Most of the sets, and many reviews and articles, refer to C.S. Lewis’s interplanetary novels as the ‘Space Trilogy.’ Given his discussion of the term ‘space’ in the first of those novels, Out of the Silent Planet, I think Lewis himself would have objected to that title. He saw the modern term ‘space’ as usurping the older term ‘heavens.’ ‘The heavens,’ to medieval and later writers and readers, signified a place full of life – of God and angels. The modern term ‘space’ refers to emptiness punctuated by stars and planets, few of which are likely to support life. So I don’t think he would have approved of calling his novels by that name. Another, closely related option, would be ‘Cosmic Trilogy.’ That seems, to me, much more acceptable. The trilogy is indeed about the cosmos – the entirety of God’s creation and how it all works together. That option includes all of those themes woven throughout the novels. And it has a nice ring to it. When I started writing, I was really more inclined to use that terminology.
But there is a third option – the Ransom Trilogy. It’s the one Michael Ward uses in Planet Narnia. I don’t remember why he said he used it, other than that he objected to Space Trilogy. I just know that it doesn’t sound as good, to me at least, as Cosmic Trilogy. Ransom is, after all, just a man. That can’t compare to THE COSMOS as a big idea.
But as I’ve studied the trilogy, I’ve realized that it really is all about Ransom. It’s about Ransom’s growth from the weak, indecisive, bungling middle-aged professor struggling through a gap in a hedge in Out of the Silent Planet, to the kingly figure directing much of the action in That Hideous Strength. It’s about his maturation.
As you read this summary, please keep in mind that, if you’ve read my other posts, I think Lewis saw mature men and women as both feminine (open-handed, accepting) toward God, and mature men particularly as masculine (protective, willing to sacrifice) toward others. Both, as evinced by the eldila’s faces in Perelandra, should be mature in charity – a desire to help others grow to maturity.
In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom starts out with some good inclinations. He does, after all, offer to check on the woman’s son, late in returning from his employment. He wishes he hadn’t. He regrets the inconvenience to himself. But he does follow through, though unaware of the potential danger. So there is a seed of masculine protectiveness. Lewis also portrays Ransom, on the spaceship, as open to the influence of the sun’s rays – an image of God’s influence on man. And he portrays it in feminine terms, ‘a second Danaë.’ Throughout that first voyage into the cosmos, he learns the beginning of femininity. He learns to accept help from Hwin, to accept the place given him in the hnakra hunt. He learns the consequences of disobeying the eldil when Hwin is shot. He opens his hands more and more to the will of Maleldil.
In Perelandra, Ransom continues to learn femininity at first – most notably in the scene when he wants to put his hands in his nonexistent pockets and smoke a nonexistent cigarette, and the Presence seemingly rebukes him. He says there that his uncomfortable feeling has to do with ‘assert[ing] his independence.’ As he gradually learns to avoid this habit of mind, to instead submit in feminine dependence, his ‘day became better and better.’ He was growing in feminine open-handedness toward Maleldil. When Weston appears on the planet and assumes the character of the Unman, Ransom begins to more strongly exhibit the masculine characteristic of protectiveness. First he attempts to protect the Green Lady with his words, then he protects the animals with his presence, and finally, in the climactic decision of the novel, he chooses to sacrifice his life if need be to rid the planet of the Unman. This is Ransom coming to maturity.
In That Hideous Strength, we see Ransom pictured as a warrior-king, receiving information and counsel and making decisions. We see him continue to grow as he leads others to their maturity. He is the earthly leader, the Pendragon who leads in defending Logres from Britain – in defending a God-centered aspect of England from the Bent One who would usurp His authority. Lewis here presents Ransom as the complete image of masculine maturity.
I still really like the sound of the Cosmic Trilogy better. Sigh. But given the way that the novels center on the character of Ransom and his maturation, it seems more fitting to call it the Ransom Trilogy.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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