(urth) Quasi Christ?

Son of Witz sonofwitz at butcherbaker.org
Mon Feb 9 10:14:42 PST 2009

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Roy C. Lackey [mailto:rclackey at stic.net]
>Sent: Sunday, February 8, 2009 09:37 PM

>If Severian the Conciliator believed he, as Epitome of Urth, had effected a
>conciliation, he ought to know with whom. An incarnation of Christ ought to
>know and would know, else the sacrifice would be dramatically less
>And, as I have said before, Severian didn't even make the sacrifice -- the
>people of Urth did the suffering. In the Christian tradition Jesus, as part
>of the Godhead, took the sins of humanity on his person and suffered for
>them. Severian didn't.

Yes, I agree in that Severian does not embody the crucifixion theme. He does not make that kind of sacrifice, nor does he know who he ultimately serves, unless he takes Tzadkiel at face value. However, he does fulfill an extreme role, that of wiping the slate clean, and thus allowing a rebirth.  This is more in line with a second coming than a crucifixion.

I say Quasi-Christ, because, as the definition goes: "apparently, but not really" or "ostensibly, on the surface".

The frame of mind I had, and I'm sure many had, when pegging Severian as Christ, is not to the level of rigorous exactitude that people have been countering it with. That's fine. But most of the sci fi I've enjoyed has these grand religious themes employed into a little allegorical diorama, with little cardboard characters that represent the elements of an historic or religious character.  I think it works to say these little cardboard Heirodudes and cardboard Severian characters do a good job of representing Archangels and Christ.  Sure, it's imaginative, and the more skeptical mind will not read it as allegory or metaphor.   So, sure, Severian does not intended to map completely to Christ, but he sure comes close enough to argue that he's "ostensibly" the Christ of BotNS, if not actually. Surely comes closer to being Christ than Frodo does, as people have argued.

I don't think Wolfe was truly exploring the moral component of his Christian beliefs as much as he was dealing with the idea of Death and Resurrection, Deities and Beings that transcend that dichotomy, and, especially, the idea of a person becoming the myth that created them.  Wolfe's done this twice in the Sun Series. A character doesn't become merely "like" the shaping myth, they become the shaping myth.  Severian literally becomes the Conciliator. Horn literally becomes Silk.  I think he's really exploring this notion of fully embodying your inspirational archetype, not just "taking up the cross" but actually hanging on it.    He does explore morality, with Severian choosing mercy in almost all instances, and generally overcoming his worldly programming as a torturer. The Conciliator may not be Christ, but in the context of the story, he fulfills a similar role, historically, of inspiring people with a hope of an eventual redemption.  That the Myth that Severian inherited had legendarily "forged a peace between man and the Increate" doesn't exactly square up with what Severian ultimately learns, doesn't change the fact that that is the MYTH that informed his actions and hopes.

Severian does have a tough sacrifice to make, and he does it as duty, without relishing it.  What he does with Urth is mirrored in the Feast of Saint Katherine. The story centers on that moment he has the fake sword raised to behead the Catherine actress. That is key for Severian, his memory of the times always starts there, as he says.  Now taking Borksi's idea that this actress is actually Severian's Mother Catherine, it becomes a very striking symbol.  He's told to "Strike,and Fear Not" as he has to symbolically behead his Mother. (Mother Earth).  It's no small role that he has to fulfill.  I'd call it a tough sacrifice indeed.  It's not Jesus's sacrifice, sure. 

Anyway, I think, with those points in mind, Quasi Christ should be acceptable even to those who don't see him truly as a Christ, which I no longer do either.  Close, but no cigar. Definitely close enough for interesting analysis.


More information about the Urth mailing list