Perelandra

by

C. S. Lewis

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Perelandra: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After an exhausted sleep, Ransom awakes to fresh daylight. To his surprise, he sees that several islands have drifted together overnight, creating a temporary continent. Across a narrow bit of water walks the Green Lady, singing to herself and braiding some flowers. Seeing her again, Ransom is overwhelmed by her beauty; even the greenness of her body seems perfectly fitting for this world. Nothing of sexual desire or shame enters his thoughts.
As earlier when he felt no urge to gluttonously consume the delicious blossoms, Ransom finds that he doesn’t feel lustful towards the Green Lady despite her unparalleled beauty. On Perelandra, in other words, he’s able to enjoy beauty and pleasure with frank innocence, the way, Lewis implies, these things are meant to be enjoyed.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
The Green Lady says that yesterday, she was young, and she didn’t know that people of Ransom’s world don’t like to be laughed at. She explains that she gets “older” each day. For her, the days change appearance as they approach, while they are here, and when they are past—much like waves. She nicknames Ransom “Piebald.”
Throughout the novel, the Green Lady refers to gaining knowledge in terms of aging—learning something new is getting “older,” while her less knowledgeable state is associated with youth. She likens waves to the passage of time and the experience of change, suggesting that the past is like a swell in the distance, the present is a breaking wave, and the future is a shallow-water wave lapping against the shore.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Ransom asks the Green Lady what she knows of other worlds, since Perelandra’s sky is so dense that other planets can’t be seen from here. At this, the Lady claps her hands with childlike delight. She realizes that in Ransom’s world, one can look out directly toward space. She marvels at Maleldil’s creativity in inventing so many different things.
In her innocence, the Green Lady finds learning new things to be delightful—it’s not something that creates a sense of lack, envy, or fear in her. Rather, it always prompts renewed gratitude for Maleldil’s doings. It’s another example of the Lady’s innocence and the incorruption of her will.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Ransom is puzzled that the Green Lady looks so much like an earthly woman, even though she is a different species entirely. The Lady says that Maleldil, right now, is telling her that it’s because Ransom’s world is older than hers. (Ransom notices that the world suddenly feels full of pressure, and he sinks to his knees.) The Lady says it’s all because Maleldil first took human form on Earth. This caused time to turn a corner. Since then, creatures possessing Reason always take a human form.
Because the Green Lady is sinless, she’s able to communicate directly with Maleldil through her thoughts and perceptions. Ransom can’t; for him, communication with Maleldil often takes the more cumbersome form of a heavy, irresistible presence. The Lady’s explanation references Christian theology—because God became human in Jesus Christ, any creature possessing a rational nature (made, in other words, in the image of God) will now also take a human, or human-like, form. This might be an indirect critique of H. G. Wells—while Wells’s science fiction suggests that humanity’s position in the universe is because of humans’ inherent superiority, Lewis argues that it’s because the human form imitates God.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
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Hesitating, Ransom asks if the Lady knows why Maleldil came to Earth. He feels ashamed to look at her. She says yes, but that it’s a different reason than Ransom knows. Likewise, there’s a reason she knows, but which Ransom cannot know. Ransom feels a bit overcome by this conversation and needs a rest. He asks if he can come over to the Lady’s island, and she welcomes him.
In Christian theology, the Incarnation (God becoming man) was a result of human sin. Because of her sinless state, the Lady is unable to comprehend this. Likewise, Ransom’s sin makes him unable to comprehend other aspects of God’s plan.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ransom sleeps a while and then wakes to find the dragon and a furry yellow wallaby at his side. The animals herd him in a particular direction, guiding him through some woods and a flowery field, until Ransom realizes they’re leading him to the Green Lady. Ransom is struck anew by the Lady’s stillness and goddess-like beauty. The animals frolic around her, and she speaks to them with both warmth and authority, sending them back into the woods.
The Green Lady’s kindly authority over the animals is another example of the uncorrupted harmony that prevails on Perelandra. The creatures are under the Lady’s dominion and they respect her superiority as a rational creature unlike themselves, but she doesn’t behave toward them in a dominating or cruel manner.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Ransom asks the Green Lady if she knows for what purpose Maleldil has sent him to her world. She doesn’t. He then asks if she can take him to her King, but she doesn’t know where he is. The Lady tries to explain to Ransom that the King is the only other being of her kind, and that they were separated at one point when their islands drifted apart. Ransom, frustrated, asks who the Lady’s mother is. She says that she is the Mother, and the King will be the Father of their children.
Until this point, Ransom has not fully realized that in talking with the Green Lady, he is dealing with one of the first rational beings (human equivalents) to exist in this world. In other words, he has arrived on Perelandra at the dawn of this world. This helps explain the fact that so much is new and unknown to the Lady—how “young” she is.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
When the Green Lady understands that Earth contains many more of Ransom’s kind, she instructs Ransom to convey her greetings to his own Mother. Ransom admits that the Mother of his world is dead. The Lady wonders if Ransom has been sent to Perelandra in order to teach her what death means. Ransom tries to explain that death is horrible. The Lady looks briefly bewildered by this idea, and even by the thought that anyone would not desire something which Maleldil sends.
The “Mother” of Ransom’s world is the biblical Eve, wife of Adam, from the Book of Genesis in the Christian Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible. According to the biblical account, when Eve was tempted, both she and Adam subsequently fell into sin and therefore died, bringing about the same corruptions for all their offspring. But Perelandra’s Lady has no inkling of all this—not even a notion of something undesirable, much less of death.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ransom points out that when the Green Lady first saw him, she reacted with disappointment. She walks off to contemplate this, and Ransom realizes that her peace isn’t a settled thing—it could be broken or lost. He feels terrified by this, but when the Lady looks at him again, the thought of “precariousness” transforms to “Adventure” in his mind.
Ransom uses the Lady’s disappointment as a basis for explaining the notion of not wanting something which Maleldil sends. At this point, Ransom realizes that the Lady could be corrupted one day—in other words, she could undergo a “fall” equivalent to Adam and Eve’s earthly one. Yet this unsettled aspect of her will—because of her innocence—is delightful, not fearful.
Themes
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
When the Green Lady speaks again, she offers an example. If someone goes into the forest, she says, they might intend to pick a certain fruit, but they find a different fruit instead—meaning one joy has been given instead of the one someone expected. It had never occurred to her before that someone might hold onto the thing they previously desired—to “send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got.”
In the Lady’s world, everything received from the hand of Maleldil is good. If she doesn’t get what she expects (like when Ransom showed up instead of the King she sought), she receives the unexpected thing as just another good gift from Maleldil rather than dwelling on the thing she didn’t receive. Because of Maleldil’s goodness and the goodness of all he gives, it doesn’t make sense to her that one would continue to pine for a good that wasn’t given.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
The Green Lady goes on that she had always thought of herself as being carried along by Maleldil’s will, but now she sees that she walks with it—“a delight with terror in it.” The walking along is itself the path; there’s no predetermined path.
The Green Lady’s will is in perfect harmony with Maleldil’s—such that there’s no perceptible difference between the two. Lewis portrays this harmonious walking as a kind of continuous adventure.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ransom begins to find the Green Lady’s words a bit off-putting. The Lady notices his frown and asks him what it means. He says it’s nothing, but even this small lie feels like a great offense in this world. The Lady regards him thoughtfully and decides their conversation is over for now.
Ransom, unlike the Lady, isn’t innocent of sin. Her perfect goodness—her harmony with Maleldil—is therefore somewhat unpalatable to him (reminiscent of Lewis’s uncertainty whether he really liked the eldil’s fierce goodness back in Ransom’s cottage.)
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon