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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Severian and the White Fountain
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 20:43:10 

After my most recent reading of _Urth_, I realized that I didn't know the
answers to some fundamental questions: Why is it necessary for anybody to
"bring the White Fountain" to Urth?  Why can't the Hierogrammates just
send it?  And if someone has to bring it, why must it be an Autarch?  And
if it has to be an Autarch, why Severian in preference to Ymar or the old
Autarch?  Apheta tells Severian that he passed his examination because
"'the chance [was] high that you would bring a fresh sun to your Urth,'"
(ch. 22), and Tzadkiel says much the same thing at the "examination," but
to the best of my recollection Severian doesn't do anything consciously to
guide the White Fountain; he's not even there for most of the centuries
during which the White Fountain is approaching. I did eventually come up
with some answers. I can't cite texts from the book in support of them,
though; they just make more sense than anything else I've been able to
come up with.  (Peter Wright, as part of his theory that the "religious"
aspects of _Book_ and _Urth_ are conscious deceptions put forth by the
Hierogrammates to hide their self-seeking motives, argues that Severian is
made to "bring" the New Sun to convince the people of Urth that their
destruction is part of the Increate's plan.  I don't agree with this
theory, but as will be seen it influenced my own.)

First of all, the White Fountain does not need to be guided by a human.
Severian's function is rather to accept the White Fountain on behalf of
Urth.  Since the New Sun's coming will kill nearly all of Urth's current
population, the Hierogrammates feel themselves morally obligated to get
the permission of a representative of Urth before sending it.  This is why
it has to be an Autarch: because, as Severian says a couple of times, the
Autarch is the only inhabitant of Urth who is responsible for the
well-being of Urth as a whole.

As for why Severian in particular, I'm not entirely sure about this.  It
may have something to do with the battle royal between the aquastors and
the sailors, whose role I'm not clear on.  But I'm inclined to think that
the real answer is that Severian is more likely than the other candidates,
not to guide the White Fountain successfully, but to accept it in the
first place.  The Hierogrammates may well have foreseen that had Ymar or
the old Autarch been told of the consequences of the New Sun (as they
would have to have been had they passed their "trials"), they
would have turned it down, rather than assume the burden of responsibility
for those millions of deaths.  Severian, on the other hand, was 
indoctrinated as an apprentice torturer with the concept of inflicting
pain for the greater good of the whole.  Though he failed to act
accordingly on two occasions, this indoctrination may have tipped the
probabilities in favor of Severian's acceptance of the New Sun.

Any comments?  Any better ideas?


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

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