Quotations and Allusions
in C. S. Lewis, Perelandra
compiled by Arend Smilde (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
C. S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra (1943), like most of his books, contains a great number of allusions to unspecified books and situations. Here is a listing by chapter and sub-chapter of many such words and phrases with brief references to what I have found to be their sources. I have also included a few other items where a short explanation may be of use to some readers. The list is based on notes I made for my Dutch translation of this book, published in 2006.
Double question marks in bold type ( ?? ) mark those places where I am still hoping to find relevant details. Additions, corrections, and proposals for new entries are welcome.
Page numbers in square brackets refer to the first edition.
some ladies at Wantage
These “ladies” are the nuns of the Community of St Mary the Virgin, founded in 1848 as one of the first Anglican religious orders. They lived in a convent at Wantage, a place some 25 km south of Oxford. One of them, sister Penelope, wrote to Lewis in August 1939 to thank him for his first science-fiction book, Out of the Silent Planet. A fruitful pen-friendship followed. The Mother Superior invited Lewis to come and talk to the Junior Sisters in April 1942, when he had nearly finished writing Perelandra. Two years later he wrote an introduction for Sister Penelope’s translation of Athanasius, De incarnatione Verbi (The Incarnation of the Word of God, 1944). Lewis’s Collected Letters contain 41 letters to her from the years 1939–1957.
CHAPTER 1 [pp. 7–20 in the first edition]
creatures called eldila 
“Eldil” is one of several names and words in the Ransom trilogy which Lewis probably borrowed, loosely, from his friend J. R. R. Tolkien long before The Lord of the Rings was finished. Tolkien later pointed out that “the Eldils ... owe something to the Eldar in my work” (letter of 17 July 1971 to Roger Lancelyn Green, quoted in Green & Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography, revised ed. 2002, p. 210).
H. G. Wells 
Wells (1866–1946) was a pioneer of English science fiction and, as such, an inspiration for C. S. Lewis. Lewis acknowledged his debt in a prefatory note in Out of the Silent Planet.
A name for the inhabitants of the Moon in H. G. Wells’s novel The First Men in the Moon (1901); derived from the Greek word selene, “Moon”.
from a Latin word for the planet Earth, tellus.
from the Greek word archôn, “leader” or “director”, a general title for high magistrates in ancient Greece. In the early centuries of the Christian era, the name was used by the Gnostics for the seven rulers of the seven celestial spheres, each of which was linked up with one of the known planets, which included the Sun and the Moon.
Natvilcius [19, note]
a fictitious name for a fictitious figure; it is a Latinized form of Nat Whilk, Anglo-Saxon for “I know not who”. Lewis occasionally used “Nat Whilk” or “N.W.” as a pseudonym when he published a poem. The personal notes he made after the death of his wife in 1960 (A Grief Observed, 1961) were initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.
your familiar 
i.e. “familiar spirit” – a kind of spirit which often assumes animal form and is supposed to attend and aid a witch, wizard etc.
CHAPTER 2 [first ed. pp. 21–34]
A fancy Greek word for “light-body”.
the defence of Moscow 
Lewis began writing Perelandra in the autumn of 1941, when the German invasion of Russia began to falter as the winter set in before Moscow was captured.
powers and principalities 
Schiaparelli ... is all wrong [27, 33]
Finding out the rotation period of Venus has indeed long been impossible because of the cloud cover. From the 17th century till the 19th, estimates varied from about 23 hours to about 24 Earth days, until Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835–1910) concluded from his observations in 1877–1878 that Venus rotates on itself in the same time as its revolution around the Sun (224.7 days). The truth at last came out by radar observations in 1962. The planet’s rotation on itself was found to be retrograde and take 243 days – slower than its journey round the Sun. This means that a day on Venus begins in the West and has a duration of 116 Earth days.
hopes deferred 
all the earth became full of darkness and cruel habitations 
CHAPTER 3 [first ed. pp. 34–49]
B. … who is an Anthroposophist … “seeing life” in a very different sense 
A barely hidden allusion to Lewis’s friend Owen Barfield (1898-1997), who became an anthroposophist in 1923. Anthroposophy is a school of thought and mental training program for discovery of a spiritual world. It was founded by Rudolf Steiner in the early twentieth century as a secession from the Theosophical Society.
