Friday, 4 May 2012

CS Lewis: Cosmic Journeys

CS Lewis wrote the seven Chronicles of Narnia whose characters visit:

the Wood between the Worlds;
the world of Charn;
the world of Narnia, Archenland and Calormen;
Aslan's country.

I suggest that seven further works by Lewis form a less uniform sequence of "Cosmic Journeys" whose characters visit:

the "Shoddy Lands" (another character's mind);
an alternative Earth;
a grey city which is Hell;
the foothills of Heaven;
the Moon

 - three heavenly bodies, three spiritual states and one alternative Earth. 

"Cosmic Journeys" incorporates not only the Ransom Trilogy but also an unexpected Lewis trilogy "within" the Ransom Trilogy.

(i) In Out Of The Silent Planet, Elwin Ransom visits a planet called Malacandra by its inhabitants, returns to Earth and corresponds with CS Lewis.

(ii) In "The Dark Tower," Lewis and Ransom confer with other colleagues one of whom is then mentally transferred to an alternative Earth.

(iii) and (iv) Lewis alone visits a woman's mind in "The Shoddy Lands" and the hereafter in The Great Divorce. "The Dark Tower" and "The Shoddy Lands" share a University setting. 

(v) In Perelandra, Lewis visits Ransom who then travels to Venus which is called Perelandra in the Solar language.

(vi) Lewis is a less visible first person narrator in That Hideous Strength which ends when Ransom returns to Perelandra. Two accounts are given of life in the Moon.

(vii) In "Forms Of Things Unknown," an unrelated character travels to the Moon but the story is connected because it is based on a quotation from Perelandra.

Thus, the characters recur as follows:

(i) Ransom, then Lewis;
(ii) Lewis, Ransom and others;
(iii) Lewis;
(iv) Lewis;
(v) Lewis, then Ransom;
(vi) others, Lewis and Ransom;
(vii) one other.

Ransom passes a baton to Lewis who runs with it, then returns it to Ransom:

(i), (v) and (vi) are the Ransom Trilogy;
(ii), (iii) and (iv) are a Lewis trilogy;
(vii) is an appendix.

If Lewis' sf story, "Ministering Angels," had been set in a space station or a lunar base, then it might have fitted in with this sequence as a sequel or companion story to "Forms Of Things Unknown." However, it is instead set on a realistic Mars, thus contradicting the fantastic Malacandra. Since the sequence incorporates an alternative Earth, it could also, of course, incorporate alternative versions of Mars but that is not the intent of this story and the first Ransom novel as they stand. They are simply unrelated fictions.

Lewis' fictional sequences are connected:

the being called Aslan in Narnia is called Maleldil in the Field of Arbol, the Lewisian Solar System -

Arbol, the Sun;
Viritrilbia, Mercury;
Perelandra, Venus;
Thulcandra, Earth;
Sulva, the Moon;
Malacandra, Mars;
Glund or Glundandra, Jupiter;
Lurga, Saturn;
Neruval, Uranus;

in The Great Divorce, Lewis' mentor George MacDonald, refers to the Ransom Trilogy;
the foothills of Heaven are part of Aslan's country;
Lewis hears Aslan/Maleldil's voice in the Shoddy Lands;
That Hideous Strength
refers to a forest in a wardrobe.

Readers might notice other connections. 

No comments:

Post a Comment