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Old Solar

Also known as: Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi, language of the Fields of Arbol, Hressa-Hlab (erroneously), language of the hrossa (also erroneously), the Great Tongue, Language Herself
Spoken in: supposedly across the entire Fields of Arbol save Thulcandra and Sulva (which we know as the Earth and Moon), although it is only known to be spoken on Perelandra and Malacandra and among the eldila; it is also spoken by some members of the human organization calling themselves the Logres
Sources: Out of the Silent Planet (osp), Perelandra (p) and That Hideous Strength (ths)



As the plot of the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy unfolds, we are given several, slightly conflicting accounts of the history and origins of Old Solar.

In Out of the Silent Planet, the primary character, the philologist Elwin Ransom, operates under the assumption that Old Solar is what he calls “Hressa-Hlab”, the language of the hrossa, distinct from Surnibur and the language of the pfifltriggi. Kalakaperi, a pfifltrigg to whom Ransom spoke in Meldilorn seemed to be of this opinion himself: “Once we all had different speeches and we still have at home. But everyone has learned the speech of the hrossa.”1

In Perelandra, Ransom (who seems to have recieved a great amount of information from the eldila themselves) has discovered that the language he had called Hressa-Hlab was in fact the original, primodial language, spoken throughout the entire Solar System (or perhaps even the entire Universe2); its name (of which he must have previously been ignorant), he was also informed, was Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi, or, as he termed it in English, “Old Solar”.

Ransom determined that Surnibur and the language of the pfifltriggi were more “recent” developmetns in Malacandra’s linguistic history, presumabely decendents of Old Solar, placing their formation somewhere in what is known on Earth as the Cambrian Period.

He also states that no language currently existing on Earth (and, based on evidence from ths, the Moon as well) is descended from Old Solar, it having been lost “when our whole tragedy took place”3 (a reference either to the rebellion of Satan, the Fall of Man or the Tower of Babel).

In That Hideous Strength, it is stated that the language “...sprang at the bidding of Maleldil out of the molten quicksilver of the star called Mercury on Earth but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven”4. Although this seems to suggest that the language originated after the Creation, other statements seem to indicate that the language existed at the Creation itself (and possibly even before5).


Main article: Corpus of Old Solar

The size of the attested corpus of Old Solar is fairly respectable (especially compared to those of Surnibur and the language of the pfifltriggi), containing nearly forty words, in addition to a great number of proper nouns.

Rather fortunetly, unlike with the corpus of Surnibur, not all the words are directly related to one another (although whether that is possible with forty words, I am unsure), so we have a greatly varied sample of the sounds of Old Solar, from the “hrossian”-sounding hlutheline to the high-sounding Arbol-ef-Cordi and Tai Harendrimar to the slightly sinister honodraskrud.


Main article: Phonology of Old Solar

The relatively large corpus also allows us to make what is a fairly (but not entirely) complete chart of the sounds of Old Solar; various clues also help us fill in some of the gaps we know about. We can say less for sure about the placement of the primary stress and the structure of words, but there are still some clues in the texts.


Main article: Grammar of Old Solar

More so than any of the other languages from the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, we can say a reasonable deal about the basics of Old Solar grammar, including the (very) complicated rules concerning pluralization of nouns, two noun cases, and a small bit about adjectives, verbs and sentance structure.

1osp ch. 17, para. 38
2 – Tolkien hints at such a possibility in his Notion Club Papers, but, although it was the two great author’s collaboration that launched the trilogy, we don’t know whether this idea originated with Lewis or not.
3p ch. 2, para. 53
4THS ch. 10 sub. 4 para. 55
5 – a possibility suggested by the quote “We speak not of when it will begin. It has begun from before always. There was no time when we did not rejoice before His face as now” (p ch. 17, para. 49); this is not entirely conclusive, since it is possible that the eldila can communicate (and thus rejoice) without any language at all.

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