau is curiosity?

Finally, (and this actually carries on to a later chapter), I just found it to be simply exhilarating to read about Oyarsa asking Ransom about the things Maleldil had done in Thulcandra. Oyarsa says "...we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into".

The "wrestling with the Bent One" forshadows Ransom's fight with the Un-Man in Perelandra, I think (along with its obvious connection to Christ's Passion), but what excites me about this passage is that Ransom's story to Oyarsa would probably be very much like how the Narnia stories affect us. Lewis wrote them to get "past watchful dragons" so that readers could get a sense of wonder at the story of Redemption as though they were seeing it anew instead of the perhaps dulled familiarity of the Biblical stories. And here Oyarsa is hearing that wonderful story fresh and exciting as though it were a mysterious unknown thing, just as the Pevensies and we as readers are fascinated to find out about Aslan and his dealings with Narnia. It sets a thrill in my body to read, in a later chapter, after Ransom has finally had a chance to tell Oyarsa the strange tidings, that Oyarsa says "You have shown me more wonders than are known in the whole of heaven".

There is little else I could type after that.

so it goes...
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