CHAPTER 4 [first ed. pp. 49–65]
garden of the Hesperides 
In Greek mythology, this is a garden at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in North-West Africa, present-day Morocco. There the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas and Hesperis, were guarding a tree with golden apples and were helped in this task by a dragon.
One-eyed giants in Greek mythology.
the verse in Pope, “die of a rose in aromatic pain” 
Alexander Pope (1688–1744), An Essay on Man I, 200.
“Sober certainty of waking bliss” 
John Milton (1608–1674), Comus, 263.
Circe or Alcina 
In Greek mythology, Circe is a well-known sorceress. She lived on the island of Aeaea, where she had the habit of turning visitors into animals. Alcina is an wicked sorceress in Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533) with a role roughly similar to that of Circe.
a Titian satyr 
Half-human creature in Greek mythology as depicted by the Italian painter Titan (c. 1490–1576).
CHAPTER 5 [first ed. pp. 65–79]
walking before him as if on the other side of a brook, was the Lady herself... 
Cf. Dante, Purgatorio XVIII, 34–42. Lewis pointed out the parallel between his Green Lady and Dante’s Matilda in a letter of 29 October 1944 to Charles A. Brady (Collected Letters II, p. 630).
I was young today … tomorrow I shall be older … [65-66]
As pointed out by Sanford Schwartz in his 2009 study* of the Ransom trilogy, Lewis in Perelandra draws heavily on some central ideas of French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) − including Bergson’s notion of reality as, fundamentally, a perpetual spontaneous movement toward novel forms of life and ever-higher levels of development. Time, in this context, has no length or meaning apart from the absolutely new states which are constantly but unpredictably being produced.
For an instructive general account of Bergson’s career as a thinker from the days when Lewis absorbed his thought, see also T. E. Hulme’s essay “The Philosophy of Intensive Manifolds” in Speculations (1924).
* C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy (Oxford University Press, 2009), chapter II, “Paradise Reframed: Keeping Time on Planet Venus”.
Nature goddess of the ancient Greeks. In Ilias (XXI, 470) she is called the queen of wild beasts; in classical literature she often appears as the goddess of hunting. The Romans identified her with Diana.
in ancient Greece, a female participant in festivities in honour of the god Bacchus (Dionysos).
Only my spirit praises Maleldil who comes down from Deep Heaven into this lowness and will make me to be blessed by all the times... 
There is a strong resemblance here to the “Magnificat”, the song of Mary in the Gospel of Luke 1:46–55.
Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it 
Cf. Gospel of John 11:33–38, where Jesus “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled”, and “wept”, at the sight of the people who wept over the death of Lazarus.
CHAPTER 6 [first ed. pp. 79–96]
Giant’s Causeway 
A part of the north coast of Antrim, Northern Ireland, with thousands of basalt columns.
Something like a shooting star seemed to have streaked across the sky 
Cf. Luke 10:18, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven’; and Revelation 8:10–11, “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp ... and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.’
The sea beside the island was a mass of the large silver fishes 
As the Green Lady’s first appearance mirrors an episode in Dante (see note to chapter 5, p. 65), so the present scene might be an echo of what Lewis read in De planctu Naturae, “The Complaint of Nature”, by 12th-century author Alanus ab Insulis. In The Allegory of Love, chapter II.6, p. 107, Lewis translated a passage describing how the whole world rejoiced at the coming of the virgin Natura: “...The fishes, even, swimming up to the eyebrows of the waves, so far forth as the lumpish kind of their sensuality suffered them, foretold by their glad cheer the coming of their lady...”
