Literature / The Space Trilogy

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"The idea of other planets exercised upon me then a peculiar, heady attraction, which was quite different from any other of my literary interests. Most emphatically it was not the romantic spell of Das Ferne. "Joy" (in my technical sense) never darted from Mars or the Moon. ... I may add that my own planetary romances have been not so much the gratification of that fierce curiosity as its exorcism. The exorcism worked by reconciling it with, or subjecting it to, the other, the more elusive, and the genuinely imaginative, impulse."
C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

Everybody and their dog knows about Narnia, and has probably read it. They also probably know about the likes of Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters. But if you ask them whether they realized that C. S. Lewis wrote science fiction, they'll look at you like you're from another planet. The Space Trilogy is the unofficial name of his series of Planetary Romance and Fantasy novels, mixing space travel with Medieval cosmology and Christian theology.

The first, Out of the Silent Planet, is a tribute to early science-fiction of the likes of From The Earth to the Moon. Philologist Elwin Ransom is kidnapped by the (evil) scientists Devine and Weston, and taken in their space-ship to the planet Malacandra (or Mars, as we call it) as a human sacrifice to appease the natives while they mine the place for gold. He escapes, locates and falls in among the civilized natives (the otterlike hrossa) and learns their language and their ways. He is then summoned to see Oyarsa, the ruler of of Malacandra. This being is an eldil — basically, an angel — and actually just wants to talk. In the court of Oyarsa, Ransom learns much of the history of eldila and the solar system, and the reason why Thulcandra (the titular Silent Planet, that is, Earth) has heretofore been cut off from the Heavens. Weston and Devine reappear, and their ultimate villainous goals are laid bare and dissected. Oyarsa then sends the three humans back to Earth.

In the second novel, Perelandra, also known as Voyage to Venus, it is revealed that the eldila have kept in contact with Ransom since his trip to the Heavens, and now Ransom has been given a Mission From Maleldil to visit Perelandra (i.e. Venus). He finds the planet to be covered in oceans and floating islands, and its inhabitants living a literally Edenic existence. Ransom makes the acquaintance of the planet's Queen, and discovers that she and the King (who has been missing for the past few days) are the only intelligent inhabitants. The peace is shattered by the arrival of another space-ship, bearing Weston—and with him, an eldil of Thulcandra, bent on corrupting this young world. Ransom realizes that he was sent to Perelandra to prevent this from happening—by words, and if necessary, by force. As a side-note, this was Lewis' personal favorite of everything he wrote.

The third novel, That Hideous Strength, is a genre shift. (It's subtitled "A Modern Fairy-Tale For Grown-Ups" for a reason). In the quiet college town of Edgestow, Jane Studdock finds herself haunted by strange dreams of a decapitated man and an undead mystic. Meanwhile, her husband Mark is strong-armed into joining the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments, a joint political-(quasi)scientific organization that is surreptitiously taking complete control of the town. The NICE is particularly interested in Bragdon Wood, where Merlin is rumored to be buried — not dead, just resting. With great reluctance, Jane falls in with the oddly inactive resistance led by Elwin Ransom — the only opposition to the NICE's (literally) diabolical plans.

If you get the feeling that this one is a hackjob copy of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, you actually have it backwards. This book came first: and right about the time of the atomic bomb. George Orwell actually wrote a snazzy review (titled "The Scientists Take Over") and sang the book's praises, with the caveat that he thought it was weakened by the book's supernatural premise, since of course good will beat evil if angels are involved. The book is also riddled with Christian allegory, although less overtly so than Perelandra was. Slightly. Perhaps it may be most generously summed up in the words of Lewis's friend and fellow Anglican apologist, Dorothy L. Sayers: "less good but still full of good stuff." On the other hand, another friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, dubbed it "That Hideous Book".

There is also an unfinished novel titled The Dark Tower (not to be confused with the Stephen King series of the same name) originally intended as a sequel to Out Of The Silent Planet, and abandoned in favor of Perelandra. The plot, in which Ransom was only a secondary character, involved an Alternate Universe rather than space travel. Walter Hooper, the executor of Lewis' literary estate, published the fragment posthumously. The scholar Kathryn Lindskoog challenged the authenticity of The Dark Tower, and accused Hooper of forging it—though this seems to be the minority view among scholars of Lewis.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: Perelandra is rather explicitly a rehash of the Garden Of Eden (with Ransom as a Genre Savvy observer).
  • Agent Scully: MacPhee, a die-hard atheist scientist, remains implacably skeptical throughout all the supernatural events of That Hideous Strength, even though he's on the side of the supernaturalists. If anything, he represents the value and virtue of rational thought.
  • Alien Geometries: Ironically, on Earth. The N.I.C.E. attempts to break Mark Studdock's mind by placing him in a room whose every proportion is off just enough to be noticeable but not enough to be obvious.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The celestial hosts stay outside Earth's atmosphere, because it's the claimed and conquered property of a darker kind of angel.
  • Alien Sky: The skies over Perelandra are opaque, leading to pitch black nights.
  • The Alleged Boss: Jules is nominally the director of N.I.C.E., but he's only a pompous windbag who's clueless about what really goes on there. Wither and Frost are actually in charge.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: Carbon dioxide poisoning becomes an issue during the return trip in Out of the Silent Planet. The characters move and speak as little as possible in order to reduce their respiration.
