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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) The calendar
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 16:35:40 

I can only recall a single instance when a specific date is mentioned in
the Urth cycle, and that is only a day of an unnamed month. After the
elevation of Roche and Drotte to journeymen, the same calendar year as
Severian's near drowning and his encounter with Vodalus, Roche knocks on the
door of the apprentices' dormitory to collect Sev and take him to the House
Azure. He knocks because he no longer lives there, as journeymen have their
own rooms. Sev is then captain of apprentices. Roche remarks: "Today is
what? The eighteenth--it's been under three weeks." The "under three weeks"
refers to the elapsed time since the Feast of Holy Katharine and his
elevation. (I, VIII)

The Feast occurs in spring, which, because the seasons are six months out
of phase in the Southern Hemisphere, comes after the warm weather of summer
when it was warm enough to swim, which came earlier that same calendar year.
The winter in which he discovered Triskele and Valeria fell between the
fight in the necropolis and the Feast. In an appendix to CLAW Wolfe notes
that the months are lunar, lasting 28 days, and the weeks are 7 days. He
also notes that a watch is 1/10 of a night, or about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
This figure must be based on the average length of a night, which works out
to 12 hours. Therefore in Sev's era the days are 25-hour days. Also, in
SWORD, in the story that Cyriaca tells of the founding of Ultan's library,
she notes that the years used to be longer than they are now (III, VI).

St. Catherine's Day is Nov. 25. (I should say "was": contrary to Wolfe's
opinion as to the historicity of the saint, the Vatican, in an attempt to
purge its vast pantheon of some of its more dubious saints and martyrs,
abolished her feast day, amongst others, in 1969.) At any rate, we are not
told just how much shorter the year is in Sev's day than now, or if there
are 12 or 13 months in the year. 25-hour days, for 28 days, would equal
about 29.17 of our days per month. A 12-month year would then equal about
350 of our days per year, 13 months 379 days, which is too many. A 12-month
year in Sev's era would equal 336 days, 13 months 364 days. This latter
figure is too close to our own year to be noteworthy, so it would seem that
the year would most likely be 12 months. I mention both sets of figures
because I am trying to reconcile Urth's calendar with Earth's.

Alternately, the shorter year could simply be attributed to the longer day.
If Urth's orbit of the sun is the same length as Earth's, then the Urth year
would be 350 of its days. The problem with this figure is that it would
yield 12 28-day months per year.

If the surviving details of the torturers' feast day are any indication,
it's not likely that the date would be forgotten. If the year is 12 months,
like ours, then the month that Roche mentioned it was the eighteenth of
should be the equivalent of our December. But from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 is not
"under three weeks", by Earth's calendar. Even if you grant that the
"November" of Urth has but 28 days, the eighteenth of the following month
would fall exactly 21 days later, which is still not "under three weeks".
So, as I said, since this is the only date mentioned in the series, I assume
Wolfe attached some significance to it. Anyone know what that might be, or
how Roche's statement can be reconciled with the calendar?


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

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