(urth) Spring Wind

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Wed Sep 29 08:45:44 PDT 2010

>> Me-
>> Just because the story says Frog was raised by "wolves" and Fish was
>> raised by "shepherds" does not mean that those terms are not accurate
>> even if --if you saw them-- you would not recognize the referred
>> organizations as wolves or shepherds.
> Andrew Mason-
> OK, I'm beginning to see how your theory fits together now. (Something
> you said earlier suggests you see shepherds as torturers - is that
> right?)

I don't know. Maybe. I was only noting how tricking divining these 
stories is. In the Q&A, Wolfe implied that The Chapter in "Long Sun" is  
the Torturer's Guild. The wolves and the shepherds could be different 
branches from the same source. I don't really know _how_ these stories 
relate to the Urth Severian discovers in his travels. Frog and Fish died 
a long time before Sev was born. Is Typhon the hero in "The Tale of the 
Student and His Son"? I can't say at this point. It could be. Or it 
could be Frog (Typhon does eventually die in a fall, after all).

> Andrew Mason-
> There is some definite evidence that 'wolves' are not human,
> though - the Naked One says 'I have never had a son of Meschia to
> teach' - though there are certainly ways of accommodating that without
> making them literal wolves.

That's an interesting point. Yeah, the wolves might not be human. Or 
even the shepherds.

>> Me-
>> King Arthur and Alexander the Great were historical figures that became
>> myth. Conversely, CS Lewis --as a new Christian answering critics that
>> Christianity was a rehash of earlier myths about dying/resurrected
>> gods-- said "No. He is the myths made real."
> Andrew Mason-
> I'd totally agree that 'myths made real' is a theme at work in BOTNS.
> But that still leaves open various ways of reading the stories in
> _Wonders of Urth and Sky_' they can either be accounts of the events
> which made the myths real, or they can be myths themselves, waiting to
> be made real.

Okay. But that still suggests a task for the reader to connect the 
stories to "actual" events in the novel.

> Andrew Mason-
> And there is the complicating factor that they reflect
> not only ancient myths but also real events from the past.)

Yes, but it is not debilitating, I think. I think we can safely say that 
the parts that are in the original myths/stories are absolutely 
historical. I want to return to my Jurassic Park analogy. In that novel, 
the missing parts of dinosaur is supplemented with frog DNA because 95% 
of chordate DNA is identical. This can lead to problems (as it did), but 
the principle was sound. The same with the stories in _Urth & Sky_. The 
historical events can be supplemented with myth without (mostly) 
undermining their veracity. Let me go at it another way:

Robert Graves constructed elaborate theories for how the Greek myths 
represented historical events. Well, imagine a historian translating the 
story of "Frog". In the process he remembers a stories about Romulus and 
The Jungle Books and says "Hmmm...clearly these stories are the same 
event." So he unwittingly does what Graves did -- reads myth and 
literature as an historical event. At the same time, he does what people 
do with the stories of King Arthur and Jesus. "Hey! There are 
similarities in these stories to ancient myths. Obviously King Arthur 
and Jesus are _merely_ reimagined versions of those myths."

But if the stories are _true_. That is, if our imagined historian did 
not _change_ the details that he _actually had_ of the histories to make 
them align with the myths, then we still have what the historian 
originally had as well.

Yeah, "The Tale of the Student and His Son" has parallels to the story 
of Theseus. But --really-- only in the broadest strokes. Did the actual 
"Son" carry an alfange? Was his battle with the ogre a naval battle? Was 
there a labyrinthine, Amazonian hide-out? Did the "Son" use a signal of 
sails to announce his success or failure? It's probably okay to make an 
assumption either way. I don't think those details are vital to the story.

But the ogre is Erebus or Abaia (and to my reading there appears to be 
some confabulation between the two -- yeah, they could be twins). 
Princess Noctua is not naturally born, just as the hero was not. There 
is evidence that tributes of youths were/are common practice among the 
tyrants of Urth...certainly Typhon demanded them.

>> Me-
>> Also, note that were it not for the names Juno, Rhea Silvia, Mowgli,
>> etc. we would not readily associate this story with Romulus or Kipling.
> Andrew Mason-
> Do you think so?. Lots of people seem to have got the Romulus
> reference without decoding the names; and for Mowgli, while 'Frog' is
> certainly a giveaway, I think there's enough other stuff - a
> woodcutter, a tiger, the two outsiders who persuade the wolves to take
> him - to make the link fairly clear. (Likewise people have found the
> sources for 'The Student and his Son' without many clues in the names.
> Jonas helps there, but clearly _he_ was able to get it from the story
> alone.)

Well, Jonas might know more details about the original story than we do. 
Also, Wolfe's characters are often able to make unlikely deductive 
leaps. But while people readily identify the ways that The Son parallels 
Theseus, most IMO do not appreciate how much of the story is not drawn 
from the myth.

As for people getting the Romulus reference, this is probably due to 
several things. 1) This list. Probably not as many people get it on 
their own as you think. 2) Lexicon Urthus. Same deal. 3) People know 
Wolfe. They recognize that he likes to interweave mythology into his 
stories, and they know he likes to interweave myths and stories about 
wolves, so they go looking for them.

However, (this is important I think) the entire novels --the lives of 
Severian, Silk, Horn, Green, Number Five-- are mapped over mythology and 
literature in the same way these little stories are. When people post on 
the list some close reference or another, others shrug and say "That's 
interesting." But they don't assume Green is _really_ Attis or Horn is 
_really_ John Carter. But (to my surprise) they often think something 
like that about the _Urth & Sky_ stories.


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