Ultan's Library

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The Death of Catherine the Weal and Other Stories (1992)

by Michael Andre-Driussi

This essay was written for John Clute’s proposed book of essays on Gene Wolfe’s fiction. Back in the early 90s, before the Internet as we know it existed, I was posting messages on the Gene Wolfe topic at GEnie (it was a message board system). Before long, Gregory Feeley kindly suggested that I write an essay for John Clute’s proposed anthology of Wolfe criticism. It seemed at the time that the book would be published by 1994. It may well be that my essay killed the whole project with its leaden prose. I once read it aloud at a bookstore and literally put people to sleep–good people, I might add. [Jeremy Crampton’s essay, Some Greek Themes in Gene Wolfe’s Latro novels, was also written for Clute’s collection of essays]

The publication of Lexicon Urthus (1994) was still in the unknown future when I wrote this, but the Lexicon did exist in manuscript form and was looking for a publisher. So in many ways, the essay was intended to be an overture for the Lexicon, showing a bit of the work ahead of time.

Now it serves to celebrate the publication of Lexicon Urthus, Second Edition (2008). In preparing the essay, I initially thought I’d insert commentary in the Clute style, using square brackets, pointing out details where my thoughts in 2008 are different from those in 1992. But upon looking it over, warts and all, I find I’d rather not clutter it up more than it already is. Instead I will put that energy into a new Wolfe essay altogether.

So without further ado, allow me to present the essay itself: hidden for sixteen years, a “lost overture” to lexicons past and present.

Catherine has been getting a lot of attention of late, not merely as the most-likely mother of Severian the Great, but also as the secret identity of the Old Autarch himself, according to John Clute (1986) and Gregory Feeley (1991). Clute and Feeley devised the epithet ‘the Weal’ for this hypothetical autarch Catherine, a term which I will borrow for my own purposes.

One cannot quarrel with the notion of Catherine as mother of Severian, and the family tree now seems fairly clear and straightforward: Dorcas and “Charonus” (if one can label anonymous characters by their role in the text) begat Ouen, Ouen and Catherine begat twins Severian and Merryn, or Severian and the mandragora (if this last is not actually the mandrake root its name suggests), or, least probable, all three. On the other hand, the notion that Catherine is the Old Autarch appears less likely, in spite of the fact that it would seem to solve a central mystery of The Book of the New Sun: the name of the autarch and the motive for keeping it secret.

In the middle of such a quagmire, it is good to go back and re-examine the source of the controversy. From whence springs Catherine the Weal? Largely from the combination of: 1) textual evidence pointing to a biological relationship between Severian and the Old Autarch, and 2) textual evidence that a monial named Catherine is Severian’s mother. Does the evidence regarding the Old Autarch suggest he is Severian’s mother? No, it suggests that the Old Autarch is Severian’s father, but this is a theory shattered for most readers by the later evidence regarding Ouen, so the ‘Old Autarch as mother’ idea puts on an extra twist to maintain the theory of a biological link. Is it necessary that the Old Autarch be a biological parent of Severian? No, a spiritual parent would be sufficient.

That Catherine occupies a central role in The Book of the New Sun is attested to by the original title Wolfe gave to the work (which he supposed would be a novella): “The Feast of Saint Catherine.” In Castle of the Otter, he outlines the original plot:

Severian, an apprentice torturer, meets a lovely prisoner, Thecla, and falls in love with her. He becomes a journeyman . . . but continues their relationship. Eventually, she pleads with him for the means of suicide, and he leaves a knife in her cell. When he sees blood seeping from under her cell door, he confesses what he has done.

Eventually . . . he becomes a master . . . The guild has been forced to forgive him, and he has almost forgiven himself. Then he receives a letter from Thecla. The suicide was a trick, permitting her to be freed unobtrusively. Soon she will be exonerated and restored to her former position in society. She says that she still loves him, though it may be that she only feels guilty about using him as she did. She invites him to join her.

What is he to do?

As an honest man and a patriot–and he is both–he should denounce the whole affair; but if he does so, he will be disgraced again, the guild will be disgraced, and Thecla will almost certainly die. If he does as she asks, he will be reunited with her; but he will be a pariah . . . and he may well make her a pariah too, in which case she will probably come to hate him. If he simply burns her letter and ignores her, she will only come to hate him much sooner, and she will be in a position to exert great political influence, and to blackmail the other masters of the guild as well. (Needless to say, I had a solution–but I will leave it as an exercise for the reader.) (4).

