Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Ransom and Augray descend into the handramit where Meldilorn and Oyarsa can be found. They re-enter the atmosphere of Malacandra and Ransom gets down to walk on his own. Ransom is completely overcome by the beauty of this handramit, seeing a gorgeous lake with an island covered in a type of golden flower with huge stalks that remind Ransom of the walls of a cathedral. Ransom can tell that this bright island is Meldilorn.
Lewis again invites comparisons to religious worship surrounding Oyarsa. The mention of a cathedral places Oyarsa next to Christian priests rather than pagan rituals, though the flowers also connect to the worship of nature often found in pagan religions rather than “civilized” Christianity on Earth.
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Related Quotes
When Augray and Ransom reach the edge of the forest, they find a gong made of a greenish metal, decorated exquisitely with drawings that remind Ransom of prehistoric drawings and ancient Celtic designs. Augray rings the gong and they are soon met by a hross in a boat coming across the beautiful lake. Augray greets the hross as Hrinha, introducing Ransom as a hnau from another planet who must meet with Oyarsa. Ransom gets into the boat and Augray turns to go back to his cavern. Ransom tries to give Augray his wristwatch as thanks for his help. Augray examines the watch, then gives it back to Ransom with directions to show it to a pfifltrigg who will enjoy it more.
Ransom has come very far from his original fear of the sorns, trusting all he now meets and considering Augray a friend. Augray again demonstrates selflessness, counseling Ransom to give a gift that he really does want to a pfifltrigg that will appreciate it more. The inhabitants of Malacandra care for others’ happiness and well being more than they care for themselves.
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Hrinha paddles the boat away, explaining that Ransom is free to do as he wishes in Meldilorn until Oyarsa calls for him. Ransom warns Hrinha that there are two bent humans who may follow him to this peaceful oasis. Hrinha lands the boat on the island in the lake and points out huts where Ransom can rest and eat if he wants. The rest of the island is peaceful and empty except for an avenue of stone monoliths that remind Ransom of Stonehenge. As Ransom gets out of the boat, Hrinha tells him in a hushed tone that the island is full of eldila.
Oyarsa may give orders at times, but he clearly does not control or restrict every aspect of the hnau’s lives on Malacandra. The Malacandrians are given freedom within this framework that allows for their lives to be peaceful and happy while also independent. Ransom again views Malacandrian culture in terms of ancient Earthly cultures, but he now respects that instead of considering it something lesser-than.
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Ransom inspects the island further, getting the odd feeling that the island is also watching him. He walks towards the huts, catching flashes of brightness out of the corner of his eye that disappear when he focuses on them, and realizes that he must be “seeing” eldila. Ransom submits himself willingly to the eldila’s gaze, and then becomes distracted as the boat returns with a large group of hross passengers. Ten sorns also wade through the lake. Ransom feels out of place, like a new boy at school, and decides not to go greet these fellow visitors.
Now that Ransom is open to believing in the eldila, he can better see them. Lewis again brings up the idea of English civilization, which puts so much emphasis on status. Significantly, it is Ransom who is making himself an outcast here, not the Malacandrians who are not inviting him over. Ransom now sees the problems inherent to all humans and wishes to learn to overcome them before he can truly join Malacandrian society.
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That afternoon, Ransom walks to the middle of the island to avoid talking to any other hnau. He comes up to the stone monoliths and looks at the pictures decorating the stones. He sees sorns, hrossa, and pfifltriggi, along with a tall figure with wings that Ransom assumes to be the ancient birds of which Augray spoke. There is also a scene of an enormous hnakra attacking from the sky while various hnau cluster around a winged flame figure. Ransom takes the winged flame to be Oyarsa.
In another subtle allusion, the image of Oyarsa as a flame matches the descriptions of angels in the Bible. The hnakra in the sky seems to represent Satan, as Oyarsa’s story will later make clear. Oyarsa talks about the devil wishing to destroy all the other planets, and suggests that the devil is the one who placed the hnakra here.
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One scene on the stones particularly puzzles Ransom, until he figures out that it is a picture of the solar system and the various oyarsas that rule the different planets. Mercury’s oyarsa carries a trumpet, while Venus’s seems to be female, but where the picture of Earth’s oyarsa should be there is only a rough cut in the stone, as if someone had erased whatever was there. After Earth, Mars does not have an oyarsa pictured, but rather connects to the larger scenes of Malacandran life. Ransom realizes that Malacandra is Mars.
Ransom notes how the mythology of the Malacandrians seems to match Earth’s mythology in that the oyarsas seem to match these planet’s namesakes in Greek and Roman mythology. The rough cut of Earth’s oyarsa is another clue that Earthly people may have once had an oyarsa, and therefore were connected to this heavenly knowledge. These strengthens the idea that this whole journey is “really” happening in our solar system and that all this mythology is true.
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Ransom is startled out of his inspection of the pictures by the arrival of a small form. Ransom looks at the being’s shrew-like face and frog-like body and guesses that this must be a pfifltrigg. The pfifltrigg (later named as Kanakaberaka) has broad, many-fingered hands with which it is using tools to cut more pictures into the rock. Ransom greets it in the hrossan language and the pfifltrigg asks Ransom to stand still. Ransom realizes that the pfifltrigg seems to be creating a portrait of him, all the while muttering about “Oyarsa’s orders.”
Ransom reacts to the pfifltrigg practically without fear, a huge feat after his initial experiences on Malacandra. He has now grown enough to accept beings that are entirely different from himself. Ransom is even friendly to the pfifltrigg and treats it as an intelligent being by greeting it. The pfifltriggi also recognize the authority of Oyarsa, as Kanakaberaka uses his artistic talents for Oyarsa’s purposes.
Themes
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The pfifltrigg (Kanakaberaka) finishes Ransom’s portrait and invites Ransom to look. The stone now holds a scene of three humans arriving on Malacandra. Ransom is at first repelled by the image of the humans, which seem too thick and mushroom-y to his eye. Ransom mentions this difference in perspective on the human form to the pfifltrigg, and the pfifltrigg responds that he purposely idealized the human form for the sake of future generations.
Just as the inhabitants of Malacandra seem grotesque and “wrong” in some senses to Ransom’s human eyes, the pfifltrigg seems to see the human form differently. Yet the pfifltrigg specifically tries to make the humans look good, rather than painting them as monsters—like Ransom saw the Malacandrians when he first arrived.
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Ransom suddenly notices that the pfifltrigg is speaking the hrossan language, and asks if that means the hrossa once ruled all the species and imposed their speech. The pfifltrigg says no, all the hnau species use the hrossan language when communicating between species because the hrossan language is more complete. The pfifltrigg points out that the sorns and pfifltriggi keep their own languages at home, as seen in the different styles of names. This pfifltrigg’s name is Kanakaberaka.
Ransom asks again to know the “ruling” species of Malacandra, another signal that humans are far too concerned with status and power. The pfifltrigg answers the same way that the hrossa and the sorns did, praising each species for their separate strengths while still considering all species equal in worth.
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Kanakaberaka describes his own homeland, not forested like the handramit but full of deep mines. All the pfifltriggi share the work of mining and stone craft equally. Ransom mentions that some people on Earth are forced to mine their whole lives for others who make art. Kanakaberaka proclaims this way “bent” and explains that the art is more meaningful for the pfifltriggi because of the hard work they must do to get the stone.
Like the hrossa sharing food with everyone, the pfifltriggi also share the work as much as they share the pleasure of making their art. Lewis again builds a utopic society where all members are valued the same. Kanakaberaka even shows how exploiting others can harm oneself, as forcing others to work keeps a person from fully appreciating their art.
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