When Ransom arrives on Perelandra, part of the planet’s beauty, and indeed its foreignness, consists in the fact that it’s untouched by sin, suffering, or death. Unlike Earth, it’s never been corrupted by those intrusive things which are outside of God’s (Maleldil’s) original intention for the universe. Even Ransom, himself a sinful human being, finds that Perelandra’s sheer purity has a purifying effect on his own appetites, and when he meets the Green Lady, he finds her completely ignorant of such things as sin and death, which are taken for granted on Earth. Perelandra, then, imagines the way an unfallen Earth might have been. By portraying Perelandra as a place where innocence triumphs and contrasting it to the fallen, death-ravaged world of Earth, Lewis argues that sinful desires, suffering, and death are simply not the way things are meant to be, but that, no matter what, Maleldil’s will for his creatures is never ultimately thwarted.
Unlike Earth, which is riddled with sin and death, Perelandra remains untouched by those things, its innocence presenting a picture of God’s original intention for Earth. Ransom’s appetites on Perelandra are curiously different from what they’d be on earth—instead of being distorted by sinful excess, they’re seemingly aligned with the way they were originally created to function. On Perelandra, Ransom tastes the juice of a delicious fruit and almost follows the instinct to keep drinking, yet finds he doesn’t need to: “As he let the empty gourd fall from his hand and was about to pluck a second one, it came into his head that he was now neither hungry nor thirsty. And yet to repeat a pleasure so intense […] seemed an obvious thing to do. His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world, was all in favour of tasting this miracle again […] Yet something seemed opposed to this ‘reason.’ […] Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity—like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” Ransom’s appetites are perfectly balanced, in other words. The implication is that, on earth, Ransom would have kept drinking and drinking, gluttonously expecting increasing pleasure from the experience—a “fallen,” or sinfully corrupt, form of desire. Yet, in the unfallen world of Perelandra, he is perfectly sated with one drink—implicitly, the way things should be.
Because the inhabitants of Perelandra have no experience of sin, they aren’t even familiar with the concept of death (death being, in Lewis’s Christian theology, the result of human sin): "‘I wonder,’ said the woman, ‘if you were sent here to teach us death.’ ‘You don't understand,’ [Ransom] said. ‘It is not like that. It is horrible […] Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it.’ Both his voice and his facial expression were apparently something new to her. He saw the shock, not of horror, but of utter bewilderment […] [then] the ocean of her peace swallowed it up as if it had never been, and she asked him what he meant.” From Ransom’s perspective as an earthly Christian, death is the natural result of human sin—the punishment for Adam and Even’s sin which was inherited by all their posterity. But because of the Green Lady’s innocence of sin, the concept of death is completely unnatural. Her happy ignorance of death, in contrast to Ransom’s unhappy acquaintance with it, is the state in which humans were meant to have remained.
Even though Earth has lost that innocence and can’t possibly regain it, the novel points out that Maleldil’s loving intentions for his creatures always prevail. At the end of the novel, Ransom witnesses the “birth” of Perelandra—its inauguration as a world under the King and Queen’s reign—and is overcome with wonder by its incorruption. Yet, even this wonderful spectacle pales beside the redemption of fallen Earth: As the Oyarsa of Malacandra explains, “Today for the first time two creatures of the low worlds, two images of Maleldil that breathe and breed […] step up that step at which your parents fell […] It was never seen before. Because it did not happen in your world a greater thing happened[.]” In other words, the unprecedented reign of an unfallen pair of rational creatures—achieving what Adam and Eve were meant to have done on earth—is still less wonderful than Maleldil’s redemption of his sinful creatures by becoming incarnate in Christ and overturning death’s power by dying himself. Ransom feels real grief at what was lost, yet if it were not for that loss, the “greater thing” would never have been known.
Innocence and Incorruption ThemeTracker
Innocence and Incorruption Quotes in Perelandra
He had confidence in those who had sent him there, and for the meantime the coolness of the water and the freedom of his limbs were still a novelty and a delight; but more than all these was something else at which I have already hinted and which can hardly be put into words—the strange sense of excessive pleasure which seemed somehow to be communicated to him through all his senses at once. I use the word "excessive" because Ransom himself could only describe it by saying that for his first few days on Perelandra he was haunted, not by a feeling of guilt, but by surprise that he had no such feeling. There was an exuberance or prodigality of sweetness about the mere act of living which our race finds it difficult not to associate with forbidden and extravagant actions.
Such was the refreshment that he seemed to himself to have been, till now, but half awake. When he opened his eyes—which had closed involuntarily at the shock of moisture—all the colours about him seemed richer and the dimness of that world seemed clarified. A re-enchantment fell upon him. The golden beast at his side seemed no longer either a danger or a nuisance. If a naked man and a wise dragon were indeed the sole inhabitants of this floating paradise, then this also was fitting, for at that moment he had a sensation not of following an adventure but of enacting a myth. To be the figure that he was in this unearthly pattern appeared sufficient.
"And do you," said Ransom with some hesitation—"and do you know why He came thus to my world?"
All through this part of the conversation he found it difficult to look higher than her feet, so that her answer was merely a voice in the air above him. "Yes," said the voice. "I know the reason. But it is not the reason you know. There was more than one reason, and there is one I know and cannot tell to you, and another that you know and cannot tell to me."
"I wonder," said the woman, "if you were sent here to teach us death."
"You don't understand," he said. "It is not like that. It is horrible. It has a foul smell. Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it." Both his voice and his facial expression were apparently something new to her. He saw the shock, not of horror, but of utter bewilderment, on her face for one instant and then, without effort, the ocean of her peace swallowed it up as if it had never been, and she asked him what he meant.
