(urth) The face of Pas

Jeff Wilson jwilson at io.com
Fri Sep 10 23:37:10 PDT 2010

On 9/11/2010 12:33 AM, Roy C. Lackey wrote:
> Typhon's maniacal obsession with his own face is a given, well established
> in the Urth Cycle. The head on the left side of Piaton's body had yellow
> hair, the head on the right side had black hair (SWORD, chap. XXIV). The
> head on the left was Typhon's (URTH, chap. XXXIX, 274). Severian at first
> thought Piaton "a species of idiot" (SWORD, XXV) because he rolled his eyes
> and his lips moved but he was unable to speak. Piaton was unable to speak
> because "He can't get his breath, poor fellow," as Typhon put it (ibid,
> XXVI).
> Silk had yellow hair, as is mentioned many times in LS.
> Shortly after Mint and Remora and some others climbed out of the tunnels,
> Remora shot Sand and Pas made a theophany in the Sacred Window in the
> Prolocutor's Palace. This is what Mint saw:
> ------------------
> She blinked and stared, then blinked again. Not one face but two crowded the
> Window, one gaping and gasping, the other radiant with power and majesty,
> just--and more than just--pitiless and nurturing. "My faithful people,"
> intoned Twice-headed Pas, "receive the blessing of your god." (EXODUS, 204)
> ------------------
> The "gaping and gasping" face was clearly Piaton's. Mint (and Remora) damn
> well knew what Silk's face looked like. Had she recognized the other face in
> the Window as Silk's, she would have been shocked silly and the course of
> the story would have changed radically. Ergo, the other face was not Silk's.
> Nature versus nurture issues aside, on the nature end a clone should look
> almost identical to the original.

But Typhon has probably been through a lot of nurture in his time. The 
author can also play tricks, like reversing the video side-to-side, so 
that an asymmetrical face becomes merely a familial resemblance.

Facial asymmetry has been noted in and associated with particularly 
gifted and driven people as well as those afflicted with harmful 
conditions like stroke and Bell's Palsy, and in particular cerebral 
palsy and muscular dystrophy is associated with people who are both 
gifted and afflicted, and have been for enough time to have been 
circulated into the author's command of scientific concepts.

Or perhaps the commonality of clones of various Typhonian family members 
prevents Silk's resemblance to Pas from being particularly remarkable, 
because lots of people on the Whorl have a similar degree of resemblance 
as a young adult clone would have to his octagenerian original.

And the second, uncoordinated head has to be be one hell of a 
distraction. One is left to wonder why Typhon doesn't have some other 
arrangement, like an opaque or catoptric dome to hide Piaton's silent 

Jeff Wilson - jwilson at io.com
Computational Intelligence Laboratory - Texas A&M Texarkana
< http://www.tamut.edu/CIL >

More information about the Urth mailing list