Claw of the Conciliator: Final Chapters


Jolenta dies over the course of these final chapters. Severian commands an animal with the Claw, heals a farmer's son with the Claw, and leaves in haste as the farmer doesn't like him. Severian and Dorcas come to a ruined city, and meet two witches, along with Hildegrin, and witness a parade of ghosts.

This was oddly hard to summarise, and I'm sure I've missed something important.

We take a break next week as we're at the end of book two. On the 14th August we'll be ready to discuss the first four chapters of book three.


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    I agree about the 'hard to summarise' bit. To me a few of the things that stood out were:

    1) Hildegrin/the Badger has been trailing Severian for a long time, though we have previously had no clue about this
    2) Severian is once again unclear about loyalties - "I no longer consciously desired to serve Vodalus"
    3) There is some deep connection between several of the mysteries we have seen - the vision in the Botanical Garden, the 'consumption' of Thecla, the various giants/giantesses and so on, all somehow coming to a focus in the witches' ritual (which even after reading twice has left me unclear as to purpose)
    4) Thecla is present in more than memory form - the chief witch detects her as another presence in the circle

    And of course there is a recurrent theme about things not being as they seem, but only showing something of their true nature in some kind of extreme situation.

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    I wonder if one of the witches might have previously been seen in the Botanical Gardens.

    Another thought occurs- Thecla is one of the main characters of this book, in one way or another. And since he took on her memories, Severian has changed. He's more willing to use the Claw, and will use it for healing where he may. But his attitude to women has worsened. Though I'm not sure if any of that is down to Thecla.
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    I really rather enjoyed these three chapters - I thought the writing was especially good. Here again, we get the line that it is our greatest sin that we are only capable of being what we are. Not sure why that would be a sin, but that's the second time we've been told this, and I'm seeing this as a major theme of the work. Up until now, Severian has not transcended his upbringing - but will he? Will others? Or will they remain what they are?

    There are some odd references in the chapter - 'quercine penetralia', for example. I'm assuming 'quercine' is a reference to Quecus - Oak - so what is this - an oak dildo? It's time to get back to the lexicon, now that we have a break. I've been keeping note, but not typed anything up for quite some time.

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    I think that's a key point- can Severian transcend his upbringing? What about how others see him?

    So far for every step forward there's been a step or two backwards, making him a rather unpleasant character.

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    I'm now utterly convinced that Severian is being controlled by someone or something. He has to be, in order to always be at exactly the right place at the right time. As for Severian's personality, I frankly don't care at this point.

    Thecla's psyhic presence is interesting. There's also an omission: Hildegrin doesn't have any psychic echoes of Vodalus's dead companions. Has he never absorbed anyone's memories, or is the Severian/Thecla link something special?

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    edited August 2019

    @NeilNjae - I think because of Severian's odd memory, he can access her memories as if they were his own. Hildegrin does not have that kind of memory, and has mostly forgotten her while for Severian, they are always fresh.

    As for the ridiculous infestation of coincidences called Severian, he is the Hero fortold by the Prophets! As such he just trips over important people and places.

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    Yes- I think the memories of the dead just persist for a short while in ordinary cases. Severian's memory makes him not an ordinary case. Actually, I now wonder whether merging with the dead, if Severian does it again and integrates is, is something that could lead to an evolution of his personality and treatment of others.

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    But I saw atroxes too, with hair like a man's, and sword toothed smilodons. p.392

    Atroxes & Smilodons: Smilodons we all know as sabre-toothed tigers. An atrox is an extinct, North American ice age lion, eleven feet long and larger than a smilodon.

    The young witch nodded. "All time exists. That is the truth beyond the legends the epopts tell. If the future did not exist now, how could we journey toward it? If the past does not exist still, how could we leave it behind us? In sleep the mind is encircled by it's time, which is why we so often hear the voices of the dead there, and receive intelligence of things to come. Those who, like the Mother, have learned to enter the same state while waking live surrounded by their own lives, even as the Abraxas perceives all time as an eternal instant. p.406

    Epopt: One instructed in the mysteries of a secret system, or more specifically, an initiate in the Elusinian Mysteries, one who has attended the epopteia (final initiation rite).
    Abraxas: A word inscribed on amulets or talismans in Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia Minor, from the 2nd century B.C. until the 13th century. Apparently a gnostic archon, and whose letters, when converted to numbers, means 365. Arbraxas is also the name of a Garth Nix novel and character.

    "Is that what the woman you call the Cumaean will do, then? Enter that state, and speaking with the voice of the dead tell this man whatever it is he wishes to know?" p.406

    Cumaean: Someone from Cumae, which was the first Greek colony in Italy, located near Naples. But not so fast - the Cumaean Sybil ('prophetess') was the priestess of the Apollonian oracle at Cumae. So, generally speaking, a Cumaean is a prophet.

    Beasts - aelurodons, lumbering spelaeae, and slinking shapes to which I could put no name - moved among the dead. p.408

    Aelurodons: Extinct American canid.
    Spelaeae: Cave-dwelling creatures, perhaps here referring to a bear.

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