Perelandra Summary

C.S. Lewis


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Perelandra Summary

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Coming between Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength, Perelandra is the middle novel of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. It follows Dr. Ransom as he battles the human frailty of temptation on Perelandra when that planet is invaded by a destructive dark force. Perelandra is a peaceful planet, the future of which depends on Ransom’s actions. The narrative structure of the book is a bit out of the ordinary, as it is told at the outset by a first-person voice which is identified by Ransom as C.S. Lewis, early in the text. A third-person voice then tells the rest of the story: that of the narrator relaying the story as if it had been told to him by Ransom.  This allows for some liberties, as the third-person narrator can add necessary information that Ransom himself would not have been privy to, but still filter the story though Ransom’s point of view.

As the story opens, Ransom has returned from Mars (his destination at the end of the first book in the trilogy) and receives a new assignment. Ransom requests that Lewis come to his home, which Lewis does, but with reservations. Lewis listens to Ransom’s story, learning that Ransom is to travel to Perelandra, which is Venus, to fight an attack by Black Archon (Satan) of Earth. In a cold vessel resembling a coffin, and blindfolded by Lewis so as to avoid being blinded by the sun, Ransom voyages to Perlandra. A year later, he returns and tells Lewis his story. This is the point at which Ransom’s point of view takes over the narrative:

When Ransom arrives on Perlandra he finds himself engulfed by colors in a beautiful ocean-like setting. The planet appears to be covered with oceanic waters, with floats of vegetation that look like islands, with plant and animal life. But unlike islands, these masses are always in motion, not fixed. The only traditional landform seen is a mountain, aptly named the Fixed Land.  Ransom encounters the queen of the planet, Tinidril, who is friendly and accepting. She is of human form (unlike the beings he encountered on Mars) but has green skin. She and the planet’s king are the only humans on the planet, the symbolic Adam and Eve. They are not permitted to sleep on the Fixed Land and live on the floating “islands.”

The islands, or rafts, are a type of paradise. Life on them is happy and free from care. In addition, in a further nod to Adam and Eve, Ransom was instructed to travel to the planet naked, as clothing is not necessary there. In his time there, which stretches from weeks into months, being naked alongside the beautiful and naked Tinidril has not once tempted him to be lustful or seductive. The perfection of the world in that sense has remained unscathed. Paradise is threatened, however, by the arrival of Professor Weston, the satanic figure who was defeated by Ransom on Mars. Weston presents himself to Ransom as a changed man and talks of spirituality and of having allegiance to what he refers to as a Life-Force. To Ransom, however, he is still a power-monger and satanic.

Weston, presumably possessed by a demon, goes to the queen and tries to convince her to spend a night on the Fixed Land, in defiance of the rules. Ransom knows he needs to do something to counter this blatant act of temptation. Ransom, to his benefit, possesses a strong knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, and fears that if the queen knows nothing of evil, a variation of the Eden story of the loss of innocence and the fall of mankind will transpire on Perelandra.  Debating with Weston over ways that temptation can be avoided, Ransom is constantly outstripped by Weston, who, while appearing quite the simpleton when not channeling evil, is most proficient at debate. Finding himself close to being defeated by Weston, Ransom experiences divine intervention. One night a voice tells him to use a physical attack against Weston. He struggles to accept this as the means of protecting the queen, but remembers that his name, Ransom, refers to a reward bestowed in exchanged for a life. Coupled with this, he recalls God sacrificing himself and knows that he must confront Weston, the tempter.

Using only his own physical power, Ransom attacks Weston, who, although a formidable opponent on the battlefield of rhetoric, is no match for Ransom physically. Ransom chases him across the ocean, both of them riding on the backs of giant fish. In a moment of rest, the version of Weston who was not possessed briefly appears and tells of being in Hell, where damned souls become part of the devil, losing all aspects of any individual existence. This sign of a “different” Weston is short-lived, and the demon in possession of his body attempts to drown Ransom.  After a struggle, Ransom appears to have killed Weston, but his body is apparently still being used by the tempter. The chase continues until finally Ransom is able to get Weston into the fire of a volcano.

In time, Ransom recovers from the injuries he incurred battling Weston. The king and queen are granted divine power over the planet and the beginning of a new utopia is celebrated. Ransom returns unenthusiastically to Earth, where his mission continues to be fighting evil.