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From: Peter Cash <cash@rsn.hp.com>
Subject: (urth) The Castle & Wolfe's Christianity
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 12:33:58 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

I wrote earlier:
>>The castle is the Church? That hadn't come into my mind at all. What
>>indications are there in CASTLEVIEW that this is so? I would have
>>thought that the Castle represented the power of imagination and of
>>myth, and served as a reminder that reality is not necessarily as we
>>think it is. What Christian symbolism did you see in the Castle? How can
>>it be the Kingdom of God if it is inhabited by such signally
>>un-Christian personages as Morgana and Thor (leading the Wild Hunt)? 

To which Jim "Nutria" Jordan replied:
>Sorry. E-mailish briefitudinousness overcame me. The castle clearly varies
>according to perspective: for some it is a spaceship; just as the wild
>ride/hunt is perceived differently. I take it as the kind of ideal home,
>connected to the transcendent, of which the Church is the purest and proper
>form. But perhaps I should re-read.

Sorry, it's easy to take emailed remarks out of context, or give them an
emphasis that distorts their meaning. I think we agree on this--the
Castle represents a lot of things.

As I indicated toward the end of my response, there is something to be
said for the Castle as the Church (or _a_ church, at any rate). Castles
don't usually have gargoyles, but cathedrals do. And how many candles
were there in the room into which little Judy blunders? (Sorry, but I
don't have the book at work.) As she looks away, they become "singing
ladies". If they were three, perhaps they represent the Trinity, seen
through a child's eyes. But then again, maybe they were the Norns, or
the Fates.

I guess my reaction was partly driven by the fact that people seem to be
too quick to find Christian associations for symbols in Wolfe's work,
just because they know he's Catholic. I do think that a _lot_ of the
symbols have their source in Wolfe's Catholic education (as well as his
catholic one), but that doesn't make them Christian. In fact, they often
occur in a setting that suggests a conflation of Christianity and
paganism. For example, if the Castle has the aspects of a Church, then
this is more than a little troubling, for it also has overpoweringly
pagan attributes. Is Wolfe saying that Christianity is only one of many
ways to perceive the truth? If so, then he's deviated from Catholic
doctrine (as well as anything that can be called mainstream Christian

It might be profitable to contrast Wolfe with C. S. Lewis. Lewis wrote
what I would call Christian fantasy--his stories take place in a world
where the Christian beliefs are demonstrably true, or--in the case of
his Narnia books--where Christianity is presented allegorically. Wolfe
does neither; I would say that Wolfe does not write about Christianity
at all, he writes about Paganism. (There's one exception I can think of
to this--"The Detective of Dreams". That's Christian writing.) Wolfe's
Christianity manifests itself indirectly, in that he often shows the
Pagan world in a dim light. 

Ah, I write in haste. Perhaps I can make this clearer at some other
time. (First, I'll have to make it clearer to myself.)


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