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From: Alice Turner <al@ny.playboy.com>
Subject: (urth) Track on
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 10:27:46 

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

Rock (that makes you a chem; sure you don't want to be Roc?)

>In regard to "Tracking Song": are the "underpeople" animals that are
>evolving toward humanity, or humans who are devolving to an animal
>state? The cave city is clear evidence of an ancient and technologically
>sophisticated civilization existing on the planet. We are led to believe
>that the builders of the city simply died out. But perhaps they
>genetically altered themselves to better adapt to the changing climate?
>If so, then their plans went astray at some point, of course.

That's a perfectly plausible scenario, though at this point I think all we
can do is accept Wolfe's own designation of the different tribes as
"half-men." That would go for the Min too.

I'm going to make one last attempt at nailing "Tracking Song," and then move
on. Unlike Nutria, I do think it's a religious story, on one level almost an
allegory. A man is thrown (or falls) into an imperfect world which holds
many pitfalls. As innocent as a child at first, he still, according to his
understanding, nearly always behaves with courage, honor and decency, and
these increase as he grows more knowing. He never condescends to the
half-men; instead he treats them as (as he says to the Min) "perfect of your
kind." He grows to understand that he is different, but he rejects both the
colonial and the imperial attitude. (An example of the first: the Panigaku
beg him for wisdom, but he demurs; also when Eggseeker fears that he may
have retrospectively sinned, Cutthroat roundly reassures him---I like that
moment. Also he never judges the others by what they eait; his squeamishness
is personal. The second is evident throughout the Mantru and Min episode,
and by his casting away the staff.)  He stays on the path, or the way---the
symbolism is obvious---until what may be the moment of his death, at which
time the sought-for home appears. One may somewhat deplore the appearance of
a winged being but, in a story by a practicing Catholic, one can hardly
ignore it. 

My initial thought was that the story was oddly Protestant, that the Great
Sleigh's appearance is a sign of grace, which has very little to do with
Cutthroat's behavior---i.e. he's in its way in a non-symbolic sense. But the
more I thought about it, it did seem as though his journey could be
construed as a test, and one that, in my opinion, he passed. At the end, he
could be defined as a human being in the best possible (non-Mantru) sense.
Is he dead or dying and is this an angelic being, or will he be cured on a
real-live Sleigh? I don't think it matters. Either way, he will be reborn,
together with this planet, into springtime. (I know it was me speculating on
his being squashed by the Sleigh instead, but I was only joshing.)


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