The hnakra, a shark-like creature that lives in one of the lakes on Malacandra (Mars), first seems to represent all of the terrible things that Dr. Ransom expects from the lifeforms on this alien planet. Yet Ransom learns from the hrossa, a sentient alien species, that the hnakra is a far more complicated part of the paradise that is life on this peaceful world. The hnakra, unlike any of the other beings on Malacandra, is a purely evil creature who seeks only to hurt others. The hrossa hunt down the hnakra, understanding that they cannot allow this ferocious animal to roam free, and consider it a great honor to be a “hnakrapunt” – one who slays the hnakra. Yet they also appreciate the hnakra for its ability to show them what is truly precious about their peaceful lives. Without the hnakra to add an element of danger and excitement to the hross’s days, they could quickly become bored of their perfect lives or take the good nature of their community for granted. Lewis uses the hnakra as a symbol of the inescapable place of pain or evil in human lives. Just as the hnakra will always be in the lakes, there will always be some level of pain and evil in any perfect society, even one that would be achievable by humans. Like the hrossa, humans who desire an ideal world must both fight against evil and accept that some evil must always exist – if only to more purely show what good is.
The hnakra is also shown to be a representation of the physical form of the Bent One, Lewis’s representation of Satan in the novel. Lewis connects all evil in the universe of the book to Satan, maintaining the ties to Christian theology that he gradually builds throughout this space adventure. The devil, and its smaller cousin the hnakra, are responsible for all that is bad in the world, but they are also an integral part of human lives. Humans must be aware of the devil, just as hrossa must be aware of the hnakra, in order to overcome the devil and truly choose good. Without the devil, the human choice to do what is right would be easy and meaningless. The presence of the devil, and the hnakra, raises the stakes and creates a world in which people’s choices matter and doing the right thing has significant consequences – precisely because there is an opportunity to follow the hnakra’s predatory way of life, and be led into doing evil.
The Hnakra Quotes in Out of the Silent Planet
I will tell you a day in my life that has shaped me; such a day as comes only once, like love, or serving Oyarsa in Meldilorn. Then I was young, not much more than a cub, when I went far, far up the handramit to the land where stars shine at midday and even water is cold. A great waterfall I climbed…Because I have stood there alone, Maleldil and I, for even Oyarsa sent me no word, my heart has been higher, my song deeper, all my days. But do you think it would have been so unless I had known that in Balki hneraki dwelled? There I drank life because death was in the pool.
He was one with them. That difficulty which they, accustomed to more than one rational species, had perhaps never felt, was now overcome. They were all hnau. They had stood shoulder to shoulder in the face of an enemy, and the shapes of their heads no longer mattered. And he, even Ransom, had come through it and not been disgraced. He had grown up.