Friday, August 22, 2008

Observations on a Trilogy, Part 1

The year's first Knoxhouse Fellowship gathering will discuss our reading of C.S. Lewis's first two books of his Space Trilogy; Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.  Having read them a few years ago, it has been enjoyable to go through them again, not only to derive pleasure from the tales themselves, but to consider and explore the themes Lewis sets forth.  So, for what it's worth, here are a few of my observations:
In Book 1, Ransom, the main character, is a Philologist - a lover of languages, a lover of learning, apparently a man of words.  Perhaps a reflection of The Word?  For he took the place of a boy and became himself the intended sacrifice.  In Book 2, Ransom realizes that he was intentionally named, "enacting only what philosophy thinks."

Noted Themes:
1.  Prefallen-ness, Unfallen-ness, Fallen-ness
CSL's ideas on this matter cover not only man, but beasts and the earth itself.  He illustrates the idea of earth's fallen-ness being confined to its own atmosphere - indeed cut off from the rest of creation in the 1st book - hence it's name of the Silent Planet.  Eldila could rarely come and go from it, and its Oyarsa no longer communicated in the heavens.  

Also in Book 1, CSL also brings in the element of fear as being prevalent in the very fiber and being of fallen man.  "The weakest of my people do not fear death.  It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befowls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end."  Yet in Book 2, Lewis's ideas of pre-fallen and un-fallen man are a strong contrast:  calm, un-earthly, pure, perfect, royal, untroubled, knowing God's voice.  "But here, where His live image like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depths of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom's eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image.  Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium."
Both books illustrate CSL's ideas of unfallen-ness in beasts; increasing their worth and ability as pure creatures, communing with man by various means, and capable of development.  In Perelandra, Tinidril - the Eve figure - answers Ransom's question about the beasts' near rationality by saying, "We make them older every day.  Is not that what it means to be a beast?"  

In observing these particular ideas on the theme of fallen-ness and unfallen-ness found in Books 1 & 2 of the Trilogy, it causes the reader to consider anew the affects of the Fall upon all creation and to long for the return of Christ when all things will be redeemed and restored.

2.  Myths
Throughout much of CSL's writings, one sees his enormous knowledge and understanding of ancient myths and how they tie into man's thinking and writings up to this day.  He gives the impression in Book 1 that he has done much thinking on the origins of these myths:  "He remembered how in the very different world called Malacandra...he had met the original of the Cyclops, a giant in a cave and a shepherd.  Were all things which appeared as mythology on earth scattered through other worlds as reality?"  and "He remembered his old suspicion that what was myth in one world might always be fact in some other...were the old myths truer than the modern myths?  Had there in truth been a time when Satyrs danced in the Italian woods?"  As Lewis' like-minded friend J.R.R. Tolkein wrote, "History became legend and legend became myth."  Personally, I think these ideas of CSL's are lovely to ponder!  Unicorns and dragons may not have simply had their origins in the imagination.

Along similar lines, one has to wonder if Lewis had the 4 Living Creatures of Revelation, Ezekiel, and Daniel in mind when he wrote of Perelandra's 4 singing beasts that proclaimed joy to all ears.

Lastly, CSL's description of the heavenly Eldila as movement, speed, and light reminded me of Tim Powers' ideas of being and frequency in his book Declare.

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