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From: "Mitchell A. Bailey" <MAB@lindau.net>
Subject: (urth) Of the Nature of the Aborigines of St. Anne, and the Problem of Their Poor Manual Dexterity
Date: Sun, 04 Apr 1999 22:18:12 

"If it's possible for someone to lose his humanity, surely it must be
possible for something that once had none to find it. What one loses,
another finds, everywhere." - Severian, telling the Pelerine acolyte in
the lazarette about Jonas; BNS, _Citadel_, ch. 10.

One of us Urthlings remarked not long ago that a reader would be
justified in deciding Dorcas was unrelated to Severian. The same
principle applies with more force to _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_. The
first thing I caught on to in reading the three stories was that Wolfe
intends for the reader to make up his/her own mind regarding such basic
questions as whether the abos ever existed at all, are Roy and Victor
Trenchard abo or crossbreeds of abos, is Veil's hypothesis in any sense
correct, and so forth. 

Like a pupil of Mr. Million's enduring his old-fashioned debating-team
pedagogy, we can research the text and make valid arguements in support
of either case. In fact I think that could be what Wolfe is telling us
the portrayal of Mr. Million's approach to teaching.

Therefore, I would have to start by assuming the abos did exist, and
the Trenchards were at minimum in very close contact with real abos, if
not themselves the genuine article. This is important to understand if
we are to draw evidence from "A Story", probably written by Victor
Trenchard while impersonating the deceased John Marsch, PhD. Victor
could draw on not only whatever anthropology and other scientific
knowlege he gleaned from Dr. Marsch and his books while researching for
his imposture, but also his own lifelong exposure to Annese culture and

We also have to credit that the idea that a visit occured by
explorers from offplanet, possibly Sol in the Fighting Lizard, is
authentic abo folklore, and not an invention of Victor's. Much depends
on the extent to which "A Story" can be presumed to represent 'genuine'
abo culture and folklore. 

With the foregoing in mind, I offer my interpretation of the nature of
the Annese and why they lack manual dexterity.

The strangest inhabitant of a certain green world was one which I,
taking a cue from Mr. Borski, will call the pleiomorph. It probably
(like the alzabo) has per se about the intelligence of a dog. It
probably was an omnivore. Its essential characteristic was the ability
to convincingly mimic practically anything living or inanimate found in
its habitat. This ability to totally camouflage itself certainly
protected it from tire-tigers, ghoul-bears, neagles, and other dangerous
predators, and doubtless assisted it in capturing fish, rodents, birds,
and the like. It is hard to say what its native shape may have been.
It may well have come not to possess what we would call a natural form
of its own, so completely did it live in disguise. The Shadow
Children remember them as wormlike creatures which lived in holes
beneath the roots of trees.

Quite possibly the pleiomorph gained the ability to mimic, not merely
wood or stone or mud, but a complex animal such as a ghoul-bear or
tire-tiger, to discourage attack or to scare lesser predators from their
kills. Presumably, a pleiomorph ghoul-bear might look sound, and even
(eccch!) smell like the real thing, such being the quality of its
mimicry as was necessary to convince real predators, but it would not
make use of the claws and teeth it generates and start hunting critters
and carrion in like fashion to a real ghoul-bear. That kind of
transformation is probably unnecessary for the pleiomorph's purposes,
obviously far harder to achieve, so presumably it didn't happen.

The pleiomorphs had the potential to become almost anything, given an
extraordinary stimulus.

In a time long before the history we know, twenty light years from the
green planet, on Earth, Homo Sapiens appeared. Eventually a civilization
now vanished into vague legend, which I will refer to as "Atlantis",
arose. The "Atlanteans" eventually developed interstellar travel or
befriended Extrasolarians who had it. In the fullness of time,
"Atlanteans" discovered and colonized the green

The "Atlantean" colony on the green planet no doubt impressed some of
the pleiomorphs, perhaps initially as a source of easy food. Very
soon, the newcomers from Earth discovered they shared the planet with
humanoid creatures. Probably they eventually befriended and taught them.
The pleiomorphs observed things totally outside their previous animal
frame of reference. No doubt the colonists introduced them to such
concepts as stories, songs, ritual, philosophy, and religion. 

