Our galaxy, the Field of Arbol, contains many races of intelligent extraterrestrial.
It was something like a penguin, something like an otter, something like a seal; the slenderness and flexibility of the body suggested a giant stoat. The great round head, heavily whiskered, was mainly responsible for the suggestion of seal; but it was higher in the forehead than a seal's and the mouth was smaller. [...]
It was only many days later that Ransom discovered how to deal with these sudden losses of confidence. They arose when the rationality of the hross tempted you to think of it as a man. Then it became abominable – a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat. But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have – glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth – and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason. Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other. It all depended on the point of view. [...]
To every man, in his acquaintance with a new art, there comes a moment when
that which before was meaningless first lifts, as it were, one corner of the curtain that
hides its mystery, and reveals, in a burst of delight which later and fuller understanding
can hardly ever equal, one glimpse of the indefinite possibilities within. For Ransom,
this moment had now come in his understanding of Malacandrian song. Now first he
saw that its rhythms were based on a different blood from ours, on a heart that beat more
quickly, and a fiercer internal heat. Through his knowledge of the creatures and his love
for them he began, ever so little, to hear it with their ears. A sense of great masses
moving at visionary speeds, of giants dancing, of eternal sorrows eternally
consoled, of he knew not what and yet what he had always known, awoke in him
with the very first bars of the deep-mouthed dirge, and bowed down his spirit as
if the gate of heaven had opened before him.
— Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis
Hrossa are amphibious in the manner of otters, and a hross resembles an otter, only more stretched out in proportion and short-tailed, standing seven feet high when erect. They walk erect on land, though they are equally at home in water.
They are covered with sleek fur, black, silver, white, golden, or brown. The brown race is the great crested hross, standing ten feet high; only the males are crested.
Hrossa live about 160 years. They marry around age 40 and are naturally monogamous. The sexes are more naturally egalitarian than with humans.
Hrossa excel in the performing arts – poetry, music, dance, and drama. They also do much to grow and catch food for the Malacandrian economy. They live beside the great canals that crisscross the planet, where they farm and cultivate an oyster-like shellfish (the only meat eaten on Malacandra). They also enjoy hunting the ichthyosaur-like hnakra when it invades their waters.
None of these activities require high technology, and, since technology does not interest hrossa, they don't have much. They live in simple huts, in villages, and could be mistaken for primitives, except for the odd bits of high-tech acquired in trade or gift from the other races. And they don't sound at all primitive when they sing.
They were quite unlike the horrors his imagination had conjured up, and for that reason had taken him off his guard. They appealed away from the Wellsian fantasies to an earlier, almost an infantile, complex of fears. Giants - ogres - ghosts - skeletons: those were its key words. Spooks on stilts, he said to himself; surrealistic bogy-men with their long faces. [...]
The face, it was true, took a good deal of getting used to - it was too long, too solemn and too colourless, and it was much more unpleasantly like a human face than any inhuman creature's face ought to be. Its eyes, like those of all very large creatures, seemed too small for it. But it was more grotesque than horrible. A new conception of the sorns began to arise in his mind: the ideas of 'giant' and 'ghost' receded behind those of 'goblin' and 'gawk.' [...]
'Ogres' he had called them when they first met his eyes as he struggled in the grip of Weston and Devine; 'Titans' or 'Angels' he now thought would have been a better word. Even the faces, it seemed to him, he had not then seen aright. He had thought them spectral when they were only august, and his first human reaction to their lengthened severity of line and profound stillness of expression now appeared to him not so much cowardly as vulgar. So might Parmenides or Confucius look to the eyes of a Cockney schoolboy!
— Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis
Seroni, or "sorns," are roughly humanoid, but stand fourteen feet high and are very thin and gangling in proportion. Their legs are so long, in relation to their bodies, that their knees are above their heads when they sit on the ground. Their heads are high and conical; their faces looking, to humans, like caricatures, thin, with long, sharp noses and jaws. They have long, claw-like digits, seven on each hand and foot.
Their chests are puffed out, like a pouter pigeon, to accommodate large lungs, for sorns live up on the rims of the handramits – the huge canyons that the canals run through – where the air is thin. Their bodies are covered with a coat of feathers, and the males have feathery beards. Their plumage may be white, golden, or red.
Sorns live over 200 years. They start marrying around age 50, going through a series of rationally arranged term-marriages lasting about 30 years each – senior sorns deciding who marries whom, on bases of practicality and a good match of skill sets.
Male sorns are the academics of Malacandra – scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, historians. They invented most of Malacandra's super-science, which is known to include astronomical instruments that can image planets across hundreds of light-years and methods of dematerialization.
