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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) The Domnicellae
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 01:18:53 


Who is the Domnicellae, the high priestess of the Pelerines that Severian
meets only once, the encounter taking place in the tent cathedral after he
and Agia have crashed into and destroyed the altar of the Claw? Her name is
never given (usually with Wolfe a sign we're meant to figure it out), and
when Severian later convalesces in the lazaret of the Pelerines, she's
conspicuously absent--simply "away, as Mannea, mistress of the postulants,
tells us, with no reason given for her nonpresence. Does author Wolfe
provide us with any clues as to who she may really be?

I believe he does and suggest she's Thecla's childhood friend, Domnina,
whose tale we first hear from Sev in the Jungle Garden. For starters
there's her name, which can be extracted from the letters of Domnicellae;
as I argue elsewhere Wolfe uses this device a number of times in the Book
of the New Sun, where names are either nested inside larger names or
derived via near anagrams from the parent word [1]. In addition, the witchy
priestess has the stature of an exultant, the class we know Domnina belongs
to. And as for her being absent from the field hospital of the Pelerines,
this is Wolfe cheating a bit; Severian, having incorporated Thecla's
memories via the alzabo, would no doubt recognize her old childhood friend,
and so Wolfe very conveniently has her missing. Finally, we have young
Domnina's experience with the numinous, a fish of light caught in the
mirrors of Father Inire--about as potent a Christian symbol as you could
hope for [2], but also calling to mind Severian's eventual turn as the
piscine Sleeper, the Oannes-like god of Ushas. The encounter apparently
disturbs young Domnina quite a bit [3] and doubtless leads her to revaluate
her situation, nudging her toward a life spent among the Pelerines, and
eventually culminating in her rise to the rank of Domnicellae. 

[1] Zak from Tzadkiel is one obvious example of this. Another slightly less
so is Camoena from Cumaean. 

[2] Ichthys, of course--the Greek word for fish--is an acronym for Iesous
Christos Theou Hyos Soter--Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. And early
Christians often used the fish as a secret sign to identify themselves.

[3] Or so it seems from Sev's description of Domnina after the fact: "She
found herself in another world, and even when she returned to Thecla she
wasn't quite sure she had found her way back to her real point of origin."
(SHADOW, Chapt. XXI)

Robert Borski

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

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