A solution which would tie in with the proposed title would be for this Severian to kill and eat Thecla, using the analeptic alzabo to preserve and imprison his beloved within the citadel of his own flesh. She would ‘live,’ but only inside of him. He would take on this terrible burden to protect her, his guild, and himself. (It is also a nasty thing to do to her, which seems appropriate.) Most importantly, just as the Feast of Saint Catherine marks the elevation of torturer from apprentice to journeyman to master, so does the cannibalism of Thecla represent a further stage, wherein the figurative ‘feast’ becomes grotesquely real: the mystery of communion made concrete. At the moment she is consumed, Thecla becomes Catherine, rendered immortal by her killer, enshrined within a torturer’s cells.

However, that story was never written, and the mystery of Catherine was driven further beneath the surface, to mingle with the other mysteries, the most prominent being the identity of the Old Autarch, and at first glance, ‘Catherine the Weal’ seems like a most fitting answer to the autarchial question. But the keystone of the Autarch Catherine theory would appear to be a deeply rooted prohibition against dynastic autarchies, as Clute notes: “Autarchs . . . are forbidden to found dynasties” (Clute, Strokes, 171). This, then, is the dark sin Severian’s narrative covers up: that Catherine is autarch and her son inherits the throne. But a passage in The Book of the New Sun rules out this dynastic prohibition, for the Malrubius aquastor tells Severian, “If you fail, your manhood will be taken from you, so that you cannot bequeath the Phoenix Throne to your descendants” (IV, chapter 31, 214), that is to say, if he refuses the test, he can bequeath the throne to his offspring. An autarch can either stay on Urth and hand down the throne to his or her children, or an autarch can take the test, but the punishment for failure is desexing. Malrubius’s threat makes no sense in a world where dynasties are prohibited. Given that the position of autarch is open to either gender (most of the autarchs have been ‘common men and women’ [IV, chap. 34, 236] and then there is the term ‘autarchia’) dynasties in the thousand-year Age of the Autarch have probably been the rule rather than the exception.

Perhaps this reading of the supposed prohibition is a bit too literal, i.e., it is not that all autarchs are forbidden to found dynasties, but only those who fail the test. In this case the prohibition comes from Yesod rather than the Commonwealth, and Catherine has merely hedged her bets by cheating and having a child before taking the test. The Urth of the New Sun seems to discredit this notion:

“Sieur,” I said, “I can remember the examination of my predecessor.” . . .

Tzadkiel nodded. “It was necessary that you recall it; it was for that reason he was examined.”

“And unmanned?” The old Autarch trembled in me . . .

“Yes. Otherwise a child would have stood between you and the throne, and your Urth would have perished forever. The alternative was the death of the child. Would that have been better?” (Urth, chap. 21, 153).

The Hierogrammate Tzadkiel (whose name is that of a Kabbalistic Angel of Justice) alludes to hereditary autarchy, and also suggests that the relation between Severian and the Old Autarch is not one of child to biological parent. It seems unlikely, in a universe where Hierodule agents backtrack through the corridors of Time seeking verification, and even human high priestesses such as those of the Pelerines possess the ability to detect falsehood, that Tzadkiel has been duped.

So then why the big mystery?

To begin with the obvious, there are a few practical reasons why the Autarch is never named. As the top of the power pyramid in the Commonwealth, an autarch should be so distant from the common people as to be faceless. One need only remember Emperor Showa (Hirohito) of pre-War Japan to find a recent case where citizens were forbidden to look upon the face of their leader, in person or in picture, because to see the emperor’s face is to recognize him as human, and he is not human; rather, he is at the very least the embodiment of an institution. In the Urth Cycle, this lofty distance is reflected in the very mountains themselves, each of which has been carved into the likeness of an autarch, such that they border every horizon, ubiquitous yet far removed.