Male and female sorns tend to lead separate lives. While the males form their academic community, the females form a community of cottage industries, manufacturing most of the daily-use artifacts of Malacandra.
Sorns live in towers and cave-complexes up on the boundary between handramit and harandra (the table-lands above the canyons). Their homes are generally of a monastic sparseness, but are equipped with whatever technology they want for their work, for they are always inventing or researching something.
The tapping instantly stopped and a remarkable face appeared from behind a
It was hairless like a man's or a sorn's. It was long and pointed like a shrew's, yellow and shabby-looking, and so low in the forehead that but for the heavy development of the head at the back and behind the ears (like a bag-wig) it could not have been that of an intelligent creature. A moment later the whole of the thing came into view with a startling jump. Ransom guessed that it was a pfifltrigg – and was glad that he had not met one of this third race on his first arrival in Malacandra. It was much more insect-like or reptilian than anything he had yet seen. [...] It was rather like a grasshopper, rather like one of Arthur Rackham's dwarfs, rather like a frog, and rather like a little old taxidermist whom Ransom knew in London. [...]
"In our country," said Kanakaberaka, "it is not like this. We are not pinched in a narrow handramit. There are the true forests, the green shadows, the deep mines. It is warm. It does not blaze with light like this, and it is not silent like this. I could put you in a place there in the forests where you could see a hundred fires at once and hear a hundred hammers. I wish you had come to our country. We do not live in holes like the sorns nor in bundles of weed like the hrossa. I could show you houses with a hundred pillars, one of suns' blood and the next of stars' milk, all the way ... and all the world painted on the walls."
— Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis
Pfifltriggi are somewhat smaller than humans, with frog-like bodies and tapir-like faces. Their noses wiggle a lot as part of their facial expressions. They have disproportionately long arms, with pads on the elbows; they walk on these elbows, rather than on their hands – when they walk at all, for they hop a great deal. Their skins may be white, yellow, brown, or black; this sounds humanlike, but there is a red undertone to human skins that is lacking in a pfifltrig. Alone among Malacandrian races, they routinely wear clothing.
Pfifltriggi hatch from eggs and live about 80 years. The males marry at about 20, if they can find a harem to accept them. The harem is a multi-generational family of females, similar to a lion pride or elephant herd, ruled by a matriarch. She will marry the entire harem to a roughly equal number of males.
Pfifltriggi are the technicians and engineers of Malacandra. They make what the sorns design, and elaborate and develop these inventions (if it's interesting enough; they leave the making of dull but useful stuff to the female sorns). They are also the sculptors, painters, architects, jewelers, and so on. Pfifltriggi do not look beautiful to human eyes, but their works are magnificent, in marked contrast to the rustic primitivism of the hrossa and the stark functionality of the sorns.
Pfifltriggi live in large cities of beautiful architecture, down in the sunken plains that are Malacandra's ancient sea beds. Often, these cities are built over mines, which are both beautiful and efficient within.
Never had Ransom seen a face
so calm, and so unearthly, despite the full humanity of every feature. He
decided afterwards that the unearthly quality was due to the complete absence of
that element of resignation which mixes, in however slight a degree, with all
profound stillness in terrestrial faces. This was a calm which no storm had ever
For now he realised that the word 'human' refers to something more than the bodily form or even to the rational mind. It refers also to that community of blood and experience which unites all men and women on the Earth. But this creature was not of his race; no windings, however intricate, of any genealogical tree could ever establish a connection between himself and her. In that sense, not one drop in her veins was 'human'. The universe had produced her species and his quite independently.
[...] remembering all that he had read in her countenance before, the unselfconscious radiance, the frolic sanctity, the depth of stillness that reminded him sometimes of infancy and sometimes of extreme old age while the hard youth and valiancy of face and body denied both [...]
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
The Torlindri are the dominant race of Perelandra, and the newest, unless they have created more intelligent races themselves, by uplifting Perelandrian beasts. They look like beautiful humans, but are solid green in color. They also have a slight webbing to their toes and can breathe water as well as air.
"I have a mother?" said the Green Lady, looking full at him with eyes of
untroubled wonder. "What do you mean? I am the Mother."
And once again there fell upon Ransom the feeling that it was not she,
or not she only, who had spoken. [...]
"If you are a mother, where are your children?" "Not yet," she answered.
"Who will be their father?" "The King – who else?"
"But the King – had he no father?" "He is the Father."
"You mean," said Ransom slowly, "that you and he are the only two of your kind in the whole world?"
