(urth) Agilus and Agia

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Thu May 2 04:04:50 PDT 2013

For me the interesting aspect of Agia/Agilus is how Agia becomes entwined in 
Severian's story, becoming in some sense his Nemesis.  It would have been 
possible to leave her at the end of the first book, but instead she becomes 
a recurring villain, and eventually becomes as Vodalus was to the previous 

I'm not inclined to pay too much heed to the masks and whether they imply a 
connection to sorcerors etc.  Agilus's mask is, after all, the modus 
operandi [somehow I want to make a fake singular 'operandum'] of the con 
game which we know they have played on travellers before.  They want to 
separate Severian from his valuable sword, at the cost of his life if 

But the question remains, why so *many* tests and trials.  We expect the 
hero to have to overcome certain difficulties on his journey, but does 
Severian suffer more than we would expect, and do they more commonly than we 
would expect take the shape of tests and trials, which of course resonates 
with the overarching plot.   Obviously some element that can be interpreted 
in this way exists in all hero stories, and I think one would have a hard 
time *proving* that there is more of it in BotNS.  But let us say such a 
series of tests is intended: then who is setting them?

The Hierodules have motive, but unless everyone is their direct puppet it is 
hard to see how they could organise tests of a specific kind.  Abaia might 
tempt Severian, or Agia try to kill him, but both are seemingly operating 
according to their own motives.  The same goes for Typhon, the sorcerors and 
the rest.  It doesn't seem feasible that *someone* is orchestrating events 

But suppose we consider a more science-fictional explanation, based on the 
cyclic universe concept.  Severian is not the first Severian - so he 
declares himself, and the adventures of the first Severian were different in 
detail.  Perhaps there was a series of iterations [considered as a series in 
some kind of pseudo-time dimension, obviously] of which the history of the 
book's Severian is the final successful case [an interesting opposite to the 
story in 5HOC].

Over the successive iterations, the moving parts become enmeshed in a 
machine that leads to the Severian who will bring the New Sun.  It is the 
New Sun - or Whatever is behind it - which ultimately selects the history 
that brings about its creation.  No personality or group in the story, not 
even the Hierodules, are controlling events.  The New Sun creates reality - 
timelines that are incompatible with it - such as the timeline of Master Ash 
or the first Severian - fade away.

Obviously the Hierodules understand this process, but they themselves are 
moving parts like all the rest.  The tests and trials are as they are 
because that is the series of trials that will create the Severian who 
brings the New Sun.  Agia plays her part, but she is not directly motivated 
in any way to set tests.  But this is the Agia who happens to set the right 
tests.  In other iterations there were other Agias who acted somewhat 
differently and perhaps had more or less success.

- Gerry Quinn

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