(urth) TWK: Mag's sons and stuff

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Wed Feb 23 00:25:47 PST 2005

Well, Kieran wanted to discuss TWK, so here goes.

Andrew Bollen, back on Jan. 7&9, wrote about Mag and her sons; those
interested might want to look back at those posts. I agree with him that Mag
is in some sense the mother of Ben and Art, as well as the natural mother of
Berthold and Able, but I see some things a bit differently. Actually, I
believe she was also the natural mother of Ben and Art. More on that later.

First, I want to establish Art's mother's age at the time she disappeared
from his life. It goes like this:

Idnn was "about sixteen". (K, 296)

Art said to Beel that he was "about your daughter's age". (K, 297)

Art said Scaur was "not a lot older than me". (K, 25) Late teens?

Sha, Scaur's wife, was probably about the same age as her husband.

Following a dream in which his mother figured, Art wrote of her: "She was
still a young girl, not a great deal older than Sha, when she went away."
(K, 319) Early twenties?

Mag doesn't get much ink, but I think she is the key to unlocking the
Art/Able/Ben/Berthold confusion. Those were her bones on the island, of
course, and she committed suicide by poison rather than be killed and eaten
by the Khimairae when she got too old to lure sailors. So how long was she
there, and how old was she when she got there?

She was of child-bearing age, obviously, when she arrived. Able was an
infant and Berthold was old enough to walk and talk, so he was just a few
years older. Nowhere is it stated or even implied that those were the only
children she gave birth to. She took (or was given) the name Mag "here",
meaning Mythgarthr. She was taught the script of Mythgarthr and her note was
written in that script because she hoped her note would be seen by her sons
Berthold and Able, her most reasonable choice of language under the
circumstances. But she already knew how to write. She _could_ have written
the note in American English. She spoke to "Able" through Lynnet about her
girlhood in America and how she met and wed Art's father. (W, 335)

Forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, and I haven't worked out the details,
but this is how I see her role, in outline:

Mag (what was her American name?) was born and raised and wed and gave birth
to Ben and Art in America. Still young, she (like Art) wandered into
Aelfrice (or was abducted). She became wife to Berthold the Black and gave
birth to Bold Berthold and Able before being taken to Glas. Each set of
brothers was the same age relative to each other.

What still needs to be worked out is the 30-40 year difference in age
between "Able" and Berthold. Art was a teen in America, say sixteen. When
Disiri made him 'grow up' he became maybe ten years older. (K, 162) That
makes Berthold about sixty years old.

And the Able that Berthold remembered wandered off when he was about the
same age that Art had been. Where did that Able go, and what happened to

We know what happened to Berthold and Able's mother Mag. Their father,
Berthold the Black, seems to have died or disappeared before the brothers
were grown. Likewise, Ben and Art's mother was out of the picture while they
were still kids, as well as their father.

Mag chose to name her first-born in Mythgarthr after his father; it seems
reasonable to assume that she did the same back in America. If correct, that
would mean that Art's father was likely named Ben Ormsby, fwiw.

I don't know what to make of Kulili. She destroyed a statue of The Lady on
Glas and erected another of herself. That has to be bad, given Wolfe's
pecking order of worlds, but . . .

Speaking of worlds; there are two main traditions Wolfe is using in TWK,
Norse and Arthurian. That seven-level business belongs to the Norse, as do
most of the names and other trappings. But the world of Faerie is more
Celtic, and I think of Aelfrice more in terms of its connection with the
Arthurian stuff. This may be relevant. Art mentions computers and TV and
such; he comes from our modern Earth. Our modern Earth also has airplanes
and rocket ships; our sky is indisputably not Skai, as seems to be the
literal case in Mythgarthr, nor is Aelfrice to be found beneath our feet--at
least not so easily. We don't live in a seven-level cosmos, clearly, but we
do have a tradition of visits to Faerie. What I'm saying is, the world of
Faerie, aka Aelfrice, may be the _only_ connection between our Earth and the
worlds of TWK. That and Dream, maybe.


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