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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) 5th Head Genealogies Redux
Date: Tue, 7 Apr 1998 14:07:48 

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

Hooray! Some legitimate objections to my Fifth Head genealogy have been
raised! Believing that a multiplicity of viewpoints is paramount to a list
of this sort, and mindful that a friendly debate may inspire still other
subscribers to reread FIFTH HEAD (my truer goal), I happily accept the
challenge of defending my theories, all the while proclaiming they may be
no more valid than anyone else's suppositions. 

Tony Ellis writes: 
> Having said that, do we know for sure that even Mr Million's 
> "father", Number Five's great-great-grandfather, was the first of
> the line? Dr Marsch's remark could be taken to suggest that
> the line of clones stretches back quite far. 

I believe you have one too many -greats here. Or as the most pertinent
quote from 5TH HEAD puts it, with Maitre addressing Number Five: "You are
here because I did and do, and I am here because the individual behind me
did--who was himself originated by the one whose mind is simulated in Mr.
Million." (p.66, Scribners). 

As for Dr. Marsch's remark, remember that cloning is illegal on Earth and
that Saint Croix has been inhabited "less than two hundred years" (p.37)
and that the Maison du Chien (the structure, anyway) is
140 years old (p.37). Five generations in 140 years, four of them cloned,
seems acceptable to me.

Tony also has troubles with my Phaedria-as-sister theory.
>(1) If Maitre had sold his daughter to Phaedria's parents, why should they
now hope, as they do, to
> marry her back into his family? 

If you purchased a child from someone running a house of prostitution,
would you assume the child was one of the whoremaster's own or more likely
the child of a prostitute whose birth control had failed? Remember also
that the machinations of the Wolfe clan remain oblique often even to one
another; I cite in this regard Number Five's first encounter with his aunt,
which doesn't come until he is 11 or 12. I submit Phaedria's parents would
have no idea she is Maitre's daughter and furthermore would find the idea
of either marrying her into or selling her to the clan to be quite
palatable. As Number Five astutely claims, "Our family, of course, would be
ideal for either purpose." (p.40) 

>(2) The broken ankle\Aunt 
> Jeannine link seems very tenuous: a broken ankle really isn't that
> much like having no legs at all!

Aunt Jeannine is _not_ legless, but "has legs no thicker than my wrists"
(p.44) and when Number Five first sees Phaedria in the park he remarks how
she has "an injured leg." (p.29) I submit that this is still a potent link
or else why would Wolfe (the writer) give her a broken ankle? It advances
no plot point--Number Five could just as easily have met a strolling, or
seated, unencumbered Phaedria in the park. To think it is mere color or
coincidence does not do justice to Wolfe's masterly writing.    

 (3) If Phaedria's name is supposed
> to be a classical allusion, why not actually name her after someone
> who committed incest with her brother, rather than a stepson? 

To my knowledge, there is no brother-sister incest tandem in classical
mythology that conveys the tragic dimension of violating such taboos,
although the figures of Jocasta and Electra come close on a slightly
different level (parent-child). I submit, however, these are too
in-your-face for a writer of Wolfe's skill. Moreover, I still believe
Phaedra is more than apposite, especially since among major literary works
Racine's PHAEDRA ranks probably only second in its treatment of the incest
violation to OEDIPUS REX. Again, think plot-point here: given the
signifiance Wolfe has always attached to names, why name your character
Phaedria if not to draw upon the incest connotations associated with the
name? Caprice? Because it's a nice sounding name?

> I'm not sure I understand why you think letting his girls attend the
> play would further any designs Maitre might have.

This to me is your most salient objection. I can only surmise a
well-intended play might engender further such productions and thus afford
more time for romance to bloom between Number Five and Phaedria.
> Another objection is that Aunt Jeannine looks strongly like Maitre.
> You would expect any sister of Number Five's to have the old
> family likeness too.

This I categorically reject. David and Number Five appear quite dissimilar,
after all (David is blond and fair, Number Five dark-haired and
brown-eyed), so why wouldn't a sister be equally dissimilar? More
importantly we also learn that Phaedria has had plastic surgery to improve
her looks! (p.40). I would maintain in light of the above that it would be
remarkable if she did look somewhat Wolfean. 

I now have a question for Tony: if Phaedria is not Number Five's sister,
who do you think is? Surely, you don't believe Wolfe is toying with us when
he has Aunt Jeannine mention her--this type of thinking would also lead us
to conclude Severian had no sister and we know this to be false.

Now on to Pedro Romero's post.

> Here is my theory. The original GW is the baby with the girl in the
> picture Jeannine shows #5. After all, she says she is the his true
> mother, so it is easy to figure out the girl is the mother of the
> original GW and the baby is #1.

 This theory recapitulates my own and is 100% congruent. To quote myself
from several posts back (v009,n004), "Gene Wolfe #1 is the original
patriarch. He is naturally born and it is his parents we see when Aunt
Jeannine has the sepia photograph fetches for Number Five." Check it out
and see.

Lastly then we have this from Dan Rabin (along with a very interesting
observation about Baldanders--neat!).
> About the number of heads, I accept Robert Borski's persuasive scheme,
> if we count the original and Mr. Million as the same head, then the child
> at the end could be the fifth.

I find this to be an interesting fine alternative, and while others may
have their own subsets of five (I could probably configure several more, as
well as a nine to support the Jeannine=Gene 9 theory), I'm still sticking
to my original proposal. After all, the title of the novella is THE FIFTH
HEAD OF CERBERUS and our narrator is called Number Five; to call his son a
fifth or #5 (unless you wish to substitute him for the murdered Maitre)
seems a ready miscalculation. 

I also reject the notion that Mr. Million and the Gene Wolfe he simulates
are one and the same. Mr. Million is the most benign character in all of
the narrative, while the person he simulates is the mad scientist who
clones a line of monstrous progeny, and who if the temperament of his
temporally-removed twins are any indication could not have been pleasant.
To liken each to the other therefore strikes me as specious and
tautolgical, especially since all of the other cloned Wolfes are one and
the same.

Robert Borski (who now feels pretty tapped out about FIFTH HEAD and
henceforth can probably best be described as born-again lurker)

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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