(urth) TWK: Mag?

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Fri Feb 25 00:29:39 PST 2005

   "'Oh, son . . .'
    "It was a peasant woman. I had seen many fairer, though she was fair.
    "'You are my son.'
    "I knew that she was wrong, and it came to me that if I were to lie upon
the ground, and she to bend over me, I would see her in the way I had just
recalled her. Then I understood that she was the fairest of women." (W, 263)

This exchange took place in the Room of Lost Love, when Art first
encountered Mag, and just before his rendering of her note. For me, that
last paragraph is the most enigmatic in TWK.

In context, the pronouns "she" and "her" can only refer to the woman who
calls herself Mag. In the space of an inch of text she seems to go from
merely a "fair" woman to "the fairest of women". How can that be?

A memory was triggered in the short time it took her to say those few words,
a specific memory. If Wolfe is playing fair with us, that recollection
should be somewhere in the text. There is an instance where Lynnet is
sitting by a campfire when the persona of Mag takes over, and Art lies on
the ground with his head in her lap while she speaks to him of her girlhood
in America, but that doesn't happen for another 70 pages, so that can't be
it. I even went back and read KNIGHT again, looking for the original

I found two possibilities, both of which confuse me even further. The first
is at the beginning of the book when Art is lying on the hill looking up at
the "pictures" in the clouds, one of which is "a beautiful lady who smiled
down at me". (K, 20) The other comes when he is camped for the night with
Berthold beside the Griffin and is "Flat on my back after our meal". (33)
Then, "A lovely, pointed face lit by great lustrous eyes like harvest moons
peered down into mine, then vanished." (34) That face was green and was, of
course, Disiri's. (58) During his account of his tryst with Disiri in the
cave he wrote, "She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life
(she still is) and I had to shut my eyes, which made her laugh again." (57)

I'm tempted to say that the "beautiful lady" was The Lady of Skai, since all
of the other "pictures" he saw in the sky were otherworldly, but I can't see
what she would have to do with his mother. And I refuse to believe that
Disiri in any way, shape or form was his mother. Besides, he hadn't
forgotten Disiri, so he knew he wouldn't find her in the Room, as he takes
pains to say. _But_, after telling Mag about his being "taken by the Aelf"
and being playmate to Disiri, he realized that it was only then that his
memories of Aelfrice had returned. And with his memories he also found his
"lost" love of the Aelf. (W, 265) He had told Parka on their first meeting
that "I don't like them." (K, 22)

So where does that leave us? Is it merely that, upon seeing and hearing Mag,
Art had a flash of a nondescript, early-childhood memory of his "lost"
mother bending over him, and had idealized that memory of vanished Mother
into "the fairest of women", which ideal can be distinguished from the more
carnal "most beautiful woman I had ever seen"? If that's all it is, then Art
wasn't paying attention in English class.

Anyone have any other ideas?


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