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|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Cover artist||Harold Jones|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||John Lane (first)|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||264 pp (first edition, hard)|
|This article possibly contains original research. (March 2008)|
|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Cover artist||Harold Jones|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||John Lane (first)|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||264 pp (first edition, hard)|
Out of the Silent Planet is a science fiction novel by the British author C. S. Lewis, published in 1938 by John Lane, The Bodley Head. Five years later it was published in the U.S. (MacMillan, 1943). Two sequels were published in 1943 and 1945, completing the so-called Cosmic Trilogy or Space Trilogy.[a]
The fragment of another sequel, evidently set prior to Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, was published as "The Dark Tower" in a 1977 collection of short fiction by Lewis (deceased 1963) and essays by four others, The Dark Tower and Other Stories (Collins, ISBN 0-00-222155-1)
According to biographer A. N. Wilson, Lewis wrote the novel after a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien in which both men lamented the state of contemporary fiction. They agreed that Lewis would write a space-travel story, and Tolkien would write a time-travel one. Tolkien's story only exists as a fragment, published in The Lost Road and other writings (1987) edited by his son Christopher.
A "NOTE" precedes the text of the story: "Certain slighting references to earlier stories of this type which will be found in the following pages have been put there for purely dramatic purposes. The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H. G. Wells's fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them."
At the front door of the Rise, Ransom hears shouting and struggling inside. When he hurries around back, he sees Weston ("the thicker and taller of the two men") and Devine trying to force Harry, a dull-witted young man, to enter a structure on the property against his will. Ransom intervenes in the struggle, and Devine sees him as a better prospect than Harry for what he and Weston have in mind. With Weston's grudging consent, Devine offers Ransom a drink and accommodations for the night.
After enjoying what he thinks is a glass of whisky and soda, Ransom realizes that he has been drugged. He tries to escape but is subdued by Weston and Devine ("slender, and apparently the younger of the two"). When he regains consciousness he finds himself in a metallic spherical spacecraft en route to a planet called Malacandra. The wonder and excitement of such a prospect relieves his anguish at being kidnapped, but Ransom is put on his guard when he overhears Weston and Devine deliberating whether they will again drug him or keep him conscious when they turn him over to the inhabitants of Malacandra, the sorns, as a sacrifice. Ransom is put to work as cook and scullion, but appropriates a knife and plans to escape when he gets the chance.
Soon after the three land on the strange planet, Ransom gets his chance to run off into the unknown landscape, just after he sees the Sorns—tall alien creatures who terrify him. Ransom wanders around, finding many differences between Earth and Malacandra, in that all the lakes, streams, and rivers are warm; the gravity is significantly less; and the plants and mountains are strangely tall and thin.
Ransom later meets a civilized native of Malacandra, a hross named Hyoi, a tall, thin, and furry creature. He becomes a guest for several months in Hyoi's village, where he uses his philological skills to learn the language of the hrossa and also learns their culture. In the process he discovers that gold, known to the hrossa as "sun's blood", is plentiful on Malacandra, and thus is able to discern Devine's motivation for making the voyage thither. Weston's motives are shown to be more complex; he is bent on expanding humanity through the universe, abandoning each planet and star system as it becomes uninhabitable.
The hrossa honour Ransom greatly by asking him to join them in a hunt for a hnakra (plural hnéraki), a fierce water-creature which seems to be the only dangerous predator on the planet, resembling both a shark and a crocodile. While hunting, Ransom and his hrossa companions are told by an eldil, an almost invisible creature reminiscent of a spirit or deva, that Ransom must go to meet Oyarsa, the eldil who is ruler of the planet—and indeed that he already should have done so. He hesitates to respond to the summons, as he wishes to proceed with the hunt. Hyoi, after killing the hnakra with Ransom's help, is shot dead by Devine and Weston, who are seeking Ransom in order to take him prisoner and hand him over to the séroni. Ransom is told by Hyoi's friend (another hross named Whin) that this is the consequence of disobeying Oyarsa, and that Ransom must now cross the mountains to escape Weston and Devine and fulfil his orders. On his journey, Ransom finally meets a sorn, as he long feared he might. He finds, however, that the séroni are peaceful and kindly. Augray (the sorn) explains to him the nature of Oyarsa's body, and that of all eldila. The next day, carrying the human on his shoulders, Augray takes Ransom to Oyarsa.
