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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Artifacts & Abos
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 98 17:54:00 GMT


Well okay, so you don't like the "Aunt Jemima" <ouch> theory.

Still, beneath the grosser elements, the loops and twists I listed
before, that presumably ninety-five percent of us can more-or-less
agree upon, beyond that, I say, there are a lot of weird little
details.  Crippled legs is one.

The abo dexterity issue is nearly as cloudy as the shape-changing
issue.  Does V.R.T.'s "magical" rope ability prove he is abo, not
abo, or half-abo?  Does V.R.T.'s inability to start fire (he waits
for Marsch to do it) or control fire (he always burns his fingers)
prove he is abo or half-abo (because all "pure strain humans"
like you and me can easily start fires using two plain sticks,
right? <g>)?  Is V.R.T.'s ability with the knife ("no danger unless
he cuts my throat in the night" bit) an indication that he is human
or half-human?  (Such simple tool use might relate to Jeannine's use
of a key--actually a key is probably even simpler.)

Earlier my own musings led me to look at the artifacts.  They show up
in "5HC" as plastic replicas, which seems to signal something--they
are obvious "fakes" of artifacts.  There is no question that the
plastic models are fake, but there is an assumption that they
represent real things.  Plot-wise, they allow discussion of all
things abo.

I don't recall any stone artifacts in "A Story."  The killing tools
are shell-creatures clinging to the stalks of water weeds.  There are
ropes, but the use of rope doesn't seem magical.

In "V.R.T." such a big deal is made about the artifacts being
fabricated (somehow) by Roy, that I start to wonder.  Sometimes when
Wolfe has set up an A/B ambiguity, he then resolves it in the text as
"A is the truth" when in fact just below the surface one can tell
that this is misdirection (e.g., Severian is just being dense again)
and if there is any resolution it is that "B is the truth."

For me, the way that Roy suddenly shifts and starts playing the
Marsch line of reality in their confrontation seems to be more than
just a con-man admitting to the "truth"; rather it is a con-man
shifting his mode to match that of the "customer."  It is also close
to the largely non-verbal exchange between Dr. Talos and Jonas when
they first meet.  Jonas says, "You have understood me better than I
wanted, as the man said when he looked in the mirror."

All these Wellerisms in the Urth Cycle have to be unpacked.  In this
case, the sense seems to be: "You sieur are a rogue and I'm no better
(wink, wink)."

So.  With this focus on artifacts being fakes (whether plastic or
forged), with this sense of a con-man shifting from strategy one
("straight sell") to strategy two ("draw the mark into the
`conspiracy'"), I began to wonder if the artifacts were somehow
"real" (that is, in the face of clear "A is true" signals, I toyed
with "B is true" possibilities).

I also was playing with V.R.T.'s "half-breed" status.  How could this
be "true" in a sense that was not the sense understood by the anthro

A lot stems from how we define "race" in a given society or a given
context; endogamy (with its shadow of incest), exogamy (with its
shadow of bestiality).  On Earth there is talk of "the white race"
and "the black race"; wars have been fought by and for "the German
race" and "the French race."  And in 5HC, Roy the human is depicted
as Irish hardware with French software dating from the population
shifts of the Napoleonic Wars (another conflict involving French and
English forces).

So I wondered if V.R.T. was a product of a mixed marriage, not
between "human and abo" but between "hillwoman abo and wetlander
abo"; that is, not so much "Caucasian man and dusky native girl" as
"Englishman and French woman."

But how could this be, when Roy has such blue eyes and we have been
led to believe that abos all have green eyes?

Well, I answered myself, the green eyes are from the high country.
It may be that the blue eyes are from the marsh.  Or maybe the eyes
reflect the worlds, and the blue eyes are abos from Sainte Croix (the
blue world), nevermind for the moment how the abos got to Sainte
Croix.  That is: the abos who stayed on Sainte Anne maintain the old
ways, the abos who went to Sainte Croix immitate (to a greater
[shapeshifting] or lesser [cultural] degree) the French; the
former abo twins (hill and marsh) are now alienated from one another
(Annese and Croixese).  The "mixed" marriage between Roy and his
"French actress" (Brigit!!) wife fails; the English have made war
upon the French; the Dreyfus case caused France to nearly war
upon French Jews; the twin planets are in a state of war with each

And thus: green eyes = Annese; blue eyes = Croixese; brown eyes =
Terran.  (Suddenly it seems like the twin worlds are crawling with

Let me be the first to say that this has wandered far afield, from
the text and from any topic at hand.  And Roy as "assimilated abo
from Sainte Croix" causes more cans of worms to be opened.  But these
are the things that Robert Borski and I were chatting about in e-mail
as we tried to puzzle out the lurking mysteries of 5HC.


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

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