(urth) The Katharine maid

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 26 08:41:41 PDT 2006

I don't know if Roy subscribes to the theory that Urth is not Earth (though 
I think the spelling, the text clues and Wolfe interviews make it clear they 
are different).  I think Urth is an earlier, darker version of Earth as 
Briah is an earlier, darker version of Yesod.

Earth has Jesus, a boy born in our past, raised as a carpenter, rising to 
become a religious leader, tortured and killed, resurrected, ascended and 
fated to reappear in our future as Saviour.  His mother is Mary.

Urth has Severian, a boy born in our (initial reader of BotNS) present, 
raised as a torturer, rising to become a political leader,  killed, 
resurrected, ascending to become the New Sun in our future but fated to 
reappear as Concilliator in our past.  I think once the idea of using Saint 
Catherine, the torture victim, as a darker version of Mary, first occurred 
to Wolfe, the idea would be too cool to for him to dismiss.  To have her 
played by a maid (virgin as Roy describes) is also appropriate.

Having recently learned from an interview that Wolfe relied solely on mental 
notes to keep his stories straight, I am prepared to accept that he has 
retained various minor logistic (timeline issues etc.) inconsistencies to 
sustain his own most personally pleasing literary ideas.

Roy writes:

>The bogus Catholic Saint Catherine was obviously the inspiration for Holy 

I don't understand the use of the "bogus" adjective but I think it is more 
than just inspiration.  I think Holy Katharine's story IS Saint Catherine's 
story aside from the two letter difference.  Saint Catherine's execution is 
re-enacted faithfully by the Torturers.  The wheel meant to torture her flew 
apart at her touch afterwhich she was beheaded (and her body whisked away by 
angels, hm....).  The Roman emperor who ordered her torture and execution 
was Maximus during the 6th Christian Persecution. 

Since the name Maximus is actually used in the text of BotNS in regard to 
Holy Katharine's torture it is strong and direct evidence that this story 
originates from Earth rather than Urth.  Other similar examples of this I 
can think of are Mount Nebo mentioned in the Jungle Hut, Squanto mentioned 
in the Wonders of Urth and Sky book and Kim Lee Soong and the quote from 
Alice in Wonderland from Jonas.  For me the Frankenstein, Jungle Book and 
Theseus allusions are less compelling because there is no direct quote or 
name borrowing.  I think using an Earth name meants Wolfe is pointing to an 
important clue.

So, perhaps the person who initiated the Torturer's ritual only read a book 
inspired by an Earth Saint legend but I think the use of the Maximus name is 
a clue that there was direct contact.  I agree with Roy (though for 
different reasons) that Father Inire (with Ymar) is the likely candidate for 
getting the torturers guild in its modern organization because there are 
other clues suggesting Inire has had direct contact with Earth.

In the past I viewed Father Inire (and the Cumaean) as possibly antagonistic 
toward the coming of the New Sun.  On a recent re-reading of Urth, I noted 
Severian describing an embrace from Father Inire just before he left for 
Tzadkiel's ship, so I've softened that stance.  But I still see them both as 
fallen angels who were failing at their task, being distracted by their 
vices (young women and absorbing the lives of dead); Barbatus, Famulimus and 
Ossipago being sent to set things right.

I rebel against the eidolon theory regarding the maid's unchanging 
appearance.  Mainly, I think, because the eidolon concept in the first four 
books is used mainly for Aquastors...who are like guardian angels appearing 
and visible only to the person from whose mind they were created.  Only in 
UotNS do we start seeing eidolons capable of taking on real substance and 
being visible to everyone.

The concept of kaibits and youth retention are introduced in the first four 
books so I find those explanations more appealing for the maid.  She is of 
armiger height and it is currently under debate whether armigers were able 
to take advantage of the kaibit youth retention system.  I'm still chewing 
on Jeff Wilson's theory that the maid is actually a series of kaibits from 
an original exultant.  That might work.

Some minor quibbles with Roy who says:

>The Hierodules traveled backward and forward in time. They knew who 
>Severian's parents

I think, without exception, B, F and O travel backward in time. Their memory 
is always only of the future. So if they knew who his parents were it was 
only from talking with Severian as Autarch.  Of course Severian won't openly 
tell US who his parents are...so if they know they had to figure it out, as 
we did.


>The eidolon of Severian created on the Ship differed from the original in 
>that his bum leg was repaired.

I believe the eidolon which was created after Severian was killed by Sidero 
still had a bum leg. The leg wasn't made whole until Severian had been to 
Yesod, passed his test, got attached to his Star and was back on the Ship 
heading home.


Stay in touch with old friends and meet new ones with Windows Live Spaces 

More information about the Urth mailing list