My name is also Ransom.”

The Con­clu­sion of Ransom’s Bat­tle with God and Self, Pere­landra, Ch 11

Clive Staples Lewis

What­ev­er hap­pened here would be of such a nature that earth-men would call it mytho­log­i­cal. All this he had thought before. Now he knew it. The Pres­ence in the dark­ness, nev­er before so for­mi­da­ble, was putting these truths into his hands, like ter­ri­ble jew­els.

The vol­u­ble self was almost thrown out of its argu­men­ta­tive stride—became for some sec­onds as the voice of a mere whim­per­ing child beg­ging to be let off, to be allowed to go home. Then it ral­lied. It explained pre­cise­ly where the absur­di­ty of a phys­i­cal bat­tle with the Un-man lay. It would be quite irrel­e­vant to the spir­i­tu­al issue. If the Lady were to be kept in obe­di­ence only by the forcible removal of the Tempter, what was the use of that? What would it prove? And if the temp­ta­tion were not a prov­ing or test­ing, why was it allowed to hap­pen at all? Did Maleldil sug­gest that our own world might have been saved if the ele­phant had acci­den­tal­ly trod­den on the ser­pent a moment before Eve was about to yield? Was it as easy and as un-moral as that? The thing was patent­ly absurd!

The ter­ri­ble silence went on. It became more and more like a face, a face not with­out sad­ness, that looks upon you while you are telling lies, and nev­er inter­rupts, but grad­u­al­ly you know that it knows, and fal­ter, and con­tra­dict your­self, and lapse into silence. The vol­u­ble self petered out in the end, Almost the Dark­ness said to Ran­som, “You know you are only wast­ing time.” Every minute it became clear­er to him that the par­al­lel he had tried to draw between Eden and Pere­landra was crude and imper­fect. What had hap­pened on Earth, when Maleldil was born a man at Beth­le­hem, had altered the uni­verse for ever. The new world of Pere­landra was not a mere rep­e­ti­tion of the old world Tel­lus. Maleldil nev­er repeat­ed Him­self. As the Lady had said, the same wave nev­er came twice. When Eve fell, God was not Man. He had not yet made men mem­bers of His body: since then He had, and through them hence­for­ward He would save and suf­fer. One of the pur­pos­es for which He had done all this was to save Pere­landra not through Him­self but through Him­self in Ran­som. If Ran­som refused, the plan, so far, mis­car­ried. For that point in the sto­ry, a sto­ry far more com­pli­cat­ed than he had con­ceived, it was he who had been select­ed. With a strange sense of “fallings from him, van­ish­ings,” he per­ceived that you might just as well call Pere­landra, not Tel­lus, the cen­tre. You might look upon the Pere­landri­an sto­ry as mere­ly an indi­rect con­se­quence of the Incar­na­tion on earth: or you might look on the Earth sto­ry as mere prepa­ra­tion for the new worlds of which Pere­landra was the first. The one was nei­ther more nor less true than the oth­er. Noth­ing was more or less impor­tant than any­thing else, noth­ing was a copy or mod­el of any­thing else.

At the same time he also per­ceived that his vol­u­ble self had begged the ques­tion. Up to this point the Lady had repelled her assailant. She was shak­en and weary, and there were some stains per­haps in her imag­i­na­tion, but she had stood. In that respect the sto­ry already dif­fered from any­thing that he cer­tain­ly knew about the moth­er of our own race. He did not know whether Eve had resist­ed at all, or if so, for how long. Still less did he know how the sto­ry would have end­ed if she had. If the “ser­pent” had been foiled, and returned the next day, and the next … what then? Would the tri­al have last­ed for ever? How would Maleldil have stopped it? Here on Pere­landra his own intu­ition had been not that no temp­ta­tion must occur but that “This can’t go on.” This stop­ping of a third-degree solic­i­ta­tion, already more than once refused, was a prob­lem to which the ter­res­tri­al Fall offered no clue—a new task, and for that new task a new char­ac­ter in the dra­ma, who appeared (most unfor­tu­nate­ly) to be him­self. In vain did his mind hark back, time after time, to the Book of Gen­e­sis, ask­ing “What would have hap­pened?” But to this it brought him back to the here and the now, and to the grow­ing cer­tain­ty of what was here and now demand­ed. Almost he felt that the words “would have hap­pened” were meaningless—mere invi­ta­tions to wan­der in what the Lady would have called an “along­side world” which had no real­i­ty. Only the actu­al was real: and every actu­al sit­u­a­tion was new. Here in Pere­landra the temp­ta­tion would be stopped by Ran­som, or if would not be stopped at all. The Voice—for it was almost with a Voice that he was now contending—seemed to cre­ate around this alter­na­tive an infi­nite vacan­cy. This chap­ter, this page, this very sen­tence, in the cos­mic sto­ry was utter­ly and eter­nal­ly itself; no oth­er pas­sage that had occurred or ever would occur could be sub­sti­tut­ed for it.

