Sword of the Lictor, chapters 17 to 20

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Severian goes back to find the woman, old man, and child, not wanting to have given them a death sentence. He saves the child, little Severian. He tries to explain some things, and tells him a story. The two are captured by some sort of sorcerers, with magic that Severian speculates is to avert the coming of the New Sun.

Comments

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    Again I liked the geographic sweep of this section. However, this part even more than the previous made me think that his coverage of ground is infeasibly fast! I don't think he has the experience to move with the indicated speed, especially with little Severian at his side. It is certainly true that the rate at which different people travel varies widely - I did Hadrian's Wall in 7 days without any real stressing of myself, and the fastest male time recorded is 16.5 hours (fastest female 18.5). But Severian seems to eat up ground in ways that I don't find credible. That said, it's nowhere near so ridiculous as the TV version of Game of Thrones, where travel times were hopelessly presented and increasingly ludicrous as the seasons went on.

    And it was a real discipline stopping at the appointed chapter end and not rushing on to find out what happened next...

    I kind of felt that Severian showed some sense of moral duty towards the family, although it was something of a case of too little too late.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    And it was a real discipline stopping at the appointed chapter end and not rushing on to find out what happened next...

    (I thought chapter 20 was for next week, but it didn't take long to read it anyway.)

    I kind of felt that Severian showed some sense of moral duty towards the family, although it was something of a case of too little too late.

    Agreed. It's perhaps a sign that Severian is changing more. First he was guided by duty, then self-interest (including thinking with his genitals). Now perhaps he's starting to think about others.

    I liked the bit of world-building in here with the zoanthrops being people who've destroyed their consciousness, and the fact that the sun is so faint some stars are visible in the daytime.

    Zoanthrops are a chilling thing to have in a world. Not only does it speak to the nihilism of the volunteers, but it's a power that could so easily be abused. (They also reminded me a little of the Different Drummers from The Ballard of Halo Jones, if anyone remembers them.)

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    Never head of Halo Jones, but Dr Moreau springs to mind, though these are sort of like his animalian men in reverse. It’s the voluntary nature I find creepy.
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    I have no clue what Severian thinks he can get by taking this boy. Not his usual sport. But since he's the prophesied golden boy, I'm sure it will all turn to his benefit somehow.

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    @NeilNjae said:

    @RichardAbbott said:
    And it was a real discipline stopping at the appointed chapter end and not rushing on to find out what happened next...

    (I thought chapter 20 was for next week, but it didn't take long to read it anyway.)

    You're right- my mistake. Chapter 19 was a more natural break point. Oh well.

    Only chapters 21 to 23 for the next instalment.

    More particular comments people have homed in on. There are some chilling implications regarding the zoanthropes. And Severian is showing signs of actual moral development. I think @NeilNjae called it correctly, that it began with duty, then ego (and his genitals), and now some consideration for others. We'll see, but I think this moral development is thematically a big part of what this sequence has to be about - and Severian had to be reprehensible in an ordinary way for this to work. I think the book succeeds admirably in making him ordinarily reprehensible, but can it redeem him? And what about those he's hurt, chiefly Dorcas? And some form of justice for Jolenta?

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    Re-reading my comment above, I am coming across as very nasty towards Severian, but I do not like and do not trust him, and he generally takes five steps back for every one he takes forward.

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    To be fair, at every instance so far, Severian has more than justified your distrust and dislike. With every seemingly benevolent act, I can't help wondering what awful thing he's going to do next. It's going to take a lot to rise above that, and maybe he never can.

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    @dr_mitch said:
    To be fair, at every instance so far, Severian has more than justified your distrust and dislike. With every seemingly benevolent act, I can't help wondering what awful thing he's going to do next. It's going to take a lot to rise above that, and maybe he never can.

    Perhaps that will be the moral of the story? Not that power corrupts, but that only the corrupt (and depraved) seek and gain power.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    Never head of Halo Jones, but Dr Moreau springs to mind, though these are sort of like his animalian men in reverse. It’s the voluntary nature I find creepy.

    The first book of Halo Jones, a miniseries from 2000AD (British SFF comic), was set in an SF consumer/capitalist culture, large wealth disparity, mass youth unemployment, etc. Kind of like the 1980s with arcologies. The "Different Drummers" were a youth movement that rejected that world. Drummers got a surgical implant that played an internal drum beat that drowned out everything else: they moved to the beat of a different drum. Throughout Halo Jones, you'd see groups of a few Drummers in the background, gently headbanging to their own private beats.

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    Any comments on the story of Frog? I had trouble parsing it, but may re-read it. Definitely evokes Mowgli's story, and a quick search reveals the following from the Kipling Society:

    In the stories, the name Mowgli is said to mean "frog", describing his lack of fur. Kipling made up the name, and it "does not mean 'frog' in any language that I know of."

