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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Mother Catherine
Date: Fri, 9 Oct 1998 11:48:43 

In LEXICON URTHUS, under the entry for Catherine can be read the following
commentary: "she probably was a Pelerine and her reason for leaving the
order (of 'professional virgins,' as Agia called it) may well have been the
carnal knowledge of Ouen and resulting pregnancy. She was probably arrested
not for any crime, but for the unknown Severian's protection."

My take on this, however, is slightly different and is based on Ouen's
testimony (CITADEL, Chapter 32) when Severian asks him, "A woman you
loved--or perhaps only one who loved you--a dark woman--was taken once?" To
which his father replies: "Once, sieur. Yes, sieur, Catherine was her name.
It's an old-fashioned name name, they tell me." And then: "There was
trouble, as you say, sieur. She'd run off from some order of monials. The
law got her, and I never saw her again."

My read of this is that Catherine was *already* on the run when she met
Ouen, and then became pregnant in the one conjugal episode they had,
shortly *after which* she's arrested. Given Ouen's livelihood--he's been
working in inns since he was ten--I find it difficult to imagine him first
meeting monial Catherine, then Catherine (who after all is probably an
exultant) surrendering her virginity to a potboy/waiter. Whereas being on
the run, and needing a place to stay or hide out for a night, she'd
probably accept a berth from most anyone. And given the fact that she and
Ouen coupled only once, it also seems likely her pregnancy would only be
detected later, after she'd been incarcerated. (This is why I have trouble
with the protective custody aspect mantis suggests--I doubt the authorities
realize she's pregnant until well into her incarceration).

As to why she's on the run from the Pelerines, I can only speculate. She
may have been a slave like Winnoc who wanted her freedom or she may have
simply stole something from the order (the Pelerines have a fair amount of
wealth, it seems). My pet theory, however, is that she stole the Claw--or
more appropriately it stole her (the same way it did Severian after the
fiacre crash), this being the Claw's way of ensuring the Conciliator's
eventual rebirth.

I also think it's fairly obvious that Valeria is Catherine's mother
(meaning Severian has slept with both grandmothers).

As for the woman Severian sees under arrest in the Path of Air by the
Praetorians on his return to the House Absolute (URTH, Chapter 41), this is
the *original* Katherine, the patron saint of the Torturers, recalled to
him (or perhaps revivified like the assassin in the secret passageway) by
the long-dead Maxentius, who's present in Severian like all the other
autarchs. In many ways it's a completion of a cycle. (I also believe it's
possible for us to posit Katherine may have been involved in a plot to
assassinate Maxentius, a crime for which she'll be beheaded first
figuratively and then ritually for centuries to come).

Robert Borski

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

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