  • Ambiguously Gay: "Fairy" Hardcastle. She's definitely butch, but her lesbianism is implied rather than stated outright. Comes across like a more discreet version of the the Girls Behind Bars butch jailer stereotype.
    • It's likely that Lewis wanted to depict a lesbian, but had no idea what a lesbian actually is; so, like many other writers, he took the cop-out route of putting a macho man into a woman's body and hoping that his readers wouldn't know the difference either.
      • Lewis mentions in his autobiography that homosexuality was one of two vices (the other being gambling) which he found utterly opaque and felt no temptations towards.
      • Some readers think that Fairy Hardcastle was the "evil" counterpart to Dr. Grace Ironwood - another decidedly "mannish" woman who was also decidedly good.
  • Animal Testing: One of the many activities that goes on at N.I.C.E., usually involving vivisection. Nobody seems to really know why they're doing it, because the lower ranks are unaware of the disturbing, transhumanist goals of the upper echelon. They experiment on animals to make way for experimenting on people.
  • Apocalypse How: Thanks to the injuries dealt by the Bent One, Malacandra suffered a Class 1 (killing most multicellular life outside the handramits) that is slowly inching towards a Class 6 (complete extinction of all life on the planet), and Sulva caught a Class 0 (with the "light side" of the moon being wiped almost clean of all life, populated by hideously corrupt transhumans who are waging a genocidal war against the inhabitants of the "dark side" and winning) that will eventually end in the destruction of all organic life on the planet. Then, in the last days, reinforcements from Perelandra will blow Sulva apart in a Class X, marking the beginning of the end of the long siege of the Earth.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ransom at the end of That Hideous Strength, at least thematically. He will never die, but will instead be transported bodily to Perelandra, where he will live in paradise until the time comes for him to return. It's also implied that this happened to Enoch, Moses and Elijah... and King Arthur.
  • Author Appeal: Based on some of his private letters, Lewis might be suspected of this in the case of Miss Hardcastle.
  • Author Tract: The novels are as much philosophical exercises as they are stories. Again, par for the course when reading Lewis.
    • Out Of The Silent Planet is a fictionalized version of Lewis' essay "Religion and Rocketry", describing how extraterrestrial life could be reconciled with Christian theology. It is also a deconstruction of the colonial ideals often found in sci-fi of the time through the "judgement scene," where Weston has to attempt to justify his worldview to an angel that doesn't speak his language. He needs to resort to the interpretive services of Ransom, who can only convey his speech very simplistically, and who is not necessarily sympathetic to many of his opinions. The obvious point is that, stripped of rhetorical flourish, many of Weston's seemingly high-minded ideals start to sound almost barbaric.
    • Perelandra transplants the Garden of Eden to Venus, and raises the question of why the Forbidden Fruit was forbidden in the first place.
    • That Hideous Strength is a fictionalized version of Lewis' The Abolition Of Man, arguing against Philosophical Naturalism masquerading as Scientific Progress.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The King and Queen of Perelandra.
  • Babies Ever After: What else should happen when Venus gets involved?
    • When the escaped animals that were used for vivisection rendezvous at St. Anne's and proceed to do ... what animals inevitably do when presented with the opportunity
  • The Baroness: "Fairy" Hardcastle, head of N.I.C.E. security. It's strongly implied that she's a literal sadist who gets aroused by torturing female prisoners.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A bear named Mr Bultitude kills the Big Bad, who had kidnapped him from the zoo and used him for vivisection experiments. Hence also:
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Ransom briefly encounters giant flies and beetles in the caverns under Perelandra. Subverted, however. Once the Un-man's presence is removed, and the fear it generated is gone, Ransom also ceases to fear the creepy crawlies, and speculates that they may, in fact, be sentient beings.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Merlin, although ultimately on the side of good, doesn't really fit within the modern framework of good and evil. One of the better examples of Deliberate Values Dissonance.
    • This is actually a plot point in the story; one of the reasons that the protagonists wish to locate Merlin is because he lived in a time when practicing magic was acceptable. This allows them the luxury of having magic abilities on their side despite the such things normally being forbidden in the modern era as witchcraft. Merlin is basically an ethical loophole.
  • The Bluebeard: How a newspaper refers to François Alcasan, who murdered his wife.
  • Boomerang Bigot: In That Hideous Strength, Miss Hardcastle is said to have once been a fascist. The fascists were virulently homophobic even for their time, and were very gung-ho about traditional gender roles. It's possible that Miss Hardcastle simply didn't realize she was a lesbian then, but Lewis never addresses the point either way.
    • Also possible she doesn't really believe in any ideology and joins any group she thinks likely to gain power.
  • Buffy Speak: In That Hideous Strength, MacPhee accuses women in general of talking this way and somehow still understanding each other.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Maleldil, i.e. Space Jesus.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: When Ransom tries on Perelandra, it is physically painful for him because the planet's purity abhors it. Weston, or rather, the thing that used to be Weston seems to have no problem with it.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Weston and Devine are a darker version of Cavor and Bradford from H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon. Lewis himself was a fan of the novel.
    • Ransom himself is explicitly based on J. R. R. Tolkien — he teaches the same subject at Cambridge that Tolkien taught at Oxford. (Although in the third book, he seems more like Charles Williams). Tolkien was on the record as saying that he didn't think it was a very close resemblance, although he did recognize some of his own ideas "Lewisified" in Ransom.