CHAPTER 7 [first ed. pp. 96–111]
Cambridge combination room 
British universities such as those of Oxford and Cambridge are organized as a group of largely independent colleges. Each college has its own “Common Rooms”, usually three: Junior, Middle and Senior, for students, graduates and tenured staff respectively. In Cambridge the term for these rooms is “Combination Room”, and in addition to them there is a Combination Room for the university as a whole.
“between the stars” or possibly “between the galaxies”; derived from sidus, a Latin word for star or constellation.
emergent evolution 
Title of a book, Emergent Evolution (1923) by C. Lloyd Morgan (1852–1936), where it is argued that physical and psychic events are all part of a single natural order and, further, that this order does not evolve gradually – as Darwin thought – but through sudden and unpredictable phenomena, called “emergents”. Morgan borrowed the word from George Henry Lewes, a nineteenth century author who used it in his Problems of Life and Mind (1873–1879).
God is a spirit 
Latin word for “exertion” or “forward urge”. In the present context Lewis is almost certainly borrowing the word from Space, Time and Deity (1920) by the Australian philosopher Samuel Alexander, who professed a type of “emergent-evolutionism”. While Lewis remained unimpressed by Alexander’s main argument, the book played a small but vital part in his conversion to Christianity, as described in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, chapter 14.
qui dort dîne 
(French) “Who sleeps, dines” (i.e. sleeping allows one to go without food).
CHAPTER 8 [first ed. pp. 111–121]
when the morning stars sang together 
Cf. Job 38:7, God answering Job “out of the whirlwind”: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ... when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’
CHAPTER 9 [first ed. pp. 122–141]
a man who had been on the Somme 
i.e. a man who as a soldier in the First World War had taken part in the great and calamitous battles in the area around the Somme river in northern France, in the summer of 1916, where hundreds of thousands of young men were killed.
it is for this that I came here, that you may have Death in abundance 
Cf. John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
More or less the same play on these words is made by G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, chapter VI, “The Five Deaths of the Faith”, par. 8, when he is describing the Albigensian heresy as
Schopenhauer hovering over the future; but it was also Manichaeus rising from the dead; that men might have death and that they might have it more abundantly.
As a background to this background, it is interesting to note a reference to Schopenhauer by Bernard Shaw in his Preface to Back to Methuselah (1920), as he is discussing the pre-Darwinian evolutionism of Lamarck:
In 1819 Schopenhauer published his treatise on The World as Will, which is the metaphysical complement to Lamarck’s natural history, as it demonstrates that the driving force behind Evolution is a will-to-live, and to live, as Christ said long before, more abundantly.
Felix peccatum Adae 
“Happy sin of Adam”; see also chapter 17 [p. 248]: “the sin whereby it came is called Fortunate”. The phrase seems to be loosely borrowed from the Exsultet (or Exultet), hymn for the evening before Easter Day in the Roman Catholic liturgy. The relevant lines are:
O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est!
O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!
(“O truly necessary sin of Adam, which the death of Christ has blotted out! / O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”). As John Hick notes in his 1966 book Evil and the God of Love (ch. XIII.1, p. 280, note 1 or ch. XII.1 in the 1977 edition):
The date and the authorship of this Exultet are uncertain. It has been attributed, but without adequate evidence, to St. Augustine, to St. Ambrose, and to Gregory the Great. As part of the Easter liturgy it goes back at least to the seventh century and possibly to the beginnings of the fifth century. On its history see Arthur O. Lovejoy, Essays in the History of Ideas, 1948 (New York: Capricorn Books, 1960), pp. 286-7.
CHAPTER 10 [first ed. pp. 142–158]
the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman 
Shakespeare, King Lear, III.4.
A demon with a pseudo-Greek or pseudo-Hebrew name, first appearing in the late medieval German legend of Dr Faustus. Lewis/Ransom must be thinking of the way he appears in Goethe’s play Faust, as “the sneering, jeering, leering tempter” (Brewer’s Phrase and Fable). At the beginning of the second “Study” scene, Mephistopheles says to Faust:
So gefällst du mir.
