(urth) Questions about BNS

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Wed Nov 14 13:49:46 PST 2007


Welcome. I can't answer all your quesitons, and for those I can, my
answers may be "debateable." But here goes.

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?
Perhaps, but more generally there's a theme about things that pretend to be
something they aren't pretending to be what they really are: i.e., the
Hierodules, beautiful humanoids who wear masks of hideous things, and wear
beautiful human masks over that; or Jonas, who seems to be a robot
masquarading as a human, but turns out to have a human soul. Etc.

Mind, I might be reading this through my "Kurt Vonnegut" eyes.

> 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?
I can't answer this one. But I'll use it to suggest that pagination rarely
helps; there are quite a number of one-, two- and four-volume editions of
tBotNS out, so your pagination will almost certainly differ from that of
those trying to answer the questions. better to give chapter numbers and
information that will help locate the text in the chapter -- which, other
than the chapter number, you did fairly well here.

>  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?
It *is* the tent of the Pelerines. They lit a fire to burn it down and it
went up like a hot-air balloon.

> 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?
This incident has been discussed a great deal, to no real conclusion. One
answer that has been suggested is that they are there to capture one of
several members of the party - particularly Sev himself (in which case the
attack would be under the influence of Abaia or one of those guys) or maybe
Baldanders. Another is that this is simply soldiers taking advantage of the
fact that it's forbidden to use the roads, and the gate is on a road, so...

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?
I don't know who the woman crying out is. But my claim is that the boatman
is Dorcas's husband, whom Severian next encounters in the Garden when he
nearly drowns.

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
I am miserable, he is miserable,
We are miserable.
Can't we have a party? Would he rather have a party?
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