(urth) The Maids of Contessa Carina

Dave Tallman davetallman at msn.com
Sat Jun 28 22:24:26 PDT 2008

Roy C. Lackey wrote:
> There are difficulties inherent with trying to map a person's life to some
> lines from a play. But let's assume that your basic idea is correct, that
> the woman Sev saw in the loggia was his mother, Ouen's Catherine. Naturally,
> I have some questions. <g>

I found an additional metaphorical clue in the play to strengthen this 

Contessa: ... I was to look like a post decked with morning-glories, it 
would seem.
Meschia: Brat! Don't trifle with holy things while I am near, or dare do 
anything but what I tell you.

The Contessa's words about morning-glories seem to Meschia to be 
trifling with holy things, which makes sense if we think of the New Sun 
as a "Morning Glory." She is "a post decked with morning-glories," i.e. 
she provides a place for the New Sun to grow (her womb).

Parallel to this is the image of moonflowers.  The Autarch says "... and 
train the pale moonflower to climb that staff."  Moonflowers are a 
night-blooming variety of morning-glories. In this imagery I suggest 
they portray the Moon to the morning glory's Sun. The list of persons in 
the play lists "The New Sun", "The Old Sun", and "The Moon", which I 
suggest would be played by Severian, Dr. Talos, and Dorcas respectively. 
Dorcas once wore a moonflower in her hair  (Shadow XXX).  If the Sun is 
like Christ, the Moon is like the Church, shining with reflected light. 
In the context of these books, I would say it represents the followers 
of Sev (such as Dorcas, the prophetess, and the new society on Ushas).

> Who gave the order to escort/arrest her? Valeria? She acted so addle-brained
> at the end as to seem uncomprehending of Urth's doom-in-progress. Aside from
> the generic value of exultant hostages to the autarchy, what made that
> particular woman so important to Valeria that she merited special attention?
> The Praetorians were the autarch's personal guards. Who but the autarch
> *could* command them? Inire? Sev had left him in charge of the Commonwealth
> when he went to Yesod, but that seems not to have lasted for long, otherwise
> Valeria would not be on the throne. Inire seems not to have been around any
> more.
The autarchy has always been heavily influenced, if not controlled, by 
the Heirogrammates. I see no reason why Father Inire would not still be 
around, exerting influence behind the scenes. He's been around from the 
earliest days of the autarchy, so why not stay until the end? But the 
people would never tolerate a direct rule by the hated "cacogens." 
Valeria was a necessary figurehead.

> Nessus was already two days drowned when Sev saw the woman, and the House
> Absolute was shortly to be inundated, so where was she being taken, and how?
The Atrium of Time was flooded, but she could be helped to get to the 
sunken lower levels that lead to the past, if necessary. But I tend to 
think there were other time-travel mechanisms in the hidden part of the 
House Absolute.  The first Catherine has to have escaped on her own, and 
therefore needed inside knowledge (see below for a guess on where she 
got this information).

> When and where was she born? During the forty years Sev was gone?
> If she was an exultant, then so were both of her parents. Who were they, and
> do they appear anywhere in the Urth Cycle? (It seems odd that Ouen never
> mentioned that he was shacked-up with an exultant. And exultants didn't
> choose to bury their dead on Citadel Hill. Of course, being buried before
> she was born might make for an exception. Still, the Guild's victims were
> buried in the lower reaches, not up where the graves had monuments, which is
> where the grave of the woman whose body was stolen was located.)
Yes, I think she was born during the forty years Sev was gone. Because 
of this, her exact parentage is hard to trace. My guess is that she is a 
descendant of Master Ultan (for his photographic memory, and for Sev's 
being reminded of her by the sight of Ultan in Shadow VI). She may also 
be a descendant of Chatelaine Sancha from "The Cat."  Sancha had access 
to many of Father Inire's secrets as a favorite of his, and may have 
passed them on to her relatives. I note also that "Cat" is a nickname 
for Catherine.

I'm dropping the theory that she's the daughter of Valeria, who was a 
mere armigette. It would also make the time paradoxes much worse. 
Valeria wouldn't be in a position to have Catherine without having 
married Sev.

If I'm right about the manipulation of the grave-robbing scene, the 
grave's location was dictated by the expected path of Severian back from 
his swimming accident. It doesn't have to be where she would normally be 

More information about the Urth mailing list