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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Tracking Moon
Date: Sun,  3 Aug 97 20:11:00 GMT

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

Reply:  Item #9835448 from URTH@LISTS.BEST.COM@INET00#


Wow, great stuff.  First off, to add to your notes:

Re: Ice Age, it seems that the Great Sleigh-ers (heh) are involved in
climate controlling terraforming operations with that orbiting solar
mirror (which you identify as "something that may be a spaceship").
They are ending the ice age now by technological means.

Re: John Carter, yes, this planet could be Mars (those two moons and
the lighter gravity), previously terraformed and then not maintained
so that it slipped into an ice age.  We don't see enough starscape to
form much of an opinion (contrast with that other Wolfe story set on
Mars, where the savages are going to sacrifice the hero when the
blue/green star [i.e., Earth] rises).

Re: circumnavigation.  It is a little bit more ambiguous than that,
isn't it?  I mean, Cutthroat sets out sailing after the Sleigh with the
wind blowing from the west; i.e., he is going east, isn't he?  Then
in the end he looks to the west as the direction of the Sleigh and is
surprised to see it coming toward him from the east.

Re: Le Guin echoes.  I agree--part of it has to do with all that snow
(LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS; PLANET OF EXILE) which also reminds me of
Joan D. Vinge's SNOW QUEEN.  And all the stone-age hunter gatherer
anthropology.  The Min theory of Cutthroat's origins is the Ishi
scenario, which is, of course, the "K" of Ursula K. Le Guin.  But I
don't think I've ever seen a Le Guin work where there was such
carnivorous matter-of-fact savagry, which reminds me of A VOYAGE TO
ARCTURUS as well as Wolfe's "Hero As Werwolf" (among others).

Okay, now for my own impressions.  Adjust mantomatic filter as
necessary . . .

Narrator.  Who is Cutthroat?  Most characters in the story assume
he is a Sleigher, aka a higher human (since every group considers
itself "human").  Cim Glowing casts doubt, suggesting that he is a
changeling, a beastman who found the clothes.  The Min say
he is like Ishi, last of his tribe.  Cutthroat has many doubts
himself, since if he was from the Sleigh then why didn't they send a
rescue party?

Two options, it seems to me.  First is the sleeping sailor from the
Odyssey (was it?) who fell overboard in the night, drowning, and
nobody knew (until later they saw his shade?).  Second, much more
likely, is that he was killed and tossed overboard, either as a
"sacrifice" (ala Jonah) or as a "criminal."

If he is dead, then this becomes another Wolfean "Occurance at Owl
Creek Bridge."  Which would go some lengths towards explaining the
shamanistic death-voyage tone/timber/elements of the story.

Tribes.  Who are these humanoids?  No surprise that this story seems
a lot like "The Tale of the Boy Called Frog" from the brown book.  It
is an animal fable with things turned inside out and backward.

I'm not sure about the Lenizee, who seem birdlike.  But the Ketin are
lions, the Nashhwonk are great deer like Giant Irish Elk (that "chair"
weapon is for the antlers), Cim Glowing's unnamed people are bears
(they fish), the Pamigaka are either foxes or cats (cache raiders), the
Mimmunka is some kind of intimidator animal (scavenger), and, yes, you
guessed it . . . the running singing hunters, the Wiggikki who first adopt
Cutthroat, are wolves (just like the ones who adopted Frog).

This story showcases Wolfe's electrifying grasp of stone age
sensibilities.  According to Campbell et ali., the early hunters
started getting guilty feelings about killing animals.  Empathy.  And
fear of retribution from the animal "families."  So the hunters
developed ritual and taboo to pacify the animal spirits and to thank
them for providing the meat to feed the humans.  Later on, when
agriculture came along, they did the same thing to pacify and thank
the plants (think of all that grain god/human sacrifice stuff).

So here's this Cutthroat, and he's embracing the stone age
sensibility (in a way that would make a Christian or a Buddhist or a
Taoist, et cetera . . . proud) and trying to personally break the
cycle of blood and death.  He says words to the effect that, "These
dwarves want me to kill you so that I will see a division of
categories between `animal' and `human,' but I don't see that
division now and I won't be their puppet."

That's enough for now.


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