(urth) Lake of Birds

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Sun May 20 12:15:48 PDT 2012

On 5/20/2012 2:42 PM, Bruno de Albuquerque Furtado wrote:
> "The pipe still has to have a purpose. Surely Wolfe did not include it 
> simply because he was worried his readers would complain if he didn't 
> explain the lake, nor to demonstrate the builders' skill in hydrology."
> As little as I know about Wolfe, I feel you must be right. But maybe 
> the pipe's purpose is only to give Juturna a way into the Lake, 
> although I think it would be very much like Wolfe to give us such an 
> early clue about the workings of time in Briah. It is obvious that he 
> went to great lengths to make his readers identify this part of the 
> Botanic Gardens with Lake Avernus.

Connecting Avernus to the ocean certainly has both practical and 
symbolic meaning. Not just Juturna but other monsters also dwell in the 
sea. I suppose the pipe would need to be large, possibly big enough for 
Juturna---why not?

> "I want to add that the BNS Cumaean is old and creepy, while the Sibyl 
> is portrayed as young and beautiful, even if she is the oldest and 
> least beautiful of the Four Sibyls."
> Right, but according to Wiki
> [Cumean Sibyl] "Although she was a mortal, the Sibyl lived about a 
> thousand years. This came about when Apollo 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo> offered to grant her a wish in 
> exchange for her virginity; she took a handful of sand and asked to 
> live for as many years as the grains of sand she held. Later, after 
> she refused the god's love, he allowed her body to wither away because 
> she failed to ask for eternal youth 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_youth>. Her body grew smaller 
> with age and eventually was kept in a jar (/ampulla/). Eventually only 
> her voice was left (/Metamorphoses/ 14; compare the myth of Tithonus 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithonus>).^[3] 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumaean_Sibyl#cite_note-2>"
> ^
> ^
> This calls to mind the Mandragora Severian finds in his suite in the 
> Citadel, around the final pages of TCotA. Also, when Severian meets 
> the witches in the Stone Town, the Cumean makes it clear she is quite 
> old, though not as old as the mind she reaches for.

You're right---the jar does bring up the Mandragora. That's interesting.

> ^
> "And then there is her serpentine appearance."
> I can think of one reference to Greek mythology that could shed some 
> light on that appearance. It is said that the Sibyls are sisters, and, 
> according to Wikipedia:
> [Delphic Sibyl] "The *Delphic Sibyl* was a legendary figure who made 
> prophecies in the sacred precinct of Apollo 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo> at Delphi 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi>, on the slopes of Mount 
> Parnassus <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Parnassus>. According to 
> a late source, her mother was Lamia 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamia_%28mythology%29>, daughter of 
> Poseidon.^[1] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphic_Sibyl#cite_note-0> 
> ^[2] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphic_Sibyl#cite_note-1> "
> So their mother is supposed to be Lamia who, in her turn, is 
> identified with snakes and prophecy.

Yes, the Greeks always linked the two. That's probably enough of a 
connection. But I wonder how far back the image of Satan as a snake 
really goes---since much of what we have is in Greek there's the 
possibility that it began with the Greek. I'm sure someone will correct 
me if I'm off base.

Incidentally, I'm reminded of another Wolfean lake with tunnels 
underneath big enough for chariots.

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