Sunday, May 12, 2019

CSL, again

I've returned to James Como's C.S. Lewis: A very Short Introduction. It is short (116 pages) but very good combining biography and brief accounts of CSL's books, articles, and sermons. For example, from the first part of his summary of the first book of the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet:
Elwin Ransom, a philologist, is walking an unusually quiet countryside. It is late, and when he is refused hospitality at a nearly empty inn (a bad sign) he knocks at a cottage, meets a mother worried over her missing son Harry, and agrees to seek him at the cottage of 'the Professor and the gentleman from London'. They will turn out to be Weston and Devine, who would send the boy off in a rocket to Malacandra (Mars) as a sacrificial offering to ravenous creatures. When Ransom attempts to intervene, the two overcome him and put him into the rocket instead, and off goes Ransom into the void of Outer Space.

We see here two aspects of Lewis's method. The first is his working out of a 'supposal', as he calls it. Suppose there is intelligent life in the solar system beyond Earth. What would they be like? What might they think of us? What would they think of Earth, which will turn out to be, for very sinister reasons, the 'silent planet'? The second is Lewis's use of reversal, in this case of his hero's and our expectations. Outer Space is not a void but alive with light and life; the red planet is populated by three different species living in peace; the creatures to whom he was sent as a sacrifice, certainly frightening at first glance, are innocent, and our planet (known as Thulcandra) is quarantined because of its own Fall.

Lewis takes his vision farther still. His hero spends much time on Malacandra, comes to know its three species—sorns, hrossa, and pfifltriggi: all hnau, or possessed of reason—and their language (Old Solar), has adventures as well as misadventures as he experiences landscapes, customs, and virtues, and learns that the planet has a presiding spirit, an eldil, the Oyarsa, in the service of the greatest eldil, Maleldil, the creator. ....
I believe that anyone who appreciates Lewis would profit from this book. It might well also lead to some re-reading and/or the discovery of things not yet read.

James Como, C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, p. 57.

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