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From: Peter Cash <cash@convex.convex.com>
Subject: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v001.n003
Date: Fri, 06 Dec 1996 13:57:10 

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net> wisely wrote:
> Subject:
> Date: Tue, 03 Dec 1996 23:50:49 -0600

> Quetzal - Quetzalcoatl was the mythical "white man" who was expected to
> arrive among the Aztecs and change things forever. The Mayans called him
> Culculcan, as I recall. "Quetzalcoatl" means "feathered serpent." Perhaps a
> dragon/cherubim association. Quetzal knows his Bible (the pre-Bible of the
> Urth-universe) and corrects someone in "Exodus" who ascribes a Biblical
> saying to Pas.
> So Quetzal is pretty ambiguous. Perhaps a "converted" vampire who rejects
> human blood for animal blood?

I would agree with "ambiguous". He is clearly presented as a "good guy"
in the 
narrative; we are supposed to like him. I don't think that this means he
necessarily good, however. Remember what happened to the Aztecs when
Quetzalcoatl came--in the shape of Cortez. As for him knowing
remember that "Even the demons believe, and shudder"  (James 2:19)

> Pas's motivation - Why would a horrible tyrant like Typhon build a huge
> spaceship and send away all his slaves, leaving him alone? That does not
> make a lot of sense -- unless somehow the entire project was masterminded
> by Quetzal as a way to get home? Perhaps Quetzal had the power to hypnotize
> Typhon somehow. The Severian Quintet shows lots of aliens present on Urth.

Perhaps he was bringing a food supply home. There are indications that
has been on board since the beginning...

> Fifth Head of Cerberus - First, there is no doubt that a shapeshifter takes
> the place of the scientist in the third part of the book. Second, unless
> Wolfe has indicated something, I would not take these novellae as in the
> same universe as Urth. They seem to be set in the future of our own
> oscillation. Is there some more concrete reason to associate Ste. Anne and
> Ste. Claire with Green and Blue?

Aren't the two described as green and blue planets in close proximity? I 
though they were, but upon searching I couldn't find the reference in
Head. I was really struck by the parallells when I finished Exodus--"Oh
they've gone _there_!" I had assumed that the passengers of the Whorl
were the
earlier settlers who were assimilated by the shapeshifters. I agree that
are some problems if you take the description of the culture on the two
at face value--mention of the French colonists, for example, doesn't
seem to
belong in the same timeline as Pas. But what if all the colonists were
in fact
shape-shifters, and their "human" culture was built only on a sketchy
of Earth history?

>         Re-reading the last two chapters of volume three of the Book of the Long
> Sun, in preparation for volume four, I suddenly realized that Father Silk
> is not only a good pastor, but a Christ figure in the sense of acting out
> the events in Jesus' life. Wolfe would say a "Christian figure," since we
> are all to live in Christ and be Christlike; but here, as in the Book of
> Acts and in Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain," there is an
> allegorical presentation of this matter.
>         The reader should bear in mind that Wolfe is a devout, practising Roman
> Catholic strongly influenced by G.K. Chesterton, and that a number of his
> other works are Christian allegories.

I would agree that there are Christ-like elements in Silk--just how far
the comparison
goes is a matter of conjecture.

>         Consider: (Spoiler Warning: Numbers 1-17 come from the first three volumes
> only; after that you are at risk.)
>         1. Silk's "enlightenment" and call by the Outsider // Jesus' baptism. Some
> have thought that this might merely be a downloading of information from
> Mainframe, but Mainframe is not the Outsider, and it becomes clearer and
> clearer that the Outsider is the God of the Bible.

I think so too. 

>         2. The Crow (Night Chough) who accompanies Silk // the Holy Spirit Dove
> who accompanies Jesus.

The dove only comes in at Jesus' baptism--it doesn't follow him around,
talking up
a storm. Odin, on the other hand, walked around with two crows--Thought
and Memory.
What's the significance of the fact that the night chough was bought as
pagan sacrifice?
good points deleted

>         6. Silk dies and is buried at the end of volume 3, and then is raised to
> life again by the Outsider // Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

I don't recall this. How does Silk die, and how is he resurrected?

>         7. Silk leads the Whorl's inhabitants to a new land // Jesus and the
> New Creation.

