Sword of the Lictor, chapters 24 to 27

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Severian triggers an ancient machine that leads a two-headed man awakening. Little Severian triggers something that incinerates him, beyond even the ability of the Claw to heal.

The two headed man is an ancient forgotten tyrant, Typhon. He takes Severian to the top of the mountain in a flying machine and tries to enslave him. But Severian manages to kill him.

(The above account leaves out a lot of interesting detail for me, and some analysis; I will return to the topic.)

Comments

  • 1
    edited September 29

    Severian, why mention that Typhon was fondling his erect penis when it mean exactly zero to the story. That was just meaningless. Who the hell cares?

    Also, I don't think "slave" is the proper word.

  • 1

    @clash_bowley said:
    Severian, why mention that Typhon was fondling his erect penis when it mean exactly zero to the story. That was just meaningless. Who the hell cares?

    I could say much the same about the whole episode. Why was it there in the story? Typhon seemed unconnected to anything else in the story, apart from a way to give us readers some additional exposition. What we got was that Typhon claimed to be the ex-ruler of a multi-world empire, and another suggestion that "magical" mind control is real.

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:

    @clash_bowley said:
    Severian, why mention that Typhon was fondling his erect penis when it mean exactly zero to the story. That was just meaningless. Who the hell cares?

    I could say much the same about the whole episode. Why was it there in the story? Typhon seemed unconnected to anything else in the story, apart from a way to give us readers some additional exposition. What we got was that Typhon claimed to be the ex-ruler of a multi-world empire, and another suggestion that "magical" mind control is real.

    To distract us from killing off Little Severian? :D

  • 1
    Very few episodes in this book made sense when they first happened, and their import was made clear later. So why was Typhon introduced? Why little Severian died? Why we climbed up a mountain in the shape of Typhon? I can say. I assume there’s a metaphorical quality. Typhon(and his name probably has meaning) takes Severian to the top of a monument to himself. Both the little version of Severian and the little version of Typhon die. It’s probably significant that Typhon was an Autarch, and that he died trapped on Urth after opening up the universe to others.

    Looking at the details, I did quite like the two-headed Typhon being, grafted somewhat improperly to his former slave, so that both had incomplete control of the body. Perhaps the penis episode was the slave signalling something to Severian? He did somehow indicate the method by which Typhon could be killed.
  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:

    Looking at the details, I did quite like the two-headed Typhon being, grafted somewhat improperly to his former slave, so that both had incomplete control of the body. Perhaps the penis episode was the slave signalling something to Severian? He did somehow indicate the method by which Typhon could be killed.

    I think it was that Piaton was mouthing words to Severian, and Severian was able to lip-read enough. Piaton was still there, alive in his head, but he didn't have any voluntary control over his body since Typhon was grafted on to it.

    This is similar to the fate of the zoanthrops, but those were people who voluntarily removed their intellect. Piaton was a person who had his intellect preserved but his body removed by someone else.

  • 1
    I liked the Typhon episode.
  • 1

    I liked the horror note of the grafted head, and Piaton mouthing almost helplessly - but enough to give Severian instructions. I think it's also relevant that Typhon could have given a warning and saved little Severian but chose not to.

    As for Severian, there's genuine but confused unselfish grief for the first time (his grief for Thecla was for the idea, and was selfish).

    On another note, it's interesting that he thought Dorcas and Jolenta had a sexual relationship. I don't buy it, but Severian's still a pillock in many ways. And we're reminded that it's not very long since he left the torturers.

    Oh, and going by memory, in Greek myth Typhon was the son of Gaia, the Earth, a giant with serpentine feet that she gave birth to in revenge for Zeus overthrowing the titans. Typhon was the father, Echidna the mother, of monsters such as the hydra. In one myth (not always consistent), he was buried under Mount Etna (and this I mean literally - Mount Etna was thrown and landed on him).

    Anyway, I suspect a connection to the vast sea monsters sometimes mentioned elsewhere.

