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From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Nicholas=20Gevers?= <vermoulian@yahoo.com>
Subject: (urth) Fairy Tale logic
Date: Sat, 30 Oct 1999 23:32:07 

As a follow-up to my posting of a few days ago on
whether "The Brown Book" can be seen as in some way
synonymous with THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN itself: I
didn't mean that the two Books are identical; I was
suggesting that they are akin. In other words, Wolfe
intends us to understand that the structure and logic
of Severian's narrative are in important respects
similar to those of an anthology of folk tales, fairy
tales, myths, and legends: TBOTNS is episodic, and
each episode is a tale, or representative of a tale,
in its own right.

To illustrate this: many Lupines feel that, as a work
of SF, NEW SUN must be subject to scientific
explanation at every stage. This can be a very
productive approach, as when calculations of the size
and effect of solar sails help explain the crucial
eclipse in THE URTH OF THE NEW SUN. But elsewhere,
Wolfe's conceptual logic is implicitly magical, as in
the intuitive symbolic construction of a fairy tale.
One may see the grafting of Typhon's head to Piaton's
body as scientifically plausible; but viewed closely,
the two-headed Typhon must be an uncomfortable
arrangement for the Typhon head, which is presumably
situated on one of Piaton's shoulders. When the Piaton
head is removed, as Typhon's surgeons plan, the
monocephalic being left over will be lopsided on top,
whether he wears a shirt to cover the scar or not...
So Typhon is a mythic construct rather than a
plausibly scientific one. Sev's encounter with him is
the tale of the bearding of an ogre in its den.

Another example: Inire's recounting (through Domnina,
through Thecla, through Sev) of the mechanics of
Inire's mirrors. How accountable to physics is his
explanation? It sounds like magic under a veneer of
pseudo-scientific doubletalk. Again, the logic of a
fairy tale holds, with a wizard preserving the secrecy
of his craft through misdirection.


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