    • Horace Jules, the nominal director of NICE in That Hideous Strength, is a venomous caricature of H.G. Wells.
    • MacPhee, an Ulster rationalist and Sarcastic Devotee from That Hideous Strength, may have been a fictionalized version of Lewis' old tutor William Kirkpatrick. Or possibly an Author Avatar of Lewis himself, from his days as a skeptic.
      • The author says that MacPhee is pretty much Kirkpatrick; right down to his phrasing.
  • Chic And Awe: Implied in Jane Studdock's pending reunion with Mark at the very end.
    • More accurately describes her first meeting with the Director (Ransom)
  • Closer to Earth: Mark is entirely taken with the Progressive Element and goes in with them almost immediately. Jane has a bad feeling about them.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Again, the tramp.
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future: Merlin's experience of the modern world.
  • The Corrupter: The Un-man again, whose explicit mission is to recreate the Fall of Man with the Perelandrans.
  • Crapsack World: Sulva, aka the Moon. The part of it that faces towards us, and thus is part of our Fallen world, is a transhumanist dystopia. The other half is apparently pretty wonderful, but if the villains are to be believed it shrinks every year as it loses ground against a genocidal enemy. Apparently, a major sign of the end will be its shattering.
  • Curse of Babel: The undoing of NICE, extending even to their ability to write, thanks to the intervention of Viritrilbia through Merlin.
  • Darker and Edgier: Perelandra has a considerably darker plot than Out of the Silent Planet, with more at stake. That Hideous Strength is even darker.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In Perelandra, the inhabitants of the underground of Perelandra (Venus) appear briefly. They are potentially human and not evil, but not necessarily friendly to humans.
  • Deconstruction: In Out Of The Silent Planet, Weston's motivation for the colonization of Mars is the survival of the human race, even if this means killing all the natives of Mars. Or killing any humans who stand in his way. The conversation with Oyarsa picks this philosophy to pieces. This aspect was most likely intended by Lewis as a rebuttal to Olaf Stapeldon's novel Last And First Men, which (arguably) condoned the genocide of native Venusians as necessary for humanity's survival, though Weston's clownish antics earlier poke fun at colonialism generally.
    • Lewis also deconstructs various popular human fears as found in science fiction. For instance, the notion that aliens — particularly aliens stronger and smarter than us — must necessarily have natures anti-thetical to and hostile towards human beings. In point of fact, each alien species is more similar to humankind than they are different — even the Energy Beings, who are the most different and powerful by far, love humans more than humans love each other. If there are legions of fallen eldil who plague humanity, it's simply because they choose not to live in peace with us.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Merlin is appalled by his wakers' hospitality even though he acknowledges that their technological advancements are very comfortable, because they replace servants who would honor him with devices that just sit there. In this and several other ways, he comes off as barbaric, both to the reader and to other characters. In this and countless other ways, his mindset is very different from that of the 20th century characters. Justified, of course, in that Merlin is a superficially-Romanized Celt from hundreds of years prior.
  • Demonic Possession: The undoing of Weston.
  • Detonation Moon: Will be Sulva's ultimate fate.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: Or at least a disgusting sociopath. As in his earlier novel The Screwtape Letters, Lewis was pretty intent on dissecting the idea of Satan as a suave Magnificent Bastard and tried to portray him in Perelandra the way he thought a truly pure evil being would be like. Ransom comes to the realization that for demons, intelligence is a trait that they can put on or remove at will — it's like clothes they wear rather than an innate characteristic. And based on the Un-Man's petty behavior whenever he isn't "working", it's clear he would rather be intelligent as little as possible. At one point, Ransom even specifically thinks that he would much rather face a Mephistopheles-type of demon than the thing he has to put up with.
    • Lewis also wanted to make the point that, having renounced the source of all good, Satan has to renounce all good things, intelligence being one of them. His philosophical/ontological position is inherently insane, like a man sawing off a tree limb he's sitting on, but his rhetoric is clever enough to muddy the issue.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In Perelandra, Ransom has to take out evil incarnate with no other weapons than his fists. And he's a middle-aged professor without much fighting experience. However, it happens that evil is currently incarnate in the body of another middle-aged professor, so it's a fairer fight than Ransom feared. And Ransom is a former boxer who's been taking care of himself, while the other professor hasn't been sleeping, eating, or otherwise engaging in any of the sorts of activities human bodies need to stay healthy.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Subverted in Perelandra when the Un-Man, in Weston's body, tries to teach vanity to the Green Lady by dressing her up in a feather-cloak and letting her see herself in a small convex mirror, but the experience fails to captivate her. Protagonist Elwin Ransom remarks to himself, "Thank God, he's only trying to teach her Vanity," invoking this trope as a might-have-been. The Lady eventually grows bored with looking at a small image of herself and returns to her normal activities. The trope is also flirted with in That Hideous Strength, particularly when the ladies of Logres are dressing up.
    • Also Averted in an interesting way in the dress-up scene. The dressing room contains no mirrors, and none of the women can see why the dress they're wearing is so incredibly beautiful on them, though they can all see it on each other - which illustrates the point (on humility - think of others, not of yourself).
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hilariously, Dick Devine/Lord Feverstone. He runs over a chicken, and declares all the animals (and pedestrians) he misses "damned lucky".