An evolution took place here which was very Lamarckian, since in this
instance the evolving creature had the ability to consciously reshape
itself. The pleiomorphs apparently saw in the Atlanteans something which
aroused aspiration. They did not have any ambition to become ghoul-bears
(understandably), but, having encountered humans, they must have longed
to become human.

If a creature having relatively little intelligence but near-total
pleiomorphism essays to mimic an intelligent being, does it of necessity
"mimic" intelligence, and in so doing acquire the genuine article? The
human child imitates, and thereby learns.

If a creature which is not human mimics humans, lifelong, could it in so
doing acquire humanity? Could its species do so by repeating the process
over countless generations?

The prehistoric human colonists offered the pleiomorphs the fruit of the
tree of knowlege; the fall must inevitably follow.

Even as some of the pleiomorphs evolved and became more or less
permanently humanoid by preference, the human "Atlantean" colonists
eventually degenerated and dwindled. This process was augmented by the
fall of "Atlantis" and by a lowly psychoactive herb of the green planet.

At some point possibly even before the interstellar civilization of
"Atlantis" fell and vanished, the descendants of "Atlantean" colonists
on the green planet took to chewing the coca-like leaves of the
alkaloid-bearing herb, permitting them to "find their songs" and,
according to folklore, gain paranormal abilities.  The Old Wise One who
spoke to Sandwalker implied that this caused the "Atlantean" colonists
to lose interest in intercourse with their fellows elsewhere in the
galaxy. The "Atlantean" colony on the green world eventually cut itself
off from communication. All the implements of technology the colonists 
possessed, in which they likewise lost interest, slowly wore out, broke 
down, and corroded away little by little as descendants of colonists 
learned to live as autochthons from the land.

Over dreamy millenia, the descendants of those colonists became stunted,
dark, nocturnal, and secretive, revelling languidly in memories of their
past greatness in a continuous alkaloid-induced rush. They became the
Shadow Children, elusive elfin neighbors to the aborigines. 

The aborigines for their part imitated the "Atlantean" humans they
remembered in precise detail continuously for so long they now believed
themselves to be human. This may have advanced to the point that they
forgot they had the ability to drastically shape-change, and kept
themselves in a more-or less human configuration, albeit camouflaged.

Meantime,"Atlantis" of the homeworld and her interstellar network
collapsed and vanished.

Did the Shadow Children surrender much, if not all, of their humanity to
telepathic mindsong and drugged dream, while the pleiomorphs found

Then the "long dreaming days" ended with the landing by the first French

Quite probably no Terran of the latter wave of colonization, French or
English-speaking, ever encountered or spoke to a Shadow Child personally
after that first landing (did Wolf, accompanying Sandwalker, go forth
with him and greet the newcomers on the beach, or hide in the fashion of
Shadow Children?) , but knew them only from the tales of the abos of
mountain and marsh. 

Within two more centuries, the abos themselves had likewise faded, in
whatever manner,  to "something less than legend".

It is accepted theory that the ancestors of human beings developed
intelligence in tandem with dextrous hands and stereoscopic color
vision. Hands, in a sense, were crucial in making us as a species what
we are. I would not of course question the humanity of an individual who
lost the use of hands, but hands were a crucial element in the making of
Mankind into that which we think of as human. 

The pleiomorph-aborigine of the green planet *_bypassed_* this process
by acquiring intelligence through imitation of those who possessed it
already. Pleiomorphs acquired the look, intelligence,  and culture of
human primitives, but were they fully functional humans? Well,
apparently those hands were largely, as we would say, "for show". The
marshmen were said to make and use nets, but no one could produce an
example of such a net. The boy Victor boasted of his ability to catch
unwary waterfowl and fish without such implements. Could they not have
formed their own limbs into configurations more suited to catching fish,

The insect which looks like a leaf does not acquire the leaf's ability
of photosynthesis. The pleiomorph which mimicked a ghoul-bear looked,
sounded, and behaved as a real ghoul-bear, but presumably did not
acquire the use of the stinking teeth and claws it copied. The
pleiomorph who mimicked a human being of Earth looked and behaved the
part, but did not necessarily have the full use of those hands it

Hence, a possible explaination for the fabled characteristic poor manual
dexterity of the abos of St. Anne.

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

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