Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003 09:42:52 -0700 From: Don Palumbo
Subject: Re: (urth) sev's skull Somewhere in BNS (it's at the end of Torturer), Sevarian talks about the writing process, comparing it to being a torturer, and says among other things that one of the tasks a writer must perform is to follow the prescribed models. Wolfe, in writing this story, is following the prescribed model of the monomyth very consciously, and all of the references to death and rebirth throughout the text--as well as references to a whole lot of other things, such as ogre/father-figures, women of all sorts, initiations, threshold crossings, talismans, etc, etc.--should be understood in this light. Campbell asserts that death and rebirth is a metaphor for transitions that occur to everyone in the course of life, and Severian certainly undergoes enough changes of this sort so that this invites the reader to see his death-and-rebirth experiences as symbolic of his own transcendence of past selves.
As the demands of the monomyth model, and a symbolic reading in any case, is enough to explain the reason for all the death and rebirth stuff in the story, I see no reason to believe that Severian ever literally dies for good and is replaced by some other version of himself unless what happen cannot be explained in any more plausible way, which I don't think is the case in BNS inself.
Mind-boggling as reading BNS is in itself, this effect is truly compounded if you read it while keeping the monomyth in mind every sentence of the way. This adds whole new dimensions to the story.
At 12:47 PM 7/8/03 -0700, maa32 wrote:
So there is some disagreement over the skull. I tried to emphasize that--
perhaps the Severian we knew was just a copy, as the Apu-Punchau who rises
over his body is just a copy. The original Severian has long since died, and
has always been dead, as he says while underground with Master Ultan: I felt
as if we were both dead and buried, or something like that. Why should the
chapter entitled "resurrection and death" be any different than the later,
heirodule maintained Severian? If he's not the first Severian (and we meet
Ymar in Urth, and Severian says little about being identical to him -
something one would certainly note: "he looked just like me as a kid! Go
figure!") I think that when Severian speaks of not being the first Severian,
he means that there was a boy raised among the torturers who died and was then
altered and artifically maintained by the Hierodules, who have the ability to
tamper with time itself - and remember that the conciliator is the master of
time. If the Severian of the narrative of The Book of the New Sun is simply
another eidolon, then surely that could be Severian's skull.
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