The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In the three novels commonly known as the Space Trilogy and sometimes as the Cosmic Trilogy or Ransom Trilogy (the series was not given a formal title by its author), the celebrated literary scholar and Christian essayist C. S. Lewis combines elements of classical science fiction, medieval romance, and the epic to create a sprawling depiction of an interplanetary struggle between good and evil.

Out of the Silent Planet, the first of the novels, centers on the adventures of Elwin Ransom, a Cambridge philologist who is abducted by Dick Devine, a grammar-school classmate who has become a ruthless opportunist, and Edward Weston, a renowned physicist. Devine and Weston drug Ransom and take him aboard a spacecraft that Weston has created; together, they travel to Mars. During the journey, Ransom learns that his abductors plan to give him to the Martians as part of a prearranged scheme. Imagining that he is to be sacrificed in some alien ritual, Ransom escapes from his captors soon after they arrive on Mars, only to realize that he has run from his only means of returning to Earth.

After wandering for some time, Ransom meets the hrossa, intelligent, otterlike beings; as he learns their language and way of life, he comes to understand that the hrossa are an entirely benevolent, unfallen race. Ransom also meets the planet’s two other rational species, which like the hrossa are supremely talented, peaceful beings sharing the planet they call Malacandra in complete harmony. He is also introduced to the eldils, luminous spiritual beings of a higher order.

Ransom is eventually taken to meet the oyarsa, or chief eldil, of Malacandra. He learns that Earth (or Thulcandra) is known as the “silent planet” because it has been isolated from the remainder of the solar system since its own oyarsa rebelled against Maleldil (the eldilic name for God), an event...

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Out of the Silent Planet, 1938

(Great Characters in Literature)

Elwin Ransom

Elwin Ransom, the protagonist, a middle-aged scholar who is kidnapped while on a walking tour of the English countryside. His abductors take him aboard a spacecraft bound for Mars, where he is to be given to the Martian natives. Assuming he is to be sacrificed as part of an alien ritual, Ransom escapes from his captors once they reach the planet’s surface. Wandering the Martian landscape, he encounters the planet’s other intelligent life-forms—the hrossa, the sorns, and the pfifiltriggi—as well the eldils, luminous spiritual beings of a higher order. The Martians easily defeat the schemes of Ransom’s captors, and the humans are returned to Earth; Ransom is enjoined to keep an eye on the future actions of his kidnappers.

Dick Devine

Dick Devine, one of Ransom’s captors, a former schoolmate. He is glib and outwardly sociable; in reality, he is a crass, selfish con artist who is primarily interested in the gold to be found on Mars. He and his accomplice, Weston, erroneously regard the sophisticated Martians as primitives who can be bought with trinkets or cowed by technology.

Professor Weston

Professor Weston, Ransom’s other captor, a brilliant physicist who has managed to build a working spacecraft. Imperious and arrogant, he is at once more noble and more sinister than Devine. He seeks to dominate the Martians as a first step in a program of interplanetary...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

Perelandra, 1943

(Great Characters in Literature)

Elwin Ransom

Elwin Ransom, the protagonist of the first novel, who is again embroiled in an interplanetary struggle between good and evil. In the second volume, Ransom is transported to Venus, or Perelandra, by the “light” eldils of the solar system. He learns that the “dark,” or fallen, eldils of Earth, which are responsible for the planet’s suffering, are meditating an attack on Perelandra. Because he has learned the language of the unfallen planets, Ransom is sent to the emergent paradise of Perelandra to contest Weston in an intellectual and spiritual contest for the souls of the planet’s first humanoid inhabitants.

Professor Weston

Professor Weston, also known as The Un-Man, whose spirit is possessed by the dark eldils. He tries to persuade the Green Lady—the Eve of the new world—to repeat the earthly Fall by breaking the one commandment she has been given by Maledil: not to leave the planet’s idyllic floating islands to reside on its “fixed land.” Empowered by his possessors, he is tireless and relentlessly persuasive. When Ransom senses that the Green Lady is on the verge of succumbing, he attacks the Un-Man and kills him in a brutal physical combat.

The Green Lady

The Green Lady, also known as Tinidril, the entirely innocent foremother of Perelandra, who is targeted for corruption by the dark eldils and who must be educated and protected by Ransom.

The King

The King, also known as Tor, the Adam of Perelandra. He is separated from the Green Lady during a storm, leaving her alone and vulnerable to Weston’s approach.


Lewis, the narrator, who assists Ransom upon his departure for Perelandra and his return to Earth.


Humphrey, a doctor friend of Ransom and Lewis who treats Ransom’s wounds upon his return.

That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-ups, 1945

(Great Characters in Literature)

Elwin Ransom

Elwin Ransom, now known as The Director, the protagonist of the earlier books, who has been vested with spiritual powers since his return from the paradise of Perelandra. He gathers about him a cadre of believers to contest the efforts of the dark eldils and their dupes to attain control of England.

Mark Studdock

Mark Studdock, a young sociologist who is inveigled into the inner councils of the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E), a quasi-governmental organization that serves as a front for the dark eldils’ plans. Obsessed by the desire to “belong,” Mark is at first deceived by the N.I.C.E.’s blandishments; eventually, he comes to oppose the organization’s goals and is imprisoned.

Jane Studdock

Jane Studdock, Mark’s wife. Unhappy in her marriage, she begins to have dream visions that prove to be true. The N.I.C.E. covets her as a source of intelligence, but she gravitates to Ransom’s group. At the novel’s end, she and Mark are reunited and recommitted to their marriage.

Dr. Dimble

Dr. Dimble, an elderly professor at Edgestow, the fictional university at which Mark also works. Jane’s former tutor and a devout Christian, he is one of Ransom’s principal followers.

Mrs. Dimble

Mrs. Dimble, Dr. Dimble’s pleasant, motherly wife.

Grace Ironwood


(The entire section is 571 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Edwards, Bruce L. A Rhetoric of Reading: C. S. Lewis’s Defense of Western Literacy, 1986.

Hannay, Margaret Patterson. C. S. Lewis, 1981.

Howard, Thomas. The Achievement of C. S. Lewis: A Reading of His Fiction, 1980.

Purtill, Richard. Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy in C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, 1974.

Schakel, Peter J., ed. The Longing for a Form: Essays on the Fiction of C. S. Lewis, 1977.