(urth) The Pelerine (COTA 8)

Andrew Mason andrew.mason53 at googlemail.com
Sat Sep 11 10:00:34 PDT 2010

(Dunno why I wrote 12 before: it is chapter 8.)

Lee Berman wrote:
> Welcome Andrew!

Thanks Lee!

 I often think that chapter names provide more clues to what is going
> on than what is frequently acknowledged here.

Yes indeed. One of Cyriaca's chapters is actually a good example -
'The Library of the Citadel', making it clear, in a way it wouldn't be
otherwise, what her story is about. There's also the chapter 'Dorcas',
in which, if I remember rightly, the name 'Dorcas' never occurs.

> When Severian is talking to Cyriaca, she first tells him that she has had no
> contact with any of the Pelerines since leaving. Later, under fear of torture,
> Cyriaca tells Severian that she got a letter a week ago from her friend,
> Einhildis, saying the Pelerines were stationed at the Autarch's battle camp
> at Orithiya.
> Being at Orithiya, and unnamed, I must guess this older Pelerine is Einhildis.
> I don't see anything mysterious about Einhildis herself.

That it's Einhildis makes a lot of sense; though, as you say, it's not
entirely clear why that should lead to concealing her name. Perhaps
because Severian would start asking her questions about Cyriaca if he
knew who she was? (One question that can arise is who is concealing
the name. Sometimes it's clearly Severian; he must, for instace, know
the name of his predecessor as Autarch. Or there's Jader's sister;
Jader actually calls out his sister's name in his sleep, but Sev
doesn't tell us what it was. But at other times there's no reason why
Severian should know the name, so it may be Wolfe who is concealing
> My conjectures about Cyriaca are:
> 1. She is a family member of Severian's, probably aunt. They have sex, so no great
> surprise there. Perhaps she is mother to Agia and Agilus as she plans to go to escape
> back to Nessus to sew and cook.

I'm not convinced by the idea that everyone who Severian has sex with
is related to him. Is there any special evidence in this case?

> 2. Her mysterious (and likely lecherous) uncle who told her so many stories and seems
> to know more about the cosmic history of humanity than anyone else on Urth might be
> Father Inire.

Cyriaca knows a lot, but her knowledge is strangely bitty. She thinks
the Citadel is deserted and only the Autarch knows about it. The 'lost
archives' are not nearly as lost as she imagines. She also seems to
think that Nessus was newly built in the time of Typhon.

I'm inclined to think that the knowledge she has is not secret, just
not widely shared, because people generally don't inquire, and find it
difficult when they do. Even in the actual world there is an immense
amount of knowledge that is not secret but not widely shared; it would
be much more so in the Commonwealth, with fewer schools and libraries,
and no internet. Consider how many people think the torturers no
longer exist, though they are a recognised branch of government, based
in a highly visible place.

. (I think the Citadel is mentioned to have a Red Tower and a Tower of
> Healing).

Yes, I've wondered about the Red Tower (which seems, with the Witches'
Tower and the Bear, to be one of those nearest the Matachin, but whose
function is never stated). But if it were connected with the
Pelerines, wouldn't Severian know more about them?

We know that the Pelerines are primarily an exultant order. But we have
> evidence (secret beautification, khaibits, experiments with hairless creatures) that
> exultant Chatelaines also have some connection to witches. Secret connections all over
> the place.

I know about khaibits. Where do we hear about secret beautification
and hairless creatures (in connection with Exultants - I remember the
witches' hairless creatures)?

> 4. Cyriaca discusses the landing of cacogens in the north and they they'd want to "avoid
> the mirrors at the House Absolute so they could escape the eyes of the Autarch." She
> discusses political tension between exultants and the Autarch, between the Autarch and the
> cacogens (hierodules). Stuff even Thecla knows only as rumor. Again, it seems Cyriaca's
> uncle has been filling her in on very secret stuff known only by the guys at the very top.

Well, she gets the landing of cacogens from Einhildis: I presume she
means the ones at Baldanders' castle, who don't seem to be making an
effort to conceal themselves, and whose arrival would have caused
quite a stir locally. The general political situation, regarding the
Autarch and cacogens, she says is common knowledge among the upper
classes. May it be that she knows more than Thecla just because she is
more alert?

> Of course the cacogens do show up at the House Absolute for Dr. Talos' play, so Cyriaca
> isn't a perfectly reliable source of information. Still, I think the whole thing (along with
> Palaemon and Rudesind forgetting their lines) smacks of a big set-up for Severian. A play
> designed to set him on a particular course. Severian has been steered to Orithya.

That the Autarch and Inire are up to something is clear. I remember
Rudesind, who works for Inire, forgetting his lines. Where does
Palaemon do so? There's the bit about Thrax being in the south, but
that's a a forgetting of facts, not just of lines; Thrax _is_ in the
north. I'm convinced by the theory that Palaemon is confused because
his exile was in the south.

> Well, okay probably too much. As the old Autarch tells Severian, "you asked me for a light for
> your candle, and I tried to give you the sun...". But hopefully at least a little helpful.

No problem. You've given me a lot to think about.

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