Ransom starts his journey to Meldilorn, fighting a strong urge to give himself up to Weston, Devine, and the sorns in order to protect the hrossa. He is now determined to follow the orders of the eldil, after his earlier hesitance caused so much pain. Nevertheless, he is worried about going to the sorns’ home on the harandra, unable to keep back his fear of the super-intelligent, cold aliens he assumes the sorns must be. He tries to remember that the hrossa, a kind and gentle species, have absolute faith in Oyarsa, and continues towards his goal.
Ransom again turns back to the prospect of being a sacrifice, calling back to the idea that someone must suffer to keep everyone else safe. His broken view of a world in which good things cannot be free also colors his view of the sorns. He is still somewhat afraid of the sorns, though he is trying to push past that fear after his lessons among the kind hrossa.
About an hour after noon, Ransom walks out of the forest and to the base of one of the mountain spires. He sees an insanely steep trail climbing up the mountain. Though terrified of the climb, Ransom walks on. The trail is surprisingly easily at first, but then grows more difficult as the cold of Malacandra increases and Ransom’s breath gets shorter and shorter. It now feels arctic, rather than the normal wintry conditions of Malacandra. Ransom is forced to stop and rest, overwhelmed by the awfulness of being stuck on an alien planet and following the orders of “monsters” like the eldila and the hrossa. Somehow, Ransom forces himself to go on.
Ransom is now far more able to face his fears, seeing that some goals are more important than his discomfort at the new situations he finds on Malacandra. Yet just because his journey to Meldilorn is the correct thing to do does not mean it is easy. Lewis uses Ransom’s journey as a reminder that humans who hope to follow the will of God, as Ransom is following the will of Oyarsa, must be prepared to confront challenges.
As Ransom keeps walking, he sees the stars above him more clearly than ever and realizes that he must be climbing higher than Malacandra’s atmosphere. He wonders if the hrossa have different lungs than humans, and Whin accidentally sent him on a path that will kill him. Yet finally Ransom sees that the path is leveling out at an altitude that is difficult, but not impossible, for a human to survive. He staggers forward, looking for anything that might be called Augray’s tower. After a length of time, he sees a light in a cavern mouth that looks promising—until a sorn blocks the doorway.
Ransom is again closer to heaven, suggesting that this journey will be beneficial and eye opening. Just as Ransom had to learn to see the beauty of the heavens after so long considering space to be dead and empty, he will also have to reframe his opinion of the sorns to get the help he needs to survive. Lewis frames this chapter ending as a frightening “cliffhanger,” but will then go on to again undercut human assumptions of aliens as horrifying creatures.