(urth) The Katharine maid

Daniel D Jones ddjones at riddlemaster.org
Fri Oct 27 12:30:46 PDT 2006

On Thursday 26 October 2006 15:25, Roy C. Lackey wrote:
> Rex Lycanthrosaurus quoted and wrote:
> >On Thu, 26 Oct 2006 11:41:41 -0400, "b sharp" <bsharporflat at hotmail.com>
> >
> >said:
> >> 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.
> >
> >Actually, Severian names Catherine as his mother in Chapter XLIV of
> >URTH:
> >
> >"Perhaps I was too distant from myself, from the Severian of bone and
> >flesh borne by Catherine in a cell of the oubliette under the Matachin
> >Tower."
> >
> >This also seems to contradict Roy Lackey's supposition that Severian was
> >borne outside the Matachin.
> Ah, yes, so it does. It also contradicts the passage I quoted earlier:
> "[ . . .] a breast running with warm milk. It was my mother's breast then,
> and I could hardly contain my elation (which might have wiped the memory
> away) at having reached back at last to her, after so many fruitless
> attempts. My arms sought to clasp her, and I would, if only I could, have
> lifted my eyes to look into her face. My mother certainly, for the children
> the torturers take know no breasts. The grayness at the edge of my field of
> vision, then, was the metal of her cell wall. Soon she would be led away to
> scream in the Apparatus or gasp in Allowin's Necklace." (CLAW, chapter
> Both quotes cannot be true. The sentence, "My mother certainly, for the
> children the torturers take know no breasts." is either a pointless lie or
> another example of Wolfe being forced to change his mind about some things
> when he came to write the sequel. I can't think of any way to reconcile the
> two passages.

I think you're misinterpreting the sentence you quote.  You've addressed the 
second half of the sentence but you haven't explained what the first half 
means.  Why does the fact that "...the children the torturers take know no 
breasts..." prove that the memory of his suckling is his mother?  What does 
the entire sentence mean?  I think Severian is saying that it must be his 
mother because if he's suckling at a breast, he hasn't yet been taken by the 
torturers.  Once he IS taken, he'll be fed by bottle or equivalent.  Thus the 
memory must be of a time before he is taken and the woman suckling him must 
be his mother.  That means there's no contradiction in the two passages.  
Catherine bore him (and suckled him) while imprisoned in a cell in the tower.  
At some point after his birth (exactly how long after is unclear, but 
certainly while he was still an infant) she was tortured and killed, and 
Severian was taken by the torturers to be raised as a member of the Guild.

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