Perelandra Summary and Study Guide

C.S. Lewis


  • 39-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 17 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with a Master's degree in English Literature
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Perelandra Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 39-page guide for “Perelandra” by C.S. Lewis includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 17 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Duality and The Forbidden.

Plot Summary

Lewis is summoned by philologist Elwin Ransom to his home in the English country. There, Lewis recounts the events of Ransom’s journey to Malacandra and becomes fearful of this visit. Along the way, he realizes he forgot his bag on the train. As he approaches Ransom’s house, he sees that all the lights are off. He enters to find himself in the presence of a powerful eldila, an angel-like entity that serves Maleldil, a figure known on Earth as Jesus Christ. Ransom enters and explains to Lewis that he will be going on another journey, this time to Perelandra, or Venus. He shows Lewis the coffin-like ship he will be travelling in and gives him instructions to watch over the house and wait for his return with the help of a trusted friend. Lewis agrees to this and meets the eldila, the Oyarsa of Malacandra, who reinforces the importance of this journey. Ransom enters the coffin naked and Lewis places a blindfold on him before shutting the lid. A year and a half later, Ransom returns, his heel bleeding, and speaks of his experiences vaguely to several friends. Finally, he tells Lewis the whole story.

Ransom travelled to Perelandra and, before landing, found himself flying over its surface. Most of the planet is covered in water except for a Fixed Land with a green pillar. Eventually, Ransom finds a floating island and rests. There, he discovers incredible fruit,which engages his senses, and bubbles of water that refresh him. He also meets a small dragon that begins to follow him around. Later in the evening, he sees another of these floating islands and a figure riding a fish. This figure turns out to be a woman and they try to communicate in Old Solar at the edge of the island. The next day, Ransom meets her on her island and they talk about the planet and how the woman was looking for the King, rather than Ransom. Ransom begins to teach her about Earth and death and morality, though he finds this difficult as she seems disinterested at times.

As they spend time together, Ransom starts to wonder if his purpose in being on the planet is to teach this woman, the Queen, the knowledge that Maleldil wants her to know. She takes him to the Fixed Land, where she is forbidden to live. They see a ship land in the water and a boat leave the ship. They find the boat on the shore and in it is Edward Weston, a physicist and enemy of Ransom. Weston pulls out a gun and forces Ransom to stay while the Queen leaves before nightfall. Weston puts the gun away before having a long discussion with him about the nature of the universe and the Force that guides everything. He is convinced that there is no such thing as good and evil and that there is only the Force that moves things forward. After this discussion, he seems to be in pain. He writhes and collapses. Ransom throws his gun into the sea.

The next morning, Ransom seeks the Queen and finds that Weston has already found her. Weston has taken on a strange new attitude and is attempting to make the Queen agree to go to the Fixed Land. He argues that this is what Maleldil really wants, citing the story of Adam and Eve as proof that this act of disobedience fulfills a greater obedience. Ransom tries over the next several days to combat Weston’s ideas, but he realizes that lies are difficult to fight against when he can only tell the truth. Weston has become the Un-Man and no longer needs sleep, making him even more capable of influencing the woman. Ransom becomes discouraged, but finally finds himself able to retaliate effectively now and then. He also finds that the Un-Man is killing the animals on Perelandra for no other reason than to cause them pain.

During a moment of discouragement, Ransom feels the presence of Maleldil and learns more about his purpose. He resolves to kill the Un-Man, accepting the probability that he will die in the attempt. When he meets the Un-Man, he finds that he only has the strength of Weston, a middle-aged man. They fight for many rounds, each coming away bruised and bloodied. Ransom is imbued with a pure hatred for the evil being and this gives him more strength. The Un-Man runs away and mounts a fish to escape. Ransom follows and chases him over the course of the day and into the night. When he catches up to him, Weston has seemingly returned to his body and begs Ransom for help. They ride together for a time but then the Un-Man takes over again and pulls Ransom from his fish as the waves grow higher. They fight again, eventually reaching land, and Ransom chokes the Un-Man for a long time until he’s sure he’s dead. He looks around and realizes that he’s in a cave, which he then attempts to find an exit to. He spends the next several hours climbing through the cave until he finds a light source. As he gets to this upper chamber, he hears a noise behind him and turns to find the Un-Man. Ransom smashes his head with a rock. He continues his journey until he comes to a river, which he falls in to. It takes him to an open area where he rests for a long time. When he awakens, he notices that his heel is still bleeding from a bite that the Un-Man gave him. He writes an epitaph in the rock for Weston.

Ransom leaves the area and finds a valley guarded by an angelic figure with a flaming sword. He is able to pass through and meets the Oyarsa of Malacandra and the Oyarsa of Perelandra in a large field. They are waiting for the King and Queen and they take on several forms before settling on a masculine and feminine form. The King and Queen arrive and are given charge over Perelandra, the Oyarsa relinquishing her power to them equally. They explain how the King was able to escape the Un-Man’s influence and how this outcome is part of a larger plan for the solar system. They all talk about the Great Dance, Maleldil’s plan, and celebrate this victory. The King and Queen decree that Ransom will be spoken of to all their children as an important part of their existence. They say their goodbyes and place him in another coffin-like ship, this time covering him in flowers before shutting the lid.

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Chapters 1-2