It is not for noth­ing that you are named Ran­som,” said the Voice.

And he knew that this was no fan­cy of his own. He knew it for a very curi­ous reason—because he had known for many years that his sur­name was derived not from ran­som but from Ran­dolf’s son. It would nev­er have occurred to him thus to asso­ciate the two words. To con­nect the name Ran­som with the act of ran­som­ing would have been for him a mere pun. But even his vol­u­ble self did not now dare to sug­gest that the Voice was mak­ing a play upon words. All in a moment of time he per­ceived that what was, to human philol­o­gists, a mere acci­den­tal resem­blance of two sounds, was in truth no acci­dent. The whole dis­tinc­tion between things acci­den­tal and things designed, like the dis­tinc­tion between fact and myth, was pure­ly ter­res­tri­al. The pat­tern is so large that with­in the lit­tle frame of earth­ly expe­ri­ence there appear pieces of it between which we can see no con­nec­tion, and oth­er pieces between which we can. Hence we right­ly, for our use, dis­tin­guish the acci­den­tal from the essen­tial. But step out­side that frame and the dis­tinc­tion drops down into the void, flut­ter­ing use­less wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larg­er pat­tern. He knew now why the old philoso­phers had said that there is no such thing as chance or for­tune beyond the Moon. Before his Moth­er had borne him, before his ances­tors had been called Ran­soms, before ran­som had been the name for a pay­ment that deliv­ers, before the world was made, all these things had so stood togeth­er in eter­ni­ty that the very sig­nif­i­cance of the pat­tern at this point lay in their com­ing togeth­er in just this fash­ion. And he bowed his head and groaned and repined against his fate—to be still a man and yet to be forced up into the meta­phys­i­cal world, to enact what phi­los­o­phy only thinks.

My name also is Ran­som,” said the Voice.

It was some time before the pur­port of this say­ing dawned upon him. He whom the oth­er worlds call Maleldil, was the world’s ran­som, his own ran­som, well he knew. But to what pur­pose was it said now? Before the answer came to him he felt its insuf­fer­able approach and held out his arms before him as if he could keep it from forc­ing open the door of his mind. But it came. So that was the real issue. If he now failed, this world also would here­after be redeemed. If he were not the ran­som, Anoth­er would be. Yet noth­ing was ever repeat­ed. Not a sec­ond cru­ci­fix­ion: perhaps—who knows—not even a sec­ond Incarnation…some act of even more appalling love, some glo­ry of yet deep­er humil­i­ty. For he had seen already how the pat­tern grows and how from each world it sprouts into the next through some oth­er dimen­sion. The small exter­nal evil which Satan had done in Mala­can­dra was only as a line: the deep­er evil he had done in Earth was as a square: if Venus fell, her evil would be a cube—her Redemp­tion beyond con­ceiv­ing. Yet redeemed she would be. He had long known that great issues hung on his choice; but as he now realised the true width of the fright­ful free­dom that was being put into his hands—a width to which all mere­ly spa­tial infin­i­ty seemed narrow—he felt like a man brought out under naked heav­en, on the edge of a precipice, into the teeth of a wind that came howl­ing from the role. He had pic­tured him­self, till now, stand­ing before the Lord, like Peter. But it was worse. He sat before Him like Pilate. It lay with him to save or to spill. His hands had been red­dened, as all men’s hands have been, in the slay­ing before the foun­da­tion of the world; now, if he chose, he would dip them again in the same blood. “Mer­cy,” he groaned; and then, “Lord, why not me?” But there was no answer.

