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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Sev's Sister
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 1998 18:48:29 

Time for me to add my speculations to the mix, since, to the best of my
knowledge, no one's yet mentioned the woman I think is Sev's sister. 

I believe we meet her early, in SHADOW (Chapter IX).

She's the khaibit known as Barbea and she works out of the House Azure in
the Echopraxia.

Barbea, it appears, resembles what we know of Severian. She is tall,
straight-nosed, has limpid eyes, and could be wearing a wig made of gold
(so her hair may actually be dark).

Severian judges her to be no older than 17; Severian appears to be
similarly aged.

Barbea is a pseudonym; we never learn the khabit's real name, so it could
be Severa.

"Echopraxia" suggests duplication, an echoing of the original: a twinning
of sorts. Barbea also has another putative twin in "Chateleine Gracia"--or
so Severian observes, even going so far as to claim the two might be the
same--just wearing different makeup.

Saint Barbea is always associated with her brother Sarbelius in
hagiographic literature. The bea/-belius endings suggest the ian/a ending
of Severa/Severian. Both Barbea and Sarbelius were tortured before being

Witches often service the torturers in at least their first sexual
encounters (Master Gurloes lost his virginity this way) and according to
the LEXICON URTHUS, they're somewhat wanton in their ways. The witches'
patron saint is Saint Mag, short for Magdalen, the prostitute of the New
Testament. So it's not that big a leap to connect Severa with prostitution.
This being Severian's first sexual encounter also connects.

Severian will soon be offered the choice of whether he wishes to stay in
the guild or leave. I speculate Severa/Barbea has been offered the same
deal with the Witches' Guild, but has chosen to leave. Women maturing
earlier than men, she may have left the Guild a year or two before Severian
first encounters her, but unable to find work has opted to become a khaibit
in the House Absolute, while moonlighting as a prostitute in the House

Lastly then, there's this quote from Severian himself:

"There was something in the eyes of both women [Barbea, Gracia], in the
expression of their mouths, their carriage and the fluididity of their
gestures, that was one. It recalled something I had seen elsewhere (I could
not remember where), and earlier, yet it was new, and I felt somehow that
the other thing, that which I had known earlier, was to be preferred."

The most interesting thing about the quote occurs in parentheses--"*I could
not remember when*"--which seems like a damn strange thing to say when
you're always bragging about having total recall. But what if these
memories predate the acquisition of a suitably developed storage
system--one that's based on emotion and instinct, not acquired learning?
Severian has seen his sister before for nine months prenatally, if not at
their joint births; Mom, too, he must have seen at parturition. But if his
brain hasn't developed enough mentally, he has no optimal storage nook for
memories of either--he lacks a suitable filing system in other words and so
these foundation-less memories of Mom and Sis go into a general bin,
unavailable for recall by ordinary means, but still there.

Severian, seeing Severa, recognizes in her the eidetic ghost of their
mother; she looks familiar, yet is new. He recalls--if inchoately--his
mother and it's the emotional warmth of this (for what newborn infant does
not love his mother) that leads him to prefer it.

Robert Borski


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

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