After a stop at the dwelling place of an esteemed sorn scientist, wherein Ransom is questioned thoroughly regarding all manner of facts about Earth, Ransom finally makes it to Meldilorn, the home of Oyarsa. In Meldilorn, Ransom meets a pfifltrigg who tells him of the beautiful houses and artwork his race make in their native forests. Ransom then is led to Oyarsa and a long-awaited conversation begins. In the course of this conversation it is explained that there are Oyéresu (the plural) for each of the planets in our solar system; in the four inner planets, which have organic life (intelligent and non-intelligent), the local Oyarsa is responsible for that life. The ruler of Earth (Thulcandra, "the silent planet"), has turned evil (become "bent") and has been restricted to Thulcandra, after "great war," by the Oyéresu and the authority of Maleldil, the ruler of the universe. Ransom is ashamed at how little he can tell Oyarsa about Earth and how foolish he and other humans seem to Oyarsa. While the two are talking, Devine and Weston are brought in guarded by hrossa, because they have killed three of that race. Oyarsa then directs a pfifltrigg to "scatter the movements that were" the bodies of Hyoi and the two other hrossa, using a small, crystalline instrument; once touched with this instrument, the bodies vanish. Weston makes a long speech justifying his proposed invasion of Malacandra on "progressive" and evolutionary grounds, which Ransom attempts to translate into Malacandrian, thus laying bare the brutality and crudity of Weston's ambitions.
Oyarsa listens carefully to Weston's speech and acknowledges that the scientist is acting out of a sense of duty to his species, and not mere greed. This renders him more mercifully disposed towards the scientist, who accepts that he may die while giving Man the means to continue. However, on closer examination Oyarsa points out that Weston's loyalty is not to Man's mind - or he would value equally the alien minds already inhabiting Malacandra, instead of seeking to displace them in favour of humanity; nor to Man's body - since, as Weston is well aware of and at ease with, Man's physical form will alter over time, and indeed would have to in order to adapt to Weston's programme of space exploration and colonisation. It seems then that Weston is loyal only to "the seed" - Man's DNA - which he seeks to propagate. When Oyarsa questions why this is an intelligible motivation for action, Weston's eloquence fails him and he can only articulate that if Oyarsa does not understand Man's basic loyalty to Man then he, Weston, cannot possibly instruct him.
Oyarsa, passing judgment, tells Weston and Devine that he would not tolerate the presence of such creatures, but lets them leave the planet immediately, albeit under very unfavourable orbital conditions. To Ransom, Oyarsa offers him the option of staying on Malacandra, but Ransom decides he does not belong there, perhaps because he feels himself unworthy and perhaps because he yearns to be back among the human beings of Earth. Oyarsa gives the men ninety days' worth of air and other supplies, telling the Thulcandrians that after ninety days, the ship will disintegrate—so that whether they make it back to Earth or not (which is unlikely given the orbital conditions), they will never return to Malacandra. Weston and Devine do not further harm Ransom, focussing their attention on the perilous journey home. Oyarsa had promised Ransom that the eldila of "deep heaven" would watch over and protect him against any attacks from the other two Thulcandrians, who might seek to kill him as a way of economizing their air and food supplies; at times, Ransom is conscious of benevolent presences within the spaceship—the eldila. After a difficult return journey, the space-ship makes it back to Earth, and is shortly "unbodied" according to Oyarsa's will.
Ransom himself half-doubts whether all that happened was true, and he realizes that others will be even less inclined to believe it if he should speak of it. However, the author (Lewis), who did not previously know of Ransom's adventure, fortuitously writes to Ransom asking whether he has heard of the medieval Latin word "Oyarses" and knows what it meant. This prompts Ransom to let Lewis in on the secret. Ransom then dedicates himself to the mission that Oyarsa gave him before he left Malacandra of stopping Weston from further evil. Ransom and Lewis then collaborate—in the story, not in real life—to compose and publish Out of the Silent Planet under the guise of fiction. They realize that only a few readers will recognize their story as describing "real" events, but since they anticipate that further conflict with Weston or the Bent Oyarsa of Earth will be forthcoming, they also desire simply to familiarize many readers with the ideas contained therein.
