(urth) Baldanders

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Thu May 18 15:49:12 PDT 2006

On 5/18/06, Chris <rasputin_ at hotmail.com> wrote:
> But in any event what I was probably actually thinking of when I
> came to that interpretation was not Marx but Hobbes. "Leviathan",
> natch.

Because Baldanders is nasty, brutish, and, uh, tall?

> Even if my interpretation is incorrect, which it might be, the
> connection of Hobbes to Abaia & co. is not incidental, though it
> might take an entire thesis to fully explore it.

No; I think you're quite correct. This is one of those things that
has been under our noses forever. D'oh! Of _course_ the Megas
are "Leviathan"s.

Nonetheless: I don't buy Baldanders as a Megatherian. He's
a human who is attempting to follow their pattern for immortality.
I don't have copy here to refer to but I'm deeply certain of it, if
only because it fits the moral structures (and strictures) of the
Urth cosmology so well.

So why does he have a monster-name? Because he isn't
human _anymore_. The convention is not one of the
Commonwealth, after all; it's Wolfe's, a way of cluing us in
to who's a monster and who isn't, part of the fiction of his

Baldanders is a self-made monster, and a reverse-image of
the ... oh, heck, I've forgotten their name ... the humans
who've had themselves decorticated so they don't have to
be human anymore? In the forest near Little Severian's
house? (Who are in their way also reverse-images of the
alzabo... There's a whole lot of mirroring goin' on in the Urth
sequence.) They have given up humanity in one direction;
Baldanders gives it up in the opposite direction, aiming at
"science" and knowledge ... yet becomes a creature of
primal passion in the end.

> In my view the primary difference between Abaia and the Baldanders
> we initially meet is that Abaia has been swallowed up by the waters
> of the past, and has consequently grown under the surface - exerting
> an influence while being only dimly understood and recognized by the
> people of Urth.

How much of an influence, I wonder, does he really have? What
is his function in the Ascian's system of governance, anyway?
Does he mind-control the Group of Seventeen? Or...?

> As Talos says in that same section of Sword, "Surely you know that
> just as momentous events of the past cast their shadows down the
> ages, so now, when the sun is drawing toward the dark, our own
> shadows race into the past to trouble mankind's dream." Baldanders
> fails, as eventually he must anyway -

... I had always read this (including Baldanders's failure) as mostly
play upon the Frankenstein story, with perhaps a bit of "The Day the
Earth Stood Still" thrown in. ("No, you misunderstand. Gort is the
master." Michael Rennie might have made an excellent Severian,
come to think of it...)

> attempts to control his growth could keep him above surface without
> collapsing under his own weight for only so long - and takes his place
> under the water. The deluge that follows wipes the historical slate
> clean, leaving no apparent Abaia or Baldanders, only the primordial
> undines who themselves seem to be seen in a different light at that
> point.

I do wonder about this. Is there any specific (textual) reason to
suppose that the Megatherians, at least some of them, _don't_
survive the coming of the White Fountain? Thematically it makes
some sense, but it also makes thematic sense that at least some
_do_ survive -- such events never solve the big problems, only put
them on the back burner for a while. (Of course, it could be argued
that the Megatherians _aren't_ a big problem, only a symptom.)


I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.
                        -- St Teresa of Avila

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