Wir werden, hoff ich, uns vertragen;
Denn dir die Grillen zu verjagen,
Bin ich als edler Junker hier,
In rotem, goldverbrämtem Kleide,
Das Mäntelchen von starrer Seide,
Die Hahnenfeder auf dem Hut,
Mit einem langen, spitzen Degen,
Und rate nun dir, kurz und gut,
Dergleichen gleichfalls anzulegen;
Damit du, losgebunden, frei,
Erfahrest, was das Leben sei.
That I like to hear.
We shall, I hope, bear with each other;
For to dispel thy crotchets, brother,
As a young lord, I now appear,
In scarlet dress, trimmed with gold lacing,
A stiff silk cloak with stylish facing,
A tall cock’s feather in my hat,
A long, sharp rapier to defend me,
And I advise thee, short and flat,
In the same costume to attend me;
If thou wouldst, unembarrassed, see
What sort of thing this life may be.
(transl. Charles T. Brooks, 1868)
Paradise Lost 
Main work of John Milton (1608–1674), English poet. Lewis discussed Satan’s character as presented by Milton in A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942), chapter XIII.
what “creative” meant ... she laughed for a whole minute on end 
cf. George Macdonald in his sermon “The Creation in Christ” (Unspoken Sermons, third series, Nr. 1):
The word creation applied to the loftiest success of human genius, seems to me a mockery of humanity, itself in process of creation.
Lewis selected this fragment as Nr. 171 in his Macdonald Anthology (1946).
Iulia Agrippina or “Agrippina minor” (15–59 c.e.), fourth and last wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, who was her third husband and was probably poisoned by her; mother of Nero, who put her to death after she had helped him to become the next emperor. Like Messalina, Claudius’ first wife, she was notorious for her ambition and cruelty.
Lady Macbeth 
wife of the tragic hero in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. She encourages him to murder his King and succeed to the throne; after this she maintains self-control for some time but in the end the consciousness of her guilt drives her mad.
CHAPTER 11 [first ed. pp. 159–171]
“’Tis not in mortals to command success” 
Joseph Addison (1672–1719), Cato, I.2, 43.
Horatius stood on the bridge 
Horatius Cocles (“the one-eyed”), a legendary hero of early Roman history. He defended, all alone, the wooden bridge over the Tiber against approaching enemies so that the Romans were able to demolish the bridge. He then leapt into the river and crossed it swimming. The usual way for this story to reach British people of Ransom’s generation would be through Lord Macaulay’s poetic rendering in Lays of Ancient Rome (1842).
Constantine the Great (c. 280–337), Roman emperor. During the time (306–324) of his struggle for power over the whole empire he became a champion of Christianity. He was baptised shortly before his death.
“fallings from him, vanishings” 
William Wordsworth (1770–1850), Ode. Intimations of Immortality, IX (“Fallings from us, vanishings...”).
lose his nerve as St. Peter had done 
sat before Him like Pilate 
the slaying before the foundation of the world 
Cf. Revelation 13:8.
CHAPTER 12 [first ed. pp. 171–183]
“When I wake up after Thy image, I shall be satisfied” 
“Eloi, Eoli, lama sabachthani” 
The Battle of Maldon 
Old English poem, probably dating from the tenth century.
In mathematics, a surd is an expression containing one or more irrational roots of numbers, such as √2.
The idea that something which had once been of his own kind ... might even now be imprisoned in the thing he was pursuing redoubled his hatred 
Cf. George MacDonald in Unspoken Sermons I, on “Love thine enemy”:
It is the very presence of this fading humanity that makes it possible for us to hate. If it were an animal only, and not a man or a woman that did us hurt, we should not hate: we should only kill. We hate the man just because we are prevented from loving him. We push over the verge of the creation – we damn – just because we cannot embrace.
My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind, so flew’d so sanded... 
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, IV.1.
CHAPTER 14 [first ed. pp. 197–210]
Main work of the Roman poet Virgil (70–19 b.c.).