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
As of 2009, the Torlindri are barely over sixty years old. There are only a few dozen of them so far – Tor and Tinidril, the first two Torlindri created by God, the Adam and Eve of Perelandra, plus their children and grandchildren, the grandchildren born of sibling marriages.
It was hard even for Ransom to tell me of the King's face. But we dare not withhold the truth. It was that face which no man can say he does not know. You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. [...] But here, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom's eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
All Torlindri are magnificent physical specimens, but even more than that, they are holy. After getting over the green color and the nakedness, this is what would strike a human observer most. In fact, Tor looks like Jesus, a fact any Adamite will recognize on some conscious or subconscious level. But it is very unlikely that a human would meet a Torlindri. God doesn't want them to mix with bad company like us, as a general rule.
There was also a place where he himself walked in darkness and looked down through fathom below fathom of shafts and natural arches and winding gulfs on to a smooth floor lit with a cold green light. And as he stood and looked it seemed to him that four of the great earth-beetles, dwarfed by distance to the size of gnats, and crawling two by two, came slowly into sight. And they were drawing behind them a flat car, and on the car, upright, unshaken, stood a mantled form, huge and still and slender. And driving its strange team it passed on with insufferable majesty and went out of sight. Assuredly the inside of this world was not for man. But it was for something.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
These Underdwellers are the Irkstrin (singular, Irkstri), and they are not native to Perelandra. They come from a Viritrilbian system, but fare widely through the galaxy, the Field of Arbol.
It is just as well that the first alien Ransom met was not an Irkstri, and that the Irkstri he saw was far away and mantled. They are even less appealing to human perception than pfiffltrigi. They stand eight or nine feet tall, but are thinner than humans. The head looks like a flea – not the head of a flea, a whole flea, a flattened ovoid of lightly armored plates, with a pair of black eyes bugging out on top and three pairs of mouth palps along the front edge, like the legs of the flea.
The rest of the body is also lightly armored in plates, bearing two pairs of arms with two elbows apiece, standing on a pair of legs with two knees each. A spur or secondary calf sweeps back from below the lower knee, so that each leg terminates in two feet. Likewise, each arm terminates in a claw-like double hand, two pairs of digits mounted on opposing palms. The armored skin varies from dark brown to dark red to black.
They are androgynous and do not pair-bond, raising their children singly or in small sibling-groups or friend-based partnerships. They live to be about 200, under natural conditions, and are omnivorous.
The Irkstrin on Perelandra mostly live in caverns, but their natural habitat is tundra-like. They have settled and expanded caverns on Perelandra because the planet has very little land area and Irkstrin cannot swim. The Perelandrian population is small and transient, no individual staying more than a couple of decades, as a rule. Irkstrian ships come and go by teleporting into and out of great spaceport-caverns, deep below the surface. Each ship has at least one eldil, nestled in the power plant, for the fun of the thing, and acting as an animate stardrive; it is a rare instance of corporeal hnau in partnership with eldila.
The Irkstrin are on Perelandra to mine trin-stone. This is a fossil gem, formed from the copper-rich shells of microscopic organisms of ages past, in the same manner as diatomaceous chalk. It looks like green, aqua, or blue amber, and takes enchantment well. (Irkstrin freely mingle magic and technology.)
The Irkstrin leave the Perelandrian ecology strictly alone, and will not initiate contact with the Torlindri, whom they have discovered only forty years ago. So far, the Torlindri have not discovered the Irkstrin.
The Irkstrin have peaceful but limited diplomatic relations with Eldamar, which is in the next orbit out in the Perelandra system.
There – and there again – it was unmistakable: now a shoulder, now a profile, and then for one second a full face: veritable mermen or mermaids. The resemblance to humanity was indeed greater, not less, than he had first supposed. What had for a moment concealed it from him was the total absence of human expression. Yet the faces were not idiotic; they were not even brutal parodies of humanity like those of our terrestrial apes. They were more like human faces asleep, or faces in which humanity slept while some other life, neither bestial nor diabolic, but merely elvish, out of our orbit, was irrelevantly awake. He remembered his old suspicion that what was myth in one world might always be fact in some other. He wondered also whether the King and Queen of Perelandra, though doubtless the first human pair of this planet, might on the physical side have a marine ancestry.[...]
It is significant that it never occurred to him to try to establish any contact with these beings, as he had done with every other animal on Perelandra, nor did they try to establish any with him. They did not seem to be the natural subjects of man as the other creatures were. He got the impression that they simply shared a planet with him as sheep and horses share a field, each species ignoring the other. [...]