  • 1
    Pace those who think otherwise, but I reckoned this was an exceptionally important encounter. Let's start with the name Typhon - I'm sure @Apocryphal will have more to say but Wiki has "Typhon was a monstrous serpentine giant and one of the deadliest creatures in Greek mythology" and among other exploits tried to rebel against Zeus. All I have discovered about Piaton is that he was an extremely minor Catholic saint!
    The whole crisis with Typhon has strong echoes of one of Christ's temptations, in which the devil offers him all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for an act of worship. And it also reminded me of Lewis's Perelandra, in which the Eve-equivalent of that world is urged to disobey in what seems an extremely minor way (landing on a specific island), but which in fact would open up an unmendable gap. Here, Severian is just being offered food, but has to swear loyalty for it. How cool that the giant warrior statues acknowledge the Claw.
    The loss of little Severian, and his consequent realisation that he is finite and limited, is, I think, an important step in his overall moral development.
    As before, I'm not convinced by his coverage of mountainous ground (as I read recently about Star Trek's warp drive, it moves at the speed of plot rather than obeying consistent principles :smile: ) but I did thoroughly enjoy his mountain passage description.
  • 2

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Pace those who think otherwise, but I reckoned this was an exceptionally important encounter.

    Thanks for the comments: they've clarified why I said this encounter was "unnecessary." Yes, the encounter did show some development of Severian's character. But it was completely unmotivated by any previous events in the story. Who's Typhon? Why was he here? Why hadn't anyone else stumbled across him before? The whole episode seemed utterly arbitrary over why it occurred. It's reinforcing the sense, for me, that there's no plot or direction to the book; instead, Severian is just drifting along, buffeted by sheer chance, utterly out of control of his own fate.

    It's a similar issue I had with Dickens's Great Expectation, where Pip is mostly acted upon and only rarely acts himself.

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:
    ... Who's Typhon? Why was he here? Why hadn't anyone else stumbled across him before? The whole episode seemed utterly arbitrary over why it occurred. It's reinforcing the sense, for me, that there's no plot or direction to the book; instead, Severian is just drifting along, buffeted by sheer chance, utterly out of control of his own fate.

    This is just a spur of the moment thought, and I might reconsider as the chapters unroll, but I wonder if there's some mirroring of the geography he crosses and his overall moral compass (outer and inner journeys, if you like).

    He gets to the Typhon statue, which so far as I recall is his geographic high point. He's also separated from human society, both supportive and hostile. He is in the realms of the supernatural. And at this place he also reaches a moral crisis - two in fact, one each in relation to Typhon and little Severian. Has he passed or failed those crises? The Typhon one I would suggest yes... the little Severian one is far more ambivalent.

    Whatever the outcome, he now drops down from that high point towards an inland lake, and also back into human society again. I'm sure he will at some stage come across these superhuman beings (@dr_mitch mentioned the sea monsters) but just possibly he'll be doing so on human terrain rather than their own.

  • 2
    I suspect the "father of monsters" thing is the relevant part of the ancient Greek Typhon myth to consider.

    And @NeilNjae that's an interesting comparison to make with Great Expectations. Especially as Pip is not exactly a sympathetic protagonist.
  • 3
    "Unnecessary" is an interesting criticism, because it implies that you already know what's supposed to be happening. I think the Typhon episode is an interesting bit of world-building as well as an intriguing piece of the overall puzzle of the tetralogy. I liked the danger it posed to Severian and how he escaped it. Little Severian's death was sad, particularly given the fate of the rest of his family. This dying Urth is a dangerous place.
  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    He gets to the Typhon statue, which so far as I recall is his geographic high point. He's also separated from human society, both supportive and hostile. He is in the realms of the supernatural. And at this place he also reaches a moral crisis - two in fact, one each in relation to Typhon and little Severian. Has he passed or failed those crises? The Typhon one I would suggest yes... the little Severian one is far more ambivalent.

    If Severian is destined to become the Autarch, father of his people, is little Severian his first subject? If so, is elder Severian a good ruler? Should he have anticipated the danger of the ring, or was he right to allow the child to have some independence in exploring?

  • 2

    LEXICON

    There are other sages too, who doubting the existence of that power these beings, who may be called the amchaspands, are said to serve, nonetheless exert the fact of their existence.

    Amchaspand: A corruption of Amesha-Spenta (~'Holy Immortal') which is a type of being emanating from Ahura Mazda. In other words, another Zoroastrian reference.
    Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amesha_Spenta


    A league further on, and a rabbit went skipping ahead of me in dread of the whirling astara I did not possess.

    Astara: According to the Lexicon Urthus, this is a Hindu boomerang.

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