(urth) Urth before Earth

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Tue Jul 18 11:22:41 PDT 2006

On 7/18/06, b sharp <bsharporflat at hotmail.com> wrote:
> When I first read Shadow of the Torturer back in the 80's, like
> many I first thought it was set in our past.  Later with references
> to anti-gravity, interstellar travel, polychrome sand and endless
> depths of archaeology it was clear the story was set far in our
> future. But why change the spelling of our planet to Urth?

To indicate that it is not our Earth. You're right there. However,
what appears* to be the case is that it is "our Earth" in a previous
cycle of the Universe, but in the far future (in that cycle) by
comparison with where we are in the current cycle. That is,
Urth at the time of Severian is a billion years or so older than
Earth at the time of Gene Wolfe. (There is argument about this,
and some have claimed as little as a thousand years, which I
find quite implausible.)

* Where "appears" is roughly equivalent to "Wolfe has said
   as much."

> I think of Yesod being in the future of Briah because you have
> to travel to the end of the Briah, end of time (big collapse, final
> black hole?) to reach the beginning of Yesod (big bang, white
> fountain?).

Interesting ... I thought it was just because the universal
singularity at the moment between cycles is the only place
where you can actually break out of Briah and into Yesod
(or, at least, the easiest place).

> I think time in Wolfe's universes is arranged in a spiral (hence
> the Hiero's preference for that shape)

I agree with the arrangement. I had somehow thought of
the Heiros' spirals as related to DNA. But this makes sense.

> allowing shortcuts to bridge between the coils, between one
> universe and another.

What is (I think) spiral is the cycle of Briah. Yesod and Briah,
however, are separate issues: they are (if I'm not mistaken)
branches of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

> The only other place I know of in BoTNS where an Earth book
> is quoted is L. Carroll's Through The Looking Glass, in the
> Antechamber, by Jonas.  Jonas knows the real story of
> Theseus, Kim Lee Soong is familiar, so Jonas must be from
> Earth.

... or from a much eariier point in the history of Urth, depending
on just how exact the cycles are...

> The only things we see appearing in Father Inire's mirrors are a
> (Christian?) silvery fish and the angelic Tzadkiel.  Since
> everything in Yesod looks sort of heavenly, I tend to think
> Inire's mirrors are a path to Yesod, which is where Jonas
> wants to go. So..I think Earth is in Yesod and in Urth's future.

Earth is definitely in Urth's future. The unique event called
the Incarnation happens in the Earth-cycle, and has not yet
happened in the Urth-cycle.

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
"Shovels are essential to the fantasy genre.
However, they are primarily used by the authors rather than the
characters." -- Stephen R. Donaldson

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