    I noticed Frog is called a 'Son of Meschia', and if you'll recall Meschia and Meschiane were referenced in Dr. Talos play - they are the first man and woman. In the Wardrobe series, Lewis often references humans (who are 'other' in the land if Narnia) as 'sons of Adam' or 'daughter's of Eve', so the use of 'son of Meschia seems consistent. A quick google of Meschia and Meschiane turns up a reference - to Psychology of the Unconscious by Carl Jung, who in turn references Sabine Baring-Gould from 1871, from which we find a reference to Middle Persion myths (see below), which in turn leads us to the Avestan version of their names and... How much of this book is based on Zoroastrian myth? Jahi is the daughter of Mashyana.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashya_and_Mashyana

    Wikipedia's version:

    According to the creation myth as described in the Bundahishn, Ohrmuzd's (Ahura Mazda) sixth creation is the primeval beast Gayomart (Gayamarətan), who was neither male nor female. Ahriman (Angra Mainyu), the Spirit of Evil that dwelt in the Absolute Darkness, sought to destroy all that Ohrmuzd had created, and sent the demoness Jeh (Jahi) to kill Gayomard. In this she was successful, but the moon (Mah) captured his seed before the animal died, from which all animal life then grew. From Gayomard's corpse grew a tree, the seeds of which were the origin of all plant life, and from the branches of which grew Mashya and Mashyana.

    They promised to aid Ohrmuzd in his battle with Ahriman, and gave birth to fifteen sets of twins which scattered around the Earth and became the races of mankind.

    Baring-Gould's version:

    According to the Persian faith, the father of man had heaven for his destiny, but he must be humble of heart, pure of thought, of word and of deed, not invoking the Divs [i.e. Jinns c.g.]: and such in the beginning were the thoughts and acts of our first parents.

    First they said, "It is Ormuzd (God) who has given the water, the earth, the trees, and the beasts of the field, and the stars, the moon, the sun, and all things pure." But Ahriman (Satan) arose, and rushed upon their thoughts and said to them, "It is Ahriman who has given these things to you." Thus Ahriman deceived them, and to the end will deceive. To this lie they gave credence and became Darvands, and their souls were condemned till the great resurrection of the body. During thirty days they feasted and covered themselves with black garments. After thirty days they went to the chase; and they found a white goat, and with their lips they drew off her milk, and drank her milk and were glad. "We have tasted nothing like to this milk," said our first parents, Meschia and Meschiane; "the milk we have drunk was pleasant to the taste," but it was an evil thing to their bodies.

    "Then the Div, the liar, grown more bold, presented himself a second time, and brought with him fruit of which they ate; and of a hundred excellences they before possessed, they now retained not one. And after thirty days and nights they found a white and fat sheep, and they cut off its left ear; and they fired a tree, and with their breath raised the fire to a flame; and they burned part of the branches of that tree, then of the tree khorma, and afterwards of the myrtle; and they roasted the sheep, and divided it into three portions: and of the two which they did not eat, one was carried to heaven by the bird Kehrkas.

    "Afterwards they feasted on the flesh of a dog, and they clothed themselves in its skin. They gave themselves up to the chase, and with the furs of wild beasts they covered their bodies.

    "And Meschia and Meschiane digged a hole in the earth, and they found iron, and the iron they beat with a stone; and they made for themselves an axe, and they struck at the roots of a tree, and they felled the tree and arranged its branches into a hut; and to God they gave no thanks; and the Divs took heart.

    "And Meschia and Meschiane became enemies, and struck and wounded each other and separated; then from out of the place of darkness the chief of the Divs was heard to cry aloud: O man, worship the Divs! And the Div of Hate sat upon his throne. And Meschia approached and drew milk from the bull, and sprinkled it towards the north, and the Divs became strong. But during fifty winters, Meschia and Meschiane lived apart; and after that time they met, and Meschiane bare twins."[6]

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    @Apocryphal said:
    Any comments on the story of Frog? I had trouble parsing it, but may re-read it. Definitely evokes Mowgli's story,

    It seems like the start of a story, and not the end. We get a lot of detail about how Frog was brought up, but then he meets his sister and it just ends.

    There's something in there setting up the tension between hunters/ranchers and farmers, but it gets cut off too early to explore those.

    And thanks for the research on Zoroastrianism! Most interesting.

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    It's mashup of Mowgli and Romulus and Remus that went nowhere.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > It's mashup of Mowgli and Romulus and Remus that went nowhere.

    I'd spotted the Romulus/Remus link... it feels like Severian never quite finished the tale
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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > According to the creation myth as described in the Bundahishn, Ohrmuzd's (Ahura Mazda) sixth creation is the primeval beast Gayomart (Gayamarətan), who was neither male nor female...
    > Meschia and Meschiane lived apart; and after that time they met, and Meschiane bare twins."[6]

    There's a strand of rabbinic thought that holds that the first human creature was androgynous, being a fusion of male and female (either side by side or back to back, but either way deliberately not face to face as though to preclude any sexual implications). This androgyne was later divided into man and woman. The rabbinic motive was to try to reconcile the two different creation accounts in Genesis.

    It's also intriguing that so many world creation accounts involve twins - I looked up a few of them a while ago when writing Timing, and it's a definite global motif. The specific details vary a lot, but twins are clearly of great fascination and significance to people round the globe
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