  • Due to the Dead: After killing Weston's body until it sticks, then incinerating the corpse so the dark eldil within it can't escape, Ransom, despite never even liking the man, carves him a grand tombstone in the cliffs of Venus, in tribute to his genuine genius.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The N.I.C.E.'s eventual aim is Transhumanism, with mankind replaced with a new and "superior" form of life.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Even meeting the good Energy Beings can be unsettling, but the evil ones certainly count. The fact is even pointed out that meeting a good Eldil is even worse than meeting a bad one. When faced with evil, one can still hope for the good to save you — what do you do when a good Eldil is still terrifying?
  • Energy Beings: The eldila are essentially Christian angels, and some of them (the ones associated with a specific planet) are also the basis for the Olympian pantheon. They are imperceptible energy beings whose forms exist on a radically different wavelength than ours — for them, gaseous matter doesn't exist, and liquids and solids are gaseous, so the planets of the Solar system are just clouds. To them, light itself is the water through which they swim, and the Sun is their wellspring. "Visiting" a planet means moving into one of those moving clouds and then keeping pace with its orbit to maintain the appearance of standing still, while using some sort of projection to interact with wispy, ephemeral creatures they cannot fully see (ie: us).
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Played straight with Professor Weston.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Weston learns this lesson in the hardest way possible. In the time between the first and second book, he consorts with demons while convincing himself that there is no difference between God and Satan, and they are merely two sides of the same all-encompassing spiritual Force. In his usual pompous fashion, he deliberately calls the Force into himself, at which point his will is immediately subsumed by the devils. His last words as himself are utterly terrified.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Un-man on Perelandra. Capable of making very eloquent arguments to tempt his subject towards evil; but when he's unable to do anything more profoundly evil, he spends his time torturing small animals and playing childish pranks on Ransom.
    • Arguably, Devine as well. In Out of the Silent Planet, while Weston and Devine are both evil, Weston is a deconstruction of the Well-Intentioned Extremist who justifies his evil actions as necessary for the survival of the human race. Devine is only there for the gold; and Oyarsa describes him as a "broken" man whose only motivation is greed. As Lord Feverstone in That Hideous Strength, he's aware of the true nature of the NICE; but isn't interested in the supernatural aspects, his only motivation being personal power.
    • Oyarsa actually remarks in the first book that if it were up to him he would honestly attempt to cure Weston, but would simply destroy Devine, as any humanity in him died a long time ago.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Professor Weston develops interplanetary travel so humanity and their descendants (whatever they evolve into) could go out into the stars and survive throughout the cosmos. However, Weston doesn't care that this plan may involve wiping out other intelligent life. (In the second book, he abandons this goal in favor of a New Age-y philosophy he dubs "Spiritual Evolution", which has nothing to do with this trope.) The trope is taken further in the third book, where the N.I.C.E. plans to improve organic life by mechanizing it to an unprecedented degree, removing all those annoying biological and psychological barriers to progress — like free will.
  • Expy: Ransom is largely inspired by Lewis' close friend J. R. R. Tolkien.
    • Also, MacPhee is inspired by Lewis' tutor and mentor, William Kirkpatrick, a.k.a. The Great Knock.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Invoked. "Perhaps I should see a figure which looked like Ransom standing with its back toward me and when I spoke it would turn round to reveal a face that was not human at all...."
  • Fictionary: The Old Solar tongue.
  • Forbidden Fruit: In this 'verse, every planet's sapient inhabitants are given a single rule that is not to be broken. Earth's rule was the Trope Namer. Perelandra's denizens are not allowed to sleep on solid ground, and must return to one of the floating islands in the ocean. Lewis' conclusion seems to be that most of Genesis 3 is merely window-dressing. All that matters is that Adam and Eve were tested (and failed); the form the test itself took (whether eating a literal fruit or sleeping on solid ground) is immaterial.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: In Perelandra, two major eldila appear in human form, but it takes them some practice. See Our Angels Are Different below.
  • For Science!: Filostrato, one of the N.I.C.E.'s more (relatively) idealistic members.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The N.I.C.E. (National Institute of Coordinated Experiments).
    • Fridge Horror: There really is a institute with the same acronym in the UK - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: In Perelandra, Ransom wonders why he wasn't receiving divine help in light of the direct demonic intervention from the other side. The answer: God works In Mysterious Ways. Ransom himself is the divine help — Adam and Eve didn't have the benefit of advice from an older race that had failed the Forbidden Fruit test; Weston/the Un-man is Satan in the physical body of a human being — which imposes certain physical limitations, and which can be killed...
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Ransom and the demon in Perelandra.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: The view of Weston and the NICE.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: "Venus at St. Annes'", the last chapter of That Hideous Strength.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: The Queen of Perelandra, literally.
    • Implied that, this being Venus, her race's blood is oxygenated by copper rather than iron.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Weston's speech to Oyarsa justifying his murder of the Malacandrans, as well as planned genocide and colonization of the planet. Thoroughly deconstructed, as noted elsewhere, to the point where Oyarsa's response effectively qualifies as an indirect Shut Up, Hannibal!.
  • Hard on Soft Science: "There are no sciences like sociology," says Hingest. And the "scientific" programs of the N.I.C.E. are depicted throughout as just a front for totalitarian scientism. Then again, the protagonist is a Cunning Linguist.
