(urth) Severian's family tree
bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 14 07:49:03 PDT 2006
No, Don I can't leave a cliffhanger! Especially if the logic for this
family tree ends up making sense only to me. Too much build-up. But I'll
try to fit the whole thing in one post, leaving out some supporting evidence
to be provided later if needed. I think there is some sketchy evidence for
family ties among the pagan gods/megatherians of BotNS but I'll leave that
out too, for now and focus on Severian's human family.
I think the central story of the family origin is told by the old guy in
Casdoe's house regarding Fechin. Fechin has a tryst with a beautiful girl
who sits in a window. Dorcas' earliest memory is of sitting in a window so
I think the beautiful girl is her, and the family tree starts there.
There are hints that the old guy telling the story is really a woman, quite
admiring of Fechin. Fechin, not being one to turn down opportunity, starts
a side branch of Severian's family here. Fechin and this old woman had a
daughter named Herais, she had twins Casdoe and Cadroe (of the 17 Stones)
and Casdoe had twins, Little Severian and Severa.
Going back to Dorcas and Fechin, I've previously noted clues showing that
Fechin is also Rudesind (and Father Inire) so that is important to this
whole train of thinking. I assume that Dorcas' first child was Ouen. He
thinks she died during childbirth when he was young kid. Rudesind says his
wife died soon after a second girl child was born. So Ouen had two younger
sisters. If Dorcas' death was actually suicide, it might make sense if (per
family curse) Dorcas felt weird sexual feelings toward her children. Suicide
might make further sense if Dorcas realized her husband was a philandering
cacogen disguised as a human.
Since Ouen was sent off, by his father, at a young age to be a potboy then
we must assume the two girls were sent off as well. A likely place to send
them, in the closed universe of BotNS, would be the Pelerines. The story
has two dark haired women, roughly the same age, who both left the Pelerines
as young women. These are Catherine (who plays St. Katherine) and Cyriaca.
If these two sisters spent a lot of time together as postulants then we can
guess one reason they had to leave the Pelerines, given the family curse.
Though Cyriaca says it was her interest in men that did it.
Cyriaca mentions an uncle who dealt in rare books. She spent long hours
with this uncle, hearing stories about the secrets of the universe which
nobody else really knows. This galactic knowledge might be a clue as to who
this uncle really is. The incestuous family curse suggests Cyriaca might
have had a child or two after spending too much time with dear old uncle
(but before her marriage and her move to Thrax).
When Cyriaca is spared by Severian, she seems quite comfortable about making
a living in Nessus, as though she was familiar with the place. Her age and
the fact that she can sew suggest that she is the mother who bequeathed the
used clothing store to Agia and Agilus. Agia mentions owning a misericorde,
which is a slim blade used for battlefield mercy killings. This sounds like
a weapon for a Pelerine. Agia also uses the crooked blade from Thrax and
these two weapons both suggest a connection between Agia and Cyriaca.
Robert Borski has suggested that a golden aureole around the heads of Agia
and Agilus denote their cousin status to Severian, the New Sun. If Agilus
is seen as an Icarus figure, son of a Daedalus figure (Inire), his death
comes from coming too close to the (new) sun.
Catherine seems to be sequestered somewhere in the Citadel. She doesn't
seem to age, year to year, suggesting she has a kaibit close by to help her
retain youth. It also suggests she has a powerful, probably exultant,
husband to provide such a luxury. I think it is the Castellan. Her
kaibit's name is Carina, or some diminutive of Catherine similar to that.
The family incest curse would make sexual things happen between Catherine
Catherine ran off at some point, met an attractive guy named Ouen, not
knowing they were siblings, separated in early childhood nor about her
family incest curse. She was forced to return to the marriage and the
Castellan did not, at first, suspect her subsequent pregnancy belonged to
another man. Her twins, Severian and Severa, were raised in the Citadel
until the adultery was discovered a few years later. After that they were
sent to be raised with the Torturers and Witches.
Catherine was not killed by the Torturers for her transgression but her
look-alike kaibit, Carina, was, though much later, when Severian is a youth.
