Tag Archives: Out of the Silent Planet

Mythology In Space: Part 6

I found Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis to be an intriguing mix of Greco Roman mythology, Christianity, and science fiction. The pacing is slower than what contemporary readers have been conditioned to expect, but this is an example where I believe patience will be rewarded. The prosaic style for me was reminiscent of science fiction classics from the nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries.

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Early on, the story introduces three characters. Dr. Weston and Dick Devine are of the villainous sort and apparently exemplify what the author saw as wrong (or “bent”) in the way of modern ethics. Dr. Elwin Ransom is the focal point, and he begins a transformation which reaches its culmination by the third story of the space trilogy.

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The descriptions of the landscape and inhabitants of Mars are clearly inaccurate, but they work for the kind of story this is: a fantasy. What are hrossa, pfifltriggs, sorn, and hnakra? Read the book to find out. It’s a pretty good ride.

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What grabbed my attention the most were the spiritual beings of Mars. C. S. Lewis invents a new nomenclature for them as well as some abstract philosophy on their properties and on the nature of space and motion. If you have not yet read this book, would you like to know the identities of and meanings behind Oyarsa and eldil? Good. I’m not going to tell you. I wouldn’t want to destroy the pleasure of gradual discovery during a journey on Mars.

Mythology In Space: Part 5

This week, I turn to what I consider a more complete synthesis of mythology and science fiction: the space trilogy by C. S. Lewis. I believe that some of the modern day criticisms of this series (which are relatively few and minor) have arisen from unfamiliarity with the literary works which Lewis apparently used as sources for some of his ideas. ¬†Familiarity with Platonic and medieval concepts of the universe goes a long way in helping with the understanding and appreciation of the three books in question. The author also works in some influences from Arthurian legend. Then, of course, there is the author’s Christian perspective, so at least a nodding acquaintance with theology is helpful.

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Stylistically, the series is a good example of science fiction from the first half of the twentieth century. As such, it is outdated and inaccurate in light of the extensive data produced by various NASA missions, but this is alright. I mean, it’s science fiction, right? More accurately, these are fantasies disguised as science fiction. They were written at a time when historical limitations in knowledge and technology left more room in the solar system for the exercise of the imagination.

From the September 8, 1947 cover of TIME magazine.
From the September 8, 1947 cover of TIME magazine.

And the author’s imagination was prolific as well as being informed by his scholarship and understanding of classical works of literature. He was the product of a school of thought so aptly described by Dorothy Sayers in her essay entitled The Lost Tools of Learning. This shows in the quality of his thoughts and the effectiveness of his written expression. Overall, I found this trilogy a refreshing and unique blend of Greek philosophy, Christian theology, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.

The three books of the trilogy are (in order) Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. In the next few weeks, I will briefly examine each of these stories.