  • He Knows Too Much: This is why Hingest is murdered after he resigns from the N.I.C.E.
  • Heavy Worlder: The Earth-based characters on Malacandra, as identified by the sorns. Ransom himself, after months living among the natives, sees Weston and Devine as they must look to Malacandran eyes for a brief moment towards the end of the novel.
  • Hero of Another Story: Invoked, oddly enough, in regard to setting. When Ransom finds himself in Venus' cave systems, he comes to the conclusion that the caves were certainly designed for some purpose... but that whatever purpose that may be, it has nothing to do with him and he has no place there.
  • Homage: Over in the DC Universe, the Martian word for "Mars" is "Ma'aleca'andra" as an homage to this trilogy.
  • Human Aliens: The King and Queen of Perelandra. (Justified: since Maleldil took on the physical form of a human being, all sapient life younger than the human race looks like Earthlings.)
  • Humans Are Flawed: Humans are the only intelligent species in the Solar System to be "bent", i.e. have a sin-tainted nature. This doesn't mean that humans are universally puppy-kicking-bad, but in spite of our technological superiority we don't have anything in particular to offer to the other people of the Solar System. They're all quite happy with their lives, and do not lie to, cheat, or murder each other.
    • There's more to it than that. Residents of Malacandra have the occasional "bent" individual, but these are few and far between because the planet's Oyarsa — the angelic ruler — is still good. On Earth, not only are the people bent, the Oyarsa (Satan) is as well, so sin is unchecked.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The officially modernist and egalitarian Jane is surprised and repelled to find that the only physician among the folk of Logres is a woman, Dr. Grace Ironwood, and that these folk make no class distinctions: Dr. and Mrs. Dimble regard themselves as on the same level, and members on the same terms, as Ivy Maggs, Jane's former charlady. Worse, they regard the charlady and her convict husband as on a par with Jane and Mark! (And at that, they are probably being generous, in their own minds. Mr. Maggs just stole a little money from the laundry where he worked before he met Ivy and went straight. Mark is involved in an infernal conspiracy to take over the world, and Logres isn't yet sure if he's a dupe or a traitor.)
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: Explored in many ways. Both Jesus and aliens appear, but belief in the two is not necessarily linked.
    • Aliens simply exist, and the protagonist meets them on social ground - he knows aliens exists and doesn't need to "believe" in them.
  • Interspecies Friendship:
    • In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom befriends Hyoi the hross.
    • In That Hideous Strength, friendship between she-cat and bear (rather normal ones) is shown.
  • In with the In Crowd: Mark Studdock's motive for joining the NICE in That Hideous Strength.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Invoked by Weston. He sees Ransom with the (naked, as it's an Eden-ish paradise) queen of Perelandra and assumes Ransom was making a move on her. Ransom tries to explain that he was not, and that the whole planet is full of such innocence that he didn't even feel any lust and interacted as normally as he would have with anyone clothed on earth, but Weston just assumes that Ransom is lying since as a man standing with a naked woman, he naturally must have been trying to make love to her. Also qualifies as Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
  • Ironic Name: The N.I.C.E. is not very nice at all.
  • It's All About Me: Both Weston and Devine in Out of the Silent Planet have no regard for anyone but themselves, despite Weston's flowery rhetoric about advancing the human race. Oyarsa sends them and Ransom back to Earth, and informs them that their ship will be unmade after their landing, along with anything and anyone left inside. Ransom is asleep when they land, and wakes to find that they left without bothering to wake him. He barely makes it out of the ship before it self-destructs in a flash of light.
  • Kick the Dog: The Un-Man, in its spare time, tortures small animals For the Evulz.
    • The N.I.C.E. vivisects any animal it gets its hands on, as preparation for the day when they finally get to vivisect humans.
  • King in the Mountain: Merlin, resting under Bragdon Wood in That Hideous Strength. Additionally, Enoch, Moses, Elijah, King Arthur, and, at the end of the last book, Ransom himself are living eternal lives on Perelandra, awaiting the final salvation of the silent planet.
  • Lady Land: The Pfifltriggi are matriarchal.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: "Fairy" Hardcastle's inner circle minions are explicitly described as the sort of "fluffy, simpering" hyper-feminine stereotype. Like Miss Hardcastle, their lesbianism is implied rather than stated outright.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Mark's superiors at N.I.C.E. mention "the Head", he assumes they're just talking about the person in charge. He finds out later that it's an actual decapitated human head, and the ringleaders are taking orders from it.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Used in the epilogue to Out of the Silent Planet and introduction to Perelandra, where it is suggested that the author is a friend of Ransom's, but dropped for the third book.
    • Well, sort of dropped. Lewis gives a first-person description of his own fictional visit to Bragdon Wood, thus giving himself a toehold in the story. On the other hand, it's hard to see how Lewis-as-character could have learned about a bear's stream of consciousness or the last thoughts of the villains as their doom overtakes them. (On the third hand, one of the surviving characters IS clairvoyant, so maybe... Nah.)
  • Losing Your Head: One of the experiments at N.I.C.E. involves attempting to keep a severed human head alive indefinitely.
