(urth) C.S. Lewis's influence

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Tue Sep 4 14:45:34 PDT 2007

> I recently read C.S. Lewis's "Ransom trilogy" for the first time
> (comprising Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous
> Strength).

Lucky you! I read them in jr. high school, and missed a lot. While that
gave me much to catch on rereads, I never had the experience of a
reasonably-informed first reading.

> I was struck by how much of Lewis's cosmology winds up in
> Wolfe's works.

H'mmm. While I am certainly not prepared to deny any influence of Lewis
upon Wolfe, I am inclined to think that it's partly a matter of co-influence
-- i.e., Wolfe's being influenced by Chesterton, whom Lewis also greatly
admired -- among other things ... especially ...

> It's hard to imagine that Wolfe wasn't thinking of the
> eldila and the Oyéresu when he wrote about the Heirodules and the
> Heirogrammates.  The comparison isn't perfect, primarily because the
> eldila and Oyéresu seem to have been created as angels by God, but
> clearly Tzadkiel is, in some sense, the Oyarsa of Urth.

Ummm: I think not-so-much. The Oyèrsu (congrats on getting the Old
Solar plural right; most people just say "Oyarsas") hearken back -- as
much in Lewis's fiction does -- to the medieval. Specifically, to the
concept of "planetary intelligences," angels whose "job" it was to
guide the planets through their stately dance to the Music of the Spheres.
Lewis was fascinated by this concept and wrote at least one longish
poem about the planetary angels.

Wolfe's ideas here are (I think) a bit more idiosyncratic. While I imagine
he was probably aware of the concept of the planetary intelligences,
I don't think he had them in mind in creating the Hiero*s. And Tzadkiel
is certainly *NOT* equivalent to Lewis's Oyarsa of Urth; that is Satan.

> Wolfe's temporal aspect of the three planets Skuld, Urth, and
> Verthandi, may have been influenced by Lewis's conception of a
> temporal order to the solar system (the outer planets are older and
> the inner planets are newer).  In Lewis you also have the idea of the
> Earth, as a planetary body -- not merely humanity as a fallen creature
> -- as the object of cleansing and renewal.

These things all hearken back to the medieval, and Wolfe clearly
consulted a fair amount of medieval -- specifically, Byzantine --
history in creating the world of the New Sun. Again, not to deny that
there is any influence from CSL to GW, but to urge caution where
common sources may be involved.

> There are other similarities to recurring themes in Wolfe's works,
> such as the beast-men of Malacandra (compare them to the animal tribes
> of "Tracking Song") and the attempts to synthesize Christianity, the
> Greek myths, and Arthurian legends.  Perhaps all this is not news to
> any of you, but I just hadn't seen a lot of discussion of Lewis's
> influence, and I was shocked by the sense of familiarity, especially
> in reading Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.

This is fascinating to me, for I grew up with Lewis, had read the
trilogy several times before tSotT came out, and I quite honestly
never felt that sense of familiarity in going the other direction.

Again, not to deny your perception.
Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
I am miserable, he is miserable,
We are miserable.
Can't we have a party? Would he rather have a party?

More information about the Urth mailing list