GREAT PAN G403
First published 1938 by John Lane the Bodley Head Ltd.
This edition published 1952 by Pan Books Ltd, 8 Headfort Place, London, S.W. 1
2nd Printing 1955
3rd Printing 1956
New Edition 1960
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.
OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET
C. S. LEWIS
RANSOM AWOKE next morning with the vague feeling that a great weight had been taken off
his mind. Then he remembered that he was the guest of a sorn and that the creature he had
been avoiding ever since he landed had turned out to be as amicable as the hrossa, though he
was far from feeling the same affection for it. Nothing then remained to be afraid of in
Malacandra except Oyarsa. 'The last fence,' thought Ransom.
Augray gave him food and drink.
"And now," said Ransom, "how shall I find my way to Oyarsa ?"
"I will carry you," said the sorn. "You are too small a one to make the journey yourself and I
will gladly go to Meldilorn. The hrossa should not have sent you this way. They do not seem
to know from looking at an animal what sort of lungs it has and what it can do. It is just like a
hross. If you died on the harandra they would have made a poem about the gallant hmân and
how the sky grew black and the cold stars shone and he journeyed on and journeyed on; and
they would have put in a fine speech for you to say as you were dying ... and all this would
seem to them just as good as if they had used a little forethought and saved your life by sending
you the easier way round."
"I like the hrossa," said Ransom a little stiffly. "And I think the way they talk about death is
the right way."
"They are right not to fear it, Ren-soom, but they do not seem to look at it reasonably as part
of the very nature of our bodies - and therefore often avoidable at times when they would never
see how to avoid it. For example, this has saved the life of many a hross, but a hross would not
have thought of it."
He showed Ransom a flask with a tube attached to it, and, at the end of the tube, a cup,
obviously an apparatus for administering oxygen to oneself.
"Smell on it as you have need, Small One," said the sorn. "And close it up when you do
Augray fastened the thing on his back and gave the tube over his shoulder into his hand.
Ransom could not restrain a shudder at the touch of the sorn's hands upon his body; they were
fan-shaped, seven-fingered, mere skin over bone like a bird's leg, and quite cold. To divert his
mind from such reactions he asked where the apparatus was made, for he had as yet seen
nothing remotely like a factory or a laboratory.
"We thought it," said the sorn, "and the pfifltriggi made it."
"Why do they make them?" said Ransom. He was trying once more, with his insufficient
vocabulary, to find out the political and economic framework of Malacandrian life.
"They like making things," said Augray. "It is true they like best the making of things that
are only good to look at and of no use. But sometimes when they are tired of that they will
make things for us, things we have thought, provided they are difficult enough. They have not
patience to make easy things however useful they would be. But let us begin our journey. You
shall sit on my shoulder."
The proposal was unexpected and alarming, but seeing that the sorn had already crouched
down, Ransom felt obliged to climb on to the plume-like surface of its shoulder, to seat himself
beside the long, pale face, casting his right arm as far as it would go round the huge neck, and
to compose himself as well as he could for this precarious mode of travel. The giant rose
cautiously to a standing position and he found himself looking down on the landscape from a
height of about eighteen feet.
"Is all well, Small One?" it asked.
"Very well," Ransom answered, and the journey began.
Its gait was perhaps the least human thing about it. It lifted its feet very high and set them
down very gently. Ransom was reminded alternately of a cat stalking, a strutting barn-door
fowl, and a high-stepping carriage horse; but the movement was not really like that of any
terrestrial animal. For the passenger it was surprisingly comfortable. In a few minutes he had
lost all sense of what was dizzying or unnatural in his position. Instead, ludicrous and even
tender associations came crowding into his mind. It was like riding an elephant at the zoo in
boyhood - like riding on his father's back at a still earlier age. It was fun. They seemed to be
doing between six and seven miles an hour. The cold, though severe, was endurable; and
thanks to the oxygen he had little difficulty with his breathing.
The landscape which he saw from his high, swaying post of observation was a solemn one.
The handramit was nowhere to be seen. On each side of the shallow gully in which they were
walking, a world of naked, faintly greenish rock, interrupted with wide patches of red, extended
to the horizon. The heaven, darkest blue where the rock met it, was almost black at the zenith,
and looking in any direction where sunlight did not blind him, he could see the stars. He
learned from the sorn that he was right in thinking they were near the limits of the breathable.
Already on the mountain fringe that borders the harandra and walls the handramit, or in the
narrow depression along which their road led them, the air is of Himalayan rarity, ill breathing
for a hross, and a few hundred feet higher, on the harandra proper, the true surface of the
planet, it admits no life. Hence the brightness through which they walked was almost that of
heaven - celestial light hardly at all tempered with an atmospheric veil.
The shadow of the sorn, with Ransom's shadow on its shoulder, moved over the uneven rock
unnaturally distinct like the shadow of a tree before the headlights of a car; and the rock beyond
the shadow hurt his eyes. The remote horizon seemed but an arm's length away. The fissures
and moulding of distant slopes were clear as the background of a primitive picture made before
men learned perspective. He was on the very frontier of that heaven he had known in the spaceship,
and rays that the air-enveloped words cannot taste were once more at work upon his body.
He felt the old lift of the heart, the soaring solemnity, the sense, at once sober and ecstatic, of
life and power offered in unasked and unmeasured abundance. If there had been air enough in
hs lungs he would have laughed aloud. And now, even in the immediate landscape, beauty was
drawing near. Over the edge of the valley, as if it had frothed down from the true harandra,
came great curves of the rose-tinted, cumular stuff which he had seen so often from a distance.
Now on a nearer view they appeared hard as stone in substance, but puffed above and stalked
beneath like vegetation. His original simile of giant cauliflower turned out to be surprisingly
correct - stone cauliflowers the size of cathedrals and the colour of pale rose. He asked the sorn
what it was.
"It is the old forests of Malacandra," said Augray. "Once there was air on the harandra and
it was warm. To this day, if you could get up there and live, you would see it all covered with
the bones of ancient creatures; it was once full of life and noise. It was then these forests grew,
and in and out among their stalks went a people that have vanished from the world these many
thousand years. They were covered not with fur but with a coat like mine. They did not go in
the water swimming or on the ground walking; they glided in the air on broad flat limbs which
kept them up. It is said they were great singers, and in those days the red forests echoed with
their music. Now the forests have become stone and only eldila can go among them."
"We still have such creatures in our world," said Ransom. "We call them birds. Where was
Oyarsa when all this happened to the harandra?"
"Where he is now."
"And he could not prevent it?"
"I do not know. But a world is not made to last for ever, much less a race; that is not
As they proceeded the petrified forests grew more numerous, and often for half an hour at a
time the whole horizon of the lifeless, almost airless, waste blushed like an English garden in
summer. They passed many caves where, as Augray told him, sorns lived; sometimes a high
cliff would be perforated with countless holes to the very top and unidentifiable noises came
hollowly from within. 'Work' was in progress, said the sorn, but of what kind it could not make
him understand. Its vocabulary was very different from that of the hrossa. Nowhere did he see
anything like a village or city of sorns, who were apparently solitary not social creatures. Once
or twice a long pallid face would show from a cavern mouth and exchange a horn-like greeting
with the travellers, but for the most part the long valley, the rock-street of the silent people, was
still and empty as the harandra itself.
Only towards afternoon, as they were about to descend into a dip of the road, they met three
sorns together coming towards them down the opposite slope. They seemed to Ransom to be
rather skating than walking. The lightness of their world and the perfect poise of their bodies
allowed them to lean forward at right angles to the slope, and they came swiftly down like fullrigged
ships before a fair wind. The grace of their movement, their lofty stature, and the
softened glancing of the sunfight on their feathery sides, effected a final transformation in
Ransom's feelings towards their race. 'Ogres' he had called them when they first met his eyes as
he struggled in the grip of Weston and Devine; 'Titans' or 'Angels' he now thought would have
been a better word. Even the faces, it seemed to him, he had not then seen aright. He had
thought them spectral when they were only august, and his first human reaction to their
lengthened severity of line and profound stillness of expression now appeared to him not so
much cowardly as vulgar. So might Parmenides or Confucius look to the eyes of a Cockney
schoolboy! The great white creatures sailed towards Ransom and Augray and dipped like trees
In spite of the cold - which made him often dismount and take a spell on foot - he did not
wish for the end of the journey; but Augray had his own plans and halted for the night long
before sundown at the home of an older sorn. Ransom saw well enough that he was brought
there to be shown to a great scientist. The cave, or, to speak more correctly, the system of
excavations, was large and many-chambered, and contained a multitude of things that he did
not understand. He was specially interested in a collection of rolls, seemingly of skin, covered
with characters, which were clearly books; but he gathered that books were few in Malacandra.
"It is better to remember," said the sorns.
When Ransom asked if valuable secrets might not thus be lost, they replied that Oyarsa
always remembered them and would bring them to light if he thought fit.
"The hrossa used to have many books of poetry," they added. "But now they have fewer.
They say that the writing of books destroys poetry."
Their host in these caverns was attended by a number of other sorns who seemed to be in
some way subordinate to him; Ransom thought at first that they were servants but decided later
that they were pupils or assistants.
The evening's conversation was not such as would interest a terrestrial reader, for the sorns
had determined that Ransom should not ask, but answer, questions. Their questioning was very
different from the rambling, imaginative inquiries of the hrossa. They worked systematically
from the geology of Earth to its present geography, and thence in turn to flora, fauna, human
history, languages, politics and arts. When they found that Ransom could tell them no more on
a given subject - and this happened pretty soon in most of their inquiries - they dropped it at
once and went on to the next. Often they drew out of him indirectly much more knowledge
than he consciously possessed, apparently working from a wide background of general science.
A casual remark about trees when Ransom was trying to explain the manufacture of paper
would fill up for them a gap in his sketchy answers to their botanical questions; his account of
terrestrial navigation might illuminate mineralogy; and his description of the steam engine gave
them a better knowledge of terrestrial air and water than Ransom had ever had. He had decided
from the outset that he would be quite frank, for he now felt that it would be not hnau, and also
that it would be unavailing, to do otherwise. They were astonished at what he had to tell them
of human history - of war, slavery and prostitution.
"It is because they have no Oyarsa," said one of the pupils.
"It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself," said Augray.
"They cannot help it," said the old sorn. "There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule
themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These
creatures have no eldila. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair - or one trying
to see over a whole country when he is on a level with it - like a female trying to beget young
Two things about our world particularly stuck in their minds. One was the extraordinary
degree to which problems of lifting and carrying things absorbed our energy. The other was the
fact that we had only one kind of hnau: they thought this must have far-reaching effects in the
narrowing of sympathies and even of thought.
"Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood," said the old sorn. "For you cannot
compare it with thought that floats on a different blood."
It was a tiring and very disagreeable conversation for Ransom. But when at last he lay down
to sleep it was not of the human nakedness nor of his own ignorance that he was thinking. He
thought only of the old forests of Malacandra and of what it might mean to grow up seeing
always so few miles away a land of colour that could never be reached and had once been
EARLY NEXT day Ransom again took his seat on Augray's shoulder. For more than an hour
they travelled through the same bright wilderness. Far to the north the sky was luminous with a
cloud-like mass of dull red or ochre; it was very large and drove furiously westward about ten
miles above the waste. Ransom, who had yet seen no cloud in the Malacandrian sky, asked
what it was. The sorn told him it was sand caught up from the great northern deserts by the
winds of that terrible country. It was often thus carried, sometimes at a height of seventeen
miles, to fall again, perhaps in a handramit, as a choking and blinding dust storm. The sight of
it moving with menace in the naked sky served to remind Ransom that they were indeed on the
outside of Malacandra - no longer dwelling in a world but crawling the surface of a strange
planet. At last the cloud seemed to drop and burst far on the western horizon, where a glow,
not unlike that of a conflagration, remained visible until a turn of the valley hid all that region
from his view.
The same turn opened a new prospect to his eyes. What lay before him looked at first
strangely like an earthly landscape - a landscape of grey downland ridges rising and falling like
waves of the sea. Far beyond, cliffs and spires of the familiar green rock rose against the dark
blue sky. A moment later he saw that what he had taken for downlands was but the ridged and
furrowed surface of a blue-grey valley mist - a mist which would not appear a mist at all when
they descended into the handramit. And already, as their road began descending, it was less
visible and the many-coloured pattern of the low country showed vaguely through it. The
descent grew quickly steeper; like the jagged teeth of a giant - a giant with very bad teeth - the
topmost peaks of the mountain wall down which they must pass loomed up over the edge of
their gulley. The look of the sky and the quality of the light were infinitesimally changed. A
moment later they stood on the edge of such a slope as by earthly standards would rather be
called a precipice; down and down this face, to where it vanished in a purple blush of
vegetation, ran their road. Ransom refused absolutely to make the descent on Augray's
shoulder. The sorn, though it did not fully understand his objection, stooped for him to
dismount, and proceeded, with that same skating and forward sloping motion, to go down
before him. Ransom followed, using gladly but stiffly his numb legs.
