(urth) shapeshifting Hethor

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Sat May 27 23:14:01 PDT 2006

There is a BotNS problem posed by Severian:  How could Hethor get a slug the 
size of a horse to follow Severian through pampas, towns, mountains and 

Robert Borski proposes the slug is really Mother Pyrexia who, perhaps 30 
years ago, was sealed in a house and when they opened it she had became 
"something strange" like what you'd find in a piece of rotten wood.  It is a 
pretty good theory but I feel it falls short in the absence of multiple 
Mother Pyrexia sightings. When we first meet Hethor he has four companions, 
including a gray haired woman. But later he travels only with one of them, 
the small man, Beuzec.

I think the Pyrexia story does serve an important purpose. It provides some 
of the evidence Roy is looking for (certainly debatable evidence) that 
shapeshifters exist on Urth.  And it provides a necessary addition to one of 
the shapeshifter rules we have learned from Foila's story.  I think we learn 
that confinement doesn't just prevent a shapeshifter from changing, but also 
forces the shapeshifter to take their original form.  The rule that a 
shapeshifter will always show a part of its true nature is also in effect.

Armed with these tools I think we could suggest that the slug is Hethor, or 
more accurately, Hethor is really a slug. Just as the brown larkish 
Armiger's daughter is always brown, brown, brown, Hethor is always gray in 
clothing with gray hair.  He is always presented as disgusting.  Wolfe takes 
pains to make Hethor take off his greasy hat toward the end of Shadow.  This 
shows his receding  hair has left a gray wavering crest which sounds rather 
slug-like in apperance to me.

Robert Borski is at a loss to explain how Mother Pyrexia might get into the 
antechamber but shapeshifter rules offer a clear solution.  Once confined, 
Hethor is forced into his natural form.  This idea might suggest a similar 
reversion to original form occurs when Hethor follows Severian into the 
tunnels beneath the Jungle Sorcerers village.

And I almost cringe to mention that it also offers a solution to the problem 
of the incident in the tunnel beneath the Piteous Gate.

p.s. I think Hethor's mirrors are adequate to explain the notules, the 
glowing worms and perhaps the salamander.  The pteriopes are still an issue 
I'm working on.


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