  • Loss of Identity: The human leaders of N.I.C.E. have all experienced tremendous trauma to their personalities and, in the worst cases, their basic free will, as a direct result of their long-term voluntary exposure to the powers of the dark eldila.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Played with. The Malacandrans have many advanced devices, such as oxygen tanks, that they just don't use very often. In fact, when their world began to die, many of them were tempted to try Weston's scheme to invade Earth and displace the natives to take it for themselves, and Oyarsa confirms that they would have been capable of it if he hadn't stopped them.
  • Mars: The setting of the first book. It was already out of date by the time it came out, scientifically, but it made for a good story and effort was at least made to try justifying some of it.
  • Meaningful Name: Ransom, whom Maleldil compares to Himself, as He is "the ransom of the world". An interesting twist: Ransom, being a linguist, knows that his name isn't actually related to the word "ransom" — but it still seems to be no accident that it is his name.
    • Also, "Elwin" means "elf-friend" in the Anglo-Saxon. Considering how much of JRRT's writings in the Inklings affected the Space Trilogy...
      • At one point in-universe it's noted that "Elwin" means "eldil-friend", implying that, like his surname, his given name is no coincidence either.
    • Don't forget Frost and Wither, whose names reflect the effects of the N.I.C.E.'s psychological training and exposure to dark eldila on their personalities. Frost's mind was made cold, hard, and sharp, like ice. Wither, on the other hand, just sort of "withered" away. There's also Dr. Winter and Devine's title is Lord Feverstone. Pretty much everyone at N.I.C.E. has a name that suggest the failure, absence or corruption of organic life ("Hardcastle" is possibly meant as another one).
  • Messiah Creep: In the first book, Ransom is a kind of Joe Everyman having very-personal adventures on Mars. In the second book, he is tasked with saving the entire world of Perelandra from the influence of cosmic forces of evil. By the third book, he has become the Pendragon, leader of the new Round Table, suffers for the sins of the Earth, regains man's legendary authority over the animals, and leaves for another world, vowing to one day return and save humanity.
  • Most Philologists Are Philologists
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: In Out of the Silent Planet, the inhabitants of Malacandra come in three different species (not counting the energy beings), each with its own language. Furthermore, the sornsnote  (giant feathered humanoids) come in at least two varieties — white (in the mountains) and red (in the deserts), and the hrossa (otter-people) come in at least three races — black, silver, and crested. There might be more, but the viewpoint character wasn't on the planet long enough to tell, as he was vividly aware.
  • Mundane Solution: How do you stop the Devil's envoy from corrupting a planet of innocence? By bashing his brains out with a rock.
  • My Brain Is Big: The Head of N.I.C.E. MacPhee speculates that they deliberately eased off the skullcap and applied stimulants, though he is doubtful of whether it would actually work. He's right, for a change: the Head's powers come not from its expanded brain matter but from its possession by a dark eldil.
  • Noble Savage: Subverted. Originally, Weston and Devine consider the native Malacandrans to be primitive tribespeople, and when Ransom discovers their highly-developed cultural achievements, he thinks they fit this trope. But he later learns that they are actually a great deal more advanced than they appear, and simply don't bother doing a number of things they are capable of because they don't see any need to. (For one, their lower gravity makes them a great deal less concerned with the moving of weights than Earth people.)
    • Also deconstructed, just a little. The hrossa, who live a Hunter-gatherer lifestyle, are very friendly to Ransom due to their nobility, but they do him more harm than anyone else by forgetting he can't breathe the thin air up on the high steppe. The sorn astronomer who saves his life bemoans that neither he nor the technically minded pfifltriggi would have made such a mistake. The other two species are just as noble, being sinless, yet far more rational.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Everything seems to be edible on both Malacandra and Perelandra. It may be a subtle implication that Earth having poisonous vegetation is one result of its occupation by evil eldila.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: The duel between Ransom and Weston is horrendously violent, even more so when Ransom gets the upper hand. For a moment you think you're reading a Matt Stover novel.
  • No Such Thing as Space Jesus: Inverted. This is C.S. Lewis, after all. The whole series is pretty much about Space Jesus.
  • Not What I Signed On For: In That Hideous Strength Bill "The Blizzard" Hingest joined the N.I.C.E. because he believed it was actually about science, and resigned as soon as he found out it was really about social engineering and transhumanism.
  • Planetville: Averted via Lampshade Hanging in Out Of The Silent Planet: as Ransom leaves Malacandra, he realizes what a tiny portion of the planet he actually saw, and discusses the great varieties of beings he never got to see in the afterword.
  • Older Than They Look: By the third book, Ransom is extremely youthful in appearance despite pushing 50 and sporting a long, luxurious beard. Yet he also gives off an aura of wisdom befitting one much older. The former is from visiting Perelandra, the last truly paradisal world, and the latter is from his experiences making him truly humble — that is, having no illusions about his true nature as a creature of Maleldil.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Done deliberately with Weston in Out of the Silent Planet. In his essay "Reply to Professor Haldane", Lewis himself notes the weak point that although "Weston, for the sake of the plot, has to be a physicist, his interests seem to be exclusively biological," and he points out that he was intending the story to be more fantastical than hard sci-fi.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ransom in the first book. This was retconned in the remaining two books to be his actual name.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Into Go Mad from the Revelation territory. For instance, when two major eldila are unfamiliar with humans and need to practice appearing to them:
    A tornado of sheer monstrosities seemed to be pouring over Ransom. Darting pillars filled with eyes, lightning pulsations of flame, talons and beaks and billowy masses of what suggested snow, volleyed through cubes and heptagons into an infinite black void. "Stop it... stop it," he yelled, and the scene cleared. He gazed round blinking on the fields of lilies, and presently gave the eldila to understand that this kind of appearance was not suited to human sensations.