The beauty of this new handramit as it opened before him took his breath away. It was
wider than that in which he had hitherto lived and right below him lay an almost circular lake -
a sapphire twelve miles in diameter set in a border of purple forest. Amidst the lake there rose
like a low and gently sloping pyramid, or like a woman's breast, an island of pale red, smooth to
the summit, and on the summit a grove of such trees as man had never seen. Their smooth
columns had the gentle swell of the noblest beech trees: but these were taller than a cathedral
spire on earth, and at their tops they broke rather into flower than foliage; into golden flower
bright as tulip, still as rock, and huge as summer cloud. Flowers indeed they were, not trees,
and far down among their roots he caught a pale hint of slab-like architecture. He knew before
his guide told him that this was Meldilorn. He did not know what he had expected. The old
dreams which he had brought from earth of some more than American complexity of offices or
some engineers' paradise of vast machines had indeed been long laid aside. But he had not
looked for anything quite so classic, so virginal, as this bright grove - lying so still, so secret, in
its coloured valley, soaring with inimitable grace so many hundred feet into the wintry sunlight.
At every step of his descent the comparative warmth of the valley came up to him more
deliciously. He looked above - the sky was turning to a paler blue. He looked below - and
sweet and faint the thin fragrance of the giant blooms came up to him. Distant crags were
growing less sharp in outline, and surfaces less bright. Depth, dimness, softness and
perspective were returning to the landscape. The lip or edge of rock from which they had
started their descent was already far overhead; it seemed unlikely that they had really come
from there. He was breathing freely. His toes, so long benumbed could move delightfully
inside his boots. He lifted the ear-flaps of his cap and found his ears instantly filled with the
sound of falling water. And now he was treading on soft groundweed over level earth and the
forest roof was above his head. They had conquered the harandra and were on the threshold of
A short walk brought them into a kind of forest 'ride' - a broad avenue running straight as an
arrow through the purple stems to where the rigid blue of the lake danced at the end of it. There
they found a gong and hammer hung on a pillar of stone. These objects were all richly
decorated, and the gong and hammer were of a greenish-blue metal which Ransom did not
recognize. Augray struck the gong. An excitement was rising in Ransom's mind which almost
prevented him from examining as coolly as he wished the ornamentation of the stone. It was
partly pictorial, partly pure decoration. What chiefly struck him was a certain balance of
packed and empty surfaces. Pure line drawings, as bare as the prehistoric pictures of reindeer
on Earth, alternated with patches of design as close and intricate as Norse or Celtic jewellery;
and then, as you looked at it, these empty and crowded areas turned out to be themselves
arranged in larger designs. He was struck by the fact that the pictorial work was not confined to
the emptier spaces; quite often large arabesques included as a subordinate detail intricate
pictures. Elsewhere the opposite plan had been followed - and this alternation, too, had a
rhythmical or patterned element in it. He was just beginning to find out that the pictures,
though stylized, were obviously intended to tell a story, when Augray interrupted him. A ship
had put out from the island shore of Meldilorn.
As it came towards them Ransom's heart warmed to see that it was paddled by a hross. The
creature brought its boat up to the shore where they were waiting, stared at Ransom and then
looked inquiringly at Augray.
"You may well wonder at this nau, Hrinha," said the sorn, "for you have never seen anything
like it. It is called Ren-soom and has come through heaven from Thulcandra."
"It is welcome, Augray," said the hross politely. "Is it coming to Oyarsa?"
"He has sent for it."
"And for you also, Augray?"
"Oyarsa has not called me. If you will take Ren-soom over the water, I will go back to my
The hross indicated that Ransom should enter the boat. He attempted to express his thanks
to the sorn and after a moment's consideration unstrapped his wrist watch and offered it to him;
it was the only thing he had which seemed a suitable present for a sorn. He had no difficulty in
making Augray understand its purpose; but after examining it the giant gave it back to him, a
little reluctantly, and said:
"This gift ought to be given to a pfifltrigg. It rejoices my heart, but they would make more
of it. You are likely to meet some of the busy people in Meldilorn: give it to them. As for its
use, do your people not know except by looking at this thing how much of the day has worn?"
"I believe there are beasts that have a sort of knowledge of that," said Ransom, "but our hnau
have lost it."
After this, his farewells to the sorn were made and he embarked. To be once more in a boat
and with a hross, to feel the warmth of water on his face and to see a blue sky above him, was
almost like coming home. He took off his cap and leaned back luxuriously in the bows, plying
his escort with questions. He learned that the hrossa were not specially concerned with the
service of Oyarsa, as he had surmised from finding a hross in charge of the ferry: three species
of hnau served him in their various capacities, and the ferry was naturally entrusted to those
who understood boats. He learned that his own procedure on arriving in Meldilorn must be to
go where he liked and do what he pleased until Oyarsa called for him. It might be an hour or
several days before this happened. He would find huts near the landing place where he could
sleep if necessary and where food would be given him. In return he related as much as he could
make intelligible of his own world and his journey from it; and he warned the hross of the
dangerous bent men who had brought him and who were still at large on Malacandra. As he
did so, it occurred to him that he had not made this sufficiently clear to Augray; but he consoled
himself with the reflection that Weston and Devine seemed to have already some liaison with
the sorns and that they would not be likely to molest things so large and so comparatively manlike.
At any rate, not yet. About Devine's ultimate designs he had no illusions; all he could do
was to make a clean breast of them to Oyarsa. And now the ship touched land.
Ransom rose, while the hross was making fast, and looked about him. Close to the little
harbour which they had entered, and to the left, were low buildings of stone - the first he had
seen in Malacandra - and fires were burning. There, the hross told him, he could find food and
shelter. For the rest the island seemed desolate, and its smooth slopes empty up to the grove
that crowned them, where, again, he saw stonework. But this appeared to be neither temple nor
house in the human sense, but a broad avenue of monoliths - a much larger Stonehenge, stately,
empty and vanishing over the crest of the hill into the pale shadow of the flower-trunks. All
was solitude; but as he gazed upon it he seemed to hear, against the background of morning
silence, a faint, continual agitation of silvery sound - hardly a sound at all, if you attended to it,
and yet impossible to ignore.
"The island is all full of eldila," said the hross in a hushed voice.
He went ashore. As though half expecting some obstacle, he took a few hesitant paces
forward and stopped, and then went on again in the same fashion.
Though the groundweed was unusually soft and rich and his feet made no noise upon it, he
felt an impulse to walk on tiptoes. All his movements became gentle and sedate. The width of
water about this island made the air warmer than any he had yet breathed in Malacandra; the
climate was almost that of a warm earthly day in late September - a day that is warm but with a
hint of frost to come. The sense of awe which was increasing upon him deterred him from
approaching the crown of the hill, the grove and the avenue of standing stones.
He ceased ascending about half way up the hill and began walking to his right, keeping a
constant distance from the shore. He said to himself that he was having a look at the island, but
his feeling was rather that the island was having a look at him. This was greatly increased by a
discovery he made after he had been walking for about an hour, and which he ever afterwards
found great difficulty in describing. In the most abstract terms it might be summed up by
saying that the surface of the island was subject to tiny variations of light and shade which no
change in the sky accounted for. If the air had not been calm and the groundweed too short and
firm to move in the wind, he would have said that a faint breeze was playing with it, and
working such slight alterations in the shading as it does in a cornfield on the Earth. Like the
silvery noises in the air, these footsteps of light were shy of observation. Where he looked
hardest they were least to be seen: on the edges of his field of vision they came crowding as
though a complex arrangement of them were there in progress. To attend to any one of them
was to make it invisible, and the minute brightness seemed often to have just left the spot where
his eyes fell. He had no doubt that he was 'seeing' - as much as he ever would see - the eldila.
The sensation it produced in him was curious. It was not exactly uncanny, not as if he were
surrounded by ghosts. It was not even as if he were being spied upon: he had rather the sense of
being looked at by things that had a right to look. His feeling was less than fear; it had in it
something of embarrassment, something of shyness, something of submission, and it was
He felt tired and thought that in this favoured land it would be warm enough to rest out of
doors. He sat down. The softness of the weed, the warmth and the sweet smell which pervaded
the whole island, reminded him of Earth and gardens in summer. He closed his eyes for a
moment; then he opened them again and noticed buildings below him, and over the lake he saw
a boat approaching. Recognition suddenly came to him. That was the ferry, and these
buildings were the guesthouse beside the harbour; he had walked all round the island. A certain
disappointment succeeded this discovery. He was beginning to feel hungry. Perhaps it would
be a good plan to go down and ask for some food; at any rate it would pass the time.
But he did not do so. When he rose and looked more closely at the guest-house he saw a
considerable stir of creatures about it, and while he watched he saw that a full load of
passengers was landing from the ferry-boat. In the lake he saw some moving objects which he
did not at first identify but which turned out to be sorns up to their middles in the water and
obviously wading to Meldilorn from the mainland. There were about ten of them. For some
reason or other the island was receiving an influx of visitors. He no longer supposed that any
harm would be done to him if he went down and mixed in the crowd, but he felt a reluctance to
do so. The situation brought vividly back to his mind his experience as a new boy at school -
new boys came a day early - hanging about and watching the arrival of the old hands. In the
end he decided not to go down. He cut and ate some of the groundweed and dozed for a little.
In the afternoon, when it grew colder, he resumed his walking. Other hnau were roaming
about the island by this time. He saw sorns chiefly, but this was because their height made
them conspicuous. There was hardly any noise. His reluctance to meet these fellow-wanderers,
who seemed to confine themselves to the coast of the island, drove him half consciously
upwards and inwards. He found himself at last on the fringes of the grove and looking straight
up the monolithic avenue. He had intended, for no very clearly defined reason, not to enter it,
but he fell to studying the stone nearest to him, which was richly sculptured on all its four sides,
and after that curiosity led him on from stone to stone.
The pictures were very puzzling. Side by side with representations of sorns and hrossa and
what he supposed to be pfifltriggi there occurred again and again an upright wavy figure with
only the suggestion of a face, and with wings. The wings were perfectly recognizable, and this
puzzled him very much. Could it be that the traditions of Malacandrian art went back to that
earlier geological and biological era when, as Augray had told him, there was life, including
bird-life, on the harandra? The answer of the stones seemed to be Yes. He saw pictures of the
old red forests with unmistakable birds flying among them, and many other creatures that he did
not know. On another stone many of these were represented lying dead, and a fantastic hnakralike
figure, presumably symbolizing the cold, was depicted in the sky above them shooting at
them with darts. Creatures still alive were crowding round the winged, wavy figure, which he
took to be Oyarsa, pictured as a winged flame. On the next stone Oyarsa appeared, followed by
many creatures, and apparently making a furrow with some pointed instrument. Another
picture showed the furrow being enlarged by pfifltriggi with digging tools. Sorns were piling
the earth up in pinnacles on each side, and hrossa seemed to be making water channels.
Ransom wondered whether this were a mythical account of the making of handramits or
whether they were conceivably artificial in fact.
Many of the pictures he could make nothing of. One that particularly puzzled him showed at
the bottom a segment of a circle, behind and above which rose three-quarters of a disk divided
into concentric rings. He thought it was a picture of the sun rising behind a hill; certainly the
segment at the bottom was full of Malacandrian scenes - Oyarsa in Meldilorn, sorns on the
mountain edge of the harandra, and many other things both familiar to him and strange. He
turned from it to examine the disk which rose behind it. It was not the sun. The sun was there,
unmistakably, at the centre of the disk: round this the concentric circles revolved. In the first
and smallest of these was pictured a little ball, on which rode a winged figure something like
Oyarsa, but holding what appeared to be a trumpet. In the next, a similar ball carried another of
the flaming figures. This one, instead of even the suggested face, had two bulges which after
long inspection he decided were meant to be the udders or breasts of a female mammal. By this
time he was quite sure that he was looking at a picture of the solar system. The first ball was
Mercury, the second Venus - 'And what an extraordinary coincidence,' thought Ransom, 'that
their mythology, like ours, associates some idea of the female with Venus.' The problem would
have occupied him longer if a natural curiosity had not drawn his eyes on to the next ball which
must represent the Earth. When he saw it, his whole mind stood still for a moment. The ball
was there, but where the flame-like figure should have been, a deep depression of irregular
shape had been cut as if to erase it. Once, then - but his speculations faltered and became silent
before a series of unknowns. He looked at the next circle. Here there was no ball. Instead, the
bottom of this circle touched the top of the big segment filled with Malacandrian scenes, so that
Malacandra at this point touched the solar system and came out of it in perspective towards the
spectator. Now that his mind had grasped the design, he was astonished at the vividness of it
all. He stood back and drew a deep breath preparatory to tackling some of the mysteries in
which he was engulfed. Malacandra, then, was Mars. The Earth - but at this point a sound of
tapping or hammering, which had been going on for some time without gaining admission to
his consciousness, became too insistent to be ignored. Some creature, and certainly not an eldil,
was at work, close to him. A little startled - for he had been deep in thought - he turned round.
