(urth) Lake of Birds

Bruno de Albuquerque Furtado meuemaildobruno at gmail.com
Sun May 20 15:20:44 PDT 2012

Alright, let's base our discussion on text. Let me cite some instances from
SotT, which I think may be useful:

1) Chapter XXIII: Hildegrin says "'(...) You'll remember, though, that when
you come in here, you come up through a hole in the ground'."

2) Chapter XXIII: He then points out the Cave of the Cumean, and says that
some people believe that this Garden was made just for her (though he
himself doesn't). To which Dorcas asks: "How can it be?". Hildegrin
answers: "The Autarch wants her here, so he can come and talk to her
without travelin' to the other side of the world".

3) Chapter XXIII: Severian comments that "(A spell there was surely, in
this garden. I could almost hear it humming over the water, voices chanting
in a language I did not know but understood.)"

4) Chapter XXIV: The grass around the avern was "littered with the curled
bodies of bees and dotted with the white bones of birds."

Also, from Wikipedia:

[Lake Avernus]"It is unclear whether the lake actually was as deadly as its
reputation held it to be – it certainly holds no fears for birds today –
but it is possible that volcanic activity could have produced deadly fumes."

And Severian tells us, in Chapter XXII, that he "saw geese, alive and
content for all he could tell".

Reference 1) seems to imply that one would enter the Garden of Endless
Sleep through the Cocceio's Cave, mentioned by David. This is also
significant in that it was this tunnel that originally linked lake Avernus
to the rest of Cumae, and therefore the world. It appears, by the light of
reference 2), that the Cumaean originally lived "in the other side of the
world". If the Commonwealth is in fact South America, Italy would really be
far away from the house absolute. Due to continent drift, it might even be
literally on the other side of the world.

I admit it's a longshot, but 3) may refer to the temporal echoes of people
speaking Italian (just as Severian hears the roar of a smilodon far away in
time, in the Jungle Garden). If the language of the Commonwealth has it's
roots in Latin, it may be that he understands it as I, a Brazilian who
doesn't speak the language, could understand Italian very well when I was
in Italy. Furthermore, to my ears Latin sounds like a chant indeed, and
more importantly, it is the traditional language for hymns in the Catholic

The possible presence of averns on Lake Avernus' shores could "explain", in
the context of Severian's universe, the discrepancy between the reports of
dead birds in antiquity, and the lake's relative harmlessness today.
Although the Romans might not be able to actually see the averns, maybe
because they were clearly brought there in the future, from another planet,
the "echoes" of those plants in time might be what killed the birds in that
period. Severian's report of seeing geese may imply that the problem was
not in the water.
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