Chanson de Roland 
“Song of Roland”, Old French epic poem about an episode in the exploits of Charlemagne and his faithful in Spain.
Finnish national epic, compiled from folk poetry in the years 1835–1849 by the Finnish philologist Elias Lönnrot.
The Hunting of the Snark 
a long nonsense poem (1876) by Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.
a rhyme about Germanic sound-laws 
C. S. Lewis himself wrote such a rhyme early in his career as a tutor in Oxford, as a playful protest against an unreadable textbook that was in use at the time. Its opening lines are printed in Walter Hooper’s preface to Lewis’s Selected Literary Essays (Cambridge University Press 1969), page xv.
corridor train 
A train in the now usual sense that wagons are connected by a corridor through which passengers can go from one wagon to the next.
CHAPTER 15 [first ed. pp. 210–223]
a wound in his heel 
Cf. Gen. 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Compare also chapter 14, p. 209: “the face smashed out of all recognition.”
See note to chapter 1, p. 10, Tellurian.
CHAPTER 16 [first ed. pp. 223–235]
Elwin, the friend of the eldila 
In fact, the name (and variants like Alwin, Alvin and Elvin) derives from Anglo-Saxon Aelf-wine, “friend of the elves”.
one of Maleldil’s sayers 
The apostle Paul, in Galatians 4:1–7. One of C. S. Lewis’s favourite comments on that Bible passage no doubt was in George Macdonald’s sermon “Abba, Father!” (in Unspoken Sermons, second series, 1885).
concentric wheels 
cf. Ezekiel 1:16, “Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” In a letter of 4 March 1953, Lewis acknowledged, in a general way, his “heavy debt to Ezekiel” for the way he described his eldils (Collected Letters III, p. 302).
archaic statues from Ægina 
Ægina is an island in the Saronic Gulf, south of Athens. Fifteen statues found on this island have since the 19th century been considered as supreme examples of archaic sculpture.
like a quantitative ... like an accentual metre 
In poetry, “quantitative” metres produce their rhythmic effects chiefly by the varied lengths of the syllables, i.e. the time it takes to pronounce them; “accentual” metres produce their effects chiefly by the varied tonic stress (loudness) of the syllables. Most poetry in the modern European languages is “accentual”, as the speech rhythms of these languages (with the exception of French) naturally lend themselves to this form. Classical Greek and Latin poetry is “quantitative”.
A faint breath, as Virgil says, reaches even the late generations 
Aeneid VII, 646.
Mars and Venus ... the follies that have been talked of them on Earth 
Viz. the idea that Aphrodite (Venus) was married to Hephaestus, the smith, and committed adultery with Ares (Mars). One of many allusions to this in European literature is in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (I.5), where the eunuch Mardian says, “Yet have I fierce affections, and think / What Venus did with Mars.”
CHAPTER 17 [first ed. pp. 235–256]
Tor and Tinidril, Baru and Baru’ah, Ask and Embla, Yatsur and Yatsura 
A heterogeneous series of names for the first pair of humans.
– Tor and Tinidril, according to Tolkien, “are clearly Tor and his elf-wife Idril blended with Tinuviel (the second name of Luthien)”, i.e. the names are derived from those of characters in Tolkien’s work; see his letter of 1971, already quoted in the note on eldila in chapter 1.
– A baru, in ancient Assyro-Babylonian religion, was a soothsayer acting as prophet and intermediary of Shamash, the god of divination. Baru’ah is probably an invented female form. If Lewis was indeed referring to this baru, it is curious that he shouldn't have rather chosen the god Shamash and his sister Ishtar, since the latter goddess represented the planet Venus.
– Ask and Embla are the first two human beings according to one old Norse creation myth. Three gods walking along the seashore find two trees and make them into the first man and a woman. Ask or Askr is sometimes thought to have denoted an ash tree; Embla an elm. One place where the story appears is the Poetic Edda, “Völuspá”, stanza 17.