There was nothing to be seen. He shouted out, idiotically, in English:
The tapping instantly stopped and a remarkable face appeared from behind a neighbouring
It was hairless like a man's or a sorn's. It was long and pointed like a shrew's, yellow and
shabby-looking, and so low in the forehead that but for the heavy development of the head at
the back and behind the ears (like a bag-wig) it could not have been that of an intelligent
creature. A moment later the whole of the thing came into view with a startling jump. Ransom
guessed that it was a pfifltrigg - and was glad that he had not met one of this third race on his
first arrival in Malacandra. It was much more insect-like or reptilian than anything he had yet
seen. Its build was distinctly that of a frog, and at first Ransom thought it was resting, frog-like,
on its 'hands.' Then he noticed that that part of its fore-limbs on which it was supported was
really, in human terms, rather an elbow than a hand. It was broad and padded and clearly made
to be walked on; but upwards from it, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, went the true
forearms - thin, strong forearms, ending in enormous, sensitive, many-fingered hands. He
realized that for all manual work from mining to cutting cameos this creature had the advantage
of being able to work with its full strength from a supported elbow. The insect-like effect was
due to the speed and jerkiness of its movements and to the fact that it could swivel its head
almost all the way round like a mantis; and it was increased by a kind of dry, rasping, jingling
quality in the noise of its moving. It was rather like a grasshopper, rather like one of Arthur
Rackham's dwarfs, rather like a frog, and rather like a little old taxidermist whom Ransom
knew in London.
"I come from another world," began Ransom.
"I know, I know," said the creature in a quick, twittering, rather impatient voice. "Come
here, behind the stone. This way, this way. Oyarsa's orders. Very busy. Must begin at once.
Ransom found himself on the other side of the monolith, staring at a picture which was still
in process of completion. The ground was liberally strewn with chips and the air was full of
"There," said the creature. "Stand still. Don't look at me. Look over there."
For a moment Ransom did not quite understand what was expected of him; then, as he saw
the pfifltrigg glancing to and fro at him and at the stone with the unmistakable glance of artist
from model to work which is the same in all worlds, he realized and almost laughed. He was
standing for his portrait! From his position he could see that the creature was cutting the stone
as if it were cheese and the swiftness of its movements almost baffled his eyes, but he could get
no impression of the work done, though he could study the pfifltrigg. He saw that the jingling
and metallic noise was due to the number of small instruments which it carried about its body.
Sometimes, with an exclamation of annoyance, it would throw down the tool it was working
with and select one of these; but the majority of those in immediate use it kept in its mouth. He
realized also that this was an animal artificially clothed like himself, in some bright scaly
substance which appeared richly decorated though coated in dust. It had folds of furry clothing
about its throat like a comforter, and its eyes were protected by dark bulging goggles. Rings -
and chains of a bright metal - not gold, he thought - adorned its limbs and neck. All the time it
was working it kept up a sort of hissing whisper to itself; and when it was excited - which it
usually was - the end of its nose wrinkled like a rabbit's. At last it gave another startling leap,
landed about ten yards away from its work, and said:
"Yes, yes. Not so good as I hoped. Do better another time. Leave it now. Come and see
Ransom obeyed. He saw a picture of the planets, not now arranged to make a map of the
solar system, but advancing in a single procession towards the spectator, and all, save one,
bearing its fiery charioteer. Below lay Malacandra and there, to his surprise, was a very
tolerable picture of the space-ship. Beside it stood three figures for all of which Ransom had
apparently been the model. He recoiled from them in disgust. Even allowing for the
strangeness of the subject from a Malacandrian point of view and for the stylization of their art,
still, he thought, the creature might have made a better attempt at the human form than these
stock-like dummies, almost as thick as they were tall, and sprouting about the head and neck
into something that looked like fungus.
He hedged. "I expect it is like me as I look to your people," he said. "It is not how they
would draw me in my own world."
"No," said the pfifltrigg. "I do not mean it to be too like. Too like, and they will not believe
it - those who are born after." He added a good deal more which was difficult to understand; but
while he was speaking it dawned upon Ransom that the odious figures were intended as an
idealization of humanity. Conversation languished for a little. To change the subject Ransom
asked a question which had been in his mind for some time.
"I cannot understand," he said, "how you and the sorns and the hrossa all come to speak the
same speech. For your tongues and teeth and throats must be very different."
"You are right," said the creature. "Once we all had different speeches and we still have at
home. But everyone has learned the speech of the hrossa."
"Why is that?" said Ransom, still thinking in terms of terrestrial history. "Did the hrossa
once rule the others?"
"I do not understand. They are our great speakers and singers. They have more words and
better. No one learns the speech of my people, for what we have to say is said in stone and
suns' blood and stars' milk and all can see them. No one learns the sorns' speech, for you can
change their knowledge into any words and it is still the same. You cannot do that with the
songs of the hrossa. Their tongue goes all over Malacandra. I speak it to you because you are a
stranger. I would speak it to a sorn. But we have our old tongues at home. You can see it in the
names. The sorns have big-sounding names like Augray and Arkal and Belma and Falmay.
The hrossa have furry names like Hnoh and Hnihi and Hyoi and Hlithnahi."
"The best poetry, then, comes in the roughest speech?"
"Perhaps," said the pfifltrigg. "As the best pictures are made in the hardest stone. But my
people have names like Kalakaperi and Parakataru and Tafalakeruf. I am called
Ransom told it his name.
"In our country," said Kanakaberaka, "it is not like this. We are not pinched in a narrow
handramit. There are the true forests, the green shadows, the deep mines. It is warm. It does
not blaze with light like this, and it is not silent like this. I could put you in a place there in the
forests where you could see a hundred fires at once and hear a hundred hammers. I wish you
had come to our country. We do not live in holes like the sorns nor in bundles of weed like the
hrossa. I could show you houses with a hundred pillars, one of suns' blood and the next of stars'
milk, all the way ... and all the world painted on the walls."
"How do you rule yourselves?" asked Ransom. "Those who are digging in the mines - do
they like it as much as those who paint the walls?"
"All keep the mines open; it is a work to be shared. But each digs for himself the thing he
wants for his work. What else would he do?"
"It is not so with us."
"Then you must make very bent work. How would a maker understand working in suns'
blood unless he went into the home of suns' blood himself and knew one kind from another and
lived with it for days out of the light of the sky till it was in his blood and his heart, as if he
thought it and ate it and spat it?"
"With us it lies very deep and hard to get and those who dig it must spend their whole lives
on the skill."
"And they love it?"
"I think not ... I do not know. They are kept at it because they are given no food if they
Kanakaberaka wrinkled his nose. "Then there is not food in plenty on your world?"
"I do not know," said Ransom. "I have often wished to know the answer to that question but
no one can tell me. Does no one keep your people at their work, Kanakaberaka ?"
"Our females," said the pfifltrigg with a piping noise which was apparently his equivalent for
"Are your females of more account among you than those of the other hnau among them?"
"Very greatly. The sorns make least account of females and we make most."
THAT NIGHT Ransom slept in the guesthouse, which was a real house built by pfifltriggi and
richly decorated. His pleasure at finding himself, in this respect, under more human conditions
was qualified by the discomfort which, despite his reason, he could not help feeling in the
presence at close quarters, of so many Malacandrian creatures. All three species were
represented. They seemed to have no uneasy feelings towards each other, though there were
some differences of the kind that occur in a railway carriage on Earth - the sorns finding the
house too hot and the pfifltriggi finding it too cold. He learned more of Malacandrian humour
and of the noises that expressed it in this one night than he had learned during the whole of his
life on the strange planet hitherto. Indeed, nearly all Malacandrian conversations in which he
had yet taken part had been grave. Apparently the comic spirit arose chiefly from the meeting
of the different kinds of hnau. The jokes of all three were equally incomprehensible to him. He
thought he could see differences in kind - as that the sorns seldom got beyond irony, while the
hrossa were extravagant and fantastic, and the pfifltriggi were sharp and excelled in abuse - but
even when he understood all the words he could not see the points. He went early to bed.
It was at the time of early morning, when men on Earth go out to milk the cows, that
Ransom was wakened. At first he did not know what had roused him. The chamber in which
he lay was silent, empty and nearly dark. He was preparing himself to sleep again when a highpitched
voice close beside him said, "Oyarsa sends for you." He sat up, staring about him.
There was no one there, and the voice repeated, "Oyarsa sends for you." The confusion of sleep
was now clearing in his head, and he recognized that there was an eldil in the room. He felt no
conscious fear, but while he rose obediently and put on such of his clothes as he had laid aside
he found that his heart was beating rather fast. He was thinking less of the invisible creature in
the room than of the interview that lay before him. His old terrors of meeting some monster or
idol had quite left him: he felt nervous as he remembered feeling on the morning of an
examination when he was an undergraduate. More than anything in the world he would have
liked a cup of good tea.
The guest-house was empty. He went out. The bluish smoke was rising from the lake and
the sky was bright behind the jagged eastern wall of the canyon; it was a few minutes before
sunrise. The air was still very cold, the groundweed drenched with dew, and there was
something puzzling about the whole scene which he presently identified with the silence. The
eldil voices in the air had ceased and so had the shifting network of small lights and shades.
Without being told, he knew that it was his business to go up to the crown of the island and the
grove. As he approached them he saw with a certain sinking of heart that the monolithic
avenue was full of Malacandrian creatures, and all silent. They were in two lines, one on each
side, and all squatting or sitting in the various fashions suitable to their anatomies. He walked
on slowly and doubtfully, not daring to stop, and ran the gauntlet of all those inhuman and
unblinking eyes. When he had come to the very summit, at the middle of the avenue where the
biggest of the stones rose, he stopped - he never could remember afterwards whether an eldil
voice had told him to do, so or whether it was an intuition of his own. He did not sit down, for
the earth was too cold and wet and he was not sure if it would be decorous. He simply stood -
motionless like a man on parade. All the creatures were looking at him and there was no noise
He perceived, gradually, that the place was full of eldila. The lights, or suggestions of light,
which yesterday had been scattered over the island, were now all congregated in this one spot,
and were all stationary or very faintly moving. The sun had risen by now, and still no one
spoke. As he looked up to see the first, pale sunlight upon the monoliths, he became conscious
that the air above him was full of a far greater complexity of light than the sunrise could
explain, and light of a different kind, eldil-light. The sky, no less than the earth, was full of
them; the visible Malacandrians were but the smallest part of the silent consistory which
surrounded him. He might, when the time came, be pleading his cause before thousands or
before millions: rank behind, rank about him, and rank above rank over his head, the creatures
that had never yet seen man and whom man could not see, were waiting for his trial to begin.
He licked his lips, which were quite dry, and wondered if he would be able to speak when
speech was demanded of him. Then it occurred to him that perhaps this - this waiting and being
looked at - was the trial; perhaps even now he was unconsciously telling them all they wished
to know. But afterwards - a long time afterwards - there was a noise of movement. Every
visible creature in the grove had risen to its feet and was standing, more hushed than ever, with
its head bowed; and Ransom saw (if it could be called seeing) that Oyarsa was coming up
between the long lines of sculptured stones. Partly he knew it from the faces of the
Malacandrians as their lord passed them; partly he saw - he could not deny that he saw - Oyarsa
himself. He never could say what it was like. The merest whisper of light - no, less than that,
the smallest diminution of shadow - was travelling along the uneven surface of the ground
weed; or rather some difference in the look of the ground, too slight to be named in the
language of the five senses, moved slowly towards him. Like a silence spreading over a room
full of people, like an infinitesimal coolness on a sultry day, like a passing memory of some
long-forgotten sound or scent, like all that is stillest and smallest and most hard to seize in
nature, Oyarsa passed between his subjects and drew near and came to rest, not ten yards away
from Ransom, in the centre of Meldilorn. Ransom felt a tingling of his blood and a prickling on
his fingers as if lightning were near him; and his heart and body seemed to him to be made of
Oyarsa spoke - a more unhuman voice than Ransom had yet heard, sweet and seemingly
remote; an unshaken voice: a voice, as one of the hrossa afterwards said to Ransom, "with no
blood in it. Light is instead of blood for them." The words were not alarming.
"What are you so afraid of, Ransom of Thulcandra?" it said.
"Of you, Oyarsa, because you are unlike me and I cannot see you."
"Those are not great reasons," said the voice. "You are also unlike me, and, though I see
you, I see you very faintly. But do not think we are utterly unlike. We are both copies of
Maleldil. These are not the real reasons."
Ransom said nothing.
"You began to be afraid of me before you set foot in my world. And you have spent all your
time since then in flying from me. My servants saw your fear when you were in your ship in
heaven. They saw that your own kind treated you ill, though they could not understand their
speech. Then to deliver you out of the hands of those two I stirred up a hnakra to try if you
would come to me of your own will. But you hid among the hrossa and though they told you to
come to me, you would not. After that I sent my eldil to fetch you, but still you would not
come. And in the end your own kind have chased you to me, and hnau's blood has been shed."
"I do not understand, Oyarsa. Do you mean that it was you who sent for me from
"Yes. Did not the other two tell you this? And why did you come with them unless you
meant to obey my call? My servants could not understand their talk to you when your ship was
"Your servants ... I cannot understand," said Ransom.
"Ask freely," said the voice.
"Have you servants out in the heavens?"
"Where else? There is nowhere else."
"But you, Oyarsa, are here on Malacandra, as I am."
