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The Space Trilogy, Cosmic Trilogy or Ransom Trilogy is a trilogy of science fiction novels by C. S. Lewis, famous for his later series The Chronicles of Narnia. A philologist named Elwin Ransom is the hero of the first two novels and an important character in the third.

The books in the trilogy are:

  • Out of the Silent Planet (1938), set mostly on Mars
  • Perelandra (1943), set mostly on Venus. Also known as Voyage to Venus
  • That Hideous Strength (1945), set on Earth. In 1958, the publishing house Avon (now an imprint of HarperCollins) published a version called The Tortured Planet from which they had cut one-third of the book.

Influences and approach[]

Lewis stated in a letter to Roger Lancelyn Green:

What immediately spurred me to write was Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men and an essay in J.B.S. Haldane's Possible Worlds both of which seemed to take the idea of such [space] travel seriously and to have the desperately immoral outlook which I try to pillory in Weston. I like the whole interplanetary ideas as a mythology and simply wished to conquer for my own point of view what has always hitherto been used by the opposite side. I think H. G. Wells's First Men in the Moon the best of the sort I have read....

The other main literary influence was David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus (1920).[1]

The books are not especially concerned with technological speculation, and in many ways read like fantasy adventures combined with themes of biblical and classical mythology. Like most of Lewis's mature writing, they contain much discussion of contemporary rights and wrongs, similar in outlook to Madeleine L'Engle's Kairos series. The kidnapping of Ransom by Dr. Weston is reminiscent of Flash Gordon being forced into Dr. Hans Zarkov's spaceship. Many of the names in the trilogy reflect the influence of Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien's Elvish languages.


Main article: Elwin Ransom

Ransom appears very similar to Lewis himself: a university professor, expert in languages and medieval literature, unmarried (Lewis did not marry until his fifties), wounded in World War I and with no living relatives except for one sibling. Lewis, however, apparently intended for Ransom to be partially patterned after his friend and fellow Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien, since Lewis is presented as novelizing Ransom's reminiscences in the epilogue of Out of the Silent Planet and is a character-narrator in the frame tale for Perelandra. In That Hideous Strength Ransom, with his royal charisma and casual acceptance of the supernatural, appears more like Charles Williams (or some of the heroes in Williams' books).

In Out of the Silent Planet it is suggested that "Ransom" is not the character's real name but merely an alias for a respectable professor whose reputation might suffer from his telling a fantastic story of having been to the planet Mars.

In the following books, however, this is unaccountably dropped and it is made clear that Ransom is the character's true name. As befits a philologist, he provides an etymology: the name does not derive from the modern word "ransom" but rather is a contraction of the Old English for "Ranulf's Son". This may be another allusion to Tolkien, a professor of Old English.


Ransom gets much information on cosmology from the Oyarsa (presiding angel) of Malacandra, or Mars. Maleldil, the son of the Old One, ruled the Field of Arbol, or solar system, directly. But then the Bent One (the Oyarsa of Earth) rebelled against Maleldil and all the eldila (similar to the Valar in Tolkien's Silmarillion) of Deep Heaven (outer space). In response to this act, the Bent One suffered confinement on Earth where he first inflicted great evil. Thus he made Earth a silent planet, cut off from the Oyéresu of other planets, hence the name 'Thulcandra', the Silent Planet, which is known throughout the Universe. Maleldil tried to reach out to Thulcandra and became a man to save the human race. According to the Green Lady, Tinidril (Mother of Perelandra, or Venus), Thulcandra is favored among all the worlds, because Maleldil came to it to become a man.

In the Field of Arbol, the outer planets are older, the inner planets newer.

Earth will remain a silent planet until the end of the great Siege of Deep Heaven against the Oyarsa of Earth. The siege starts to end (with the Oyéresu of other worlds descending to Earth) at the finale of the Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. But there is still much to happen until the fulfillment of what is predicted in the Book of Revelation, when the Oyéresu put an end to the rule of the Bent Eldil and, on the way, smash the Moon to fragments. This, in turn, will not be "The End of the World", but merely "The Very Beginning" of what is still to come.


The eldila (singular eldil) are super-human extraterrestrials, "multi-dimensional energy beings" in standard science-fiction terms. The human characters in the trilogy encounter them on various planets, but the eldila themselves are native to interplanetary and interstellar space ("Deep Heaven"). They are barely visible as faint, shifting light.

Certain very powerful eldila, the Oyéresu (singular Oyarsa), control the course of nature on each of the planets of the Solar System (similar to the Valar in The Silmarillion). They (and maybe all the eldila) can manifest in corporeal forms. The title Oyarsa seems to indicate the function of leadership, regardless of the leader's species; when the Perelandran human Tor assumes rule of his world, he styles himself "Tor-Oyarsa-Perelendri" (presumably "Tor, Ruler of Perelandra").

The eldila are science-fictionalized depictions of angels, immortal and holy, with the Oyéresu perhaps being angels of a higher order. (As Lewis implies in Chapter 22 of Out of the Silent Planet, the name Oyarsa was suggested by Oyarses, the name given in Bernard Silvestris's Cosmographia to the governors of the |. Bernard's word was almost certainly a corruption—or a deliberate alteration—of Greek οὐσιάρχης [ousiarches, "lords of being"], used with the same meaning in the Hermetic Asclepius.) The eldila resident on—actually, imprisoned in—Earth are "dark eldila", fallen angels or demons. The Oyarsa of Earth, the "Bent One", is Satan. Ransom later meets the Oyéresu of both Mars and Venus, who are described as being masculine (but not actually male) and feminine (but not actually female), respectively. The Osarya of other worlds have charecteristics like the Classical Gods, the Osarya of Jupiter gives a feeling of merriment.


