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Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 10:05:46 -0700
From: maa32 
Subject: (urth) eating trees

This is primarly for Blattid ( or whoever asked me about "sentience" in 
conjunction with the trees).In response to proof that the trees eat things: I 
can't find it right now (my notes are not with me) but there is a scene in On 
Blue's Water where Horn is talking about green and says that the trees eat 
other trees, then he says the strangling female lianas are the scariest things 
on Green.  It's in the first book.  I'll keep looking for the exact quote.  
I'm sure some other people remember it.

The trees are in cahoots with Horn, and therefore empathize with his goal and 
want to help him liberate Silk's psyche.  One of the scenes that argues 
against Babbie being Horn is the Horn claims he is sentient:
"ONCE, when Seawrack and I were on the riverbank, I felt that there were three 
of us .  ... after an hour or more of this uneasiness, I realized that the 
third person I sensed was merely Babbie, whom I had by a species of mental 
misstep ceased to consider an animal." SFBC BOTSS 79 Immediately after this, 
Babbie comes tooling around:
"In half an hour [Babbie] was back, still swimming strongly but not making 
anything like the progress he had earlier becuase he was pushing a SMALL TREE 
ahead of him , roots and all" ..."For a moment there I thought I saw somebody 
... a face, very pale, down under the water.  It was probably a fish, really, 
or just a piece of waterlogged wood." (80) The tree can be used to explain the 
sentience of that the narrator senses - the tree is the other presence he 
feels just that "ONCE":
In this same scene, the song of the mother starts, and he says" there was that 
in it that sounded very far away indeed.  I have since that that the distance 
was perhaps of time, that we heard a song on that warm, calm evening that was 
not merely hundreds but thousands of years old, sung as it had been sung when 
the Short Sun of Blue was yet young, and floating to us across that lonely sea 
with a pain of loss and longing that my poor words cannot express" (81).  This 
is the scene where we have Babbie as sentient, and a tree, roots and all, 
shows up, and this transtemporal song starts playing.  All in one scene in 
Chapter 5: The Thing on the Green Plain.  Indeed, at the end of the previous 
section, Horn makes a point of pointing out that there was a bunch of weed, 
but absolutely no driftwood in the water.  In the next section he says:

"and yet it seemed irrational that so vast a quantity of vegetable matter 
should go to waste. Pas, who built the Whorl, would have arranged things 
better, I felt, litlle knowing that I would soon encounter one of the gods of 
this whorl of Blue that we call ours in spite of the fact that it existed 
whole ages before we did, and that it had been only a scant generation since 
we came to it." (82).  Vegetable matter is always on his mind.  All the time.

Horn also comments about ways of killing the inhumu in Chapter 4: the Tale of 
Pajarocu, and he states that they decay very rapidly: "These people, like 
people everywhere here, seem to fear than an inhumu  may live on even with its 
head severed.  That is not the case, of course; but I cannot help wondering 
how the superstition originated and became o widespread.  Certainly inhumi 
have no bones as we understand them.  POSSIBLY their skeletons are cartilage, 
as those of some sea-creatures are.  On Green, Geier maintained that the 
inhumi are akin to slugs and leeches.  No one, I believe, took him seriously; 
yet it is certain that once dead they decay very quickly, though they are 
difficult to kill and can survive for weeks and even months without the blood 
that is their ONLY food."(62) Doesn't this schema of the inhumu seem 
derivative of a hardy vegetable system: survive wihtout all their limbs, need 
food every couple of months, may have a keratin cell wall, and decay very 
quickly? Perhaps at one time the early inhumu could survive if you cut off 
their heads: and plants can certainly do that if their upper extremities are 
removed.  Another argument for low-g is that the inhumu have weak, weak legs. 
Which is why I see them as vines rather than the trees: those vines probably 
don't have extensively branching or strong roots.
Leeches are like those liana vines; only animal rather than vegetable.

Also, Brother and Sister at the end of On Blue's Waters see the Vanished 
people sometimes, and they talk about the vanished Gods, at which point the 
narrator tells them about "the one" in the forest.  Read this next passage 
"Another halt, and this one must be for the night - a hollow among the roots 
of (what I will say is) just such a tree as we had on Green.  It is what we 
call a very big tree here, in other words." (222).  He knows about the god 
there because he slept under it.

Later there is a scene in In Green's Jungles, Chapter 25: The God of Blue:
"I don't see how I would be harmed by knowing whoyour gods were, unless you 
mena that it would be better for me to work it out for myself." (464).  These 
"gods" have previously been discussed in a purely Christian context - but they 
are the trees who control everything going on (perhaps the agents of God, but 
the trees none the less).

The narrative differences between On Blue's Waters and In Green's Jungles are 
obvious.  A shift to the present rather than the past as the primary tense 
Silk writes in, a sudden shift into third person to describe his old 
experiences on Green as a "tale", and a much, much, much more cheerful and 
conservative outlook  on life and violence.  Horn was a violent man; Silk 
really isn't.  You must recognize that the narrators of the two are almost 
completely different; this is obvious from the end of ON Blue's waters where 
Silk re-reads what Horn has written and says he starts talking about the 
things he should have written more about: Hari-Mau's smile and other cheerful 
details that Horn would never think of.  Also, this is where the narrator 
claims "I should have lived my lives differently" and claims that he caught 
the ball and one the game.  Clearly, Silk is in control now.  Part of Horn is 
still there, but the majority of his essence has fled into Babbie because Horn 
WANTS to.  He says goodbye to his family and the trees help him out.

I could pull out a million quotes that support where vegetable matter is 
personified with human qualities, but over and over you could say that was 
simply "symbolic" language.  Next time you read through the text, pay 
attention to how vegetable matter is described.  It's quite consistent and 
And you could say that all this psuedo-religion actually refers back to God 
and his angels rather than the trees.  Now I have accounted for BAbbie's early 
humanity with the presence of a living tree: roots and all.  How many times do 
I have to set up scenarios in parallel?  Wolfe doesn't always include 
exposition; he sets up an almost infinite series in a metonymic relationship 
and you have to infer the paradigmatic conclusions to make sense of the text.  
Of course, this brings in interpretive relativism: I may interpret all the 
series in one way, you in another.  But I don't think you can argue against 
the textual basis for the sentience of the trees, or their relationship to the 
vanished people.  We don't see them spit out copies - that is my own inference 
based on the importance of hybridization in the text - I am "applying" the 
hybrids, just as someone could apply the color schema set up by Olivia when 
she wraps her little coffin basket in a blue ribbon and you can infer that 
Peacock is going to kill her because his name is associated with Blue.  It 
doesn't directly say Peacock kills her - you have to put it together.

Marc Aramini


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