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Peter Nicholls describes Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra as "planetary romances with elements of medieval mythology. Each planet is seen as having a tutelary spirit; those of the other planets are both good and accessible, while that of Earth is fallen, twisted and not known directly by most humans. These two books are powerfully imagined, although their scientific content is intermittently absurd."
Anna K. Nardo (in Extrapolation, summer, 1979) wrote that "as the reader travels with Ransom into Deep Heaven, he too is introduced to worlds where myth comes true and where what are merely artificial constructs to delineate kinds of poetry on earth become living realities in the heroic world of Mars and the pastoral world of Venus. Through identification with Ransom, the reader tastes what, Lewis seems to believe, is almost impossible in the modern world: pure epic and pure lyric experiences."
Robert McClenaghan writes, "Out of the Silent Planet, the shortest and most straightforward of the [Space Trilogy] books, incorporates many of the elements of classic science fiction, including a space flight, meetings with fantastic aliens, and an extended depiction of another planet. Were it not for the theological backdrop (which comes into focus only toward the story's end), Out of the Silent Planet could pass as merely a well-written and exceptionally erudite pulp novel."
On Malacandra there are three native hnau, reasoning species such as humans ("sentient races" in popular science fiction terms).
The hrossa (singular hross) resemble bipedal otters or seals, and are somewhat taller and thinner than humans. Ransom finds them beautiful: "covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat ... glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth" (p. 59, Chap. 9). They live in the low river valleys (handramit in the speech of the eldila) and specialize in farming, fishing, and performing arts such as dancing and poetry. They are especially gifted in making poetry; yet they refuse to write it down as they believe that books ruin words and poems. Their technical level is low, and they wear only pocketed loincloths. The boats that they build are similar to our canoes. They add an initial /h/ sound to their words. Their sense of humor is "extravagant and fantastic" (Chap. 18).
The séroni (singular sorn; the plural is sometimes given as sorns) are thin, fifteen-foot-high humanoids having coats of pale feathers and seven-fingered hands.[b] They live in mountain caves of the high country (harandra in the speech of the eldila), though they often descend into the handramit where they raise giraffe-like livestock. They are the scholars and thinkers of Malacandra, specializing in science and abstract learning. Their technical level is high, and they design machinery, which is built by the pfifltriggi. Although they can write, they do not compose written works of history or fiction as they feel the hrossa are superior at it. Their sense of humor "seldom got beyond irony" (Chap. 18).
The pfifltriggi (singular pfifltrigg) have tapir-like heads (with a bulge at the back containing the brain) and frog-like bodies; they lean their elbows on the ground when at rest, and sometimes when working with their hands. Their movements are quick and insectlike. They are the builders and technicians of Malacandra. They build houses and gadgets thought up by the séroni. They are miners who especially like to dig up "sun's blood" (gold) and other useful and beautiful minerals. They are the only species said to wear a form of clothes, other than the hrossa, and even wear goggles to protect their eyes. Their sense of humor is "sharp and excelled in abuse" (Chap. 18).
Malacandra's hnau are "unfallen": free of the tendency to evil and sin that plagues humans. Ransom describes the emotional connection between the races as a cross between that of equals and that of person to an animal, mirrored in the way that humans tend to anthropomorphize pets. Members of the three races do not believe any one of the races to be superior to the others; they acknowledge, rather, that no single race can do everything.
In the sequels it is made clear that the language of the hrossa is the primary Old Solar language, and that the languages of the other two species are late derivatives of it. This represents Lewis' view that the symbolic and mythopoeic imagination is the primary language of the human mind and that scientific and technological analysis is a later development. In the essay Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare he argues that, though reason is the organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning.
The speech which Weston delivers at the book's climax (in Chapter 20), and Ransom's effort to render it into the Old Solar spoken by the Malacandrians, demonstrate the enormous gulf in cultural and moral perceptions, which renders Weston's value judgements utterly untranslatable and may be said to make them absurd; thus creating a sort of social criticism. The “translation” that we read is to be understood as a back-translation into English of what Ransom said in Old Solar.
