(urth) Hethor

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Fri May 5 06:41:10 PDT 2006

I first saw the idea of Mourning Glory's mention of Purn as Hethor and 
Gunnie as his paracoita in Robert Borski's Solar Labyrinth.  Perhaps Mantis 
is in agreement on this idea.  I believe the logic is that Hethor is a shape 
shifter, taking the form of a half-bird, half-deer creature called a 
peryton.  Severian sees the peryton/Hethor over him during his escape into 
the mountains but eventually decides it is a constellation.

Hethor is presumed to be in this form when Agia, riding a winged creature 
with claws, later snatches Severian from the evzone soldiers.  So peryton 
becomes Purn (shades of Dragonriders of Pern?). Both in Severian's earlier 
dream and during the snatching the winged creature is noted to have a mitre 
of bone on its head, suggesting the dinosaur-era pterodon.  But it also is 
supposed to have the head of a hag which sends things into a mythological 
slant I won't pursue here.

Like Roy, I don't find the Purn-Hethor connection satifying.  It is all 
based on the name Purn and that he is a sailor.  There is no physical 
resemblance nor psychological resemblance to twisted, mysterious Hethor.  To 
me Purn seems to represent the simple, average Urth resident who would 
instinctively fight to save Urth without much care or thought to deeper 
issues or personal demons.  Also, Gunnie has dark eyes, not violet, and is a 
very big, strong, aggressive woman.  Hardly a good candidate for a poppet 
doll with small hands who lays in a lemonwood box all day waiting to spend 
the night with Hethor.   (But perhaps a childish version of Thecla is...)

However, Hethor as a shape shifter is satisfying to me for a few reasons.  
Even Severian wonders how Hethor is able to transport his larger pets 
around.  There are some interesting early (SotT) statements Hethor makes to 
identify himself.  Stammering, he says something like  "I the old captain, 
the old lieutenant, the old cook, feeding the dying pets." I take this to be 
a true description, though I can't tell whether Hethor is describing a 
series of promotions or demotions on the ship.  But I think he was, at some 
point, captain.

In UotNS we find in Tzadkiel, another ship captain, an angelic, 
shapeshifting being (as is the angel in Melito's story).  I think this lends 
credence to the idea of captain Hethor also being a winged, shape shifting 
creature, perhaps the obverse of Tzadkiel...a fallen angel?

Hethor also describes himself as serving on the Quasar, and on a ship with a 
hundreds masts and silver sails.   He also says he served as the captain of 
the "limping ship".  In the time of BotNS's writing I think quasars were 
theorized to be white fountains, the compliment to black holes.  So I think 
the Quasar is likely (what we later learn to be) Tzadkiel's ship because its 
primary literary purpose, in the first 4 books, was to carry the New Sun 
back to earth.

So what was the limping ship Hethor was the captain of?  Some suggest it was 
the ship that crashed leaving the ancestors of the antechamber prisoners and 
that Hethor's real name is KimLeeSoong. This could be the case, but then he 
would be a normal human not a shapeshifter.

There is another ship which looms very large in BotNS but seems so far to 
have avoided attempts at explanation through all these years.  This is The 
Citadel.  I take The Citadel to be a ship on a par with the Quasar due to 
its large size and irregular shape (contrast to the Hierodule's ship which 
is like a flying saucer).  I think the Citadel ship is an alternate version 
of the Quasar, with Hethor as its captain.  This ship was apparently poorly 
captained,  flew too close to Urth (to retrieve his stolen paracoita?) and 
got stuck.


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