(urth) Short Story 13: The Changeling

Robert Pirkola rpirkola at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 21 08:52:06 PDT 2014

I had read the posts about the 3 missing years, though I had little to add to that at this time other than if he is an "oaf", persons I generally associate with being dullards, isn't it possible that Pete Palmer was held back a number of years in school so that he was in 4th grade in 1944 AND born in 1931?  That non-magical explanation aside, I have a hard time disagreeing with your timeline.  The purpose of my post was that I had just noticed while reading the various interpretations that have been used over the years for "The Changeling" that they were rarely, if ever, discussed all together so I tried my hand at doing so, adding in some details I had found and thought informative.  

Also, while reading some of the old musings on this story by Ron Crown, Michael
Andre-Driussi, James Jordan, et al., from 1997, I noticed that there was reference to Wolfe whispering the secret of the "The Changeling" to Damon Knight:  
"[W]hen Damon Knight reprinted 'Changeling' in a best-of Orbit collection from the first ten volumes; he prefaced it with a letter to Wolfe written when he bought the story in which he confesses that he 'can't sort it out into any one consistent, linear, daylight-logic pattern.' According to Knight, Wolfe revealed the secret years later when he whispered to him 'The old man is dead, you know.'" (Urth, Ron Crown, July 15, 1997).
The WolfeWiki entry for "The Changeling" has a mention of this same event but puts it thusly: "That may be why when Larry Niven asked for an explanation of this story Wolfe simply said 'The old man is dead.'"  http://www.wolfewiki.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Stories.TheChangeling
Beyond the obvious conflict about who received the explanation, there is significant doubt that it was in reference to "The Changeling" at all.  Micahel Andre-Driussi:  "I just can't shake the feeling that Wolfe was telling Knight about PEACE rather than 'The Changeling.'"
Does anyone have the Best-Of Orbit collection with the Damon Knight preface that they can consult to clear this up?
> Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:07:29 -0700
> From: Marc Aramini <marcaramini at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: (urth) Short Story 13: The Changeling

> Did you read the posts I made after my initial one that accounted for the
> three missing years?  Pete Palmer was an actor who played Lil Abner, born
> in 1931 like Gene Wolfe (Lil Abner was a notorious oaf, and the word oaf
> stems from the idea of an even elfin changeling swapped in a bad bargain,
> such that the switch happened in 1931 and Pete Palmer only believes himself
> to be in the fourth grade in 1944 or so because that is when he wrestles
> the eternal fourth grader who took his place, affecting his memories.
> When I looked up Pete Palmer born 1931 I didn't expect a real person to
> come up.  So they really were swapped at birth in 1931 rather than having
> only "one" mentally fractured family.
> Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:09:38 -0700
> From: Marc Aramini <marcaramini at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: (urth) Short Story 13: The Changeling
> Sometimes the eureka moment would hit me after I made the post, like
> Mountains Like Mice, where the purple dye he paints himself with is the
> purple dye of an in vivo science experiment to make cells visible brought
> to a literal level.
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