Ransom had spent plenty of time on the spaceship thinking about his chances of returning from Malacandra, but he had not considered what it would be like to actually live there. He spends weeks with the hrossa, finding that he greatly enjoys living with them and learning about hrossan language with an elderly hross named Hnohra. Ransom at first thinks that the hrossa are a primitive culture, because of their rough tools, tribal lifestyle, and songs. He finally reassesses his view of the hrossa when he learns enough of their language to find that the hrossa have been treating him as a wild savage who needs to be taught about the solar system and space travel.
Ransom was so consumed with fear about the chance of never getting back to Earth that he did not consider that Malacandra might actually be more pleasant than Earth. His lessons about hrossa culture disrupt his expectations about what it means to be civilized – as the hrossa have all the ideals of civilization though they have none of the superficial aspects that Ransom associates with civilization and progress on Earth.
Hnohra explains that the hrossa call Earth “Thulcandra” - the silent planet. Ransom tries to ask why, but Hnohra simply tells him that the seroni would know, and that Ransom should visit a mysterious Oyarsa to find help and protection from the evil (“bent” in the hrossan language) humans he came with. Painstakingly, Ransom finds out that “Oyarsa” is neither seroni nor hrossa, but rules Malacandra from “Meldilorn.”
The hrossan society is so peaceful that they do not even have a word for evil—“bent” is the closest approximation in their idyllic worldview. When Ransom learns this, he is forced to see himself and his planet from a different perspective. This is also a twist on the novel’s title—“the silent planet” suggests some foreign and mysterious world, but in reality it’s referring to Earth.
Ransom assumes that Oyarsa is the god who created the world, but the hrossa gathered around him laugh and tell him that Maleldil the Young made the world. Maleldil lives with the Old One, and both of them exist in the heavens and everywhere in the universe at once. Ransom is overcome by the feeling that the hrossa are trying to give him a religious education, the same way that he might to a primitive tribe on Earth. The hrossa go on to explain that Maleldil is not “hnau” - that is, he is not a corporeal, rational form such as the hrossa, the seroni, the pfifltriggi (another Malacandran species), or humans.
Maleldil the Young is described as the partner of the Old One, closely mirroring the way that Jesus Christ is presented as the right hand and son of God in the Bible. While Ransom had approached his time here thinking that he was like a missionary who needed to spread the true faith to these savage Malacandrians, he finds that the hrossa have a highly developed religious system and a deep understanding of their gods. It is thus Ransom who needs both instruction and a spiritual awakening to accept the wonders of Maleldil and the Old One.
Ransom asks more about the pfifltriggi and finds that they are expert craftsmen who create art and jewelry out of “sun’s blood” - that is, gold. A hross brings out a bowl made by pfifltriggi etched with depictions of the hrossa, the frog-like pfifltriggi, and the elongated forms of the species that Ransom has been calling sorns. The hrossa tell him that the plural is actually seroni. Ransom tries to figure out which species rules Malacandra, but the hrossa only answer that Oyarsa is the ruler. Furthermore, none of the Malacandran species are better or worse, but excel in different areas. The hrossa dominate boating and poetry, the seroni scientific inquiry, and the pfifltriggi mining and metalworking. Privately, Ransom thinks that the seroni must be the actual rulers, due to their academic intelligence.
Ransom is again obsessed with finding out the hierarchy of species on Malacandra. He seems unable to accept both that such different species could be entirely equal, and that Oyarsa is the natural and true ruler of everything on Malacandra. Ransom’s own place as an academic and the high priority that Western culture places on scientific intelligence leads Ransom to the erroneous conclusion that the sorns must be in charge.
The hrossa are also eager to learn about Earth, but Ransom finds that he does not know enough about how Earth actually functions to answer all their questions satisfactorily. Ransom changes the subject to the animal with snapping jaws he saw at the beach when he ran from Weston and Devine. The hrossa say that it is a “hnakra,” and they are all excited that one has been sighted—especially Hyoi (the first hross that Ransom met).
While Ransom has been questioning the hrossan intelligence and civilization, it turns out that he is also woefully inept when it comes to describing the supposedly wonderful world of Earth. Ransom seems to subconsciously look for the only thing that seems dangerous about Malacandra, still acting out of fear rather than curiosity when he asks about the hnakra.
Ransom goes with Hyoi to ready Hyoi’s boat for a hnakra hunt. On the way, they pass a young female hross named Hrikki who seems to be speaking to the air. Ransom asks who she is talking to, and Hrikki laughs that Ransom cannot see the “eldila.” Ransom assumes Hrikki was playing with an imaginary friend as children do on Earth.
The eldila are analogous to the concept of angels on Earth. Lewis comments on the ways that many devout Christians will pray throughout the day while others look on and think that they are delusional or crazy for talking to made-up spirits.