(urth) Grand Unified Theory
severiansola at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 1 05:09:04 PDT 2010
>Roy C. Lackey: I've long wondered why, if Typhon could have cloned himself, he didn't do
>it on Urth to preserve his self-cherished face, rather than go to the absurd length of
>having his own head cut off and put on another man's body.
I think Wolfe chose the name "Typhon" because he wanted this character to embody the
essence of the greek myth, the epitome of all monsters and maybe also to represent
the last, greatest gasp of a Titan race which had been supplanted on Urth by an
Olympian race of "gods". Multi-headedness was perhaps the most distinguishing feature
of mythological Typhon. So the reason for the heads is more allusional than plot-driven.*
Regarding cloning himself on Urth, I think he surely did. Typhon was snake-like in his
lower half but part-man, part-dragon in his upper half. This automatically seems to
draw a connection to the Mandragora. What other purpose to the story could this little guy
serve? The fact that he shares telepathy and clairvoyance with Typhon leaves little doubt
of the connection for me.
Another similarity is that both Typhon and the Mandragora come to life though their bodies
have been kept for centuries in unmaintained preservative conditions. I'm not sure if their
re-animation is meant to refer to Severian's power or an element of immortality among the gods.
I lean toward the latter as Severian's power seems to be reserved for true humans.
A mandragora is sort of related to the idea of a homunculus. And Dr. Talos is referred to as
such. There does not seem to be any greek mythological relationship between Typhon and Talos.
However, in 1958 the RIM-8 Talos missile was replaced by the SAM-N-8 Typhon missle. That's a
probably a long shot (heh) but perhaps an ex-Cold War soldier like Gene Wolfe was alluding to
*What I find more inconsistent is that the two-headedness/grafting of Typhon was supposed to be
a huge secret on Urth. Piaton's head was going to be cut off later. Yet on the Whorl, Pas being
two-headed is open and acknowledged. Why did Typhon's philosophy about ruling using his (one)
face not apply to his uploaded version? I assume it was an auctorial decision to favor
continuity over plot consistency.
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