"But Malacandra, like all worlds, floats in heaven. And I am not 'here' altogether as you are,
Ransom of Thulcandra. Creatures of your kind must drop out of heaven into a world; for us the
worlds are places in heaven. But do not try to understand this now. It is enough to know that I
and my servants are even now in heaven; they were around you in the sky-ship no less than they
are around you here."
"Then you knew of our journey before we left Thulcandra ?"
"No. Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no
message comes from it."
Ransom was silent, but Oyarsa answered his unspoken questions.
"It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world - he was brighter and greater
than I - and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest.
He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of
which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us.
It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own. He smote your moon with his left
hand and with his right he brought the cold death on my harandra before its time; if by my arm
Maleldil had not opened the handramits and let out the hot springs, my world would have been
unpeopled. We did not leave him so at large for long. There was great war, and we drove him
back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There
doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that
Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stones among us that He has
taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But
of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into."
It was some time before Ransom spoke again and Oyarsa respected his silence. When he
had collected himself he said:
"After this story, Oyarsa, I may tell you that our world is very bent. The two who brought
me knew nothing of you, but only that the sorns had asked for me. They thought you were a
false eldil, I think. There are false eldila in the wild parts of our world; men kill other men
before them - they think the eldil drinks blood. They thought the sorns wanted me for this or
for some other evil. They brought me by force. I was in terrible fear. The tellers of tales in our
world make us think that if there is any life beyond our own air, it is evil."
"I understand," said the voice. "And this explains things that I have wondered at. As soon
as your journey had passed your own air and entered heaven, my servants told me that you
seemed to be coming unwillingly and that the others had secrets from you. I did not think any
creature could be so bent as to bring another of its own kind here by force."
"They did not know what you wanted me for, Oyarsa. Nor do I know yet."
"I will tell you. Two years ago - and that is about four of your years - this ship entered the
heavens from your world. We followed its journey all the way hither and eldila were with it as
it sailed over the harandra, and when at last it came to rest in the handramit more than half my
servants were standing round it to see the strangers come out. All beasts we kept back from the
place, and no hnau yet knew of it. When the strangers had walked to and fro on Malacandra
and made themselves a hut and their fear of a new world ought to have worn off, I sent certain
sorns to show themselves and to teach the strangers our language. I chose sorns because they
are most like your people in form. The Thulcandrians feared the sorns and were very
unteachable. The sorns went to them many times and taught them a little. They reported to me
that the Thulcandrians were taking suns' blood wherever they could find it in the streams.
When I could make nothing of them by report, I told the sorns to bring them to me, not by force
but courteously. They would not come. I asked for one of them, but not even one of them
would come. It would have been easy to take them; but though we saw they were stupid we did
not know yet how bent they were, and I did not wish to stretch my authority beyond the
creatures of my own world. I told the sorns to treat them like cubs, to tell them that they would
be allowed to pick up no more of the suns' blood until one of their race came to me. When they
were told this they stuffed as much as they could into the sky-ship and went back to their own
world. We wondered at this, but now it is plain. They thought I wanted one of your race to eat
and went to fetch one. If they had come a few miles to see me I would have received them
honourably; now they have twice gone a voyage of millions of miles for nothing and will
appear before me none the less. And you also, Ransom of Thulcandra, you have taken many
vain troubles to avoid standing where you stand now."
"'I'hat is true, Oyarsa. Bent creatures are full of fears. But I am here now and ready to know
your will with me."
"Two things I wanted to ask of your race. First I must know why you come here - so much is
my duty to my world. And secondly I wish to hear of Thulcandra and of Maleldil's strange wars
there with the Bent One; for that, as I have said, is a thing we desire to look into."
"For the first question, Oyarsa, I have come here because I was brought. Of the others, one
cares for nothing but the suns' blood, because in our world he can exchange it for many
pleasures and powers. But the other means evil to you. I think he would destroy all your people
to make room for our people; and then he would do the same with other worlds again. He
wants our race to last for always, I think, and he hopes they will leap from world to world...
always going to a new sun when an old one dies... or something like that."
"Is he wounded in his brain?"
"I do not know. Perhaps I do not describe his thoughts right. He is more learned than I."
"Does he think he could go to the great worlds? Does he think Maleldil wants a race to live
"He does not know there is any Maleldil. But what is certain, Oyarsa, is that he means evil
to your world. Our kind must not be allowed to come here again. If you can prevent it only by
killing all three of us, I am content."
"If you were my own people I would kill them now, Ransom, and you soon; for they are bent
beyond hope, and you, when you have grown a little braver, will be ready to go to Maleldil.
But my authority is over my own world. It is a terrible thing to kill someone else's hnau. It will
not be necessary."
"They are strong, Oyarsa, and they can throw death many miles and can blow killing airs at
"The least of my servants could touch their ship before it reached Malacandra, while it was
in the heaven, and make it a body of different movements - for you, no body at all. Be sure that
no one of your race will come into my world again unless I call him. But enough of this. Now
tell me of Thulcandra. Tell me all. We know nothing since the day when the Bent One sank
out of heaven into the air of your world, wounded in the very light of his light. But why have
you become afraid again?"
"I am afraid of the lengths of time, Oyarsa ... or perhaps I do not understand. Did you not
say this happened before there was life on Thulcandra?"
"And you, Oyarsa? You have lived ... and that picture on the stone where the cold is killing
them on the harandra ? Is that a picture of something that was before my world began?"
"I see you are hnau after all," said the voice. "Doubtless no stone that faced the air then
would be a stone now. The picture has begun to crumble away and been copied again more
times than there are eldila in the air above us. But it was copied right. In that way you are
seeing a picture that was finished when your world was still half made. But do not think of
these things. My people have a law never to speak much of sizes or numbers to you others, not
even to sorns. You do not understand, and it makes you do reverence to nothings and pass by
what is really great. Rather tell me what Maleldil has done in Thulcandra."
"According to our traditions -" Ransom was beginning, when an unexpected disturbance
broke in upon the solemn stillness of the assembly. A large party, almost a procession, was
approaching the grove from the direction of the ferry. It consisted entirely, so far as he could
see, of hrossa, and they appeared to be carrying something.
AS THE procession drew nearer Ransom saw that the foremost hrossa were supporting three
long and narrow burdens. They carried them on their heads, four hrossa to each. After these
came a number of others armed with harpoons and apparently guarding two creatures which he
did not recognize. The light was behind them as they entered between the two farthest
monoliths. They were much shorter than any animal he had yet seen on Malacandra, and he
gathered that they were bipeds, though the lower limbs were so thick and sausage-like that he
hesitated to call them legs. The bodies were a little narrower at the top than at the bottom so as
to be very slightly pear-shaped, and the heads were neither round like those of hrossa nor long
like those of sorns, but almost square. They stumped along on narrow, heavy-looking feet
which they seemed to press into the ground with unnecessary violence. And now their faces
were becoming visible as masses of lumped and puckered flesh of variegated colour fringed in
some bristly, dark substance.... Suddenly, with an indescribable change of feeling, he realized
that he was looking at men. The two prisoners were Weston and Devine and he, for one
privileged moment, had seen the human form with almost Malacandrian eyes.
The leaders of the procession had now advanced to within a few yards of Oyarsa and laid
down their burdens. These, he now saw, were three dead hrossa laid on biers of some unknown
metal; they were on their backs and their eyes, not closed as we close the eyes of human dead,
stared disconcertingly up at the far-off golden canopy of the grove. One of them he took to be
Hyoi, and it was certainly Hyoi's brother, Hyahi, who now came forward, and after an obeisance
to Oyarsa began to speak.
Ransom at first did not hear what he was saying, for his attention was concentrated on
Weston and Devine. They were weaponless and vigilantly guarded by the armed hrossa about
them. Both of them, like Ransom himself, had let their beards grow ever since they landed on
Malacandra, and both were pale and travel stained. Weston was standing with folded arms, and
his face wore a fixed, even an elaborate, expression of desperation. Devine, with his hands in
his pockets, seemed to be in a state of furious sulks. Both clearly thought that they had good
reason to fear, though neither was by any means lacking in courage. Surrounded by their guards
as they were, and intent on the scene before them, they had not noticed Ransom.
He became aware of what Hyoi's brother was saying.
"For the death of these two, Oyarsa, I do not so much complain, for when we fell upon the
hmâna by night they were in terror. You may say it was as a hunt and these two were killed as
they might have been by a hnakra. But Hyoi they hit from afar with a coward's weapon when
he had done nothing to frighten them. And now he lies there (and I do not say it because he
was my brother, but all the handramit knows it) and he was a hnakrapunt and a great poet and
the loss of him is heavy."
The voice of Oyarsa spoke for the first time to the two men.
"Why have you killed my hnau?" it said.
Weston and Devine looked anxiously about them to identify the speaker.
"God!" exclaimed Devine in English. "Don't tell me they've got a loudspeaker."
"Ventriloquism," replied Weston in a husky whisper. "Quite common among savages. The
witch-doctor or medicine-man pretends to go into a trance and he does it. The thing to do is to
identify the medicine-man and address your remarks to him wherever the voice seems to come
from; it shatters his nerve and shows you've seen through him. Do you see any of the brutes in
a trance? By Jove - I've spotted him."
Due credit must be given to Weston for his powers of observation: he had picked out the
only creature in the assembly which was not standing in an attitude of reverence and attention.
This was an elderly hross close beside him. It was squatting; and its eyes were shut. Taking a
step towards it, he struck a defiant attitude and exclaimed in a loud voice (his knowledge of the
language was elementary):
"Why you take our puff-bangs away? We very angry with you. We not afraid."
On Weston's hypothesis his action ought to have been impressive. Unfortunately for him, no
one else shared his theory of the elderly hross's behaviour. The hross - who was well known to
all of them, including Ransom - had not come with the funeral procession. It had been in its
place since dawn. Doubtless it intended no disrespect to Oyarsa; but it must be confessed that it
had yielded, at a much earlier stage in the proceedings, to an infirmity which attacks elderly
hnau of all species, and was by this time enjoying a profound and refreshing slumber. One of
its whiskers twitched a little as Weston shouted in its face, but its eyes remained shut.
The voice of Oyarsa spoke again. "Why do you speak to him?" it said. "It is I who ask you,
Why have you killed my hnau?"
"'You let us go, then we talkee-talkee," bellowed Weston at the sleeping hross. "You think
we no power, think you do all you like. You no can. Great big headman in sky he send us.
You no do what I say, he come, blow you all up - Pouff! Bang!"
"I do not know what bang means," said the voice. "But why have you killed my hnau?"
"Say it was an accident," muttered Devine to Weston in English.
"I've told you before," replied Weston in the same language. "You don't understand how to
deal with natives. One sign of yielding and they'll be at our throats. The only thing is to
"All right! Do your stuff, then," growled Devine. He was obviously losing faith in his
Weston cleared his throat and again rounded on the elderly hross.
"We kill him," he shouted. "Show what we can do. Every one who no do all we say - pouff!
bang! - kill him same as that one. You do all we say and we give you much pretty things. See!
See!" To Ransom's intense discomfort, Weston at this point whipped out of his pocket a
brightly coloured necklace of beads, the undoubted work of Mr Woolworth, and began dangling
it in front of the faces of his guards, turning slowly round and round and repeating, "Pretty,
pretty! See! See!"
The result of this manoeuvre was more striking than Weston himself had anticipated. Such a
roar of sounds as human ears had never heard before - baying of hrossa, piping of pfifltriggi,
booming of sorns - burst out and rent the silence of that august place, waking echoes from the
distant mountain walls. Even in the air above them there was a faint ringing of the eldil voices.
It is greatly to Weston's credit that though he paled at this he did not lose his nerve.
"You no rear at me," he thundered. "No try make me afraid. Me no afraid of you."
"You must forgive my people," said the voice of Oyarsa - and even it was subtly changed -
"but they are not roaring at you. They are only laughing."
But Weston did not know the Malacandrian word for laugh: indeed, it was not a word he
understood very well in any language. He looked about him with a puzzled expression.
Ransom, biting his lips with mortification, almost prayed that one experiment with the beads
would satisfy the scientist; but that was because he did not know Weston. The latter saw that
the clamour had subsided. He knew that he was following the most orthodox rules for
frightening and then conciliating primitive races; and he was not the man to be deterred by one
or two failures. The roar that went up from the throats of all spectators as he again began
revolving like a slow motion picture of a humming-top, occasionally mopping his brow with his
left hand and conscientiously jerking the necklace up and down with his right, completely
drowned anything he might be attempting to say; but Ransom saw his lips moving and had little
doubt that he was working away at "Pretty, pretty!" Then suddenly the sound of laughter almost
redoubled its volume. The stars in their courses were fighting against Weston. Some hazy
memory of efforts made long since to entertain an infant niece had begun to penetrate his highly
trained mind. He was bobbing up and down from the knees and holding his head on one side;
he was almost dancing; and he was by now very hot indeed. For all Ransom knew he was
saying "Diddle, diddle, diddle."
