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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (whorl) Journey to the West
Date: 10 Apr 2001 18:07:25 

From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>

> 3) It's also in dialogue with several other things besides KSR's Mars
>    books (which I haven't read, btw: are they really worth the effort?).
>    a) Another three-volume hero's journey: Dante. Nell mezzo del camino 
>       de whatever Horn finds himself all at sea (so to speak), lost. His 
>       journeys lead him through Hell (Green), Purgatory (the Whorl), and 
>       ultimately to, uh, well, that's where it gets kind of complicated...

People have pointed out Dante parallels in prior Wolfe books, and of
course the parallels to the Odyssey have been brought up.  Lately I've
been vaguely considering another.  I've been sort of fascinated
recently by the old Chinese novel "Journey to the West" which tells
(in rather fanciful detail) the story of a Tang Dynasty priest (based
on an actual historic figure) who travels west in search of the
Buddhist Sutra.  The priest is accompanied on his journey by several
disciples, mostably Monkey (aka the Monkey King) Pig and Friar Sand (a
former sea monster apparently).  If it sounds familiar, it should
since it's served as the basis for many Japanese cartoons over the
years (e.g. DragonBall) and has been adapted for countless Chinese
dramatic productions including a "Monkey King" TV series that one
occasionally sees on the International Channel on cable TV.

I haven't read the "original" (cobbled from various oral folktales and
whatnot) but I can't help but observe some Wolfean echoes,
specifically in RTTW, which concerns a journey to the west (pole) in
search of Silk (not sutras, but I think the parallel is reasonable)
and of course HornSilk is a reasonable stand-in for the priest, with
Pig standing in for Pig and Oreb, though not a former sea-monster
carrying one within him.  The parallels sort of fall apart due to the
lack of a Monkey King counterpart.  In most versions of the story I've
seen, the Monkey King is the main player and though one might find
parallels with Hound at a stretch (Hound declares himself ready and
anxious to go to Green, which sort of parallels the Monkey King's
rebellious, adventursome spirit and at least one story where he goes
to Hell), it seems like a weak parallel; nevertheless, compared to
what seem to me fairly weak Odyssey references (Nettle as Penelope,
etc.), perhaps there's a case to be made.

Is anyone else familiar with this?  As I said, most of my knowledge is
second hand, though I've been considering a couple of different
English translations of the story in novel form.  I wouldn't be
surprised if Wolfe had at least heard of it.  I apologize for the very
vague nature of this hypothesis.  There's probably nothing to it, but
it's been sticking in my mind.

Shellac (also currently reading RED MARS)

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