– Yatsur is Hebrew for the experience of being kneaded or moulded into the right form; it is the passive participle of the verb yatsar. Its use, along with a female variant, as a name for the first human pair is perhaps an invention of Lewis’s.
Animal rationale 
A well-known definition of “human being” in some ancient and medieval philosophers including Seneca and St Thomas Aquinas.
“The Great Dance does not wait to be perfect...” 
The whole of the following hymnic episode was rewritten as a poem – “done into irregular Spenserian stanzas” – by Ruth Pitter (1897–1992), a friend of Lewis from 1946 onwards. This version was first published in Don W. King, C. S. Lewis, Poet: The legacy of his poetic impulse (Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 2001), Appendix I/5. More readily available, the poem is also included in King’s online essay, “The Poetry of Prose: C. S. Lewis, Ruth Pitter, and Perelandra”.
“Spenserian stanzas” are stanzas in the form invented by Edmund Spenser for his long allegorical poem The Faerie Queene (1596). They consist of eight jambic pentameters followed by one jambic alexandrine, with the rhyme scheme a b a b b c b c c. Pitter’s choice for this model is highly appropriate in light of what Lewis wrote about Spenser at the end of The Allegory of Love, pp. 357–359 and especially in lecture notes on Spenser as edited by Alastair Fowler, published as Spenser’s Images of Life (1967), p. 95–96:
What Spenser has done is to make an image of the whole of life, a hymn to the universe that he and his contemporaries believed themselves to inhabit. ... For the universe, as they conceived it, is a great dance or ceremony or society. It is Chalcidius’ caelestis chorea and Alanus’ cosmic city of which Earth is a suburb.
On Chalcidius (a 4th-century writer and perhaps a Christian) as the probable origin of the “Great Dance” idea, and also on Alanus (a French 12th-century writer developing this idea) see Lewis’s The Discarded Image (1964), pp. 55 and 58.
the sin whereby it came is called Fortunate 
See note to chapter 9 [p. 138], Felix peccatum Adae.
This is the Morning Star 
Glund ... Lurga ... Neruval 
The planets Jupiter, Saturn and (presumably) Uranus.
the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep
cf. Plato’s creation story in Timaeus 37d-38b (translation R. D. Archer Hind, 1888):
... he essayed to make this All [i.e. the physical
universe] the like [i.e. like its pattern or ideal] to the best of his power.
Now so it was that the nature of the ideal was eternal. But to bestow this
attribute altogether upon a created thing was impossible; so he bethought him
to make a moving image of eternity, and while he was ordering the universe he
made of eternity that abides in unity an eternal image moving according to
number, even that which we have named Time. ... Time then has come into being
along with the universe ... and it was made after the pattern of the eternal
nature, that it might be as like to it as was possible.
The animals had gone ... “Where are the beasts?” 
cf. Spenser’s Faerie Queene, VII.7.59, final lines of the “Two Cantos of Mutabilitie”:
Then was that whole assembly
And Natur’s selfe did vanish, whither no man wist.
We are coming to have it in our own choice... 
cf. The Faerie Queene, VII.7.58 (“them” refers to “all things”, including the gods or planets):
Then over them Change doth not rule and raigne;
But they raigne over change, and do their states maintaine.
4 September 2008 (reference to Chesterton in note to ch. 9, “It is for this that I came here”).
8 March 2009 (added note on George MacDonald about hatred in ch. 12)
20 January 2011 (minor corrections; expanded note on Great Dance in ch. 17)
29 May 2013 (two final references to Spenser’s Mutability Cantos)
10 June 2015 (revised note on felix peccatum Adae in ch. 9)
14 October 2015 (added note on the end and final cause in ch. 17)
7 January 2019 (added note on I was young today in ch. 5)
15 June 2020 (added notes on B. … who is an Anthroposophist in ch. 3; on Cambridge combination room and qui dort dîne in ch. 7, on surd in ch. 12, and on corridor train in ch. 14.
27 November 2020 (minor correction to note on Agrippina in ch. 10)