Claw of the Conciliator: Chapters 16 to 19


A mysterious blue light wounds Jonas. Severian uses the claw to heal him, and tells an old story from Thecla's book.

Thecla's memories reveal a way out of the antechamber, as the nature of the prison as a former waiting area is revealed. The long-suspected truth about Jonas is also revealed, and he leaves Severian to repair himself.

Severian decides his next task is to recover Terminus Est.


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    Happily I spotted the Theseus reference :smile:

    And the best bit about the Jonas reveal was surely the description of the means of transport. Presumably Jonas will return in a future chapter / book, and at that stage we will learn a bit more about him.

    Thecla's memories often turn in handy as a source of information!

    The bit with the steward and the search for Terminus Est was zany... I guess the closest analogy would be an organisation so bureaucratic that Odilo took for granted without question that Severian must be entitled to be there, ask questions, commandeer his time and so on... obedience was so ingrained in him as not to raise the traditional challenges like "and who are you sir, " or "where's your ID".

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    Interesting that the Claw didn't heal Jonas. And what do we think covered Jonas in the slime? Was is some attacker, or was it an effect of his earlier injury?

    Jonas's method of departure was good. I agree with @RichardAbbott : we'll see Jonas again. But we still have the other torturer fanboys to contend with.

    What was the point of the story in the brown book? I can't see the connection between that story and anything in the main narrative. Or perhaps, like the story of the mirrors (told in the garden) it will become relevant later.

    I liked that when Severain was "possessed" by Thecla, the girl thought she'd seen/heard a young woman moving when it was really Severain. That says something about the depth of the fugue state Severain sometimes enters.

    And if it were needed, more confirmation that Severian and Thecla were lovers.

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    I liked the story from the brown book, though the relevance also escaped me. Some thoughts there:

    (*) It's interesting that it's a narrative coming from several fairy tales, but with it's own twist, and the fight is between a ship with guns and an undersea giant with guns. Echos of the undersea giants occasionally coming up in the narrative? Maybe that's the relevance. But the more "technological" element of it was interesting.

    (*) The language in the story is more direct with fewer archaicisms than the language of the Book of the New Sun itself.

    (*) And it's interesting that the fragment of the Theseus myth features, with Jonas recognising it. How many years after the Theseus myth would it be in the book? Though I suppose even today the Theseus myth is c.2500 years old. If we're talking old stories still known, the Epic of Gilgamesh is even older at 4000 years or so. So maybe it's not as implausible as I first thought. It's another clue though...the stories in the brown book are pretty old and just remember the fragment. Jonas remembers more- he must be even older.

    And yes, I liked Jonas' departure, and hope we'll see him again.

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    The story was pretty boring I thought,and I didn't see how it was at all relevant! It read like a victorian child's version of a myth, dumbed down to a child's reading level and devoid of any disturbing content. Why did he tack on the Theseus ending? No clue. As to relevance, we shall see if something comes up.

    My guess concerning Jonas' nature was spot on - he's a robot reskinned, well partially! Which explains the metal hand.

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    The search for the sword was interesting. As @RichardAbbott says, at a certain level in a longstanding bureaucracy, punctilio trumps security. I like that he reasoned out the timing of the guard putting his sword away to find it!

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    I'm assuming there's a connection between the giant and the two leviathans previously mentioned - maybe Erebus. This giant is unnamed. Why are the leviathans in the story? That remains to be seen.

    The very first line of the story goes: "Once, upon the margin of the unpastured sea, there stood a city of pale towers."

    In think this is a clue - I though 'unpastured sea' was a curious turn of phrase, and in fact it comes from the Shelley poem, Prometheus Unbound. In act 3, Scene 2, Ocean says to Apollo: "It is the unpastured sea, hungering for calm. Peace, monster; I come now. Farewell!" According to Wikipedia:

    Scene II takes place at a river on Atlantis, and Ocean discusses Jupiter's fall with Apollo. Apollo declares that he will not dwell on the fall, and the two part.

    I also love the line (and concept) by the old man: "I taught you the art by which we flesh sons from dream stuff."

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    What a splendid piece of research joining things up! Thanks @Apocryphal
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    Autumn came, and the sycamores of the city of pale towers, that were sheltered from the sea winds by its high wall, dropped leaves like the gold manufactured by their owners. And the wild salt geese streamed among the pale towers, and after them the ossifrage and the lammergeier. P.307

    Lammergeier: Both words refer to the Bearded Vulture. Ossifrage means 'bone-breaker'. 'Lammergeier' is German for 'Lamb-vulture' pointing to a popular meal, I suppose.

    Interestingly (to me!) the Ossifrage is one of the few birds used by Greek ornithomancers for divination.

    At length the golden autumn wore away, and Winter came stalking into the land from his frozen capital, where the sun rolls along the edge of the world like a trumpery gilded ball and the fires that flow between the stars and Urth kindle the sky. p.308

    Trumpery: Showy, but worthless. Why doesn't that surprise me?

    "His name no man knows, for no man can approach near enough. His form is that of a naviscaput, which is to say that to men he appears a ship having upon its deck - which is in truth his shoulders - a single castle, which is his head, and in the castle a single eye. But his body swims in the waters with the skate and the shark, with arms longer than the most lofty masts and legs like pilings that reach even to the floor of the sea.

    Naviscaput: This is pretty well explained in the text - latin for 'Ship-head' (I thought it might mean something like 'forecastle' but no). Did anyone else form a mental image like this?:

    Some bits I've read while researching equate Naviscaput with King Minos, hence the Theseus reference of black sails and Athens. This story of the boy will have greater relevance later in book 3 or 4.

    Then the youth that was second to him ordered the ship to be put about, that they might return to the white calotte of the princess; and he ordered also that wounds be bandaged, and pumps set in motion, and such repairs as could be made begun.

    Calotte: A Roman-Catholic priest's skull-cap.

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