As soon as he had eaten a few mouthfuls of the seaweed he felt his mind oddly changed. He felt the surface of the sea to be the top of the world. He thought of the floating islands as we think of clouds; he saw them in imagination as they would appear from below – mats of fibre with long streamers handing down from them, and became startlingly conscious of his own experience in walking on the topside of them as a miracle or a myth. He felt his memory of the Green Lady and all her promised descendants and all the issues which had occupied him ever since he came to Perelandra rapidly fading from his mind, as a dream fades when we wake, or as if it were shouldered aside by a whole world of interests and emotions to which he could give no name. It terrified him. In spite of his hunger he threw the rest of the weed away.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
The merfolk of Perelandra are the ancestral species of the Torlindri. They, too, are green humanoids, but not quite as humanoid as the Torlindri. They cannot breathe air. They have webbed hands and legs terminating in long, webbed toes. They have double-jointed knees and no heels to their feet, making them ill-adapted to walking, even if they could breathe air. They can swim much better than a human or a Torlindri, but they are not swift swimmers at all.
Mentally, they are even less humanoid. What they do with their time, besides basic life-support functions, is unknown, and they show no interest in communicating with us.
We will make the nobler of the beasts so wise that they will become hnau and speak: their lives shall awake to a new life in us as we awake in Maleldil.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
So Tor, the Father of the Torlindri, announces that the Torlindri will raise up some of the brighter Perelandrian animals to full sapience and personhood. Have they had time to do so yet? Perhaps. Here are some likely candidates:
"Yes. A dead world," said Mark gazing at the Moon.
"No!" said Filostrato. He had come close to Mark and spoke almost in a whisper, the bat-like whisper of a voice that is naturally high-pitched. "No. There is life there."
"Do we know that?" asked Mark.
"Oh, si. Intelligent life. Under the surface. A great race, further advanced than we. An inspiration. A pure race. They have cleaned their world, broken free (almost) from the organic."
"But how– ?"
"They do not need to be born and breed and die; only their common people, their canaglia do that. The Masters live on. They retain their intelligence: they can keep it artiflcially alive after the organic body has been dispensed with – a miracle of applied biochemistry. They do not need organic food. You understand? They are almost free of Nature, attached to her only by the thinnest, finest cord."
"Do you mean that all that," Mark pointed to the mottled globe of the Moon, "is their own doing?"
"Why not? If you remove all the vegetation, presently you have not atmosphere, no water."
"But what was the purpose?"
"Hygiene. Why should they have their world all crawling with organisms? And specially, they would banish one organism. Her surface is not all as you see. There are still surface-dwellers – savages. One great dirty patch on the far side of her where there is still water and air and forests – yes; and germs and death. They are slowly spreading their hygiene over their whole globe. Disinfecting her. The savages fight against them. There are frontiers, and fierce wars, in the caves and galleries down below. But the great race presses on. If you could see the other side you would see year by year the clean rock-like this side of the Moon-encroaching: the organic stain, all the green and blue and mist, growing smaller. Like cleaning tarnished silver."
The Stranger mused for a few seconds; then, speaking in a slightly
sing-song voice, as though he repeated on old lesson, he asked, in two
Latin hexameters, the following question:
'Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk? Why is the womb barren one one side? Where are the cold marriages?'
Ransom replied, 'Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty [delicati] in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.'
— That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis
The Moon, which is Sulvan territory, has two populations of an alien race, one good, one
evil, battling through the ages. No one has noticed, even after the
Moon landings, because Sulvans are microscopic and live in widely
dispersed underground pockets of life. Filostrato and Merlin probably
did not know that, of course, and when Filostrato spoke of air, water, and forests
on the far side of the Moon, he was giving his own inferences as if they were true;
there is no air, the water is under ground, and any "forests" are underground mats of
something like fungus. And probably neither Filostrato nor Merlin knew that the Sulvans
are not native to the Moon, but colonists.
The Bright Sulvans hold the far side of the Moon. The idea that they are slowly losing ground to the Dark Sulvans may be true, or it may be wishful thinking or propaganda. They are nearest in appearance and nature to the original Sulvans.
A Sulvan is a transparent, teardrop-shaped organism, 150 to 200 microns long. The teardrop shape is somewhat flattened, and one side, the flatter side, is the bottom, bearing two rows of cilia, meeting in a clump of longer cilia at the pointed end, which is the front. An Earthling microscopist, seeing a Sulvan on a slide, might mistake it for an unfamiliar kind of hypotrich.
But Sulvans are not single-celled ciliates. In fact, each Sulvan normally has exactly seven cells: three motor cells forming the outer layer of the body, a gut cell, a mouth cell, a germ cell, and a neuron. The neuron has three blue eyespots, equipped with lenses. A creature with exactly one brain cell is able to be intelligent only because most of its mind is purely supernatural.
