(urth) Severian's family tree

b sharp 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 
and Carina.

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 
with clones).

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 
the flood.

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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