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Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 09:28:49 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Straight 
Subject: Re: (urth) An IGJ question

I realized after I wrote this that I'm including a few spoilers from
Return to the Whorl.  So read at your own risk.

On Tue, 12 Feb 2002, Tom Foster wrote:

> One of the main things that I can't really get my head around is the
> way in which Oreb appears when transported to Green or the Red Sun Whorl
> through Incanto's strange 'magic'. 

The inhumi become human when they are transported because they have human
souls, or at least because they want to be human.  Jahlee says that the
forms they have on Green are their real selves, but it's possible that's
just her wishful thinking.

The narrator looks more like Horn when transported, which is another point
in favor of the idea that it's some sort of spirit travel in which one
sees the traveller's true spirit or soul.

Like Oreb, Babbie becomes more human-looking when transported, and
Seawrack had told Horn that, though he didn't recognize it, Babbie was a
person.  Moreover, Babbie's personhood was derivative, because he was
(spending time with? loved by?) Horn, and might fade away if he went back
to living in the wild.

So it seems Oreb might be transformed into a part-human creature because
he is a person.  And, like Babbie, that personhood may be derivative,
because he is tamed, or loved, by Silk/Horn.  (I think that Oreb
vocabulary increases, that he uses a few words on Green that he doesn't
use elsewhere - names of food at Sinew's house, I think.)

I am reminded of a passage of in C.S. Lewis's book _The Problem of Pain_.  
He has a chapter at the end about animal pain and he speculates that if
animals go to heaven, it may be because the animal, in being close to a
human being has attained its true selfhood in relationship to that human
being.  A Google search found this quote:  Certain animals "may therefore
have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their
masters.... In other words, the man will know his dog: the dog will know
its master and, in knowing him, will *be* itself."

Whether or not Wolfe had Lewis's ideas in mind, the idea of derivative
personhood seems to be a theme of the series, in the inhumi, in Babbie,
and presumably even in the chems.  The chems seem to be true persons, and
to be able to mix souls the way Horn and Silk do.  Surely they are persons
because humans have programmed them to be like humans (and note the
similarity between Fr. Incus making Hammerstone his friend and the gods
posessing human beings).

The other thing to consider is that Oreb has been posessed by Scylla, so
it's possible that Oreb's personhood is in some way caused by that
posession.  (Do we know when Oreb was first posessed?)  Similarly, it
seems obvious that Babbie was first tamed by Mucor posessing him, so
perhaps his continued personhood is a result of having been posessed.  (Is
there any evidence that Mucor's posessions have lingering effects on
people the way posession by a god does?)

> Speaking of Oreb, what do people make of the point in the book when Incanto
> says that he seriously considered sacrificing Oreb? Surely he couldn't
> possibly think of doing this after all that the two/three of them have been
> through together (I haven't read RTTW yet, so I'm not sure exactly when Oreb
> is reuinted with Silk/Horn). Besides, Oreb's not *just* a night chough is
> he? (Though once again I'm not sure I could accurately say exactly what he
> is - a kind of oracle for the gods?)

One of the odd things in the Short Sun books, is that the narrator always
talks as if he thinks Oreb is far less remarkable than he is.  Could
Scylla be purposely giving him some kind of blind spot so that he doesn't
notice that she's in there?  (But then, eventually it seems she's been
trying to make contact with him, to enlist his help in rescuing her.)

It reminds me of how Horn seems unwilling to recognize Babbie's
personhood.  In addition to Seawrack's comments on the subject, there's
the passage on the floating islands where Horn has the odd feeling that
there's another person with him, but then "realizes" that it's only
Babbie.  Maybe this is just Wolfe characterizing Horn as in some way blind
to the way things are (similar to how Horn doesn't see that Sinew really
loves him).

Even so, it's hard to imagine Incanto sacrificing his beloved pet, even if
he only thinks of him as an animal.  I think the other thing going on here
probably has something to do with the Eucharistic imagery.  Incanto has an
enounter with the Outsider and has an overwhelming urge to offer
sacrifice.  (How much of this urge comes from his upbringing in the
Vironese faith, how much from the nature of the Outsider, we don't know.)  
Instead of an animal, he offers bread and wine, which in Catholic theology
literally become the body and blood of Christ, the sacrifice which
supercedes all other sacrifices.  The fact that Incanto ponders
sacrificing Oreb underlines the idea that Incanto sees the sharing of
bread and wine as a form of sacrifice rather than just some kind of ritual



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