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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Thoughts on Undines, and other ramblings
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 09:35:04 -0700

Okay, some of this has been replied-to, but I think perhaps less
clearly than could be desired (given Andrew's follow-up). Andrew
Reeves, then, wrote:

> -[Undines] are basically shaped like homo sapiens that never stop=20
> growing and can breathe under water.

The undines, as near as can be told, _are_ homo sapiens -- they are
more advanced cases of the process to which Baldanders has been=20
subjecting himself.

> -They've been on Urth since around the time of Typhon, and were =
> brought by Scylla (can't remember her human name, and the book's not
> handy) or an associate of hers, as related in Jonas's tale.

Well, I presume that by "they" you mean not the undines themselves but
their masters, Erebus, Scylla, and Abaia (possibly others?).=20

> -There appears to be at least one on Blue.

The Mother appears to be of the same race as, at least, the aquatic
Scylla of Urth.

(We need a generic name for these creatures ... "space-going water
monsters" seems a bit not quite the thing, if you know what I mean.
I'll use Scylloids for now. I'm sure one of the clever folk out=20
there will have a better name.)

> -They're really into high tech and enslaving humanity (viz. =
> and the Ascians).  They are the brains behind the Ascians.

Again, yes, the Scylloids appear to be the brains behind the Group of=20
Seventeen which appears to rule Ascia. It is far less clear what the
relationship is between Baldanders and the Scylloids -- he seems to be
in a very real sense a self-made man; and the Hieros seem to deal with
him peacefully, as I suspect they do not with the Scylloidules.

> -They can project their mental presences.

I don't see this as at all clear. How do you mean?

> All of the above still leave a whole lot of questions.  The first of
> these is the rather blas=E9 attitudes of Silkhorn and Severian near =
> end of their series when actually meeting a representative of them.
> When Severian meets Juturna underwater (if it's not a dream), he
> basically gives her a tip of the hat and moves on.=20

Well, she's saved his life on at least one occasion; what do you=20
expect him to do, smite her with Divine Wrath [tm, pat. pending]?

> Later, when Silkhorn projects to Urth, he basically says, "Hey,
> I really dig Seawrack, tell me how to find her."  Now, both of
> these men are Gene Wolfe's attempt to draw saintly, Christian
> figures.  I would think that such figures would have severe
> reservations about the way they dealt with such beings.

Now, the Narrator doesn't encounter an undine, as I recall,=20
but Scylla-of-Urth. And what possible reason would he have for=20
"severe reservations" (other than fear) in dealing with a being=20
which he, a native of the _Whorl_ transplanted to Blue, perceives=20
as a goddess? That is, he perceives her (correctly, as I think we
pretty-much-all agree) as being of the same general kind as the
Mother on Blue; and the Mother, he perceives as one of the gods
of Blue, of the Vanished People. Absent a direct revelation that
there is no God but the Outsider -- and, despite Silk's rapture
that contains the line "I know that You are the only god for me,"
neither Silk, Horn, nor the Narrator ever appears to receive such
a revelation -- there is no reason for the Narrator to think of
these beings either as false gods or as intrinsically evil; they
are, to him, perilous only as gods are, necessarily, perilous to

For Wolfe, if he is drawing "saintly, Christian figures" is, in=20
all cases, drawing "realistic," human and flawed, pictures of such=20
figures -- and, what is more, drawing them as very much the products=20
of their culture and upbringing. Severian ultimately transcends his=20
upbringing as a torturer; Silk at least partially transcends his=20
upbringing as a polytheist. Whether the Narrator transcends anything
but himself is unclear to me, at this rather early stage of study.

> I would think that the first thing Severian would do when he realized
> that he has Godlike powers would be to try and find Erebus, Abaia et
> al and finish them for good=20

It is not at all clear that Severian's "powers" are _that_ "godlike."
I don't recall any examples of him blasting anything with bolts from=20
his fingertips or any such thing. His "powers" seem to be primarily
over himself, and secondarily over time. Could he, perhaps, use the=20
latter against Abaia and company? Perhaps, but I'm not at all clear=20
how, given their essentially ageless nature.

On the other hand ...=20

> But then again, since the Green Man doesn't indicate that Abaia
> and Erebus are a problem (and forms non-Maoist sentences), perhaps
> someone else has.

Indeed, possibly the rackings of the Urth in the passage of the
New Sun has done for them -- consider, if the depth in which=20
Abaia lay were suddenly raised-up as a continent, what would be
the effect on Abaia? His rotting corpse would also provide a great
deal of fertilizer ... though it would make the main part of that
continent pretty-much uninhabitable for some time. Perhaps, then,
there are in fact only a few people left on a few islands, and they
have to live there while the corpses of the Scylloids, rather like
that of Ymir, provide the new-risen continents with the stuff of
life, while these corpses deteriorate, their bones become mountains,
and forests and such grow in the new soil. Perhaps: it does seem a
rather Lupine approach, now I think about it ...

> That also brings to mind the whole question of the Commonwealth's =
> projection capability.  By the age of Severian their stuck at a =
> primitive state, but in the early days of the Autarchy, especially
> around the time of Ymar, they probably had the tech level to go after
> the giants in the water.=20

Maybe ... and maybe not; the Scylloids seem to be very advanced beings
indeed. Further, it may not have been as clear at the time of Ymar that =

they were a threat as it is by Severian's time.

> The other question of tech level and undines
> is that there seem to be some indication that Urth under Typhon might
> have had the capability of superluminal travel, since there's a =
> good chance that Scylla went to Blue and brought back the undines.  =
> that's the case, why would the Whorl move at sublight speeds?  Or am =
> reading to much into the text?

By the time of Typhon, the culture and technology of Urth is already=20
well-advanced in its decadance and decline. Typhon has access to some
FTL transport but not to the technology required to build it.=20



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