It was sheer exhaustion which ended the great physicist's performance - the most successful
of its kind ever given on Malacandra - and with it the sonorous raptures of his audience. As
silence returned Ransom heard Devine's voice in English:
"For God's sake stop making a buffoon of yourself, Weston," it said. "Can't you see it won't
"It doesn't seem to be working," admitted Weston, "and I'm inclined to think they have even
less intelligence than we supposed. Do you think, perhaps, if I tried it just once again - or
would you like to try this time?"
"Oh, Hell!" said Devine, and, turning his back on his partner, sat down abruptly on the
ground, produced his cigarette case and began to smoke.
"I'll give it to the witch-doctor," said Weston during the moment of silence which Devine's
action had produced among the mystified spectators; and before anyone could stop him he took
a step forward and attempted to drop the string of beads round the elderly hross's neck. The
hross's head was, however, too large for this operation and the necklace merely settled on its
forehead like a crown, slightly over one eye. It shifted its head a little, like a dog worried with
flies, snorted gently, and resumed its sleep.
Oyarsa's voice now addressed Ransom. "Are your fellow-creatures hurt in their brains,
Ransom of Thulcandra?", it said. "Or are they too much afraid to answer my questions?"
"I think, Oyarsa," said Ransom, "that they do not believe you are there. And they believe
that all these hnau are - are like very young cubs. The thicker hmân is trying to frighten them
and then to please them with gifts."
At the sound of Ransom's voice the two prisoners turned sharply around. Weston was about
to speak when Ransom interrupted him hastily in English:
"Listen, Weston. It is not a trick. There really is a creature there in the middle - there where
you can see a kind of light, or a kind of something, if you look hard. And it is at least as
intelligent as a man - they seem to live an enormous time. Stop treating it like a child and
answer its questions. And if you take my advice, you'll speak the truth and not bluster."
"The brutes seem to have intelligence enough to take you in, anyway," growled Weston; but
it was in a somewhat modified voice that he turned once more to the sleeping hross - the desire
to wake up the supposed witchdoctor was becoming an obsession - and addressed it.
"We sorry we kill him," he said, pointing to Hyoi. "No go to kill him. Sorns tell us bring
man, give him your big head. We got away back into sky. He come" (here he indicated
Ransom) "with us. He very bent man, run away, no do what sorns say like us. We run after
him, get him back for sorns, want to do what we say and sorns tell us, see? He not let us. Run
away, run, run. We run after. See a big black one, think he kill us, we kill him - pouff! bang!
All for bent man. He no run away, he be good, we no run after, no kill big black one, see? You
have bent man - bent man make all trouble - you plenty keep him, let us go. He afraid of you,
we no afraid. Listen -"
At this moment Weston's continual bellowing in the face of the hross at last produced the
effect he had striven for so long. The creature opened its eyes and stared mildly at him in some
perplexity. Then, gradually realizing the impropriety of which it had been guilty, it rose slowly
to its standing position, bowed respectfully to Oyarsa, and finally waddled out of the assembly
still carrying the necklace draped over its right ear and eye. Weston, his mouth still open,
followed the retreating figure with his gaze till it vanished among the stems of the grove.
It was Oyarsa who broke the silence. "We have had mirth enough," he said, "and it is time to
hear true answers to our questions. Something is wrong in your head, hnau from Thulcandra.
There is too much blood in it. Is Firikitekila here?"
"Here, Oyarsa," said a pfifltrigg.
"Have you in your cisterns water that has been made cold?"
"Then let this thick hnau be taken to the guest-house and let them bathe his head in cold
water. Much water and many times. Then bring him again. Meanwhile I will provide for my
Weston did not clearly understand what the voice said - indeed, he was still too busy trying
to find out where it came from - but terror smote him as he found himself wrapped in the strong
arms of the surrounding hrossa and forced away from his place. Ransom would gladly have
shouted out some reassurance, but Weston himself was shouting too loud to hear him. He was
mixing English and Malacandrian now, and the last that was heard was a rising scream of "Pay
for this - pouff! bang! - Ransom, for God's sake - Ransom! Ransom!"
"And now," said Oyarsa, when silence was restored, "let us honour my dead hnau."
At his words ten of the hrossa grouped themselves about the biers. Lifting their heads, and
with no signal given as far as Ransom could see, they began to sing.
To every man, in his acquaintance with a new art, there comes a moment when that which
before was meaningless first lifts, as it were, one corner of the curtain that hides its mystery,
and reveals, in a burst of delight which later and fuller understanding can hardly ever equal, one
glimpse of the indefinite possibilities within. For Ransom, this moment had now come in his
understanding of Malacandrian song. Now first he saw that its rhythms were based on a
different blood from ours, on a heart that beat more quickly, and a fiercer internal heat.
Through his knowledge of the creatures and his love for them he began, ever so little, to hear it
with their ears. A sense of great masses moving at visionary speeds, of giants dancing, of
eternal sorrows eternally consoled, of he knew not what and yet what he had always known,
awoke in him with the very first bars of the deep-mouthed dirge, and bowed down his spirit as
if the gate of heaven had opened before him.
"Let it go hence," they sang. "Let it go hence, dissolve and be no body. Drop it, release it,
drop it gently, as a stone is loosed from fingers drooping over a still pool. Let it go down, sink,
fall away. Once below the surface there are no divisions, no layers in the water yielding all the
way down; all one and all unwounded is that element. Send it voyaging; it will not come again.
Let it go down; the hnau rises from it. This is the second life, the other beginning. Open, oh
coloured world, without weight, without shore. You are second and better; this was first and
feeble. Once the worlds were hot within and brought forth life, but only the pale plants, the
dark plants. We see their children when they grow today, out of the sun's light in the sad
places. After, the heaven made grow another kind of worlds: the high climbers, the brighthaired
forests, cheeks of flowers. First were the darker, then the brighter. First was the worlds'
brood, then the suns' brood."
This was as much of it as he contrived later to remember and could translate. As the song
ended Oyarsa said:
"Let us scatter the movements which were their bodies. So will Maleldil scatter all worlds
when the first and feeble is worn."
He made a sign to one of the pfifltriggi, who instantly arose and approached the corpses.
The hrossa, now singing again but very softly, drew back at least ten paces. The pfifltrigg
touched each of the three dead in turn with some small object that appeared to be made of glass
or crystal - and then jumped away with one of his froglike leaps. Ransom closed his eyes to
protect them from a blinding light and felt something like a very strong wind blowing in his
face, for a fraction of a second. Then all was calm again, and the three biers were empty.
"God! That would be a trick worth knowing on earth," said Devine to Ransom. "Solves the
murderer's problem about the disposal of the body, eh?"
But Ransom, who was thinking of Hyoi, did not answer him; and before he spoke again
everyone's attention was diverted by the return of the unhappy Weston among his guards.
THE hross who headed this procession was a conscientious creature and began at once
explaining itself in a rather troubled voice.
"I hope we have done right, Oyarsa," it said. "But we do not know. We dipped his head in
the cold water seven times, but the seventh time something fell off it. We had thought it was
the top of his head, but now we saw it was a covering made of the skin of some other creature.
Then some said we had done your will with the seven dips, and others said not. In the end we
dipped it seven times more. We hope that was right. The creature talked a lot between the
dips, and most between the second seven, but we could not understand it."
"You have done very well, Hnoo," said Oyarsa. "Stand away that I may see it, for now I will
speak to it."
The guards fell away on each side. Weston's usually pale face, under the bracing influence
of the cold water, had assumed the colour of a ripe tomato, and his hair, which had naturally not
been cut since he reached Malacandra, was plastered in straight, lank masses across his
forehead. A good deal of water was still dripping over his nose and ears. His expression -
unfortunately wasted on an audience ignorant of terrestrial physiognomy - was that of a brave
man suffering in a great cause, and rather eager than reluctant to face the worst or even to
provoke it. In explanation of his conduct it is only fair to remember that he had already that
morning endured all the terrors of an expected martyrdom and all the anticlimax of fourteen
compulsory cold douches. Devine, who knew his man, shouted out to Weston in English.
"Steady, Weston. These devils can split the atom or something pretty like it. Be careful
what you say to them and don't let's have any of your bloody nonsense."
"Huh !" said Weston. "So you've gone native too?"
"Be silent," said the voice of Oyarsa. "You, thick one, have told me nothing of yourself, so I
will tell it to you. In your own world you have attained great wisdom concerning bodies and by
this you have been able to make a ship that can cross the heaven; but in all other things you
have the mind of an animal. When first you came here, I sent for you, meaning you nothing but
honour. The darkness in your mind filled you with fear. Because you thought I meant evil to
you, you went as a beast goes against a beast of some other kind, and snared this Ransom. You
would give him up to the evil you feared. Today, seeing him here, to save your own life, you
would have given him to me a second time, still thinking I meant him hurt. These are your
dealings with your own kind. And what you intend to my people, I know. Already you have
killed some. And you have come here to kill them all. To you it is nothing whether a creature
is hnau or not. At first I thought this was because you cared only whether a creature had a body
like your own; but Ransom has that and you would kill him as lightly as any of my hnau. I did
not know that the Bent One had done so much in your world and still I do not understand it. If
you were mine, I would unbody you even now. Do not think follies; by my hand Maleldil does
greater things than this, and I can unmake you even on the borders of your own world's air. But
I do not yet resolve to do this. It is for you to speak. Let me see if there is anything in your
mind besides fear and death and desire."
Weston turned to Ransom. "I see," he said, "that you have chosen the most momentous
crisis in the history of the human race to betray it." Then he turned in the direction of the voice.
"I know you kill us," he said. "Me not afraid. Others come, make it our world -"
But Devine had jumped to his feet, and interrupted him.
"No, no, Oyarsa," he shouted. "You no listen him. He very foolish man, he have dreams.
We little people, only want pretty sun-bloods. You give us plenty sun-bloods, we go back into
sky, you never see us no more. All done, see ?"
"Silence," said Oyarsa. There was an almost imperceptible change in the light, if it could be
called light, out of which the voice came, and Devine crumpled up and fell back on the ground.
When he resumed his sitting position he was white and panting.
"Speak on," said Oyarsa to Weston.
"Me no ... no ..." began Weston in Malacandrian and then broke off. "I can't say what I want
in their accursed language," he said in English.
"Speak to Ransom and he shall turn it into our speech," said Oyarsa.
Weston accepted the arrangement at once. He believed that the hour of his death was come
and he was determined to utter the thing - almost the only thing outside his own science - which
he had to say. He cleared his throat, almost he struck a gesture, and began:
"To you I may seem a vulgar robber, but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human
race. Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and beehive huts, its primitive coracles and
elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our civilization - with our science,
medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system which
is rapidly annihilating space and time. Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over
the lower. Life -"
"Half a moment," said Ransom in English. "That's about as much as I can manage at one
go." Then, turning to Oyarsa, he began translating as well as he could. The process was
difficult and the result - which he felt to be rather unsatisfactory - was something like this:
"Among us, Oyarsa, there is a kind of hnau who will take other hnaus' food and - and things,
when they are not looking. He says he is not an ordinary one of that kind. He says what he
does now will make very different things happen to those of our people who are not yet born.
He says that, among you, hnau of one kindred all live together and the hrossa have spears like
those we used a very long time ago and your huts are small and round and your boats small and
light and like our old ones, and you have one ruler. He says it is different with us. He says we
know much. There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels
pains and becomes weak, and he says we sometimes know how to stop it. 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. He says we have many
ways for the hnau of one land to kill those of another and some are trained to do it. He says we
build very big and strong huts of stones and other things - like the pfifltriggi. And he says we
exchange many things among ourselves and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way.
Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your
As soon as Ransom had finished, Weston continued.
"Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute. It is not by tribal taboos
and copy-book maxims that she has pursued her relentless march from the amoeba to man and
from man to civilization."
"He says," began Ransom, "that living creatures are stronger than the question whether an
act is bent or good - no, that cannot be right - he says it is better to be alive and bent than to be
dead - no - he says, he says - I cannot say what he says, Oyarsa, in your language. But he goes
on to say that the only good thing is that there should be very many creatures alive. He says
there were many other animals before the first men and the later ones were better than the
earlier ones; but he says the animals were not born because of what is said to the young about
bent and good action by their elders. And he says these animals did not feel any pity."
"She -" began Weston.
"I'm sorry," interrupted Ransom, "but i've forgotten who She is."
"Life, of course," snapped Weston. "She has ruthlessly broken down all obstacles and
liquidated all failures and today in her highest form - civilized man - and in me as his
representative, she presses forward to that interplanetary leap which will, perhaps, place her for
ever beyond the reach of death."
"He says," resumed Ransom, "that these animals learned to do many difficult things, except
those who could not; and those ones died and the other animals did not pity them. And he says
the best animal now is the kind of man who makes the big huts and carries the heavy weights
and does all the other things I told you about; and he is one of these and he says that if the
others all knew what he was doing they would be pleased. He says that if he could kill you all
and bring our people to live in Malacandra, then they might be able to go on living here after
something had gone wrong with our world. And then if something went wrong with
Malacandra they might go and kill all the hnau in another world. And then another - and so
they would never die out."
