(urth) Lame Protagonists

Gerry Quinn gerryq at indigo.ie
Thu Jun 16 13:59:15 PDT 2011

Some, at least, of the references to lame characters in Tim Powers' books refer to the Fisher King.  One can certainly find some echoes of the various Fisher King myths in BotNS, but whether these are intended I am not certain.  It's always easy to find some resemblances to any complex mythos, particularly one whose strands are as vague and confusing as those of the Fisher King.

For what it's worth, though, we do see a wounded king (Severian, the Autarch, or both) in a wounded land (the Commonwealth).  The wound of the Fisher King may be in the groin or the leg, suiting the Autarch or Severian.  The state of the land is linked to the state of the king; we can at least tie the state of the Commonwealth to the hubris of an earlier ruler.  There is certainly a Grail in BotNS (the White Fountain).  Of course there are distinct differences too, and each story has many elements that would be hard to relate to the other.  So I mention it, but I am not at all convinced that any intentional reference exists.

Less fancifully, we can take Severian's lameness as a lesser echo of the old Autarch's castration.  Or we can simply put it in the context of sacrifice, or battle wounds.  Severian's face is also badly scarred.

- Gerry Quinn

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: James B. Jordan 
  IIRC it's also in The Hero as Werewolf.
  At 03:07 PM 6/15/2011, you wrote:
  In a message dated 6/15/2011 2:41:10 P.M. Central Daylight Time, kierkegaurdian at gmail.com writes:
  > I just finished Peace (which was absolutely wonderful) and
  > am now reading the last half of The Book of the Long Sun.
  > I noticed when reading Peace, one short sentence in which
  > the narrator references his bad leg, which is dragging
  > behind him.  Of course, Severian is famously lame, and
  > for the larger portion of Long Sun, Patera Silk has a
  > wounded leg that is mentioned several times.  I was
  > wondering what people thought the significance is, and
  > if there were other protagonists in Wolfe novels who
  > are lame.
  My guess, without looking at it closely, would be that Wolfe might have Genesis 3 in mind.  In God's curse on the serpent, we read that he will impose enmity between the serpent and the woman and between the serpent's seed (offspring) and the woman's seed (offspring), an enmity which will culminate this way: "He will bruise/crush your head and you will bruise/crush his heel."  
  I'll let others carry these thoughts further if they wish.  (By the way, this sort of imagery is also present, even more strongly, in the works of Tim Powers.  How many of Powers' characters are wounded in their heads, hands, and feet in the course of the story?)
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