(urth) Questions about BNS

Eric Ortlund eortlund at briercrest.ca
Wed Nov 14 11:26:21 PST 2007

Dear Friends,

My name is Eric and I teach Hebrew and Old Testament at a seminary in
Canada.  I picked up Strange Travellers several years ago while living
overseas and was entranced, especially with "To the Seventh."  Then it
was on to the Wizard Knight, which I have now read four times, each new
time with increasing relish.  I'm glad I did WK first, because I might
have been overwhelmed otherwise!  Anyway, all this is to say I'm
relatively new to Wolfe (but he's quickly become my favorite author) and
to this list - so if the questions I'm asked have already been
discussed, just let me know!

Anyway, I'm on my third time through the Book of the New Sun and there
are some questions that keep niggling at me.  Anyone care to comment on

1) When Severian enters the shop of Agilus and Agia, Agilus is wearing a
mask that makes him look like a corpse.  No detail in Wolfe is
inconsequential: so why is that there?  Foreshadowing of Agilus' fate?  

2) When Severian and Agia are in the Jungle Garden, the apparently
travel in time and space (the story about Father Inire's mirrors
apparently prepares the reader for this) to a missionary couple in the
jungle.  Can someone please explain to me what on earth the native is
talking about on pg. 131?  The woman in the couple reads from
Deuteronomy 34 - about Moses looking into the promised land but not
being able to enter it - and then the native tells a story about a fish
who apparently is a woman.  I'm totally at a loss here; what is the
connection?  What is the naked man talking about?  How does this
contribute to the story?  

3) What about the vision Dorcas and Severian see when they're leaving
Nessus of the huge palace (pg 181)?  What is it of?  I vaguely remember
that the conversation which Severian has with the woman who gives him
tea at the fair in Saltus might hint that it is somehow identified with
the tent of the Pelerines.  Is that on the right track?

4) At the end of Shadow of the Torturer, there's a disturbance at the
huge gate of Nessus; we only learn in Severian's dream in the next book
about the five soldiers turning people aside.  Severian seems so
circumspect in describing this that I'm suspicious he knows something
which he isn't telling us.  Is this incident in the book significant?
Or is it just that Severian doesn't know why the soldiers are there?

5) One more and I'll stop - when Severian nearly drowns in the Gyoll
near the beginning of Shadow, he sees a woman's face; later, during his
dream while he's sleeping next to Baldanders, the brides of Abia hint
that they came to see him at the Gyoll - so that's who he sees.  Two
questions: who is the woman crying that he hears - Thecla?  Also, when
his friends pull him out, he says that he saw the dead Malrubius - and a
boatman asks if Malrubius is a woman.  I know this is really small, but,
like I said, no detail is insignificant; why would the boatman say this?
Is there anything here?

Thanks again - Eric

Invite the next generation of students to consider Briercrest College and Seminary. Visit www.briercrest.ca/refer.  
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