(urth) The Waif

Matthew Groves matthewalangroves at gmail.com
Tue Mar 3 16:12:43 PST 2009


1) I have always assumed that this story takes place in the same
universe as _The Book of the Long Sun_ and _The Book of the Short
Sun_.  Since Bin sees blue sky and talks about the sun going down and
the moon coming up, they are not in the Whorl.  But neither Blue nor
Green has a moon, and no one in _Short Sun_ refers to Blue or Green as
a moon (though SilkHorn on Urth refers to Lune as Green...).  So that
casts some doubt on the notion that "The Waif" is set on either Blue
or Green as I have always assumed.  But if it is, then that should
give two potential answers to question #1: either Ariael is a Flier or
he is an inhumu.  His nickname is Cold Lad, and he appears to be very
uncomfortable in the cold weather.  As far as we know there are no
Fliers outside the Whorl.

2) The psychology behind the mass hysteria in Bin's community seems to
be something like what gave rise to the Salem witch trials or the
Reign of Terror.  But you're right, I don't completely understand
Niman Pryderi's explanation of the feeling of humiliation and how that
prevents them from progressing.  Maybe this all makes a little more
sense if the inhumi are involved.  But I wouldn't imagine Wolfe would
write an ostensibly stand-alone short story whose logic depends upon
knowledge of another of his own works.  Anyway, perhaps I'll have to
reread the story with the inhumi in mind.

3) Have to think more on this.  The discussion about "Neighbors" may
indeed be intended to point readers toward the Short Sun
interpretation.  "Niman" sounds like a negation of Man, perhaps,
again, pointing towards "inhumi."

4) Yes, this all makes me think of the inhumi.  Inciting people to
prey upon each other.  Also Ariael's inexplicable need for human
contact.  Bin sees plumes of steam in the barn, which he assumes are
the other boy's ("Ariael") breath.  An inhumu's breath wouldn't make
steam; however there are big rats in the barn (Like the one Gid says
he killed), and the other boy may be feeding on one -- steam rising
from its blood.  As Bin speculates, perhaps Gid didn't kill the rat,
but only found it dead after an inhumu had fed on it.

5) I have to reread on this too.  I don't see how Ariael could cause
it to rain, since he is not a Flier, and this is not the Whorl.
Clearly the image of spring dawning seems very important in the story.
 Maybe it's just a very well-timed spring downpour.  But it's not like
Wolfe to insert a straightforward miracle as a Deus ex machina.  What
causes the rain?  And does anyone have any insight into the names:
especially Pryderi, "Ariael" a.k.a. Cold Lad, and the title "Niman"?

Matt G.

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