In “The Eye of The Storm,” Chapter 17 of Larry Niven’s Ringworld Nessus prompts Louis to think about what he’d find if he landed anywhere on Ringworld and dug. After Louis replies “Ringworld floor material,” Louis has a revelation:
And as he said these words, the landscape seemed to alter…now the landscape showed as the shell it was. The difference between an honest planet and this was the difference between a human face and an empty rubber mask.
In Chapter 23, “The God Gambit,” Louis compares Teela to a mask in the shape of a girl, using much the same words and images that he previously used in describing the Ring. The similarity is striking, and it highlights a major theme in Ringworld—the idea of seeing the familiar in a new light, and learning that it is not what it first appeared to be (hence the title of this post, taken from T. S. Elliot’s poem “Little Gidding”).