Hnau is a word in the Old Solar language which refers to "sentients" such as Humans. In the book, the Old Solar speaker specifies that God is not hnau, and is unsure whether Eldila (immortal angelic beings) can be termed "hnau", deciding that if they are hnau, they are a different kind of hnau than Humans or Martians.

The term was adopted by some other people, including Lewis' friend J. R. R. Tolkien, who used the term in some of his essays on the nature of his fictional Elves and Men. Similarly, a character in James Blish's science fiction novel A Case of Conscience wonders whether a particular alien is a hnau, which he defines as having "a rational soul".

In recent times the term has been used by some philosophers, for example in Thomas I. White's "Is a Dolphin a Person?", where he asks if Dolphins are persons, and if such, if they can also be reckoned as hnau: that is sentient beings of the same level as humans.

Other uses of the term include the term as used by some Christians: here as with Tolkien's use of the term "hnau" refers to sentient beings possessing independent will, and thus by extension a soul.

Parallels with other works[]

The cosmology of all three books—in which the Oyéresu of Mars and Venus somewhat resemble the corresponding gods from classical mythology—derives from Lewis's interest in medieval beliefs. Central concerns of his book The Discarded Image are the way medieval authors borrowed concepts from pre-Christian religion and science and attempted to reconcile them with Christianity, and the lack of a clear distinction between natural and supernatural phenomena (or between what are now called science fiction and fantasy) in medieval thought. The Space Trilogy also expands on Lewis's essay "Religion and Rocketry", which argues that as long as humanity remains flawed and sinful, our exploration of other planets will tend to do them more harm than good. Furthermore, much of the substance of the argument between Ransom and Weston in Perelandra is found in Lewis's book, Miracles.

Another novel written partly at the same time, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, has several parallels with the Space Trilogy. Both Perelandra and The Return of the King include a decisive final struggle in a subterranean chamber, with the adversary falling into volcanic fire, and the hostility of the scientists in That Hideous Strength toward the natural world (specifically, the wanton destruction of trees and the manipulation of life) is similar to that of Tolkien's character Saruman. Like Tolkien's Beleriand cycle, Lewis' trilogy features beings who, while similar to the gods of pagan pantheons, are rather servants or angels of a single true God.

In That Hideous Strength, Lewis alludes several times to Tolkien's Atlantean civilization Numinor (spelt Númenor by Tolkien), saying “Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien.”

Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra, have similar plotlines to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom and Venus series, in that both authors described Earthlings traveling to Mars and Venus and interacting with the planet's sentient inhabitants.

Stephen R. Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy contains numerous references to and parallels to the Space Trilogy. These include materialistic endeavors to gain access to forbidden worlds for material gain. Other references to the series include a main character named Lewis and a minor villain named Weston.


According to the Space Trilogy's cosmology, the speech of all the inhabitants of the Field of Arbol is the Old Solar or Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi. Only Earth lost the language due to the Bent One's influence. Old Solar can be likened to the Elvish languages invented by Lewis's friend, Tolkien. The grammar is little known, except for the plurals of nouns. The plurals of some words (hross, eldil) are simple, only adding a final -a or -i; others (as for Oyarsa, sorn, hnakra), are quite complex broken plurals, adding an internal -é-, and adding or altering a final vowel (usually to -i or -u), and may also include internal metathesis (Oyérasu, séroni, hnéraki).


Some terminology in the "Old Solar" language is used throughout the trilogy.

  • Eldil, pl. Eldila — an everlasting, rational, "multidimensional energy being," that is not organic; an angel. Most act in the capacity of "Oyarsa" of a planet.
  • Field of Arbol — the Solar System
  • Glund or GlundandraJupiter
  • hnau or 'nau — a rational being, capable of speech, intellect, and personhood, and containing a soul.
  • handra — a planet or land
  • LurgaSaturn
  • MalacandraMars
  • MaleldilJesus, the second person of God with his Father and "the Third One."
  • Neruvalhapax legomenon in Perelandra and, from context, apparently Uranus
  • Oyarsa, pl. Oyéresu — (Title) Ruler of a planet, a higher-order angel, perhaps an arch-angel.
  • PerelandraWikipedia:Venus
  • Sulva — The Moon
  • ThulcandraEarth, literally "The Silent Planet"
  • ViritrilbiaMercury
  • See also Out of the Silent Planet#Glossary

The Dark Tower[]

Main article: The Dark Tower (1977 novel)

An unfinished manuscript published posthumously in 1977, named The Dark Tower by Walter Hooper, its editor, features Elwin Ransom in a less central role as involved with an experiment that allows its participants to view on a special screen their own location in a parallel universe. Its authenticity was impeached by Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog in her scholarly criticism of Walter Hooper, but in 2003 Alastair Fowler established its authenticity when he wrote in the Yale Review that he saw Lewis writing the manuscript that would be subsequently published as The Dark Tower, heard him reading it, and discussed it with him.


  • Downing, David C. Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of CS Lewis's Ransom Trilogy. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.
  • Lewis, C.S. The Dark Tower and Other Stories. Walter Hooper, ed. London: Collins, 1977.
  • Lewis, C.S. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Scribner, 1938.
  • Lewis, C.S. Perelandra: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 1972.
  • Lewis, C.S. That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-ups. New York: Scribner, 1974.
  • Sammons, Martha C. A Guide Through CS Lewis' Space Trilogy. Westchester, IL: Cornerstone Books, 1980.

External links[]

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