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From: Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v001.n003
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 20:20:49 

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

At 01:57 PM 12/6/96 -0600, Peter Cash wrote:
>Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net> wisely wrote:
>> 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).

	Point taken.

>> 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...

	Again, good point.

>> 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?

	That would not seem to work with "Fifth Head," which depends on a contrast
between shape-shifters, true humans, and clones. 
	My own thought would be that IF there be any connection, it is just that
in the Urth universe there are also a pair of planets corresponding to
those in "Fifth Head," but which were not settled as in "Fifth Head." I
imagine the next book in the series will settle this one for us.


>>         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?

	Probably more of Wolfe's ambiguity and myth-mixing. In the Severian
Quintet, Severian is both a Christ (=Christian) figure and an Apollo figure.

>>         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?

	Chapter 9. Hardcover pp. 321ff. He is covered by dirt (dead and buried),
and his soul departs to visit his mothers and fathers (both physical and
adopted). It is clear from the ensuing descriptions that Silk was covered
for quite some time, and considered dead. 

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

	You may be right, but I don't think so at this point. I asked Wolfe about
salvation once, and he commented that Jesus fed people, and that people
need food and a place to live before they can do much else. Thus, Severian
"saves" Urth by providing a new sun, and Silk "saves" his church by getting
them out of the ship and to a planet. The Increate/Outsider wants this
salvation as well, and may USE Pas and others for His ends (for, as Wolfe
says elsewhere, they are His servants, too, though they don't know it). 
	So I don't see the end as tragic, though it is only a partial salvation,
as you note.

>>         11. Big, lumbering, good-hearted Auk is Silk's Peter.
>Yes, there are similarities. But Auk was a violent thief, whereas Peter
>was a

	Yes. Wolfe wants us to see those who are saved as having been sinners
first, and thus adds this feature to his Peter.

>>         16. We know from the Severian Quintet that two-headed Pas is the
>> 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?

	Hmmm. Good question.

>>         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.

	It is probably both. 
	BTW, Silk REJECTS the offer of a visit from his parents (p. 348), right?
And Silk knows both his sets of parents, as I pointed out above.

>>         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

	It is true that we are not shown his accepting the offer. But there was
something that made me think he too her up on it. I don't have time to
reread the remaining 50 pages of the book to find it. 
	Anyway, the offer itself carries the same symbolic-parodic weight.
	Perhaps it is a temptation: to join an anti-trinity?

>>         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.

	I don't think we are supposed to like Hyacinth. People are corrupt, more
than they realize; right? Christ's Bride often (usually?) acts like a
whore, acts like she did before He saved and married her. But He loves her
anyway. I think that is the point. 
	I think Silk's running after Hyacinth is the Good Shepherd leaving the 99
and seeking the one sheep who is lost. Remember that Wolfe likes the
parables a lot, as we see in "The Detective of Dreams."

	I enjoyed your interaction. Do you have any replies to mine?

Jim Jordan

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