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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) RETREAD Changeling
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 97 15:40:00 GMT

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

Reply:  Item #1856700 from URTH@LISTS.BEST.COM@INET#

I finally found some of my old notes and present them here with
hardly a dusting off.

RETREAD NOTES ON "The Changeling":

First off, last time I read it I got to the encrypted name at the
end and said to myself, "Ah, so his name is Peter Pan, with Pan
being a link to both the Greek god Pan (benign) and Typhon-as-Pas
(malignant) in the Wolfean scheme of things."  But that was last
time.  [Also note: Pan as rubric for "idylic pagan times," or, to
add to Nutria's religious approach, "pagan childhood (of
humankind before advent of Christ)"; which works nicely with Peter
Pan by itself; and by tangent the appearance of god Pan to the childish
animal people of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, or even pre-civilized Mowgli
described as Pan-like in the Jungle Books.]

This time [1995?] I made note of elements: "Alienated Guy"
(tracked in Joan Gordon's work; makes strong link between "The
Changeling" and "The Adopted Father," among others), "Hero in
Prison," "Korean War (1950-1953)," "Hero as Criminal," "Sealed
Records," and "Hidden Manuscript (in cave)."

The initially nameless hero was in Korea (before the North
invaded) when his father died in Buffalo.  Hero came back for
funeral, then returned to Korea, became P.O.W.  Refusing
repatriation in 1953, he went to China for a few years, then
changed his mind again ("changeling") and returned to USA where
he faced court martial in 1959 and prison time.  (Question: as is
often the case, "What year is the story set in?")

His memories of the town are up through fourth grade, the
children he played with and things of that nature.  His family
left before he started fifth grade.

The story and his memory center on the Palmieri family: Mama,
Papa, Maria, Paul, and Peter.  There is some word magic going on
here: Peter, Paul, and Mary are fused into "Peter Palmieri"
(which is later truncated into "Pete Palmer").  (And their motel
is out by the fair grounds--yikes!  Can the dogboy
be far off?)  Papa Palmieri tells of their move to Cassonville
from Chicago when Maria was a baby; the overnight arrival of
strange little Peter, the ageless fairy child, locked at age

(The scene wherein narrator recalls wrestling with a same-age
Peter ["That must have been twenty years ago"] echoes both Weer
wrestling with Bobby Black in PEACE and Apu-Punchau/Severian
wrestling with Hildegrin in TBOTNS. Likewise the skiff scene
reminds me of Severian on the Lake of Birds in TBOTNS.)

Anyway, it comes down to narrator "Pete" ("re-Pete"?) "Palmer"
(pilgrim returned from the holy land) looking for his own face in
the fourth grade class photo of 1944.  (Click, click: so the
"now" of the story is circa 1964.  Hmm, and a fire in 1945 burned
all the old newspapers . . . Pete Palmer is looking for newspaper
mention of his birth in Cassonville.)  But there is Peter
Palmieri's face instead of his.  (Timeline check-in: a fourth
grader would be nine years old; in order to be in the Army in
Korea before the North invaded, a fellow would have to be around
19 in 1949; it is difficult to see how a nine year old could age
ten years in five calendar years, unless, of course, it involves
a trip to fairyland.  In which case, that "fellow" would
sure be a "traveler." <g>)

Is "Pete" in PEACE, somewhere?  I don't know PEACE so well.  That
bit about the cave reminded me of the skull in the cave in PEACE.
I found that section fast enough and backtracked--no, that is set
on a mountain, not an island (". . . of Doctor Death . . ."), but
bingo!  In the lead-up to the cave picnic Weer does mention
"there is a long, stony island which used, at about the time
I imagined myself visiting Dr. Van Ness, a [sic] harbor a hermit
called Crazy Pete."

Heh-heh.  That picnic takes place in 1915 (according to Schuyler;
those who believe Dan French [a character in PEACE who provides
one of the few year date anchors] might put it at 1925),
forty-nine years before our narrator Pete becomes a hermit on the

 1931 -- Maria Palmieri born in Chicago; youngest US soldiers of
Korean War born.
 1932 -- Palmieris move to Cassonsville, where 8 year old Peter
appears and warps reality around him.
 1934 -- fourth grade class of 1944 born; narrator Pete born in
 1939 -- Peter is Maria's twin brother.
 1940 -- Paul Palmieri born in Cassonsville.
 1944 -- fourth grade photo (in spring); Pete wrestles with Peter
Palmieri over fate of a frog (and Pete had hit Maria with a
rock); Pete and family leave Cassonsville (change names?) (in
 1945 -- fire burned old newspapers.
 1949 -- Pete's father dies in Buffalo.
 1950-53 -- Korean War.
 1953 -- POW exchange, Pete refuses and goes to China where he
works in a textile mill.
 1959 -- Pete back in US, faces court martial.
 1964 -- out of US prison, Pete (changes name?) goes to

 So what happened in 1944?  Pete and family (at least father--had
mother died already?) leave town; Peter Palmieri replaces Pete in
school photo (if not elsewhere); then there is a fire at the
newspaper in the next year.  That wrestling scene seems to have
some reality warping, so I'm thinking it is the triggering event.

It is not clear when the name changing took place.

(OED gives "casson" as "a chest"; or as a variant of "casing";
but "cassons" as "? sugar in some form.")

[Finally: in a non-fantasy reading ala Le Carre, this story is like
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; or an Orwellian tale about a guy with no
ties who goes off to war, is captured and goes over to the enemy,
eventually to return to his hometown to find that the enemy's culture
has begun to take root there (shades of "Paul's Treehouse").  Since
"erasures" of "un-persons" is a pretty well known fact of Stalinist
Russia and Communism-as-she-is-practiced.  Now IF Pete were visiting
during McCarthy's Fame, that would be an interesting comment on
commie-like political purges, but he's not.]

[Nostalgia mode: read in non-fantasy mode, this could be another
beer hall meditation on "if we hadn'ta moved, my life wouldn't have
gotten so messed up and I would've turned out just like those nice
kids I played with as a child."]


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