There are "young men" and "maidens" among the Sulvans, but not in the Earthly way. Sulvans have seven "mating types" or sexes, all hermaphrodite, any two different types being interfertile. At any given mating, one acts as male and one as female. Sulvans pair-bond, and Bright Sulvans raise their children (from spores) in extended families.
Sulvans excel at bio-tech, naturally enough, and the war between the Bright and Dark Sulvans is fought largely with biotechnical weapons. These are often modified soldiers, so the physical description of Sulvans just given only applies to unmodified ones. Sulvans can modify themselves into a huge variety of forms, many utterly unlike the natural one. Some are tiny cyborgs, equipped with nanotech machine parts. Some of the hugest are as much as a millimeter long. The difference between Bright and Dark is that the modified Bright Sulvans are volunteers.
Sulvans also have spacecraft, even starships, but none have ever been noticed by humans except as strange transient phenomena.
Bright and Dark Sulvans both follow events on Earth closely, especially since the advent of radio and then communications satellites.
Dark Sulvans live in a heavily stratified society, divided into three classes and subdivided into innumerable castes. Only the middle class, the Junior Planners, look like normal Sulvans. The Senior Planners are isolated neurons, who spend most of their time hooked into a communications network, scheming. It is the ambition of every Junior Planner to be elevated to Senior Planner some day, though there is also the contrary urge to hold on to the pleasures of the flesh, along with the flesh itself.
As Merlin said, the standard Junior Planner is not hatched from a spore. Instead, it is eugenically cultured from banks of germ cells, one cell at a time, and assembled, ready for conditioning. Or the cells may be taken from Sulvans who have, for one reason or another, been broken up for parts.
Below these two classes are the vast majority of Dark Sulvans, what Filostrato called their canaglia, a slave class of innumerable types bred and modified and brainwashed to suit the Planners. When possible, the Bright Sulvans capture and rehabilitate some of these.
There are djinn all over the universe, and besides the isolated community on Earth, largely in our ionosphere, there are much larger communities in the Solar System. The two biggest are in the Jupiter system, living in the Jovian ionosphere and radiation belts, and in the Solar corona, with a large sub-community on Mercury. These creatures are culturally isolated from Earthly djinn and would strike a human as like slightly more human eldila.
During the ages that the Valar were engaged in physical combat with Morgoth (a.k.a. "the Bent One"), Yavanna had a colony of Onodrim come to Earth, as guardians of the plant world. Onodrim come from another Thulcandrian world but are not particularly Earthlike in biology.
Natively, they are fibrous, woody lumps of highly variable size but generally very large. They are shapeshifters, but very slow ones. Onodrim have a lot of voluntary control over their metabolism, and this control comes in two distinct sections. The "outer" metabolism is ordinary day-to-day metabolism of nutrition and healing. The "inner" metabolism controls the outer in special ways, building up and breaking down whole new organ systems. Given enough time – months or years – they can voluntarily sculpt their forms and their "outer metabolism" into any of a wide range of configurations, leaving their minds and their "inner metabolism" unaltered.
The colony on Earth sculpted themselves into forms that were treelike or humanoid or intermediate between the two. It is unlikely that any remain on Earth.
"It is the old forests of Malacandra," said Augray. "Once there was air on the
harandra and it was warm. To this day, if you could get up there and live, you
would see it all covered with the bones of ancient creatures; it was once full
of life and noise. It was then these forests grew, and in and out among their
stalks went a people that have vanished from the world these many thousand
years. They were covered not with fur but with a coat like mine. They did not go
in the water swimming or on the ground walking; they glided in the air on broad flat limbs
which kept them up. It is said they were great singers, and in those days the red forests echoed
with their music. Now the forests have become stone and only eldila can go among
"We still have such creatures in our world," said Ransom. "We call them birds."
— Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis
The Thoronin are refugees from Malacandra. They are now found on many worlds and, during the Second, Third, and Fourth Ages, there was a small colony on Earth, at the invitation of Manwe.
Superficially, they look like giant eagles, standing more than six feet high when perching. Their plumage can be golden, brown, or black. On a second look, they appear slightly less eagle-like. They have long tails and can control the spread of the feathers along the shaft. Their raptorial beaks protrude from short, feathery muzzles. Their feet are feathered and their talons are retractible, like a great cat's.
Their feet can seize, but they really lack good manipulators. As a result, they have little material technology. Instead, they have developed thematic magics based on flight and sight and song.
A small colony has remained on Earth, in North America, at least until recently. See Esoteric America.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010