(urth) Close Reading: Torturer Chapter I

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 5 10:00:34 PDT 2006

Regarding the woman in the coffin and the victim of Vodalarii corpse eating 
prevous to Thecla,
Rex says:

>You're conflating two different women, I believe. The first was disinterred 
>back when Severian >was still a boy; Drotte is captain of the apprentices 
>at the time.  *Years* subsequently pass.

I admit that I am not the stickler for timeframes that, say, Roy C. Lackey 
is, but I always thought it was months that pass between Severian's night in 
the graveyard and his expulsion etc., not years.  Severian may think of 
himself as a boy but he is strong enough to defend Vodalus from the attack 
of an armed man.

It is summer ("when the warm weather came") when Severian almost drowns in 
Gyoll.  That night he is in the graveyard and receives a coin from Vodalus.  
"It was Midmorning of the next day before I thought to look at the coin 
Vodalus had given me".  It is on that same day Severian and other 
apprentices are shown the flayed leg torture of a handmaiden we later learn 
is Hunna, servant of Thecla.  She is being tortured to extract information 
about Thea and Vodalus, just as Thecla supposedly is later.  But is it years 
later?  I don't see any evidence for time passage except for a change of 

It is icy winter when Severian encounters Triskele and Valeria.  I've always 
assumed he is elevated and meets Thecla within months after that. After he 
is expelled the weather is warm enough to sleep outdoors and eat in outdoor 
cafes.  It seems pretty warm through Severian's travels (of course he is 
travelling north toward the equator).  Eventually, Citadel ends in Autumn.  
So I've always thought BotNS takes place in a time frame a bit longer than 1 

Rex says:
>it seems readily apparent they've been participating in corpse-eating all 
>along, and not at several >year intervals.

I can agree they probably don't wait years to eat each new corpse, but I 
doubt it is a daily or weekly event.  The ceremony is too elaborate.  Eating 
a corpse only makes sense if the person possessed some special knowledge, 
or, as in the case of Thecla, the person had a measure of loyalty to Vodalus 
that he hoped to imbue in his followers.

Thecla's corpse may have been preserved with ice in a cave, but being 
summer, I think the dead woman in the pale gown was eaten rather quickly 
(Thea and Hildegrin are both concerned about her freshness, ack!).  So I 
think the time span between ghoul meals was about 6 months.

Is there counter-evidence for years passing that I am missing?


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