The thing still seemed impos­si­ble. But grad­u­al­ly some­thing hap­pened to him which had hap­pened to him only twice before in his life. It had hap­pened once while he was try­ing to make up his mind to do a very dan­ger­ous job in the last war. It had hap­pened again while he was screw­ing his res­o­lu­tion to go and see a cer­tain man in Lon­don and make to him an exces­sive­ly embar­rass­ing con­fes­sion which jus­tice demand­ed. In both cas­es the thing had seemed a sheer impos­si­bil­i­ty: he had not thought but known that, being what he was, he was psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly inca­pable of doing it; and then, with­out any appar­ent move­ment of the will, as objec­tive and unemo­tion­al as the read­ing on a dial, there had arisen before him, with per­fect cer­ti­tude, the knowl­edge ‘about this time tomor­row you will have done the impos­si­ble’. The same thing hap­pened now. His fear, his shame, his love, all his argu­ments, were not altered in the least. The thing was nei­ther more nor less dread­ful than it had been before. The only dif­fer­ence was that he knew—almost as a his­tor­i­cal proposition—that it was going to be done. He might beg, weep, or rebel—might curse or adore—sing like a mar­tyr or blas­pheme like a dev­il. It made not the slight­est dif­fer­ence. The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unal­ter­able as if he had already per­formed it. It was a mere irrel­e­vant detail that it hap­pened to occu­py the posi­tion we call future instead of that which we call past. The whole strug­gle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of vic­to­ry. You might say, if you liked, that the pow­er of choice had been sim­ply set aside and an inflex­i­ble des­tiny sub­sti­tut­ed for it. On the oth­er hand, you might say that he had been deliv­ered from the rhetoric of his pas­sions and had emerged into unas­sail­able free­dom. Ran­som could not, for the life of him, see any dif­fer­ence between these two state­ments. Pre­des­ti­na­tion and free­dom were appar­ent­ly iden­ti­cal. He could no longer see any mean­ing in the many argu­ments he had heard on this sub­ject.

No soon­er had he dis­cov­ered that he would cer­tain­ly try to kill the Un-man tomor­row than the doing of it appeared to him a small­er mat­ter than he had sup­posed. He could hard­ly remem­ber why he had accused him­self of mega­lo­ma­nia when the idea first occurred to him. It was true that if he left it undone, Maleldil Him­self would do some greater thing instead. In that sense, he stood for Maleldil: but no more than Eve would have stood for Him by sim­ply not eat­ing the apple, or than any man stands for Him in doing any good action. As there was no com­par­i­son in per­son, so there was none in suffering—or only such com­par­i­son as may be between a man who burns his fin­ger putting out a spark and a fire­man who los­es his life in fight­ing a con­fla­gra­tion because that spark was not put out. He asked no longer ‘Why me?’ It might as well be he as anoth­er. It might as well be any oth­er choice as this. The fierce light which he had seen rest­ing on this moment of deci­sion rest­ed in real­i­ty on all.

I have cast your Ene­my into sleep,” said the Voice. “He will not wake till morn­ing. Get up. Walk twen­ty paces back into the wood; there sleep. Your sis­ter sleeps also.”

— Clive Sta­ples Lewis, Pere­landra, Chap­ter 11, 1943 [Empha­sis mine]

Quot­ed here with­out per­mis­sion. As such I hope it may inspire to buy a copy and read it in its entire­ty. This text is copy­right: Smarmy Turtle­necked Trai­tor, The C.S. Lewis Co. Ltd. First Floor, Unit 4, Old Gen­er­a­tor House, Bourne Val­ley Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 1DZ, Tel: 01202 765652, Fax: 01202 765665

I read this over the phone to me mum the on Sept 4th with much expla­na­tion to help her under­stand why I was lean­ing towards ‘Ran­som’ as a mid­dle-name when I final­ly legal­ly change my sur­name. I could­n’t get through it, with­out stop­ping sev­er­al times for sob­bing. This trig­gers in me many of the same strong feel­ings as does Reepichieep­’s “Sweet! Sweet!” or the prompt­ing, “Fur­ther up! Fur­ther in!”. “My name is also Ran­som.” Every time I read it it hits me hard­er than the time before. There are a few oth­er for which the same has been true: God’s Chis­el, The Bird­cage, Erin Fede’s ver­sion of The Life­house “Every­thing” Dra­ma, and the orig­i­nal ver­sion.

I’ll not spoil it fur­ther by adding my own pon­der­ings oth­er than to say that my love for Lewis for his gift­ings grows con­tin­u­al­ly deep­er. He has “made me old­er” on so much that is tru­ly impor­tant. Each time I read him, whether fic­tion or non, I feel as though I am sit­ting at the feet of the wise old Don and drink­ing deeply of great draughts of nour­ish­ing and bol­ster­ing drink. In turn I am filled with grat­i­tude to God for His gift of this man who passed 10 years before I was giv­en life.

3 thoughts on “My name is also Ransom.””

  1. In reread­ing, for the umpteenth time, I tru­ly hope that I nev­er get past: “It is not for noth­ing that you are named Ran­som,” said the Voice. With­out hav­ing some dif­fi­cul­ty read­ing the text through tears. Lewis seems the only one always able to strip me down of all my cyn­i­cism and make me feel as one ought to feel when­ev­er they pon­der the real­i­ty of the gift God has giv­en us. The rest of the time it’s head‑, and yes, heart-knowl­edge, but but always buffered by my cyn­i­cal ana­lyt­i­cal self… all deny­ing me that “Faith like a child.” assuri­ty.

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