“I thought,” she said, "that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. […] It is a delight with terror in it! One's own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands.”
He was a man obsessed with the idea which is at this moment circulating all over our planet in obscure works of "scientifiction," in little Interplanetary Societies and Rocketry Clubs […] It is the idea that humanity, having now sufficiently corrupted the planet where it arose, must at all costs contrive to seed itself over a larger area: that the vast astronomical distances which are God's quarantine regulations, must somehow be overcome. This for a start. But beyond this lies the sweet poison of the false infinite—the wild dream that planet after planet, system after system, in the end galaxy after galaxy can be forced to sustain, everywhere and for ever, the sort of life which is contained in the loins of our own species—a dream begotten by the hatred of death[.]
"I have said already that we are forbidden to dwell on the Fixed Land. Why do you not either talk of something else or stop talking?”
"Because this forbidding is such a strange one,” said [Weston’s] voice. "And so unlike the ways of Maleldil in my world. And He has not forbidden you to think about dwelling on the Fixed Land. […] [I]n our world we do it all the time. We put words together to mean things that have never happened and places that never were: beautiful words, well put together. And then tell them to one another. We call it stories or poetry. […] It is for mirth and wonder and wisdom.”
"What is the wisdom in it?"
"Because the world is made up not only of what is but of what might be. Maleldil knows both and wants us to know both.”
[…] Ransom had as yet seen nothing dead or spoiled in Perelandra, and it was like a blow in the face. […] It was irrevocable. The milk-warm wind blowing over the golden sea, the blues and silvers and greens of the floating garden, the sky itself—all these had become, in one instant, merely the illuminated margin of a book whose text was the struggling little horror at his feet, and he himself, in that same instant, had passed into a state of emotion which he could neither control nor understand. […] It was not merely pity for pain that had suddenly changed the rhythm of his heart-beats. The thing was an intolerable obscenity which afflicted him with shame.
"And will you teach us Death?" said the Lady to Weston's shape, where it stood above her.
"Yes," it said, "it is for this that I came here, that you may have Death in abundance. But you must be very courageous."
"Courageous. What is that?"
"It is what makes you to swim on a day when the waves are so great and swift that something inside you bids you to stay on land."
"I know. And those are the best days of all for swimming."
"Yes. But to find Death, and with Death the real oldness and the strong beauty and the uttermost branching out, you must plunge into things greater than waves."
"Your deepest will, at present, is to obey Him […] The way out of that is hard. It was made hard that only the very great, the very wise, the very courageous should dare to walk in it, to go on—on out of this smallness in which you now live—through the dark wave of His forbidding, into the real life, Deep Life, with all its joy and splendour and hardness."
"Listen, Lady," said Ransom. "There is something he is not telling you. […] Long ago, when our world began, there was only one man and one woman in it, as you and the King are in this. And there once before he stood, as he stands now, talking to the woman. […] And she listened, and did the thing Maleldil had forbidden her to do. But no joy and splendour came of it.”
She stood like one almost dazed with the richness of a day-dream. She did not look in the least like a woman who is thinking about a new dress. The expression of her face was noble. It was a great deal too noble. Greatness, tragedy, high sentiment—these were obviously what occupied her thoughts. Ransom perceived that the affair of the robes and the mirror had been only superficially concerned with what is commonly called female vanity. The image of her beautiful body had been offered to her only as a means to awake the far more perilous image of her great soul. The external and, as it were, dramatic conception of the self was the enemy's true aim. He was making her mind a theatre in which that phantom self should hold the stage. He had already written the play.
Long since on Mars, and more strongly since he came to Perelandra, Ransom had been perceiving that the triple distinction of truth from myth and of both from fact was purely terrestrial—was part and parcel of that unhappy division between soul and body which resulted from the Fall. Even on earth the sacraments existed as a permanent reminder that the division was neither wholesome nor final. The Incarnation had been the beginning of its disappearance. In Perelandra it would have no meaning at all. Whatever happened here would be of such a nature that earth-men would call it mythological. All this he had thought before. Now he knew it. The Presence in the darkness, never before so formidable, was putting these truths into his hands, like terrible jewels.
"The world is born to-day," said Malacandra. "To-day for the first time two creatures of the low worlds, two images of Maleldil that breathe and breed like the beasts, step up that step at which your parents fell, and sit in the throne of what they were meant to be. It was never seen before. Because it did not happen in your world a greater thing happened, but not this. Because the greater thing happened in Thulcandra, this and not the greater thing happens here."
"Elwin is falling to the ground," said the other voice.
Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. […] Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity. All this Ransom saw, as it were, with his own eyes. The two white creatures were sexless. But he of Malacandra was masculine (not male); she of Perelandra was feminine (not female).
The eyes of the Queen looked upon him with love and recognition, but it was not of the Queen that he thought most. It was hard to think of anything but the King. And how shall I—I who have not seen him—tell you what he was like? It was hard even for Ransom to tell me of the King's face. But we dare not withhold the truth. It was that face which no man can say he does not know. You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet.
"So this is hru," he said at last. "I have never seen such a fluid before. And this is the substance wherewith Maleldil remade the worlds before any world was made."
He washed the foot for a long time but the bleeding did not stop. "Does it mean Piebald will die?" said Tinidril at last.
"I do not think so," said Tor. "I think that any of his race who has breathed the air that he has breathed and drunk the waters that he has drunk since he came to the Holy Mountain will not find it easy to die. Tell me, Friend, was it not so in your world that after they had lost their paradise the men of your race did not learn to die quickly?"
"I had heard," said Ransom, "that those first generations were long livers, but most take it for only a Story or a Poetry and I had not thought of the cause."