(urth) Lake of Birds

Lee Berman severiansola at hotmail.com
Wed May 23 06:15:12 PDT 2012

>Bruno de Albuquerque Furtado: The Old Leech as the Cumaean in disguise is an 
>intriguing notion, but what other evidence do you have of this?
None that would be universally persuasive of course. But in 25 years of reading
BotNS, I always had the sense there was a hidden subtext to the story. My views
on the Cumaean are related to a gradually evolved theory I have regarding this
Wolfe reveals that the Old Leech is from Nessus (like the Cumaean in Witches Tower), 
is willing to use young boys for unsavory purposes (like the witches), is very 
familiar with the eating of the dead w/alzabo (as are witches; evidence can be 
provided for this). All this detail is not necessary to serve the Leech's place 
in the plot so why is it included? I think these are hints that we know this 
Leech from somewhere else in the story.
The Old Leech says he is there in an isolated jungle ziggurat because he seeks
knowledge which can't be found in Nessus or via eating the dead. Not even if all
the great scholars of the past were available. This raises two demanding questions
for me: 1. what is the nature of this knowledge?; 2. how does the Leech expect to find
it in the ziggurat?
My conclusion is that the Leech is only in the ziggurat because Severian is there and
he is the source of the secret knowlege being sought. I think Severian has been
herded from one adventure to another in this story, from Dorcas to avern to notule to
Stone Town etc. to test and wrest the secret of true resurrection that only he
possesses.(the idea that restoring life is the ultimate forbidden/sacred knowledge is a
common trope in fantasy, myth and religion)
I'll mention that I think it likely that The Cumaean and Father Inire are probably the
same person, or perhaps more precisely, different aspects of the same larger super-
human character. Notice that as the character of the Old Leech disappears, the character
of the Jungle Guide appears (whom most agree is Father Inire).
I should explain that I don't find the apparent gender difference to be important. Nor
is the perception of good or evil in certain characters very important. I consider Urth to
be a gnostic world and thus  ruled by a gnostic deity. In fact, such a deity is specifically
mentioned in the text: The Abraxas. This Lord of All Opposites (male-female; good-evil etc.) 
was reviled as a demon by early Judeo-Christians but worshipped by others as a higher god 
than the incomplete male Jehovah. (I notice that as the Jungle Guide character disappears
the androgynous Green Man appears. In pagan mythology there is a thread of connection 
between The Green Man, Pan (Pas), Dionysus and The Abraxas)
So when I suggest Ceryx is the same as (or an aspect of) The Cumaean I also mean Father
Inire.  There is the shared fascination with necromancy and raising of the dead which
connects to The Cumaean. But there is Ceryx's staff capped by a human head which mirrors
the Jungle Guide's staff capped by a monkey head.
Moreover, the entire history of the Commonwealth is marked by a succession of figurehead
Autarchs, drawn from the populace, who are essentially under the sway of a persistent, 
ageless vizier who (as we see from Inire's Letter) feigns subservience while controlling
and directing everything.
When Typhon ruled did he have a vizier? I think he did in Ceryx. As through all the BotNS,
the Ceryx encounter tests Severian's power of resurrection and I think it was pre-arranged.
Soon after the Ceryx encounter, Severian is arrested and brought before a disabled Typhon
and asked for a demonstration of his power. Thus I think Father Inire's role as vizier
started before The Commonwealth and the Autarchs. 
FWIW, I think Wolfe wants us to recognize that good and evil are both used equally by 
God/Increate as the hammer and anvil by which we are forged. Still, we may recognize who
he wants to identify as good and evil by adherence to Christian values. Those who embrace 
pagan practices such as witchcraft, corpse eating, pedophilia, bestiality, human 
experimentation, etc. are evil. Angels are good. Severian, as a reformed torturer, is a 
pagan trying to become more Christian.

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