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From: "Mitchell A. Bailey" <MAB@lindau.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Floating Islands: The Lake and Its Peoples
Date: Sat, 09 Oct 1999 15:26:08 

Greene, Carlton wrote:
> Just wanted to cast my votes for those who argue that the backdrop for the
> events in TBOTNS is a much transformed So. Am.
> In addition to Severian's description of the autochthons, the town of
> Apu-Punchau, pampas, jungles at the waist of the world, blood bats, mate
> (so. am. tea -- very good), and countless other references, ...

This seems to illustrate a principle of culture I vaguely recall from
school: the history and traditions of a ruling class, often arising and
being deposed cyclically, tend to pass into legend and even be forgotten
(like present day Earth, and much of the future history of the stellar
empires and empire of the Monarch will be forgotten by the
Commonwealth). In contrast, what is condescendingly called the "low
culture", the way the common people live their lives, on the other hand
may persist vitually unchanged for chiliads- er- millenia. The continued
existence of mate and handwoven alpaca wool and bola-type weapons and
yes floating reed islands in a future so distant Chile and Argentina and
Peru are long forgotten is not unrealistic.

>...I note that lake
> Diuturna bears a strong resemblence to Lake Titicaca at the border between
> Peru and Bolivia.  In SOTL the lake is described as an enormous freshwater
> body at an elevation significantly above sea level.  Lake Titicaca fits this
> description.  But the real clincher is the existence of floating islands
> made by binding river rushes together to form platforms... The Aymara indians
> of the lake Titicaca area make such rafts, and  a small few still live on
> such islands to this day.  

My imression is that the Titicaca lake dwellers are called Uros,
although it is said the original authentic Uros are extinct and the
present-day "Uros" came from Aymaru and possibly Quechua migrants who
took up the lifestyle. You may have better info on that than I do,
though. The governments of Peru and Bolivia supposedly once tried to
persuade them to leave, but now encourages them to stay and lead their
tourist-attracting lifestyle. Some of the largest floating islands could
support enough soil for tiny kitchen garden plots, which I think Wolfe's
island people were said to do.

> They also make and use reed boats of the type Severian describes in the Hetman's 
> village.  

This is where the designs for some of Thor Heyerdahl's "living
archeaology" ocean-crossing experiments came from. The Andean design
held together in the ocean much better than the Egyptian design, if I
recall correctly. Not very resistant to metallic sodium-water
explosions, though!

>Another note: I believe, though
> its been a while, that the Aymara in the Titicaca area have a long running
> rivalry with the land based Quechua that inhabit the shore regions around
> the lake, ...
> Thus, I believe Wolfe's depiction of the rivalry between the
> lake people and the shore people is based on this real, historical rivalry
> between Quechua and Aymara.

The Inca were in wars of conquest with everybody in sight after they
started their rise to empire around 1200. The greatest asset the Bros
Pizzaro enjoyed in their conquests was the fact that many tribes such as
the Canari held grudges against their Inca overlords and were often
happy to ally themselves with the Spaniards.

I may be incorrect, but I had the impression most of Titicaca's shore
people were Aymaru. A Quechua-speaking people occupy one largish island
in the lake. The male weavers are famous for their textiles. 

> ...the same Quechua who inhabit Peru's Cuzco -- ancient home to Inti,
> the head of day.  These same Quechua appear to be the model for Wolfe's
> autochthons.  

I was interested to find that although Cuzco was the location from which
the Inca nation established an empire, the tradition of the Quechua
peoples say that they originated from Lake Titicaca, specifically the
Isle of the Sun (there is an island of the moon, also). The avatar or
incarnation of the sun god Inti and his consort came forth from this
island, such island said to have been formed from the corpse(?) of a
(divine?) puma or mountain lion, as the first Inca to found the original
Quechua nation. 

Archeaologically there had been a series of earlier civilizations in the
area since around 1500BC, most notably the Tiahuanco people of the
Altiplano who left all those enigmatic ruins, from whom the later Inca
inherited much of their tradition and material culture. Tiahuanco in
particular, and the lake, were considered sacred by the imperial Inca
and by the Quechua and Aymara peoples to this day.

The lake is also said to be mostly shallow. During a recent drought many
Uro floating islands ran aground on mudbars, becoming what some tourists
described as huts on piles of reed mats scattered on little muddy

I tried, but so far failed, to find an unambiguous translation of the
word "Titicaca". (other than from Beavis and Butthead <g> heheheheh) The
best I could come up with was that "titi" is possibly Aymara for "puma".
I guess that could be a reference to the aforementioned Quechua
tradition. Unless there is a really obscure cultural linkage (the Great
Cat of Longevity?), it would not appear the name "Diuturna"
("long-lasting", per LexUrth) has anything in common with "Titicaca".

> One final note:  Cuzco (which I believe is the stone town of Apu Punchau)
> lies to the north of Lake Titicaca.  ...

So there are a number of ways we could try to reinterpret this

1. Perhaps Severian/Apu_Punchao's town actually _was_ south of the lake,
being the place from which the Quechua trace their origins in legends,
rather than Cuzco. Severian/Apu-Punchao could be remembered in the story
of Inti's emergence. It is tempting to try to connect this avatar of
Severian to perhaps the mysterious Weeping God of Tiahuanco rather than
the Inca of Cuzco. The stone town of _Claw_ seems to have been well
south of Thrax as well, and not near or among any true mountains, which
makes Cuzco problematic but the Altiplano south of Titicaca at least
possible. Being close to the pampas, though, I keep thinking the stone
town should be eastward and lower in altitude. A description of La Paz,
Bolivia, located in a canyon BTW kind of reminded me of Thrax although
there doesn't seem to be a river comparable to Acies running through it.

2. Lakes, particularly shallow ones, are not long-lived geographic
features as a rule. They tend to either fill in with silt, develop an
outlet large enough to drain them, or dry out over mere tens of
chiliads. Perhaps Diuturna actually will lie well north of present
Titicaca, to be formed similarly in a shallow basin in a high plateau,
maybe in northern Peru near Ecuador? Bear in mind the drastic unnatural
geologic upheavals between now and the time of the Commonwealth implied
by BNS. The culture of eventually-vanished Titicaca can be expected to
migrate to Diuturna in the interval.

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

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