"It is in her right," said Weston, "the right, or, if you will, the might of Life herself, that I am
prepared without flinching to plant the flag of man on the soil of Malacandra: to march on, step
by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after
planet, system after system, till our posterity - whatever strange form and yet unguessed
mentality they have assumed - dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable."
"He says," translated Ransom, "that because of this it would not be a bent action - or else, he
says, it would be a possible action - for him to kill you all and bring us here. He says he would
feel no pity. He is saying again that perhaps they would be able to keep moving from one world
to another and wherever they came they would kill everyone. I think he is now talking about
worlds that go round other suns. He wants the creatures born from us to be in as many places
as they can. He says he does not know what kind of creatures they will be."
"I may fall," said Weston. "But while I live I will not, with such a key in my hand, consent
to close the gates of the future on my race. What lies in that future, beyond our present ken,
passes imagination to conceive: it is enough for me that there is a Beyond."
"He is saying," Ransom translated, "that he will not stop trying to do all this unless you kill
him. And he says that though he doesn't know what will happen to the creatures sprung from
us, he wants it to happen very much."
Weston, who had now finished his statement, looked round instinctively for a chair to sink
into. On Earth he usually sank into a chair as the applause began. Finding none - he was not
the kind of man to sit on the ground like Devine - he folded his arms and stared with a certain
dignity about him.
"It is well that I have heard you," said Oyarsa. "For though your mind is feebler, your will is
less bent than I thought. It is not for yourself that you would do all this."
"No," said Weston proudly in Malacandrian. "Me die. Man live."
"Yet you know that these creatures would have to be made quite unlike you before they lived
on other worlds."
"Yes, yes. All new. No one know yet. Strange! Big!"
"Then it is not the shape of body that you love?"
"No. Me no care how they shaped."
"One would think, then, that it is for the mind you care. But that cannot be, or you would
love hnau wherever you met it."
"No care for hnau. Care for man."
"But if it is neither man's mind, which is as the mind of all other hnau - is not Maleldil
maker of them all? - nor his body, which will change - if you care for neither of these, what do
you mean by man?"
This had to be translated to Weston. When he understood it, he replied:
"Me care for man - care for our race - what man begets -" He had to ask Ransom the words
for race and beget.
"Strange!" said Oyarsa. "You do not love any one of your race - you would have let me kill
Ransom. You do not love the mind of your race, nor the body. Any kind of creature will please
you if only it is begotten by your kin as they now are. It seems to me, Thick One, that what you
really love is no completed creature but the very seed itself: for that is all that is left."
"Tell him," said Weston when he had been made to understand this, "that I don't pretend to
be a metaphysician. I have not come here to chop logic. If he cannot understand - as apparently
you can't either - anything so fundamental as a man's loyalty to humanity, I can't make him
But Ransom was unable to translate this and the voice of Oyarsa continued:
"I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you. There are laws that all hnau know,
of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred. He
has taught you to break all of them except this one, which is not one of the greatest laws; this
one he has bent till it becomes folly and has set it up, thus bent, to be a little, blind Oyarsa in
your brain. And now you can do nothing but obey it, though if we ask you why it is a law you
can give no other reason for it than for all the other and greater laws which it drives you to
disobey. Do you know why he has done this?"
"Me think no such person - me wise, new man - no believe all that old talk."
"I will tell you. He has left you this one because a bent hnau can do more evil than a broken
one. He has only bent you; but this Thin One who sits on the ground he has broken, for he has
left him nothing but greed. He is now only a talking animal and in my world he could do no
more evil than an animal. If he were mine I would unmake his body, for the hnau in it is
already dead. But if you were mine I would try to cure you. Tell me, Thick One, why did you
"Me tell you. Make man live all the time."
"But are your wise men so ignorant as not to know that Malacandra is older than your own
world and nearer its death? Most of it is dead already. My people live only in the handramits;
the heat and the water have been more and will be less. Soon now, very soon, I will end my
world and give back my people to Maleldil."
"Me know all that plenty. This only first try. Soon they go on another world."
"But do you not know that all worlds will die?"
"Men go jump off each before it deads - on and on, see?"
"And when all are dead?"
Weston was silent. After a time Oyarsa spoke again.
"Do you not ask why my people, whose world is old, have not rather come to yours and
taken it long ago."
"Ho! Ho!" said Weston. "You not know how."
"You are wrong," said Oyarsa. "Many thousands of thousand years before this, when
nothing yet lived on your world, the cold death was coming on my harandra. Then I was in
deep trouble, not chiefly for the death of my hnau - Maleldil does not make them long-livers -
but for the things which the lord of your world, who was not yet bound, put into their minds.
He would have made them as your people are now - wise enough to see the death of their kind
approaching but not wise enough to endure it. Bent counsels would soon have risen among
them. They were well able to have made sky-ships. By me Maleldil stopped them. Some I
cured, some I unbodied -"
"And see what come!" interrupted Weston. "You now very few - shut up in handramits -
soon all die."
"Yes," said Oyarsa, "but one thing we left behind us on the harandra: fear. And with fear,
murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people does not fear death. It is the Bent One, the
lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know
will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace."
Weston writhed in the exasperation born of his desire to speak and his ignorance of the
"Trash! Defeatist trash!" he shouted at Oyarsa in English; then, drawing himself up to his
full height, he added in Malacandrian, "You say your Maleldil let all go dead. Other one, Bent
One, he fight, jump, live - not all talkee-talkee. Me no care Maleldil. Like Bent One better: me
on his side."
"But do you not see that he never will nor can," began Oyarsa, and then broke off, as if
recollecting himself. "But I must learn more of your world from Ransom, and for that I need
till night. I will not kill you, not even the thin one, for you are out of my world. Tomorrow you
shall go hence again in your ship."
Devine's face suddenly fell. He began talking rapidly in English.
"For God's sake, Weston, make him understand. We've been here for months - the Earth is
not in opposition now. Tell him it can't be done. He might as well kill us at once."
"How long will your journey be to Thulcandra?" asked Oyarsa.
Weston, using Ransom as his interpreter, explained that the journey, in the present position
of the two planets, was almost impossible. The distance had.increased by millions of miles.
The angle of their course to the solar rays would be totally different from that which he had
counted upon. Even if by a hundredth chance they could hit the Earth, it was almost certain that
their supply of oxygen would be exhausted long before they arrived.
"Tell him to kill us now," he added.
"All this I know," said Oyarsa. "And if you stay in my world I must kill you: no such
creature will I suffer in Malacandra. I know there is small chance of your reaching your world;
but small is not the same as none. Between now and the next noon choose which you will take.
In the meantime, tell me this. If you reach it at all, what is the most time you will need?"
After a prolonged calculation, Weston, in a shaken voice, replied that if they had not made it
in ninety days they would never make it, and they would, moreover, be dead of suffocation.
"Ninety days you shall have," said Oyarsa. "My sorns and pfiflriggi will give you air (we
also have that art) and food for ninety days. But they will do something else to your ship. I am
not minded that it should return into the heaven if once it reaches Thulcandra. You, Thick One,
were not here when I unmade my dead hrossa whom you killed: the Thin One will tell you.
This I can do, as Maleldil has taught me, over a gap of time or a gap of place. Before your skyship
rises, my sorns will have so dealt with it that on the ninetieth day it will unbody, it will
become what you call nothing. If that day finds it in heaven your death will be no bitterer
because of this; but do not tarry in your ship if once you touch Thulcandra. Now lead these two
away, and do you, my children, go where you will. But I must talk with Ransom."
ALL THAT afternoon Ransom remained alone answering Oyarsa's questions. I am not
allowed to record this conversation, beyond saying that the voice concluded it with the words:
"You have shown me more wonders than are known in the whole of heaven."
After that they discussed Ransom's own future. He was given full liberty to remain in
Malacandra or to attempt the desperate voyage to Earth. The problem was agonizing to him. In
the end he decided to throw in his lot with Weston and Devine.
"Love of our own kind," he said, "is not the greatest of laws, but you, Oyarsa, have said it is
a law. If I cannot live in Thulcandra, it is better for me not to live at all."
"You have chosen rightly," said Oyarsa. "And I will tell you two things. My people will
take all the strange weapons out of the ship, but they will give one to you. And the eldila of
deep heaven will be about your ship till it reaches the air of Thulcandra, and often in it. They
will not let the other two kill you."
It had not occurred to Ransom before that this own murder might be one of the first
expedients for economizing food and oxygen which would occur to Weston and Devine. He
was now astonished at his obtuseness, and thanked Oyarsa for his protective measures. Then
the great eldil dismissed him with these words:
"You are guilty of no evil, Ransom of Thulcandra, except a little fearfulness. For that, the
journey you go on is your pain, and perhaps your cure: for you must be either mad or brave
before it is ended. But I lay also a command on you; you must watch this Weston and this
Devine in Thulcandra if ever you arrive there. They may yet do much evil in, and beyond, your
world. From what you have told me, I begin to see that there are eldila who go down into your
air, into the very stronghold of the Bent One; your world is not so fast shut as was thought in
these parts of heaven. Watch those two bent ones. Be courageous. Fight them. And when you
have need, some of our people will help. Maleldil will show them to you. It may even be that
you and I shall meet again while you are still in the body; for it is not without the wisdom of
Maleldil that we have met now and I have learned so much of your world. It seems to me that
this is the beginning of more comings and goings between the heavens and the worlds and
between one world and another - though not such as the Thick One hoped. I am allowed to tell
you this. The year we are now in - but heavenly years are not as yours - has long been
prophesied as a year of stirrings and high changes and the siege of Thulcandra may be near its
end. Great things are on foot. If Maleldil does not forbid me, I will not hold aloof from them.
And now, farewell."
It was through vast crowds of all the Malacandrian species that the three human beings
embarked next day on their terrible journey. Weston was pale and haggard from a night of
calculations intricate enough to tax any mathematician even if his life did not hang on them.
Devine was noisy, reckless and a little hysterical. His whole view of Malacandra had been
altered overnight by the discovery that the 'natives' had an alcoholic drink, and he had even
been trying to teach them to smoke. Only the pfifltriggi had made much of it. He was now
consoling himself for an acute headache and the prospect of a lingering death by tormenting
Weston. Neither partner was pleased to find that all weapons had been removed from the
space-ship, but in other respects everything was as they wished it. At about an hour after noon
Ransom took a last, long look at the blue waters, purple forest and remote green walls of the
familiar handramit, and followed the other two through the manhole. Before it was closed
Weston warned them that they must economize air by absolute stillness. No unnecessary
movement must be made during their voyage; even talking must be prohibited.
"I shall speak only in an emergency," he said.
"Thank God for that, anyway," was Devine's last shot. Then they screwed themselves in.
Ransom went at once to the lower side of the sphere, into the chamber which was now most
completely upside down, and stretched himself on what would later become its skylight. He
was surprised to find that they were already thousands of feet up. The handramit was only a
straight purple line across the rose-red surface of the harandra. They were above the junction
of two handramits. One of them was doubtless that in which he had lived, the other that which
contained Meldilorn. The gully by which he had cut off the corner between the two, on
Augray's shoulders, was quite invisible.
Each minute more handramits came into view - long straight lines, some parallel, some
intersecting, some building triangles. The landscape became increasingly geometrical. The
waste between the purple lines appeared perfectly flat. The rosy colour of the petrified forests
accounted for its tint immediately below him; but to the north and east the great sand deserts of
which the sorns had told him were now appearing as illimitable stretches of yellow and ochre.
To the west a huge discoloration began to show. It was an irregular patch of greenish blue that
looked as if it were sunk below the level of the surrounding harandra. He concluded it was the
forest lowland of the pfifltriggi - or rather one of their forest lowlands, for now similar patches
were appearing in all directions, some of them mere blobs at the intersection of handramits,
some of vast extent. He became vividly conscious that his knowledge of Malacandra was
minute, local, parochial. It was as if a sorn had journeyed forty million miles to the Earth and
spent his stay there between Worthing and Brighton. He reflected that he would have very little
to show for his amazing voyage if he survived it: a smattering of the language, a few
landscapes, some half-understood physics - but where were the statistics, the history, the broad
survey of extra-terrestrial conditions, which such a traveller ought to bring back? Those
handramits, for example. Seen from the height which the space-ship had now attained, in all
their unmistakable geometry, they put to shame his original impression that they were natural
valleys. There were gigantic feats of engineering, about which he had learned nothing; feats
accomplished, if all were true, before human history began ... before animal history began. Or
was that only mythology? He knew it would seem like mythology when he got back to Earth (if
he ever got back), but the presence of Oyarsa was still too fresh a memory to allow him any real
doubts. It even occurred to him that the distinction between history and mythology might be
itself meaningless outside the Earth.
The thought baffled him, and he turned again to the landscape below - the landscape which
became every moment less of a landscape and more of a diagram. By this time, to the east, a
much larger and darker patch of discoloration than he had yet seen was pushing its way into the
reddish ochre of the Malacandrian world - a curiously shaped patch with long arms or horns
extended on each side and a sort of bay between them, like the concave side of a crescent. It
grew and grew. The wide dark arms seemed to be spread out to engulf the whole planet.
