(urth) Father Inire
bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Wed May 24 21:44:02 PDT 2006
On first reading of the BotNS I thought Father Inire (suggesting INRI King
of the Jews?) made only one cameo apperance as the cowled servitor who
guides Severian to the Green Room.
Robert Borski convinced me that he also appears as the old, twisted, masked
jungle guide (who looks like Isangoma). This guy was rumored to be a shaman
(therian) who could assume the form of a tiger (oops wrong animal). He
carried a bent stick with a monkey head on it (hm. okay then). Inire's
apperance there makes a lot of plot sense. He can ensure that the old
autarch and Severian both survive and perform the memory transfer. He can
extract information from Agia, etc. Okay, so he is Father Inire too.
Well, I can be content with the one standard cameo appearance by the
director, but if there are two then it is time to start looking for more.
Borkski does this by seeking out father figures and characters with hidden
eyes and using cryptonyms and trying to make them fit. He comes up with
Ossipago, Palaemon, Paeon and Ceryx as versions of Inire. I think these are
all very challengable and perhaps that can happen at a later time.
My own preference is to look first for physical clues. Perhaps in hope that
Wolfe is using the engineering side of his brain first, before the literary
side. The multiple physical descriptions of Inire mark him as old, short,
bent, twisted, looking like a monkey, with no more nose than an alouatte
(black howler monkey http://www.painetworks.com/photos/dv/dv0881.JPG). With
that as a starting guide, here is my list of Inire cameo appearances:
1. Uakari- Back in a June 1999 post, Mitchell A. Bailey felt the uakari
watching Severian from a tree as he was escaping the House Absolute grounds
after the play performance was really Inire. An alouatte was mentioned
earlier so why an uakari here? With its bald head the uakari really looks
like an old man(http://www.brazilianfauna.com/images/reduakari.jpg) and I
can't blame Mitchell at all for thinking that an old man who looks like a
monkey might disguise himself as a monkey who looks like an old man.
2. Baboon- when Severian wakes in a lazaret after his avern battle, "An ape
with the head of a dog ran down the aisle, paused at my bed to look at me,
then ran on." Baboons are large, ape-like monkeys often referred to as
3. Isangoma- He is old though being short, bent or twisted is not mentioned.
But Wolfe explicitly notes his resemblance to the shape-shifting jungle
guide with the monkey head pole. He is found in one of Father Inire's main
haunts, The Botanic Gardens. He isn't said to look like a monkey but he
mentions monkeys in a story and invokes baby uakaris in his cant. When we
meet him, Marie is reading a Bibilcal passage to him- God's curse on Moses,
the shepherd of the Chosen People, to never see the Promised Land himself.
This could suggest Inire's role in BotNS.
4. Rudesind- He is old and bent. We don't know how tall he is because he is
usually on a ladder. He inhabits Father Inire's portion of the House
Absolute and is familiar enough with the Secret House
to trick Severian into falling into it and to move easily from The Citadel
to the House Absolute. He carries the letter of Father Inire to Severian.
We are told he is Inire's servant which should explain all the above.
But, we have also been told that the old Autarch, Appian, is himself several
of the minor officials of his court. I think Father Inire uses the same
ploy. The most telling clue is when Rudesind first comes down from the
ladder "like an aged monkey, seeming all arms and legs and wrinkled neck;
his hands were as long as my feet, the crooked fingers lined with blue
veins". Why would Wolfe use almost all the physical descriptions of Father
Inire for Rudesind unless he really was him? He also notes that Rudesind's
nose and chin almost touch (proboscis monkey?
Rudesind tells Severian, at different times, two interesting things: that
his wife died and that he is the advocate for the dead, giving a speech
about doing right by them. These two facts tie Rudesind to our next Inire
5. Dorcas' husband- this guy is never named, though he and Dorcas are given
ample opportunity to do it. He also spends lots of time in the Botanic
Gardens poling his skiff, has a dead wife and seems like an advocate for the
dead. Severian describes him as "bowed and shrunken by age (he appeared
older even than Master Palaemon) until he could hardly have weighed more
than a boy of ten".
This man tells Severian, "Father Inire had the gardeners plant the averns.
I was here and saw it. Just a little man he is, with a wry neck and bow
legs". If the man IS Father Inire, no false statements there. And no
thought or comment from Severian on how this man himself fits Inire's
description. And Severian is ALWAYS making comparisons.
How could Dorcas be married to Father Inire?, you might ask. Two bits of
circumstantial evidence: Dorcas seems to have been a young teen when she
wed. Through Lewis Carroll allusions and the Domnina scene we are informed
that Father Inire has an attraction to girls of this age. Moreover, if his
beloved wife Dorcas had died years ago, wouldn't Father Inire manipulate the
ONE person in the universe who could reanimate her, into doing so? Severian
accidentally finds his own dead grandmother in a lake with ten thousand
other dead bodies? Please.
Now, it might be noted that Rudesind also mentions his wife dying soon after
having two daughters. If his wife is really Dorcas, how could this be? I
think it suggests that Severian's accepted family tree needs some serious
restructuring. The Dorcas -> Ouen-> Severian scheme always seemed too easy
and spoon-fed to me, given the difficulty of the other puzzles in this book.
An even more serious objection might be noting that, leaving the Samru,
Severian sees Dorcas with her dead husband and then later sees Rudesind in
the Citadel. Well, there are some very strange things about that Dorcas
scene. Severian goes to shore because he sees a flower in a little boat,
newly built, at an ancient pier. He finds her kneeling "the body of the old
man who had poled the skiff there lay on a bier before her, his back so
straight, his face, in death, so youthful, that I hardly knew him".
Can we be sure it IS the old man from the skiff? Why would he look so much
younger in death? Could Severian be once again mistaken about who a family
member really is? Again, I think Severian's family tree may need major
Final note, the flower on the boat from this scene is a wilted white poppy
and Severian sees Dorcas has replaced it in her hair with a fresh arum.
There was a great post in here a while back on the meanings of flowers.
White poppy means "dormant affection". Arum means "ardor". There are many
previous hints in the text that Dorcas has some deeper issues. But these
are all part of a new puzzle.
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