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From: Nigel Price <NigelPrice1@compuserve.com>
Subject: (urth) Reflections on a Shadowless Man
Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 19:31:12 

In the first volume of Lexicon Urthus "Additions, Errata, &cetera", Mantis
refers to a "Tale of a Man Who Sold His Shadow", and comments:

        "Master Ash seems to be talking about a German fairy tale."

How about Adalbert von Chamisso's famous romance "Peter Schlemihls
wundersame Geschichte" ("Peter Schlemihl's Remarkable Story", or as it was
called in the translation that I read, "Peter Schlemihl, the Shadowless
Man").  Published in 1814, this short novel tells the story of the
eponymous Peter Schlemihl, a young man who sells his shadow to the Devil in
exchange for the Purse of Fortunatus.  If I remember correctly, he hopes to
use this legendary source of limitless wealth to make himself eligible in
the eyes of his beloved.  Unfortunately, she notices that he no longer has
a shadow, and refuses to marry him.  Spurned by society, he flees into the
wilderness, where he meets the Devil once more and unsuccessfully attempts
to buy back his shadow.  In the end, he finds a pair of Seven League Boots,
and uses them to travel the world, devoting his life to scientific

Lacking Severian's memory, I can't be absolutely sure, but I seem to recall
that von Chamisso was himself a research scientist of some kind - a
botanist, I think - and took part in various travels to far off lands
(Antarctica?) in search of specimens.  (Yes, I checked this out.  He was a
botanist.  He travelled on a research trip around the world on a Russian
ship, and published a diary of the expedition.  Apparently he was also
custodian of the botanical gardens in Berlin.)

The other locus classicus for the Shadow motif is Hans Christian Anderson's
short story "The Shadow".  But while Peter Schlemihl barters his shadow,
the Shadow in Hans Anderson's story takes on a life of his own and rebels
against his master, eventually stealing his beloved and taking over his

Don't know whether any of the above is any help at all, but I offer it as
further grist to the lexicographer's mill...

Mantis' comment on the above was as follows:

        Maybe the one you mention is the right one (it certainly sounds
        the one I saw).  But there's also that detail of "for a time he
        traveled with a man who had no reflection," would that match up to
        the Devil?

To the best of my understanding, it is a traditional attribute of vampires
that they have no reflection, and thus keep away from mirrors in order to
avoid detection.  Whether a similar tradition adheres to devils and demons,
I do not know.

Generally in these tales, the reflection or shadow is taken to represent
the soul, and thus Peter Schlemihl, although he appears at first to be
trading away something relatively insignificant, is actually losing
something far more precious.  As damned and demonic creatures, vampires
have no reflection because, unlike humans, they have no soul to save.

Or something like that!

Nigel Price
Minety, Malmesbury

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

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