Suddenly he saw a bright point of light in the middle of this dark patch and realized that it was
not a patch on the surface of the planet at all, but the black sky showing behind her. The
smooth curve was the edge of her disk. At this, for the first time since their embarkation, fear
took hold of him. Slowly, yet not too slowly for him to see, the dark arms spread farther and
even farther round the lighted surface till at last they met. The whole disk, framed in blackness,
was before him. The faint percussions of the meteorites had long been audible; the window
through which he was gazing was no longer definitely beneath him. His limbs, though already
very light, were almost too stiff to move, and he was very hungry. He looked at his watch. He
had been at his post, spellbound, for nearly eight hours.
He made his way with difficulty to the sunward side of the ship and reeled back almost
blinded with the glory of the light. Groping, he found his darkened glasses in his old cabin and
got himself food and water: Weston had rationed them strictly in both. He opened the door of
the control room and looked in. Both the partners, their faces drawn with anxiety, were seated
before a kind of metal table; it was covered with delicate, gently vibrating instruments in which
crystal and fine wire were the predominant materials. Both ignored his presence. For the rest
of the silent journey he was free of the whole ship.
When he returned to the dark side, the world they were leaving hung in the star-strewn sky
not much bigger than our earthly moon. Its colours were still visible - a reddish-yellow disk
blotched with greenish blue and capped with white at the poles. He saw the two tiny
Malacandrian moons - their movement quite perceptible - and reflected that they were among
the thousand things he had not noticed during his sojourn there. He slept, and woke, and saw
the disk still hanging in the sky. It was smaller than the Moon now. Its colours were gone
except for a faint, uniform tinge of redness in its light; even the light was not now incomparably
stronger than that of the countless stars which surrounded it. It had ceased to be Malacandra; it
was only Mars.
He soon fell back into the old routine of sleeping and basking, punctuated with the making
of some scribbled notes for his Malacandrian dictionary. He knew that there was very little
chance of his being able to communicate his new knowledge to man, that unrecorded death in
the depth of space would almost certainly be the end of their adventure. But already it had
become impossible to think of it as 'space.' Some moments of cold fear he had; but each time
they were shorter and more quickly swallowed up in a sense of awe which made his personal
fate seem wholly insignificant. He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying
through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite - that life was waiting outside the little
iron eggshell in which they rode, ready at any moment to break in, and that, if it killed them, it
would kill them by excess of its vitality. He hoped passionately that if they were to perish they
would perish by the 'unbodying 'of the space-ship and not by suffocation within it. To be let
out, to be set free, to dissolve into the ocean of eternal noon, seemed to him at certain moments
a consummation even more desirable than their return to Earth. And if he had felt some such
lift of the heart when first he passed through heaven on their outward journey, he felt it now
tenfold, for now he was convinced that the abyss was full of life in the most literal sense, full of
His confidence in Oyarsa's words about the eldila increased rather than diminished as they
went on. He saw none of them; the intensity of light in which the ship swam allowed none of
the fugitive variations which would have betrayed their presence. But he heard, or thought he
heard, all kinds of delicate sound, or vibrations akin to sound, mixed with the tinkling rain of
meteorites, and often the sense of unseen presences even within the space-ship became
irresistible. It was this, more than anything else, that made his own chances of life seem so
unimportant. He and all his race showed small and ephemeral against a background of such
immeasurable fullness. His brain reeled at the thought of the true population of the universe,
the three-dimensional infinitude of their territory, and the unchronicled aeons of their past; but
his heart became steadier than it had ever been.
It was well for him that he had reached this frame of mind before the real hardships of their
journey began. Ever since their departure from Malacandra, the thermometer had steadily risen;
now it was higher than it had stood at any time on their outward journey. And still it rose. The
light also increased. Under his glasses he kept his eyes habitually tight shut, opening them only
for the shortest time for necessary movements. He knew that if he reached Earth it would be
with permanently damaged sight. But all this was nothing to the torment of heat. All three of
them were awake for twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four, enduring with dilated eyeballs,
blackened lips and froth-flecked cheeks the agony of thirst. It would be madness to increase
their scanty rations of water: madness even to consume air in discussing the question.
He saw well enough what was happening. In his last bid for life Weston was venturing
inside the Earth's orbit, leading them nearer the Sun than man, perhaps than life, had ever been.
Presumably this was unavoidable; one could not follow a retreating Earth round the rim of its
own wheeling course. They must be trying to meet it - to cut across ... it was madness! But the
question did not much occupy his mind; it was not possible for long to think of anything but
thirst. One thought of water; then one thought of thirst; then one thought of thinking of thirst;
then of water again. And still the thermometer rose. The walls of the ship were too hot to
touch. It was obvious that a crisis was approaching. In the next few hours it must kill them or
It got less. There came a time when they lay exhausted and shivering in what seemed the
cold, though it was still hotter than any terrestrial climate. Weston had so far succeeded; he had
risked the highest temperature at which human life could theoretically survive, and they had
lived through it. But they were not the same men. Hitherto Weston had slept very little even in
his watches off; always, after an hour or so of uneasy rest, he had returned to his charts and to
his endless, ahnost despairing, calculations. You could see him fighting the despair - pinning
his terrified brain down, and again down, to the figures. Now he never looked at them. He
even seemed careless in the control room. Devine moved and looked like a somnambulist.
Ransom lived increasingly on the dark side and for long hours he thought of nothing. Although
the first great danger was past, none of them, at this time, had any serious hope of a successful
issue to their journey. They had now been fifty days, without speech, in their steel shell, and
the air was already very bad.
Weston was so unlike his old self that he even allowed Ransom to take his share in the
navigation. Mainly by signs, but with the help of a few whispered words, he taught him all that
was necessary at this stage of the journey. Apparently they were racing home - but with little
chance of reaching it in time - before some sort of cosmic 'trade-wind.' A few rules of thumb
enabled Ransom to keep the star which Weston pointed out to him in its position at the centre
of the skylight, but always with his left hand on the bell to Weston's cabin.
This star was not the Earth. The days - the purely theoretical 'days' which bore such a
desperately practical meaning for the travellers - mounted to fifty-eight before Weston changed
course, and a different luminary was in the centre. Sixty days, and it was visibly a planet.
Sixty-six, and it was like a planet seen through field-glasses. Seventy, and it was like nothing
that Ransom had ever seen - a little dazzling disk too large for a planet and far too small for the
Moon. Now that he was navigating, his celestial mood was shattered. Wild, animal thirst for
life, mixed with homesick longing for the free airs and the sights and smells of earth - for grass
and meat and beer and tea and the human voice - awoke in him. At first his chief difficulty on
watch had been to resist drowsiness; now, though the air was worse, feverish excitement kept
him vigilant. Often when he came off duty he found his right arm stiff and sore; for hours he
had been pressing it unconsciously against the control board as if his puny thrust could spur the
space-ship to yet greater speed.
Now they had twenty days to go. Nineteen - eighteen - and on the white terrestrial disk, now
a little larger than a sixpence, he thought he could make out Australia and the south-east corner
of Asia. Hour after hour, though the markings moved slowly across the disk with the Earth's
diurnal revolution, the disk itself refused to grow larger. "Get on! Get on!" Ransom muttered
to the ship. Now ten days were left and it was like the Moon and so bright that they could not
look steadily at it. The air in their little sphere was ominously bad, but Ransom and Devine
risked a whisper as they changed watches.
"We'll do, it," they said. "We'll do it yet."
On the eighty-seventh day, when Ransom relieved Devine, he thought there was something
wrong with the Earth. Before his watch was done, he was sure. It was no longer a true circle,
but bulging a little on one side; it was almost pear-shaped. When Weston came on duty he gave
one glance at the skylight, rang furiously on the bell for Devine, thrust Ransom aside, and took
the navigating seat. His face was the colour of putty. He seemed to be about to do something
to the controls, but as Devine entered the room he looked up and shrugged his shoulders with a
gesture of despair. Then he buried his face in his hands and laid his head down on the controlboard.
Ransom and Devine exchanged glances. They bundled Weston out of the seat - he was
crying like a child - and Devine took his place. And now at last Ransom understood the
mystery of the bulging Earth. What had appeared as a bulge on one side of her disk was
becoming increasingly distinct as a second disk, a disk almost as large in appearance as her
own. It was covering more than half of the Earth. It was the Moon - between them and the
Earth, and two hundred and forty thousand miles nearer. Ransom did not know what fate this
might mean for the space-ship. Devine obviously did, and never had he appeared so admirable.
His face was as pale as Weston's, but his eyes were clear and preternaturally bright; he sat
crouched over the controls like an animal about to spring and he was whistling very softly
between his teeth.
Hours later Ransom understood what was happening. The Moon's disk was now larger than
the Earth's, and very gradually it became apparent to him that both disks were diminishing in
size. The space-ship was no longer approaching either the Earth or the Moon; it was farther
away from them than it had been half an hour ago, and that was the meaning of Devine's
feverish activity with the controls. It was not merely that the Moon was crossing their path and
cutting them off from the Earth; apparently for some reason - probably gravitational - it was
dangerous to get too close to the Moon, and Devine was standing off into space. In sight of
harbour they were being forced to turn back to the open sea. He glanced up at the chronometer.
It was the morning of the eighty-eighth day. Two days to make the Earth, and they were
moving away from her.
"I suppose this finishes us?" he whispered.
"Expect so," whispered Devine, without looking round.
Weston presently recovered sufficiently to come back and stand beside Devine. There was
nothing for Ransom to do. He was sure, now, that they were soon to die. With this realization,
the agony of his suspense suddenly disappeared. Death, whether it came now or some thirty
years later on earth, rose up and claimed his attention. There are preparations a man likes to
make. He left the control room and returned into one of the sunward chambers, into the
indifference of the moveless light, the warmth, the silence and the sharp-cut shadows. Nothing
was farther from his mind than sleep. It must have been the exhausted atmosphere which made
him drowsy. He slept.
He awoke in almost complete darkness in the midst of a loud continuous noise, which he
could not at first identify. It reminded him of something - something he seemed to have heard
in a previous existence. It was a prolonged drumming noise close above his head. Suddenly
his heart gave a great leap.
"Oh God," he sobbed. "Oh God! It's rain."
He was on Earth. The air was heavy and stale about him, but the choking sensations he had
been suffering were gone. He realized that he was still in the space-ship. The others, in fear of
its threatened 'unbodying,' had characteristically abandoned it the moment it touched Earth and
left him to his fate. It was difficult in the dark, and under the crushing weight of terrestrial
gravity, to find his way out. But he managed it. He found the manhole and slithered, drinking
great draughts of air, down the outside of the sphere; slipped in mud, blessed the smell of it,
and at last raised the unaccustomed weight of his body to its feet. He stood in pitch-black night
under torrential rain. With every pore of his body he drank it in; with every desire of his heart
he embraced the smell of the field about him - a patch of his native planet where grass grew,
where cows moved, where presently he would come to hedges and a gate.
He had walked about half an hour when a vivid light behind him and a strong, momentary
wind informed him that the space-ship was no more. He felt very little interest. He had seen
dim lights, the lights of men, ahead. He contrived to get into a lane, then into a road, then into a
village street. A lighted door was open. There were voices from within and they were speaking
English. There was a familiar smell. He pushed his way in, regardless of the surprise he was
creating, and walked to the bar.
"A pint of bitter, please," said Ransom.
AT THIS point, if I were guided by purely literary considerations, my story would end, but it
is time to remove the mask and to acquaint the reader with the real and practical purpose for
which this book has been written. At the same time he will learn how the writing of it became
possible at all.
Dr Ransom - and at this stage it will become obvious that this is not his real name - soon
abandoned the idea of his Malacandrian dictionary and indeed all idea of communicating his
story to the world. He was ill for several months, and when he recovered he found himself in
considerable doubt as to whether what he remembered had really occurred. It looked very like a
delusion produced by his illness, and most of his apparent adventures could, he saw, be
explained psychoanalytically. He did not lean very heavily on this fact himself, for he had long
since observed that a good many 'real' things in the fauna and flora of our own world could be
accounted for in the same way if you started with the assumption that they were illusions. But
he felt that if he himself half doubted his own story, the rest of the world would disbelieve it
completely. He decided to hold his tongue, and there the matter would have rested but for a
very curious coincidence.
This is where I come into the story. I had known Dr Ransom slightly for several years and
corresponded with him on literary and philological subjects, though we very seldom met. It
was, therefore, quite in the usual order of things that I should write him a letter some months
ago, of which I will quote the relevant paragraph. It ran like this:
'I am now working at the Platonists of the twelfth century and incidentally discovering that
they wrote damnably difficult Latin. In one of them, Bernardus Silvestris, there is a word I
should particularly like your views on - the word Oyarses. It occurs in the description of a
voyage through the heavens, and an Oyarses seems to be the "intelligence" or tutelary spirit of a
heavenly sphere, i.e. in our language, of a planet. I asked C. J. about it and he says it ought to
be Ousiarches. That, of course, would make sense, but I do not feel quite satisfied. Have you
by any chance ever come across a word like Oyarses, or can you hazard any guess as to what
language it may be?'
The immediate result of this letter was an invitation to spend a weekend with Dr Ransom.
