(urth) Questions . . .

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Tue Nov 27 09:34:18 PST 2007


These are great questions for examples of how to unpack the layers
of meaning Wolfe stuffs into his texts.

1) What is the larger significance of the story Sev reads to Jonas about
> the man fleshed from dreams?  I get that it's a re-working of the
> Theseus and Minotaur story, but is it anything more than an entertaining
> interlude?  Is it some kind of commentary on the surrounding narrative -
> or Jonas' story?  Severian finishes the story with a dismissive comment
> about it being an idle tale, but I'm suspicious something more is going
> on here.

At one level, of course, it's a retelling of the Greek hero-tale of Theseus
and the Minotaur. The bit about a hero fleshed from dreams foreshadows
the concept of "aquastors" and in particular the fact that the Severian who
becomes the New Sun is himself an aquastor, fleshed from his own will
(dream) when his body dies on the star-sailing vessel, who will pass
through the spacetime labyrinth to bring the New Sun and destroy the
monsters that beseige Urth.

2) When Severian meets Rudesind the second time before meeting the
> Autarch, is Rudesind's confusion about where they are - he keeps talking
> about being back in the Citadel, and how they can check the map in
> Ultan's library - intentional?  Is he hinting something to Severian?

I don't think Rudesind is confused; I think that the Citadel and the House
Absolute are in some way the same place. Mirrors...

> 3) Is there a deeper significance to the code phrases Vodalus gives
> Severian?  There's so much about ships elsewhere in the book (the
> pelagic argosy) - the ship on the tomb Sev rests in as a boy, the ship
> he sails to Yesod in - and the Autarch drops the phrase to Sev. as he's
> talking about the higher world Severian will eventually travel to.  Or
> is it "just" a phrase?

There's a *lot* here.

First, when a pelagic (deep-sea) argosy "sights land," it means that the
long voyage is nearly over. This is true, but not perhaps in the way that
Vodalus intends.

Second, the argosy is "pelagic" in the sense of Pelagianism: the
HeiroFoos are guilty of the heresy of trying to perfect humans through
natural means rather than relying on divine grace.

The ship on Sev's tomb *is* Tzadkiel's ship; at one point, it is implied
that there is only one ship of this sort in the Universe.

There are no coincidences
   [COINCIDENCE: You weren't paying attention to the other half of
   what was going on. -- Chad C. Mulligan, "The HipCrime Vocab"]
in the Book of the New Sun; what seems to be a coincidence is
always at least a synchronicity and most likely part of someone's
plan, if only Wolfe's map of the meanings of the Book.

One of the many things I love about the Book is that what appears
at first to be driven by a series Dickensian coincidences turns out
to be a causally-driven plot (though, admittedly, the causality does
not always work forwards in linear time).

On another level, of course, it's just a phrase.

Someone else wanna unpack the second password?

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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