    • This is similarity to angels' descriptions in The Bible, suggesting that in-universe they often have trouble with this (and explains the "Be not afraid" line as well).
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Ransom sees mer-people in the Perelandran ocean, and wonders if the green-skinned humanoid inhabitants of the planet might have have evolved from them.
  • Out of Focus: Ransom in the third installment. After his adventures in the first two books, he graduates from The Hero to the Big Good, and the story focuses on two new characters, Jane and Mark Studdock, and their conflicts with the N.I.C.E.
  • Opposed Mentors: An evil example where the two chief villains disagree on the best way to dehumanize their initiate/captive.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: The N.I.C.E.
  • Planet of Hats: Descriptions of the three races of Malacandra tend to embody this trope.
    • The hrossa are warrior-poets and musicians prone to flamboyant action and speech; their humour consisting predominantly of elaborate wordplays. They take great joy in hunting dangerous animals face to face, and composing epic poems; but are prone to overlook simple practicalities. Likely inspired by the style of the Scandanavian Eddas and Sagas.
    • The seroni (the proper plural of sorn) are reserved and solitary shepherds, whose humour is described as dry and sardonic. They're the philosophers and scientists, more interested in abstract principles than in technology itself.
    • The pfifltriggi are miners and artists; whose humour is described as "excelling in practical jokes and personal abuse". They are expert craftsmen and architects who delight in technology and the visual arts, though they prefer complicated things that are fun to make, and the sorns are long-since resigned to the fact that a pfifltrigg won't make something useful if it's too easy and simple.
  • Planetary Romance: Described by the author as such in the page quote.
  • Police State: The college town, as ruled over by The N.I.C.E.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Discussed by Merlin when trying to prove Ransom's credentials.
    A [jack]daw that lives in a hermit's cell has learned to chatter book Latin before now. ... A daw may also have Greek on its bill.
  • The Power of Hate: The Un-man, being possessed by the devil, is pure evil — and Pure Evil is the one and only thing in the universe that actually deserves hate. So Ransom realizes that he is justified in channeling his hate to help him punch out Satan.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Again, Miss "Fairy" Hardcastle, who takes particular joy in torturing female prisoners.
  • Purple Prose: The final chapters of Perelandra get downright rhapsodical. Tropes Are Not Bad, however, and some critics say that these passages of prose qualify as C. S. Lewis's best poetry.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Invoked by the pfifltrigg who carves Ransom's portrait. Ransom is alarmed that the final result looks very little like an actual human being, but the artist explains that he left out all but the most basic details on purpose.
    "I do not mean it to be too like. Too like, and they will not believe it — the ones who are born after."
  • Rubbery World: In Perelandra, the eponymous planet has grasslands and forests that float on the surface of the ocean. A hill one moment is a valley another. Amusingly, the weeds and float-bladders beneath them are apparently quite rubbery.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: MacPhee, the only member of Ransom's True Companions who doesn't share his Christian faith.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Professor Frost was doing this way before Gendo Ikari made it cool. Even in a book, it's still scary.
  • Scale of Scientific Sins: The N.I.C.E. follows just about the whole thing, almost to the letter.
  • Scenery Porn: In Out of the Silent Planet, during the long journeys across the alien and beautiful surface of Mars, and all the time in Perelandra, especially the mountain towards the end.
  • Schizo Tech: The hrossa use stone and bone tools while the seroni and pfifltriggi are advanced enough to produce things like oxygen masks.
  • Science Is Bad: Some critics accused Lewis of arguing this, but Word of God clarifies that the villains are actually people who use the guise of science to promote inhuman philosophies. Notably, in That Hideous Strength the "real" scientist Hingest joined the N.I.C.E. because he believed it had something to do with science, and resigned and got murdered for it as soon as he found it out it didn't. And in both books he appears in, Weston's tremendous scientific genius is always held in esteem. It is his barbaric philosophies that are attacked.
  • Secret Police: The N.I.C.E. have their own police forces. They managed to seize control of a college town with only a handful of people realizing it.
  • Seemingly Profound Fool: The tramp. He gets mistaken for Merlin by the N.I.C.E. and is either too simple or too smart to correct their mistake.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: N.I.C.E.'s secret masters hold them in just as much contempt as they do all other human beings. Once Merlin has unleashed the might of the oyarsa upon their based and ruined their plans for good, they, as Ransom aptly puts it, "break their tools," driving the humans under their close control to destroy one another, and then themselves for their own twisted amusement.
  • Self-Duplication: Wither always seems to be wandering around just the right places on campus to make everyone nervous. It's apparently a dark power he gained from his secret masters. Mark eventually punches one to find it's an insubstantial phantom that disappears when he touches it.
  • Shared Universe: That Hideous Strength suggests that the series is set in the same continuity as The Lord of the Rings — Numinor/Númenor is part of the mythology, and at one point the world is referred to as "Middle Earth".
  • Shout-Out: Númenor gets mentioned several times in That Hideous Strength, based apparently on some discussions that Lewis had with Tolkien (Lewis apparently never saw a manuscript, since he invariably spells it "Numinor").