He told me his whole story, and since then he and I have been almost continuously at work on
the mystery. A good many facts, which I have no intention of publishing at present, have fallen
into our hands; facts about planets in general and about Mars in particular, facts about medieval
Platonists, and (not least in importance) facts about the Professor to whom I am giving the
fictitious name of Weston. A systematic report of these facts might, of course, be given to the
civilized world: but that would almost certainly result in universal incredulity and in a libel
action from 'Weston.' At the same time, we both feel that we cannot be silent. We are being
daily confirmed in our belief that the oyarses of Mars was right when it said that the present
'celestial year' was to be a revolutionary one, that the long isolation of our own planet is nearing
its end, and that great doings are on foot. We have found reason to believe that the medieval
Platonists were living in the same celestial year as ourselves - in fact, that it began in the twelfth
century of our era - and that the occurrence of the name Oyarsa (Latinized as oyarses) in
Bernardus Silvestris is not an accident. And we have also evidence - increasing almost daily -
that 'Weston,' or the force or forces behind 'Weston,' will play a very important part in the
events of the next few centuries, and, unless we prevent them, a very disastrous one. We do not
mean that they are likely to invade Mars - our cry is not merely 'Hands off Malacandra.' The
dangers to be feared are not Planetary but cosmic, or at least solar, and they are not temporal but
eternal. More than this it would be unwise to say.
It was Dr Ransom who first saw that our only chance was to publish in the form of fiction
what would certainly not be listened to as fact. He even thought - greatly overrating my literary
powers - that this might have the incidental advantage of reaching a wider public, and that,
certainly, it would reach a great many people sooner than 'Weston.' To my objection that if
accepted as fiction, it would for that very reason be regarded as false, he replied that there
would be indications enough in the narrative for the few readers - the very few - who at present
were prepared to go further into the matter.
"And they," he said, "will easily find out you, or me, and will easily identify Weston.
Anyway," he continued, "what we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a
body of people familiarized with certain ideas. If we could even effect in one per cent of our
readers a change-over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should
have made a beginning."
What neither of us foresaw was the rapid march of events which was to render the book out
of date before it was published. These events have already made it rather a prologue to our
story than the story itself. But we must let it go as it stands. For the later stages of the
adventure - well, it was Aristotle, long before Kipling, who taught us the formula, "That is
(Being extracts from a letter written by the original of 'Dr. Ransom' to the author)
... I think you are right, and after the two or three corrections (marked in red) the MS. will
have to stand. I won't deny that I am disappointed, but then any attempt to tell such a story is
bound to disappoint the man who has really been there. I am not now referring to the ruthless
way in which you have cut down all the philological part, though, as it now stands, we are
giving our readers a mere caricature of the Malacandrian language. I mean something more
difficult - something which I couldn't possibly express. How can one 'get across' the
Malacandrian smells? Nothing comes back to me more vividly in my dreams ... especially the
early morning smell in those purple woods, where the very mention of 'early morning' and
'woods' is misleading because it must set you thinking of earth and moss and cobwebs and the
smell of our own planet, but I'm thinking of something totally different. More 'aromatic' ... yes,
but then it is not hot or luxurious or exotic as that word suggests. Something aromatic, spicy,
yet very cold, very thin, tingling at the back of the nose - something that did to the sense of
smell what high, sharp violin notes do to the ear. And mixed with that I always hear the sound
of the singing - great hollow hound-like music from enormous throats, deeper than Chaliapin, a
'warm, dark noise.' I am homesick for my old Malacandrian valley when I think of it; yet God
knows when I heard it there I was homesick enough for the Earth.
Of course you are right; if we are to treat it as a story you must telescope the time I spent in
the village during which 'nothing happened.' But I grudge it. Those quiet weeks, the mere
living among the hrossa, are to me the main thing that happened. I know them, Lewis; that's
what you can't get into a mere story. For instance, because I always take a thermometer with
me on a holiday (it has saved many a one from being spoiled) I know that the normal
temperature of a hross is 103°. I know - though I can't remember learning it - that they live
about 80 Martian years, or 160 earth years; that they marry at about 20 (= 40); that their
droppings, like those of the horse, are not offensive to themselves, or to me, and are used for
agriculture; that they don't shed tears, or blink; that they do get (as you would say) 'elevated' but
not drunk on a gaudy night - of which they have many. But what can one do with these scraps
of information? I merely analyse them out of a whole living memory that can never be put into
words, and no one in this world will be able to build up from such scraps quite the right picture.
For example, can I make even you understand how I know, beyond all question, why it is that
the Malacandrians don't keep pets and, in general, don't feel about their 'lower animals' as we do
about ours? Naturally it is the sort of thing they themselves could never have told me. One just
sees why when one sees the three species together. Each of them is to the others both what a
man is to us and what an animal is to us. They can talk to each other, they can co-operate, they
have the same ethics; to that extent a sorn and a hross meet like two men. But then each finds
the other different, funny, attractive as an animal is attractive. Some instinct starved in us,
which we try to soothe by treating irrational creatures almost as if they were rational, is really
satisfied in Malacandra. They don't need pets.
By the way, while we are on the subject of species, I am rather sorry that the exigencies of
the story have been allowed to simplify the biology so much. Did I give you the impression that
each of the three species was perfectly homogeneous? If so, I misled you. Take the hrossa; my
friends were black hrossa, but there are also silver hrossa, and in some of the western
handramits one finds the great crested hross - ten feet high, a dancer rather than a singer, and
the noblest animal, after man, that I have ever seen. Only the males have the crest. I also saw a
pure white hross at Meldilorn, but like a fool I never found out whether he represented a subspecies
or was a mere freak like our terrestrial albino. There is also at least one other kind of
sorn besides the kind I saw - the soroborn or red sorn of the desert, who lives in the sandy
north. He's a corker by all accounts.
I agree, it is a pity I never saw the pfifltriggi at home. I know nearly enough about them to
'fake' a visit to them as an episode in the story, but I don't think we ought to introduce any mere
fiction. 'True in substance' sounds all very well on earth, but I can't imagine myself explaining
it to Oyarsa, and I have a shrewd suspicion (see my last letter) that I have not heard the end of
him. Anyway, why should our 'readers' (you seem to know the devil of a lot about them!), who
are so determined to hear nothing about the language, be so anxious to know more of the
pfifltriggi? But if you can work it in, there is, of course, no harm in explaining that they are
oviparous and matriarchal, and short-lived compared with the other species. It is pretty plain
that the great depressions which they inhabit are the old ocean-beds of Malacandra. Hrossa,
who had visited them, described themselves as going down into deep forests over sand, 'the
bone-stones (fossils) of ancient wave-borers about them.' No doubt these are the dark patches
seen on the Martian disk from Earth. And that reminds me - the 'maps' of Mars which I have
consulted since I got back are so inconsistent with one another that I have given up the attempt
to identify my own handramit. If you want to try your hand, the desideratum is 'a roughly
north-east and south-west "canal" cutting a north and south "canal" not more than twenty miles
from the equator.' But astronomers differ very much as to what they can see.
Now as to your most annoying question: 'Did Augray, in describing the eldila, confuse the
ideas of a subtler body and a superior being?' No. The confusion is entirely your own. He said
two things: that the eldila had bodies different from those of planetary animals, and that they
were superior in intelligence. Neither he nor anyone else in Malacandra ever confused the one
statement with the other or deduced the one from the other. In fact, I have reasons for thinking
that there are also irrational animals with the eldil type of body (you remember Chaucer's 'airish
I wonder are you wise to say nothing about the problem of eldil speech? I agree that it
would spoil the narrative to raise the question during the trial scene at Meldilorn, but surely
many readers will have enough sense to ask how the eldila, who obviously don't breathe, can
talk. It is true that we should have to admit we don't know, but oughtn't the readers to be told
that? I suggested to J. - the only scientist here who is in my confidence - your theory that they
might have instruments, or even organs, for manipulating the air around them and thus
producing sounds indirectly, but he didn't seem to think much of it. He thought it probable that
they directly manipulated the ears of those they were 'speaking' to. That sounds pretty difficult
... of course one must remember that we have really no knowledge of the shape or size of an
eldil, or even of its relations to space (our space) in general. In fact, one wants to keep on
insisting that we really know next to nothing about them. Like you, I can't help trying to fix
their relation to the things that appear in terrestrial tradition - gods, angels, fairies. But we
haven't the data. When I attempted to give Oyarsa some idea of our own Christian angelology,
he certainly seemed to regard our 'angels' as different in some way from himself. But whether
he meant that they were a different species, or only that they were some special military caste
(since our poor old earth turns out to be a kind of Ypres Salient in the universe), I don't know.
Why must you leave out my account of how the shutter jammed just before our landing on
Malacandra? Without this, your description of our sufferings from excessive light on the return
journey raises the very obvious question, 'Why didn't they close their shutters?' I don't believe
your theory that 'readers never notice that sort of thing.' I'm sure I should.
There are two scenes that I wish you could have worked into the book; no matter - they are
worked into me. One or other of them is always before me when I close my eyes.
In one of them I see the Malacandrian sky at morning; pale blue, so pale that now, when I
have grown once more accustomed to terrestrial skies, I think of it as almost white. Against it
the nearer tops of the giant weeds - the 'trees' as you call them - show black, but far away,
across miles of that blinding blue water, the remoter woods are water-colour purple. The
shadows all around me on the pale forest floor are like shadows in snow. There are figures
walking before me; slender yet gigantic form, black and sleek as animated tall hats; their huge
round heads, poised on their sinuous stalk-like bodies, give them the appearance of black tulips.
They go down, singing, to the edge of the lake. The music fills the wood with its vibration,
though it is so soft that I can hardly hear it: it is like dim organ music. Some of them embark,
but most remain. It is done slowly; this is no ordinary embarkation, but some ceremony. It is,
in fact, a hross funeral. Those three with the grey muzzles whom they have helped into the boat
are going to Meldilorn to die. For in that world, except for some few whom the hnakra gets, no
one dies before his time. All live out the full span allotted to their kind, and a death with them
is as predictable as a birth with us. The whole village has known that those three will die this
year, this month; it was an easy guess that they would die even this week. And now they are
off, to receive the last counsel of Oyarsa, to die, and to be by him 'unbodied.' The corpses, as
corpses, will exist only for a few minutes: there are no coffins in Malacandra, no sextons,
churchyards, or undertakers. The valley is solemn at their departure, but I see no signs of
passionate grief. They do not doubt their immortality, and friends of the same generation are
not torn apart. You leave the world, as you entered it with the 'men of your own year.' Death is
not preceded by dread nor followed by corruption.
The other scene is a nocturne. I see myself bathing with Hyoi in the warm lake. He laughs
at my clumsy swimming; accustomed to a heavier world, I can hardly get enough of me under
water to make any headway. And then I see the night sky. The greater part of it is very like
ours, though the depths are blacker and the stars brighter; but something that no terrestrial
analogy will enable you fully to picture is happening in the west. Imagine the Milky Way
magnified - the Milky Way seen through our largest telescope on the clearest night. And then
imagine this, not painted across the zenith, but rising like a constellation behind the mountain
tops - a dazzling necklace of lights brilliant as planets, slowly heaving itself up till it fills a fifth
of the sky and now leaves a belt of blackness between itself and the horizon. It is too bright to
look at for long, but it is only a preparation. Something else is coming. There is a glow like
moonrise on the harandra. Ahihra! cries Hyoi, and other baying voices answer him from the
darkness all about us. And now the true king of night is up, and now he is threading his way
through that strange western galaxy and making its lights dim by comparison with his own. I
turn my eyes away, for the little disk is far brighter than the Moon in her greatest splendour.
The whole handramit is bathed in colourless light; I could count the stems of the forest on the
far side of the lake; I see that my fingernails are broken and dirty. And now I guess what it is
that I have seen - Jupiter rising beyond the Asteroids and forty million miles nearer than he has
ever been to earthly eyes. But the Malacandrians would say 'within the Asteroids,' for they have
an odd habit, sometimes, of turning the solar system inside out. They call the Asteroids the
'dancers before the threshold of the Great Worlds.' The Great Worlds are the planets, as we
should say, 'beyond' or 'outside' the Asteroids. Glundandra (Jupiter) is the greatest of these and
has some importance in Malacandrian thought which I cannot fathom. He is 'the centre,' 'great
Meldilorn,' 'throne' and 'feast.' They are, of course, well aware that he is uninhabitable, at least
by animals of the planetary type; and they certainly have no pagan idea of giving a local
habitation to Maleldil. But somebody or something of great importance is connected with
Jupiter; as usual "The séroni would know." But they never told me. Perhaps the best comment
is in the author whom I mentioned to you: 'For as it was well said of the great Africanus that he
was never less alone than when alone, so, in our philosophy, no parts of this universal frame are
less to be called solitaire than those which the vulgar esteem most solitaire, since the
withdrawing of men and beasts signifieth but the greater frequency of more excellent creatures.'
More of this when you come. I am trying to read every old book on the subject that I can
hear of. Now that 'Weston' has shut the door, the way to the planets lies through the past; if
there is to be any more space-travelling, it will have to be time-travelling as well ...!