(urth) The face of Pas

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Tue Sep 14 09:27:07 PDT 2010

>> Me - But the idea that Typhon was egotistically--let alone
>> "manically"--obsessed with his face is simply not true based on his
>> discussion with Severian in Sword of the Lictor. Keeping his original
>> head, in the original case,  was a practical issue:
> Roy = Having one's head cut off to preserve the face is very radical, particularly
> if there were other options available, such as clones and chem bodies that
> could be made to look human, as was the demonstrated case with Potto and
> Lemur. One for Siyuf was whipped out in about two-day's time.

There are downsides to chem bodies as the Ayuntamiento discovered. Being 
downloaded into a chem body might reasonably give Typhon no more actual 
legal status than uploading his personality into a computer. There is no 
evidence of fast-grown clones being an available option in any of the 
novels. The point remains that Typhon said he used the method he did for 
practical reasons. Not egotistical ones.

>> Me - **That the waking Cargo was memory-wiped in the same fashion as as the
>> Sleepers were seems the obvious implication.
> Roy - Neither the waking Cargo nor the Sleepers were memory-wiped, but in the case
> of the Sleepers, at least, their brains were tinkered with.

Yes, The memories of the waking cargo were strategically wiped and added 
to. That's what I was getting at -- as described in quotes you offered. 
They didn't forget that they had left Urth. They probably knew initially 
what the purpose of their cards was (although the significance of their 
value might have unintentionally been softened). But they did not 
remember Typhon as normal human dictator. The augurs and sybils and the 
congregants thought of their religion as one practiced throughout their 

The *idea* of Typhon and his family could not be expunged. It is 
unlikely that any people on Urth thought of him as a two-headed being. 
He could not have been in that form long before he died.

And if there had been a religion centered around Typhon --one that could 
not be expunged from the memory of the Cargo-- then it would not have 
dissipated with his death as easily as his government did (dividing 
allegiance between the competing alien powers).

> Roy - What did Typhon's wife and young children have to do with anything? Why were
> the memories of Typhon's family so deeply entrenched in the minds of the
> people put aboard the _Whorl_ that not even a surgeon's knife could
> eliminate them? For an answer, look to what Lemur next had to say: "The
> monarch had wanted a son to succeed him. Scylla was as strong-willed as the
> monarch himself, but female. It is a law of nature, as concerns our race,
> that females are subject to males. Her father allowed her to found our city,
> however, and many others. She founded your Chapter as well, a parody of the
> state religion of her own whorl. She was hardly more than a child, you
> understand, and the rest younger even than she." (ibid)
> There is your "parody". Typhon and his family were entrenched in the minds
> of the people of Urth because they had been forced upon the people of Urth,
> possibly in the form of the state religion.

No. I do not see how this can be at all. The text you are providing does 
not map to your conclusion. Not at all.

The child Cilinia could not have designed all the traditions of the 
Chapter. No way. Typhon's committees did that on an ad hoc basis-- the 
same way they put together the Writings. When Lemur say she "founded" 
the Chapter and Viron and other cities, he is talking about a titular 
role--with little more input than a suggestion here and there. That's 
why Lemur stipulates that she was little more than a child.

The state religion on Urth was real one- an established one analogous to 
the Catholic Church...thus the similarities. Your explanation of the 
parody leaves little room for parody. Nor does it explain how religions 
of other cultures are also parodies of known world religions. For 
example, the parody of Islam among the Trivigaunte does not require a 
male god for ultimate devotion--everything is reversed from Islamic 
culture regarding male-female relations.

The reason Typhon and family are so ingrained in the minds of the 
Urthlings is obvious from looking at the personality cults established 
by lesser tyrants like Stalin and Saddam, and the obsession people have 
with their royal families (ala the U.K.)

> Whether or not worship of Typhon and his family was the state religion on
> Urth, the fact remains that his family was entrenched in the minds of people
> put aboard the _Whorl_, and the only solution found to what was apparently
> some sort of problem associated with that fact was to rename them. Renamed,
> they became gods in Mainframe. For the religion of Viron to be a parody of
> the state religion on Urth, the state religion on Urth must have been
> polytheistic, otherwise the solution would have generated more problems than
> the solution was intended to remedy.

Urth's state religion was not centered around the worship of Typhon and 
his family. There's no evidence of a surviving cult of worship around 
Typhon in Severian's day. There is no hint that the people the 
Conciliator encountered viewed him that way.

I don't think Wolfe the author was so constrained that the state 
religion the Chapter parodied had to be polytheistic. Typhon only needed 
to have the personalities of his family to be redrawn in caricature. The 
Typhonic family was an issue, but the various religions (as I said, 
those of other cities were vastly different) he didn't care about at 
all. He played with them freely.

If I were to carry what you are arguing to its logical end, then Typhon 
was undermining his plan by having Echidna with snake hair and Scylla 
with tentacles.  And little Hierax as the god of death? Really?


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