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Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 13:52:18 -0500
From: James Jordan 
Subject: Re: (urth) The Tree is my Hat

Thanks for putting us onto this, Nigel.
         A mother named Mary and a son named Adam certainly seem 
significant. If Baden really did not know about them, they he's been away 
for a long time. Mary conceives, but the father is not present for the 
birth. Close enough to be a virgin birth allusion, particulary with a child 
named Adam (= a new Adam).
         Baden looks like "Bad 'un," Bad One.
         His rejection of true religion is parallelled and expressed by his 
rejection of Mary and ignorance of her son Adam.
         Why a twin named Mark? Are we (gasp!) to think of the Adam Mark 
hotel line, and these sons are an alternate house that Baden does not 
inhabit, has abandoned? Houses of one sort or another (hut, church, temple) 
are thematic in the story. The hut stands between church and temple, a 
place of human habitation that must be linked with either one or the other. 
Baden has abandoned the good house of Mary nee Christmas, and of her sons. 
His hut becomes a place of adultery.
         Alternatively, Mark means "warrior," though I don't see how this fits.
         Alternatively, according to modern theory, Mark is the first 
gospel writer, and that might fit thematically: Jesus-Adam and Mark.
         Anyway, since Wolfe had no reason to introduce a second son, a 
twin, there has to be a reason for it.
         I noticed that after his deal with the shark, Baden is unable even 
to visit the church, being too sick on Sunday.
         A google search shows that Mervyn can mean "sea hill," "sea 
ruler," or "high hill." There seems a pregnant reason by Robbins rejects 
that name, in context. His name becomes Rob Robbins, and Mary's father has 
an "R" for his middle name. Seems deliberate. Mary's father is Julius (link 
toYule, I imagine) R. Christmas.
         Internet: A "spiritual" medium that links Baden both with a witch 
and with Yule Christmas. Another manifestation of the choice before him.
         The flying saucer, as is obvious, links with the shark. Are we 
supposed to think of real extra-terrestrials? I'm thinking of how Wolfe 
conflates the perceptions of people in *Castleview.* My best guess is that 
Baden as a modern man perceives a spiritual reality in terms he 
understands, since he (initially) does not believe in a spirit realm. Given 
that the shark is Satan (see below), it feels wrong to me for Wolfe to 
overlay an SF dimension to this story. And, there is much discussion of 
perception in the story. So I'm more comfortable, at this point, with a 
*Castleview* explanation of the flying saucer.
         My guess is that the third spirit in the hut is indeed the ghost 
of the former agent. He knows what is going on, since it happened to him. 
He was formerly in Afghanistan, and I think we must see that as a place 
parallel to Africa, a place where "old religion" is still somewhat 
operative, as it is on the island. I think we are supposed to understand 
that he also had become corrupted, and then seduced by the shark spirit.
         Another aspect of the story seems to be a contrast between the 
very busy pastor and Agent Baden, who has nothing but lazy time on his 
hands. The missionary has come there to work; Baden has come there just to 
be there. Baden does not use his time to help the natives, as the pastor 
does, but finds the time to explore the pagan side of things. His choice of 
how to use his time, and perhaps the dangers of idleness, seem one theme in 
the story.
         If I'm right, the back plot is that several years earlier Baden 
had left his wife, probably adulterously given how quickly he falls into 
that sin on the island. By rejecting "Mary" and also Christianity, he also 
moves back in the realm of the "old" world. He does not even know about the 
new Adam that Mary brings forth. Symbolically, he has rejected the family 
of Christmas. What happens to him happens between Christmas and Easter, but 
he will not come to Easter because he has rejected Christmas.
         On the title: I think we have to remember the serpent in the 
garden, at the Tree of Knowledge, traditionally pictured IN the tree, with 
the tree as its hat. Think of the coral tree that sprouts from the altar of 
human sacrifice in the submerged temple (itself a good image of what 
becomes of the old religion once the New has come: it is flooded). 
Ultimately, the shark is Satan himself, and the Tree of Knowledge in which 
he dwells is his hat.
         Just some grist for your mill.



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