(urth) Questions about BNS

Eric Ortlund eortlund at briercrest.ca
Thu Nov 15 07:13:47 PST 2007

Comments in blue below.


From: urth-bounces at lists.urth.net [mailto:urth-bounces at lists.urth.net]
On Behalf Of Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 3:50 PM
To: The Urth Mailing List
Subject: Re: (urth) Questions about BNS [text][html][mx][spf]


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.  
That's a good point; I'm reminded of how Sev sees the black straps to
the mask when he's fighting Agilus with the averns (even though he
doesn't realize it is Agilus at the time).  Still, the first sight of
the maks leaves Sev so powerfully affected - he says that it was more
frightening than the maks of any torturer (1/11) - I wonder if it is a
reflection of Agilus' personality; I'm reminded of the ridiculous things
he says to Sev the night before his execution, so much so that Sev just
laughs at him.  


	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
Noted!  Oh, and I was check the archives of the Urth list and found a
great discussion by J. Jordan/Patera Nutria about how both Father Inire
and Isangoma are looking for a fish - and this is probably a symbol for
the church (or something similar to that); after hearing Isangoma's
story, Agia makes reference to the God-man (theos-anthropos), who
humbled himself in becoming human, while Isangoma goes on about his own
god, who is proud, etc.  So there's probably an intended contrast there.
Moral: Do more research before you ask!
As I remember, the husband of the couple is able to see Sev and Agia,
but the wife is not; and the terror of the husband is compared to
torture (at one point, Sev says the man gave a look like clients do
before an execrution begins).  I wonder if that is significant
thematically . . .


	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. 
Oh.  Yeah.  Duh.  I knew that.  (Man, Wolfe can make me feel stupid!) 


	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...  
Yeah, I realize this is probably insoluble.  That they're looking for
Baldanders makes sense to me.  

	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. 
Wow, great answer.  It would make sense that he's looking for a woman -
that he would ask about a woman underwater.

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? 

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