  • Social Climber: Mark started doing this while still in school, abandoning his genuine but tragically unpopular friend to be In with the In Crowd, unaware that the In Crowd are basically working for Satan.
  • Something Completely Different: That Hideous Strength.
  • Space Opera
  • Space Is Cold: Averted. In Out of the Silent Planet, all space travel is in the inner solar system (from Earth to Mars and back), so the sun is relatively near to Weston's spaceship, always visible, and makes things very hot within the ship. When Ransom comments, "I always thought space was dark and cold," he is met with scorn for his naivete. "Forgot about the Sun, did you?"
    • Particularly Averted on the return trip from Malacandra to Earth, where Weston and Devine have to cut inside the orbit of Venus (and possibly even Mercury) to get back to Earth in time. They very nearly cook to death before they get past the Sun and start back outwards.
  • Squishy Wizard: Merlin considers himself to be this.
  • Starfish Aliens: Malacandra has three alien natives, one looking like big intelligent otters, thin tall humanoids, and tapir-headed frogish aliens. The Eldila, though obviously angels, are multidimensional energy beings who inhabit space itself.
  • Take That:
    • H.G. Wells. Lewis was very much a fan of Wells' earlier fiction (he used the opening pages of the first book to essentially say that anyone who refuses to read War of the Worlds or The First Men in the Moon is being a snob), but was quite critical of the much more political and less well-remembered utopian novels Wells wrote later in life. (Elsewhere, Lewis compared Wells to Esau, saying that while Esau had sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, Wells had hocked his talent for a pot of message.) Hence, Horace Jules, the clueless pompous twit who is the figurehead Director of the NICE, looks and talks like a Wells parody.
    • J.B.S. Haldane, with whom Lewis carried on an open debate, is also targeted. Some of Weston's philosophy is almost word-for-word quotes of statements by Haldane. Haldane, in turn, wrote a rather scathing criticism of The Space Trilogy (which Lewis rebutted in the posthumously published essay "A Reply to Professor Haldane").
  • Tears of Fear: When Merlin realizes that Redemption Equals Death. Also counts as Inelegant Blubbering.
    • On their way home from Mars, Weston breaks down in fear and despair when he realizes that he's miscalculated and the ship is about to overshoot Earth's orbit.
  • Time Abyss: Ransom's company gets a good dose of this trope when they feel the presence of the Oyarsa of Saturn.
  • To Win Without Fighting: St. Anne's plans to win not by force, but relying on the eldila. While MacPhee wants to use human might to defeat the N.I.C.E., Ransom and the others know that isn't an option. They succeeded, with Merlin and the Oyeresu disrupting the Institute's plans.
  • Trippy Finale Syndrome: The Great Dance vision at the end of Perelandra. It's quite well done.
  • Uncanny Valley: Described in-universe.
    • Ransom is initially horrified by the appearance of the séroni, because they're very elongated humanoids. The other two species of hnau on Malacandra resemble animals, so Ransom is able to accept them much sooner.
    • He decides that thinking of the hrossa as anthropomorphic animals is a lot less unsettling than thinking of them as animalistic men.
    • Subverted with the Queen of Perelandra. After he first sees her at a distance, Ransom briefly wonders if she's merely an animal that happens to look humanoid, a thought which disturbs him greatly. He soon finds out she's fully sapient.
    • The "UnMan" looks human, but his behavior and mannerisms are just enough off to creep Ransom the hell out.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In That Hideous Strength, "bucking" is used as a stand-in for...
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Says the N.I.C.E.
  • Venus Is Wet: Perelandra is an ocean world where the only piece of dry land is a mountain emerging from the depths and all the inhabitants live on enormous rafts of matted plant life.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Subverted. The Old Solar language has a word for sapient creatures of any species: hnau. Humans, Malacandrans, Perelandrans, and Eldila are all hnau, and thus are all people. As an interesting twist, though, Lewis proposes that the human practice of keeping pets is an expression of our desire for companionship with people who are different creatures from us — the various Malacandrans find each other silly, amusing and refreshing. Humans talk to cats or dogs and treat them as family members; a Hross goes to hang out with a Pfifltrigg, who can actually talk back.
  • Wham Line: In Out of the Silent Planet:
    "It isn't the Moon. It's the Earth."
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Ransom is agonizing over how to deal with the Un-Man on Perelandra, this is essentially the answer he receives: he can't beat the Un-Man in argument, but he can kill him physically.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Ransom gets one on his heel on Perelandra during his fight with the Un-Man. It stays with him throughout That Hideous Strength and gives him constant pain, since it can only be healed on the world where it was inflicted and he cannot return there until his task is done.
  • You No Take Candle: Weston has a poor grasp of Old Solar.
    • See also Deconstruction. Weston gives a philosophical speech in English with some very stirring rhetoric; Ransom translates it into Old Solar, but he can only get across the basic ideas, not the rhetoric. The ideas are accurately conveyed, more or less, but stripped of their high-minded vocabulary they sound banal, or outright barbaric; when Weston says that "Life itself is more valuable than any system of morality," Ransom flails around for an adequate translation before arriving at the rough equivalency, "It is better to be alive and bent than to be dead."


Alternative Title(s): Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, Space Trilogy

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheSpaceTrilogy?from=Main.TheSpaceTrilogy