(urth) Thea's Identity

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Mon Apr 22 06:02:17 PDT 2013

On 4/22/2013 8:12 AM, Lee Berman wrote:
>> David Stockhoff: I was prepared to disagree that the exultants are from
>> beyond Urth but then recalled the term "autochthon." I always took that as
>> a fancy word for "native" but it could just as well mean "urthling," implying the
>> exultants had returned from the colonies (where people historically grow
>> taller thanks to better food: see Vikings, USA, Australia, Boers, etc.)
>> after a chiliad of tinkering.
> Thanks for inspiring me to look it up. Yeah, "autochthon" does refer to
> indigenous people and culture, but interestingly the first definition I found was:
>> Autochthon (ancient Greece), in mythology, people born straight from the earth, with
>> no human parents.
> This recalls the myth of Ducalion and Pyrrha who repopulated the earth after the Greek
> version of the Flood by casting stones over their shoulders which grew into men and women.
> This myth is specifically referenced in Dr. Talos' play so perhaps the "autochthons" have
> somewhat more significance to the story than I had previously thought.

I didn't know that myth. Yes, it gives the term added meaning.

> I did always get the sense that the exultants were part of Urth's "corruption" that Severian's
> flood was meant to sweep away. Regarding extra-terrestrial origin, we do know that Vodalus,
> (representing the interests of exultants?) is allied with the forces of extra-terrestrial
> Abaia. Father Inire (like Palpitine?) is playing both sides against each other, I think.
> Interesting that you mention "Vikings" because in my experience, there is a surprisingly
> large population of nordic-descended people in Chile and Argentina. Perhaps the insertion
> of tall exultants in the Commonwealth is meant to allegorize the difference between them and
> the shorter, swarthier native population of earthian southern S. America. Conversely, it makes
> me wonder how Gene Wolfe felt among the native population of Korea.

The fact that a Korean ship crashlanded is interesting. And we know the 
crew's names but no one thinks they look funny. Rather, the southern 
autochthons are light and therefore, presumably, the city people dark, 
like Agia. I don't recall the exultants being dark, however.

Some of this must be fantastic reversal, some of it necessary in 
portraying an alien earthlike world where eons have passed. But some of 
it may be intended to highlight further the racial differences already 
brought to the foreground.

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