Does Silk do this? Is this what he is supposed to do?  First of all,
it's not clear
to me that Silk was in any way necessary to the landers' departure from
the Whorl--
the "Plan of Pas" could have been brought to fruition without Silk. I
don't think 
Silk has anything to do with this plan--remember that the Plan is that
of Pas, the
evil and pagan god, and not the Outsider. As far as I can tell, the Plan
is to
provide goodies for the vampyric shape-shifters of Green to munch on.

I think that the ending is actually tragic, inasmuch as Silk has
misunderstood his
Calling from the beginning, and never quite "got" it--at least insofar
as we are
told. Silk's calling (by the Outsider) isn't to lead his people to the
new worlds--
which are populated by devils--but to _save_ them. Silk thinks he's
supposed to 
"save" his Manteion--but he never understands what salvation _is_.  The
kind of 
salvation the Outsider has in mind is salvation from sin, from the "evil
of the world"
that Silk ruminates on with Horn on top of the airship.

>         11. Big, lumbering, good-hearted Auk is Silk's Peter.

Yes, there are similarities. But Auk was a violent thief, whereas Peter
was a


>         16. We know from the Severian Quintet that two-headed Pas is the wicked
> and titanic Typhon // the devil. He rules the whorl, and makes himself god
> there (Pas means "all"). Clearly, leaving the whorl and moving to a planet
> will mean deliverance from this Luciferian Overlord.

Ah, but does it? Or does it mean the completion of his diabolical Plan?
>         19. Silk travels to the angelic realm of the fliers. Compare ascension of
> Jesus.

Again, I see this as more ambiguous than you do. Mainframe is more of a
parody of
heaven than its symbolic representation. What do you make of Silk's
desire to speak
with his father there, and his inability to do so? Who does Silk think
his father
is, I wonder? Given his Virgin Birth, and given that the source of
embryos must be high-tech, it seems to me that he must have come from
Mainframe. Does
he think that Mainframe _is_ his father? Again, I'm not sure whether to
see this
as Christ symbolism or parody.

>         20. Silk's personality joins Pas and his lover, replacing Pas's dead head,
> and thus is "seated at the right hand of the Father." Compare Jesus's
> enthronement with Father and Spirit at His ascension. The "Pas" in
> Mainframe is not quite the same as Typhon, in this regard. He is a kind of
> "Good Lucifer."

I remember Kypris (Aphrodite) making the offer to Silk; I don't recall
that he
accepted it. And I don't share your view of the Mainframe Pas as a "good
Being seated at the right shoulder of _this_ god strikes me as eminently

>         21. Hyacinth's gross waywardness and infidelity are pictures of the
> sinfulness of Christ's Church-Bride. Wolfe makes sure we are both horrified
> and forgiving of her sins.

I don't know about this; I'm not in the least inclined to forgive
Hyacinth's final 
sin, which is to run out on Silk. But then again, I don't really know
what to make
of this action; Wolfe has been far too elliptical here. Given my
negative view of
the "new worlds", she may have been doing Silk a favor. But then what
happens to 

In the end, I can't help but see in Hyacinth's action the re-emergence
of a pattern 
that has been characteristic of her as long as she's lived: she takes
of lovers, then leaves them when she perceives that her advantage lies
Consider that she's been the "special friend" of, at one time, Oosik,
Blood,  and 
the guardsman they meet just before they go underground. Remember how
Silk remarks
that while she must have meant a great deal to the young officer, he
meant nothing
to her? Remember that Hyacinth is a hooker--and the Hooker with a Heart
of Gold
is really too good to be true. 

It may be that Silk understands all this, and loves her anyway (he makes
remarks to this effect after discussing Hyacinth's escapades with the
general). But that doesn't make me like Hyacinth more.

>         22. When Silk returns to Viron, it is armageddon, the end of the world
> battle. Compare the prophecies of Christ's return.

Maybe it's armageddon, maybe it's just plain confusion. I can't tell
what's going
on, and it seems pretty pointless.

>         24. At the last moment, Silk's own wayward bride, Hyacinth, prefers this
> world to the world to come, and Silk rushes forth to save her at all costs.
> A moving finale, and a picture once again of the abiding sinfulness of the
> Bride of Christ.

Not exactly my reaction, as you can tell...

                 Die Welt ist alles, was Zerfall ist.   
                  (apologies to Ludwig Wittgenstein)    

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