Tag Archives: Perelandra

Mythology In Space: Part 7

Perelandra is the second book in the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. Originally, this was my least favorite in the series, but my appreciation for this work has grown since then.

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When I first read this story, I didn’t enjoy the planetary landscape as much as that of Malacandra (Mars), but the author’s description of Perelandra (Venus) was more appealing on my second reading years later. The key was that I had to stop thinking like a scientist and, instead, simply enjoy the fantasy. The entire planet is portrayed as a maritime Garden of Eden, complete with floating islands, dragons, fanciful aquatic beasts, and a newly created Adam and Eve.

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Eldil and and an Oyarsa are also involved in the affairs of this planet, but the main plot element is a temptation saga in which Dr. Elwin Ransom and Dr. Weston engage in debate as the agents of God and Satan (the Bent One). Some reviewers have expressed the same criticism I initially had: that the dialogue was tedious and slowed the development of the story. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time I read these passages again, I was more familiar with the writings of Plato and John Milton, and I could recognize these exchanges as a brilliant adaptation from Platonic dialogues and Paradise Lost. Rather than a weak link in the chain, this book stands on its own strength.

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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 As such, it is outdated and inaccurate in light of the extensive data produced by various NASA missions, but this is alright.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.