(urth) Questions about BNS

Eric Ortlund eortlund at briercrest.ca
Thu Nov 15 07:48:09 PST 2007


-----Original Message-----
From: urth-bounces at lists.urth.net [mailto:urth-bounces at lists.urth.net]
On Behalf Of Roy C. Lackey
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 12:15 AM
To: The Urth Mailing List
Subject: Re: (urth) Questions about BNS [mx][spf]

Welcome, Eric!

Search the archives for "Piteous Gate" for past discussions of the

As several others have said, the fiery apparition witnessed by Severian
and Dorcas in Book I is indeed the "miracle" of the rising, burning tent
cathedral of the Pelerines mentioned by the lady vendor in Saltus in
Book II.

Eric Ortlund wrote:
>>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.<<

More specifically, the huge face he sees is that of Juturna. See Book V,
Chapter XLIII.

>> Two
questions: who is the woman crying that he hears - Thecla? <<

As Andrew has also suggested, I believe the woman was his mother.

That makes sense to me.  

>>  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 believe that Robert Borski was the first to suggest that the boatman
is/was Dorcas' husband. I know of no better explanation.


Yup, that sounds right to me.

Thanks, everyone, for the responses; it makes Wolfe a lot more exciting
to read as I realize how much depth there is to the New Sun series.
This is the "biggest" book I've ever read - it simply has the vastest
perspective of any work of fiction I've ever come across.

I find it impossible to describe the sense of uplift I felt after
reading the last sentence of Urth of the New Sun about the sleeping god;
after so much destruction and pain, it is a tantalizingly hopeful

Part of the reason I find Wolfe so entrancing is that he's so erudite
when it comes to ancient mythology.  Part of my studies has been on
ancient Semitic myths and their relation to the Hebrew Bible.  As in BNS
- and as in WK, for that matter - the sea and the monsters in it are
often seen as these cosmic monsters which would destroy all of creation,
which Marduk (Babylonian)/Baal/Yahweh/whoever needs to defeat - and in
so doing, renews all creation.  Much the same theme seems to be going on
here.  I find it very interesting that these chaotic forces try to
enlist the hero in both BNS and WK.  

The more I read about the Tokoloshe scene in the Jungle Garden, the more
mysteries it seems to hold.  Why do only Isangoma and Robert see Sev and
Agia (who, by the way, are apparently "traveling" in the same way - as
specula - which Horn/Silk does in the Short Sun series)?  And Robert
refers to the two of them as Death and His Lady (doesn't Dr. Talos say
the same thing about them?), who have "come to remonstrate with him for
giving up art for this" (1/21), "this" apparently meaning missions work.

I think it is singificant that Robert says that "They are the spirits of
the future, and we make them ourselves" - something which, from the
larger perspective of the novel as a whole, is true.  Isangoma also
says, "Tokoloshe remain until the end of the world."

The odd thing is that the Christian missionaries don't seem to be able
to handle the spectral appearance of Sev and Agia - but Isangoma
understands it, is not frightened by it, and offers to dispel the
spirits with his song.  (There's a note of triumph in Isangoma's voice
as Agia leaves the hut and Sev follows her.)  Robert seems quite shaken
in his faith in the whole encounter - as if Sev is torturing him just by
his appearance.  Perhaps a strike against Christianity and in favor of
paganism!  Odd.


Thanks again for the helpful comments. 

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