(urth) Seawrack and the Mother

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Tue Sep 18 12:38:30 PDT 2012

On 9/18/2012 3:16 PM, Lee Berman wrote:
>> David Stockhoff: if we take seriously the Naviscaput form of Abaia, then there can be no doubt of a blood
>> relation between him and the Mother. But I always find it hard to accept the Naviscaput thing anyway, so I
>> had to stop there. If Wolfe is serious, then the Mother carries at least a five-pounder in her bow!
> Yes, The Naviscaput story appears as a dreamy legend so having its head serve as a ship armed with a
> cannon seemed to be an imaginary, invented part of the story to me. Now that the Mother may be doing
> something similar I have to wonder.
> The bombadier beetle is able to produce a biological combustion using a peroxide and enzyme mixture. I've
> been shooting water and air pressure rockets with my sons recently. It is stunning how much thrust you can
> get (600 feet/200m high and out of sight in an instant) on a rocket using just the power of a bicycle pump.
> As big as the Naviscaput ship is for a living creature, Wolfe makes it clear the vast majority of its bulk
> is below water level.  Given such size it is conceivable such a creature could produce cannon-like ballistics
> via biological structures.
> This size issue ties into my next insight (apolgies if the idea had been posted before; I don't remember it).
> Horn encounters an unexpected green island on his journey. He decides to stop to collect some water. He sees
> (what he thinks are) some small trees in the distance but he discovers that the green of the island is due
> to a covering of salt-water seaweed. He treks inland to what he thinks is a freshwater pond but finds it is
> saltwater. The clues seem to suggest the island had been recently swamped by a huge storm (which Horn didn't
> encounter)....or...that it is an island newly risen from the ocean. This second possibility suggests to a
> second-time reader that the island might really be, in fact, the Mother.
> Wolfe doesn't give the reader time to ponder this mystery as Horn and Babbie are immediately overwhelmed as
> a section of the green seaweed becomes a giant devil fish which tries to eat Horn. They manage to kill it
> it through a combination of the slug gun, Babbie's attack and Horn's knife. Given the previous suspicion, I
> take this supposedly land-borne fish to be, in fact, a detached portion of the Mother, trying to do what the
> "pirate ship" was earlier unable to do. I think the fact that Horn first (knowingly) encounters Seawrack when
> he returns to his boat supports the idea that the island might be the Mother.
>> Sergei Soloviev: I cannot agree. It is often the case that your conjectures kill other
>> important elements of the plot, for example, Babbie's guilt when Seawrack comes again (it
>> is clearly described). If it is not Babbie who mutulated Seawrack first time, when
>> she tried to get into the sloop when Horn was absent, why is Babbie guilty?
> I disagree in this case. I am only interested in conjectures which kill one way of interpreting the plot
> if they bring to life other, more holistic and integrated interpretations. And given Wolfe's repeated and
> decades-spanning use of unreliable narrators, I do not think assumptions of narrator veracity should always
> be taken as the most compelling evidence for what is "really" going on.
> In this case, perhaps a discussion of Babbie is in order. Given the entire text of all three Short Sun books
> I do not see Babbie as a simple gift pet from Mucor. I see him as an avatar or in some way imbued with the
> essence of a god (Phaea is an obvious guess, but the gods get reshuffled in the Long to Short Sun transition).
> His duty is to protect Horn and perhaps his quest.
> I think Horn is like Severian (who not coincidentally is described as a contruction of horn and boiled leather).
> They are both like Odysseus or Hercules or other Greek heroes who are caught between warring gods as they
> pursue their quests across their worlds.
> I don't know if the Mother's initial attacks against Horn were specifically against him or just (as Seawrack
> describes) an attempt to make another meal of a drowned sailor. But I think that as the Mother becomes aware
> of Babbie, she realizes she is attacking a guy under the protection of another god and she changes and softens
> her approach. Hence, Seawrack.
> Regarding Babbie's apparent guilt over Seawrack, I dunno. It sounds familiar but I was reading ahead and couldn't
> find where that is described. Seawrack is initially afraid of Babbie. But even if it was Babbie who removed
> Seawrack's arm rather than Horn's shot, I don't see how that changes things much. It still seems likely that
> Seawrack was on the "pirate ship" which was The Mother and had been following Horn's ship for a while before
> taking permanent residence.
> Given all the talk of Seawrack's gold jewelry as a dowry price it seems clear to me that she is, like Babbie,
> a gift to Horn from a god. Is she also meant as a protector?  Horn makes it clear he suspects the ultimate goals
> of the Mother far more than he suspects Babbie.

I think that's the best analysis of the motives of the various players 
I've read so far. And it explains the shift from pirate ship to 
Seawrack, especially if Babbie is really more than he seems. And he 
always did seem so, even before he absorbed Horn---after all, not every 
animal can absorb a human soul.

As for the Naviscaput, you're thinking exactly what I was thinking. The 
Mother clearly has all sorts of chambers within her. She would have 
evolved pressure/pressurizing controls and one could easily imagine her 
pumping out a shot (even just seawater) at a small boat. Of course, 
there is the story of the Student too.

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