Severian sees a dark haired woman (Contessa Carina in the Play) in a pale
gown, with that face that always haunts him, being escorted along the Path
of Air on Flood Day (returning her to her proper time and place). This same
dark haired woman in a pale gown is seen by Severian in the grave dug up by
Hildegrin and Vodalus in the opening scene of the story. Her livid face
suggests the means of her death was Allowin's Necklace the torture device
which is described in such detail. (or perhaps it was Catherine who was
killed and Carina later took her place playing St. Katherine; hard to tell
Either way, it was this dark haired woman in a pale gown who was eaten by
Vodalus' followers the time before Thecla. Apparently she had lesbian
tendencies and the Vodelerii hope Thecla is not also a "tribade" (a vain
hope I think, given her "half sister" Thea).
Thecla talks about her time up at the northern villa before she became a
concubine. Now a villa is the secondary, country estate of a noble family.
Her primary estate is never mentioned, but twice, after Severian shares her
memories, it is hinted she had an early childhood being raised in the
Citadel. So maybe the Citadel is the primary estate and her parents are
Catherine and the Castellan. For a while I thought this meant Thecla was
really Severa. But I couldn't find any evidence to explain the name change
or why she wasn't raised by the witches. So I have come to assume Thecla
was the product of a birth separate from Severian.
Thecla's choices of books tie her to Severian's family. The enamel
paintings on one evoke the cloisonne of Dorcas' family. The Wonders of Urth
and Sky (is that the title? sorry my books are not here) is reminiscent of
Cyriaca and her uncle. Devotionals could show a link to the Concilliator. A
geneology book suggests her ties to the Castellan.
One thing though. Severian sees the face of the dead woman in the grave
(Carina) in the face of Ultan. Maybe Catherine met Ultan in her travels
around the Citadel. He is a curator, like Rudesind and so, like all
curators, associated with Father Inire. An Ultan connection could be the
reason Thecla is so knowledgable about books. The fact that a bull and a
swan are part of a dream sequence involving Thecla's father makes me think
Father Inire (Zeus-like in his pursuit of human women) is involved in her
siring and that perhaps the Castellan was once again cuckolded, never
discovering this one.
I'm ambivalent regarding how Thea fits in. Since twins run in this family
she could be a twin to Thecla. But then why call her "half-sister"? Thea's
name is a diminutive of Thecla so she could be a kaibit. Either way, Thea
was given her own kaibit whom we see in the House Azure and in the House
Absolute. Thea is too short a name to diminuate so I think her kaibit's
name was, at first, "Thea's", evolving into Thais. Somehow Thais escaped
through the Path of Air and ended up on the raft with Pega and Odilo after
Valeria is sequestered in the Citadel like Catherine. Valeria's clothes and
Catherine's name are both described as old fashioned. Both Catherine's and
Valeria's face tear at Severian's heart. We never see Valeria's family, only
a servant, so her mother might be Catherine and perhaps her father is, this
time, the Castellan. Severian marries Valeria but they don't have any
children in 10 years of marriage. Assuming they aren't using birth control
I think it argues for a celibate marriage. Severian's newly acquired
Autarchial knowledge seems to have made him wise enough to start realizing
who his family members are. And incest seems to be under an even stronger
taboo on Urth than on Earth. Despite all the allusions to incest it is
never openly mentioned. Not by Severian to his trusted anonymous readers
and not even by corrupt, criminal and soon to die Agilus.
So the last empty slot in the family tree is for Severa, Severian's twin
sister. Merryn, as a dark haired witch, is one candidate but there doesn't
seem to be any mutual sexual attraction noted. Wolfe could have corrected
this in the Short Sun encounter if needed but he didn't. Moreover I think
Merryn's stretched facial skin suggests she is a recipient of beauty
treatments and is much older than Severian.
So in some ways by default, we are left with Jolenta as Severa. Jolenta is
probably a stage name, she is from Nessus and she's only been a waitress for
a month so she could have been raised by the witches. She doesn't seem much
like a former witch, though. And I don't like that she is so stupid. All
of Severian's other family members seem at least a little bit intelligent,
able to talk at length about topics other than their own immediate wishes.
Also, I think at some point, even a dumb girl would say, "Hey, Severian,
funny coincidence, my real name is Severa".
But Jolenta does have sex with Severian, and sexual play with Dorcas. She
does have some gold in her hair like Dorcas and Agia and Agilus. And
eventually Severian decides he loves her (though she has to remain
unconscious before he starts to feel that way ;-) ) So, grudgingly, I'll
have to go with Jolenta as Severa.
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