|Weston's speech in English||Ransom's rendering into Old Solar|
|To you I may seem a vulgar robber||Among us, Oyarsa, there is a kind of hnau who will take other hnau's food and - and things, when they are not looking. He says he is not an ordinary one of that kind.|
|but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human race.||He says what he does now will make very different things happen to those of our people who are not yet born.|
|Your tribal life||He says that, among you, hnau of one kindred all live together|
|with its stone-age weapons||and the hrossa have spears like those we used a very long time ago|
|and bee-hive huts||and your huts are small and round|
|its primitive coracles||and your boats small and light and like our old ones|
|and elementary social structure||and you have only one ruler|
|has nothing to compare with our civilization -||He says it is different with us.|
|with our science||He says we know much.|
|medicine||There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels pains and becomes weak, and we sometimes know how to stop it.|
|and law,||He says we have many bent people and we kill them or shut them in huts and that we have people for settling quarrels between the bent hnau about their huts and mates and things.|
|our armies,||He says we have many ways for the hnau of one land to kill those of another and some are trained to do it.|
|our architecture,||He says we build very big and strong huts of stones and other things - like the pfifltriggi.|
|our commerce||And he says we can exchange many things among ourselves|
|and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time.||and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way.|
|Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower.||Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your people.|
The hrossa's word for "to eat" contains consonants unreproducible by the human mouth. It is not clear how that word would be pronounced on Venus, where Ransom, in the sequel, finds humans speaking the same language spoken by the hrossa.
|Year||Country||Publisher||ISBN (available occasionally)||Binding||Notes|
|1938||UK||John Lane, The Bodley Head||Hardcover||1st edition.|
First published 1 April 1938. John Lane issued many reprints.
|1943||UK||The Macmillan Company||Hardcover|
|1948||Austria||Amandus-Ed.||Hardcover||Title: Der verstummte Planet: Roman, trans. by Else von Juhàsz.|
|1949||USA||Avon||Paperback||Avon Reprint Edition.|
On cover: "Complete and unabridged."
On cover: "Reads like the best of Merritt and Burroughs - D. A. Wollheim"
Colorful cover art, by Ann Cantor, shows Ransom in a boat with Hyoi and two séroni on the shore.
|1949||Spain||José Janés Editor||Title: Fuga a los Espacio ("Space Flight"), trans. by Manuel Bosch Barrett.|
Series: Cosmic Trilogy #1.
|1952||UK||Pan Books||Paperback||First Pan paperback printing. Second Pan paperback printing appeared in 1955.|
Cover art by George Woodman.
|1952||France||Hachette||Paperback||Title: Le silence de la Terre ("The Silence of Earth"); trans. by Marguerite Faguer.|
Series: Le Rayon Fantastique #12.
Colorful cover illustration, possibly by Christian Broutin, shows a man in middle distance, a boat on water to his right, twisting mountains in the background, a twisted tree to the left, and a green sky with wispy white clouds.
|1955||Sweden||FA-Press||Title: Utflykt från tyst planet ("Flight Out of Silent Planet"); trans. by Karin Hartman and Erik Egberg.|
Cover art by Cliff Nielsen shows a grenade-like spaceship, with a man preparing to exit from it, landing on a Mars that is more greenish than red.
|1956||USA||Avon||Paperback||Cover art by Everett Kinstler shows a rocket and Ransom, distraught, looking over his shoulder at an enormous eye in the sky, all against a red background.|
|1958||Germany||Rowohlt Verlag||Paperback||Title: Jenseits des Schweigenden Sterns; trans. by Ernst Sander.|
1st German ed.
Series: rororo Taschenbuch, Ausg. 289.
Cover illustration shows a green planet.
|1960||USA||Avon||Paperback||3rd Avon printing.|
Cover artist, uncredited, appears signed as Suss or Siess.
|1960||UK||Pan Books||Paperback||Great Pan "New Edition" 1960. The three previous printings in Pan were 1952, 1955 and 1956.|
On cover: "A strikingly original story of man's leap into space - and what he finds there."
