Since I talked about Wells’ interpretation of Martians yesterday, I thought that it would be lovely to share with you some Martians, or rather, extra-terrestrial beings, that I met and enjoyed the company of a while ago. These extra-terrestrial beings I speak of are C. S. Lewis’ creations. I made their acquaintance mid last year. They are the hrossa, the séroni, and the pfifltriggi, the inhabitants of Mars of Malacandra, from the first book in the Cosmic Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, published 1962.
My favourite of them were the hrossa, singularly hross. They are like great, tall, thin, otters – taller and thinner than humans. They live in the low river valleys or handramit as it is known in the speech of the eldila. They are farmers and fishers, but relish in the performing arts, especially dancing, and are gifted poets, though they don’t write their compositions down. Their only coverings are pocketed loincloths, and the boats that they build resemble human canoes. Their special manner of speech is characterised by the initial ‘h’ sound that is attached to the beginning of their words. I don’t remember all the details of them myself, (I had to do a touch of research to give you this basic information), but the one lasting impression of the hrossa that I carried since reading the book was the very dog-like and parental affection displayed by the main hross, Hyoi, towards Dr Ransom. He was so very endearing and the hrossa in general came across as a very authentic, compassionate and, I suppose, just ‘in touch’ race. In touch with the land, like the American Indians or the Aboriginals, and in touch with nature, each other and other creatures.
The séroni, or singularly, sorn, are thin, fifteen-foot-high humanoid creatures, which , when first introduced, appear terrifying and menacing. They have coats of light feathers and seven fingers on each hand. Their homes are in the mountain caves of the high country or harandra, in the speech of the eldila, but they often descend into the handramit where they keep their livestock, (giraffe-like creatures). They are scholars and great thinkers, and delve into science and abstract learning. They design machinary, which is then built by the pfifltriggi. They can write, but choose not to write works of fiction or history as they consider the hrossa to be superior at this task.
The pfifltriggi, singularly pfifltrigg, are frog-like in shape, with heads like a tapir’s which bulge at the rear with the shape of their brain. When they rest, they lean on the ground on their elbows. They move quite quickly and insect-like in manner. They are miners, builders and technicians, who build houses, machinery and various gadgets designed by the séroni. They mind minerals especially gold, which they know as “sun’s blood”. They are said to wear a form of clothing, and are depicted as wearing protective goggles for their eyes.
What I thought was very cool about these hnau, (a word used in reference to sentient or reasoning beings, humans included), is that they are “unfallen”. They are completely free of the propensity to sin that lies in human beings. The connection between these three races is somewhere between that of equals and that of a human to an animal, “mirrored in the way that humans tend to anthropomorphise pets”. They just acknowledge each other as equal and necessary.
While I was researching, I also stumbled across a little bit of random but thoroughly fascinating fact that describes the appearances C. S. Lewis’ extra-terrestrial beings in other literary works. I never knew they had appeared in other literary works, so at least I learnt something today.
Apparently, all three of them are mentioned as included in the races living on Mars in Rainbow Mars, Larry Niven’s 1999 novel. In this, they are referred to as the “Pious Ones” by the Barsoomian races. Ha ha! Fancy that!
At the beginning of the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the séroni are mentioned as being one of the Martian races allied against the Martians from The War of the Worlds, referred to as the “mollusc invaders”. I am sensing strong presence of inter-textual referencing here!
In Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, hieroglyphics appear to describe the hrossa, séroni and pfifltriggi as the orginal races of Mars. It also says that they were made extinct when the War of the Worlds Martians arrived. Once again, major inter-textual reference.
It’s kind of amazing how I’ve mentioned H. G. Wells’ and C. S. Lewis’ Martians in relation to each other, ignorant entirely of how close they had become in other science fictions. I find that really incredible. But I think that it’s good, too, even though it’s very strange. Both alien races are spectacularly depicted and spectacularly designed. They both deserve to be well-remembered. And of course, I vouch especially for the hrossa.