Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 09:43:53 -0600 From: "Charles Reed"
Subject: Re: (urth) The leatherskin Hello Don. I'd like to respond to your idea about the "alien-ness" the animals of the Blue/Green system. You say that the leatherskin is "the only really alien creature in the book," but I think you're mistaken. ALL the animals we encounter on Blue are very and extremely alien to anything that existed on the Whorl. It's just that settlers, where possible, have given the alien animals names that reflect the only animal names they know. For example, there's a beast on blue that is rather large, lives in the forest, and has a very long snout. Instead of making up something new, they start calling it an elephant, despite the fact that it has eight legs. It's much easier to do that than try to create a new taxonomy. Every settler knows what a real elephant is, and this new creature of Blue is similar enough in appearance that when somebody says "elephant" everybody immediately knows what is being talked about. Similarly, there's a creature that lives in the river that is at least vaguely reptilian, probably looks like a log floating in the water when still, and might eat you if you fall in, so instead of making up something new, they call it a crocodile, even though these new crocodiles are obviously not the same animal as the "real" crocodile whence their name derives ("real" crocodiles don't have eight legs). That's not to say that some Blue animals don't get new names. Some animals are so different that they're not reminiscent enough of a Whorl animal to inherit a Whorl name. In those cases, the names given are very utilitarian and descriptive in nature -- such as "leatherskin." You're also forgetting the inhumi, and the great variety of alien beings on Green, which were pretty much mentioned only in passing. Still, some of their descriptions bear little resemblance to anything we ran into on the Whorl. Blue is an alien world. The evolution of land-based life on Blue for some reason favored octopedal locomotion rather than quadrupedal locomotion, as was the case on Urth and subsequently in the Whorl. In fact, I can't think of a single animal we meet that is native to Blue that does not have eight limbs, and that includes the departed Neighbors. Wolfe is an extremely surprising writer, and is often subtle -- sometimes subtle to point of being frustrating -- but I really don't regard him as being "tricky." I tend to take his (and his narrator's) explanations at face value until there is a reason to do otherwise. Sometimes there is such a reason, but I don't think this is one of those times. Charles Don Doggett wrote: >Howdy all, > >One of (imho) Wolfe's first tricks in SS to give us the impression of Blue >as an alien world is his introduction of the leatherskin, a terrible >creature with three (gasp!) jaws. It is the only really alien creature in >the book (even the neighbors are four limbed humanoids). Or is it? Here's >a more mundane (sort of) explanation: The leatherskin is a sort of evolved >shark. Yes, a shark. Its three jaws are really three rows of teeth. To >someone like Horn, or Silk, who has probably never had any previous >experience with salt water creatures, these rows could very well appear to >be three jaws. Sort of the way people with no experience with horseback >riding might have seen the first horsemen as centaurs. Sharks also have >extremely rough skin. Just a thought (a scary thought - a shark that can >climb into your boat. Ugh.) > >Don > > > > --