Cover art, reminiscent of the work of Richard M. Powers, shows what might be two séroni, one with Ransom on his back; or possibly eldil.
|1960||Netherlands||Ten Have||Title: Ver van de zwijgende planeet, trans. H. C. Weiland.|
|1965||USA||Macmillan||Paperback||1st pbk. ed.|
Issued for a juvenile audience. Publisher's summary: ... Dr. Ransom is kidnapped and spirited by spaceship to the mysterious red planet of Malandra [sic]. He escapes and goes on the run, jeopardizing both his chances of ever returning to Earth and his very life... Lewis modeled Dr. Ransom after his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkien... [The novel] brings to life strange and magical realms in which epic battles are fought between the forces of light and those of darkness. But in the many layers of its allegory, and the sophistication and piercing brilliance of its insights into the human condition, it occupies a place among the English language's most extraordinary works for any age, and for all time...
|1965||USA||Macmillan||ISBN 0-02-086880-4||Paperback||160 pp.|
Cover art by Bernard Symancyk.
|1966||UK||Longmans||Paperback.||Introduction and notes by David Elloway.|
Series: Heritage of literature series, Section B, no. 87.
|1967||France||OPTA||Hardcover omnibus.||Trilogy title: Le silence de la Terre / Voyage à Vénus / Cette hideuse puissance. Translated by Marguerite Faguer and Frank Straschitz.|
Numbered and limited printing of 4000+150 copies.
Cloth cover in magenta with illustration of spaceship (or meteor) in goldenrod color.
|1971||UK||The Bodley Head||ISBN 0-370-00536-8|
and ISBN 978-0-370-00536-2
|Hardcover||Stated Eleventh Impression.|
|1977||USA||Macmillan||ISBN 0-02-086880-4 ; and ISBN 978-0-02-086880-4||Paperback||(Published as Space trilogy, according to WorldCat.)|
|1984||Portugal||Publicações Europa-America||Title: Para Além do Planeta Silencioso; trans. by Maria Luísa Gonçalves dos Santos.|
Series: Livros de Bolso, série Ficção Científica #80
|1988||USA||Megaforce Worldwide/Atlantic||Sound recording (analog, 33 1/3 rpm, stereo.)|
|1990||USA||Macmillan||ISBN 978-0-02-570795-5||Hardcover||Publisher's description: A philologist is kidnapped and taken via space-ship from England to Malacandra where he escapes and goes on the run.|
|1996||Scribner Paperback Fiction||ISBN 0-684-82380-2 and ISBN 978-0-684-82380-5||Paperback||First Scribner Paperback Fiction edition.|
Cover design by Kevin Mohlenkamp.
|1996||USA||Scribner Classics||ISBN 0-684-83364-6 and 978-0-684-83364-4||Hardcover||Cover art by Kinuko Y. Craft. Reprinted often.|
|1998||USA||G.K. Hall & Company||ISBN 0-7838-0411-3 and ISBN 978-0-7838-0411-8||Hardcover||Published December, 1998. Large-print edition.|
|2000||UK||Voyager / HarperCollins||ISBN 0-00-628165-6 and 978-0-00-628165-8||Trade paperback||Published June, 2000. Colorful cover art by Kinuko Craft shows Mars with pink foliage and teal river.|
|2003||USA||Simon & Schuster||ISBN 0-7432-3490-1||Paperback||Issued 17 March 2003.|
|2005||Turkey||Kabalcı Yayınevi||ISBN 9789759970154||Paperback||Published July 2005. Named "Sessiz Gezegenin Dışında"|
|2005||UK||Voyager||ISBN 0-00-715715-0 and 978-0-00-715715-0||Trade paperback||Published December 2005.|
Cover art by Cliff Nielsen same as 1955 edition above.
|2008||France||Éditions Gallimard||ISBN 9782070346127||Title: Au-delà de la planète silencieuse, trans. by Maurice Le Péchoux. Cover illustration by Emmanuel Malin.|
|2012||USA||HarperCollins||ISBN 9780062197030||Electronic Book||EPub Edition|
The hrossa, séroni, and pfifltriggi are several of the races living on Mars in Larry Niven's 1999 novel Rainbow Mars; they are referred to as the "Pious Ones" by the Barsoomian races. The hrossa are called the "Fishers", the pfifltriggi the "Smiths", and the séroni the "High Folk". The pfifltriggi are one of the races who chose to ride to Earth on Yggdrasil.
The séroni appear at the beginning of the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as one of the Martian races allied against the "mollusc invaders" (the Martians from The War of the Worlds).
In Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, a hieroglyphics-filled chamber seems to show the hrossa, séroni, and pfifltriggi as the original races of Mars, that were wiped out by the arrival of the War of the Worlds Martians.
There are quibbles with accuracy – the landscape doesn't seem quite right, there were no spacesuits, I don't think the spacecraft was painted. But mostly, it's pretty sweet.