Another point is that names themselves have a great deal of magic: to know a person’s name is to have power over him, and fairy tales are full of cases where this alone is enough to undo a character, or slay a monster. Between text and reader, or ruler and populace, a name gives an immediate sense of mystery-dispelling familiarity, the difference between ‘His Majesty, the King’ and ‘King Mark.’ By knowing the ruler’s name, a pauper becomes a peer of the realm, in a sense. A third point is that names often disclose gender, and gender mystery is one of the main attributes of the Autarch. This mystery hints at the alchemical ideal of the hermaphrodite, where opposites are united, and sets the stage for the alzabo-induced chemical hermaphroditism of Severian (at which point it is seen as an abomination) as well as the Autarch (where it is revealed to be a prerequisite of leadership). The anthropological importance of this notion is clear, as such a revelation is usually the climax of ‘primitive’ male initiation rites around the world, wherein the headman, for example, proves that he has a ‘vagina’ (subincision of his penis) which bleeds when he re-opens it, simulating menstruation and the female-power associated with it. That this institutional position of autarch be faceless, nameless, and genderless is very important to the story, as Severian must first serve it as a torturer, then rebel against it as a Vodalarius, and finally come to terms with it by becoming it. And in the end, the name is nothing, the title (and the myriad lives it contains) is everything. ‘Here Comes Everyman,’ indeed.

Some readers (including Feeley) have made pointed reference to the use of the term “Old Autarch” in Urth as an uncharacteristically clumsy attempt to maintain the mystery of the autarch’s name. To this way of thinking, Severian is the one who should be called the Old Autarch, as Valeria has sat upon the throne for forty years. However, the period in question is still Severian’s reign. While this might seem to be merely a technicality, Valeria does not know the words of power, and there is no doubt that even the common people know this, as Eata tells Severian: “your autarchia, she was Autarch. People talked about it . . . and they said she didn’t have the words” (V, chap. 46, 328). So despite Valeria’s forty years on the throne, her marriage to Dux Caesidius, her title of Autarch, and the presence of Severian’s cenotaph, Valeria is still regent, Severian is still autarch, and his predecessor is still the Old Autarch.

In place of Catherine, consider the autarch Appian of “The Cat” (1983) as the autarch of The Book of the New Sun . He reigns during the scandal which sends Lomer into the antechamber; and since Lomer yet lives when Severian comes to the House Absolute, it is certainly possible that Appian might still rule. (See timeline.)

The informant on this tip is none other than Odilo II, the servant of the House Absolute whom Severian meets on his first visit, an insider who would be privy to all the secrets. His tale “The Cat” mentions no other autarch, yet it covers seventy-odd years of life within the House Absolute. As all of the Odilos seem to have a great love for the pomp and glory of the House Absolute, it would seem strange and out of character for him to neglect mentioning the ascent of a new autarch. Catherine the Weal, had she been autarch, would have to have gone to Yesod and been desexed sometime after the birth of Severian (roughly 20 years PS, or Prior to Severian’s reign) and before Thecla comes to the House Absolute (around 9 PS), since Thecla knows the Old Autarch, but again, Odilo II mentions nothing of the kind in recounting his early years as servant (beginning 16 PS).

It has been established that the Old Autarch spent his childhood in Famulorum village (Latin ‘famulor’: to be a servant), near the House Absolute (V, chap. 40, 284), that he served under the honey steward Paeon, and that he gained the throne by chance rather than design. (I use the male pronoun under the assumption that domestic service jobs are usually gender segregated, at least for novice and supervisor. Another small doubt against Catherine.) One likely motive for his anonymity is that his name harkens back to his humble origins, thus servants and residents alike would look askance at him, remembering him as a lowly servant. As the Autarch says, “I was a servant once . . . That is why they hate me” (IV, chap. 25, 176).

As Urth makes clear, the Old Autarch’s function, both in the story and in the world, is to prepare the way for Severian. His career and his trial mark the road the New Sun must follow. So Appian is a fittingly evocative name for him. ‘Appian’ is close to the Latin ‘apia’ (bee), an apt name for a servant under the honey steward, but it is closer to the Appian Way, the oldest and best preserved of all Roman roads, commenced by Appius Claudius, the censor, during the Roman Republic. There are also two saints Appian, and all three of these Appians can be said to have paved the way for others to follow.

There are a few weak points to the candidacy of Appian. While there is no doubt that there is an Autarch Appian, the question is the length of his reign: he is either ‘Appian the Lesser,’ reigning from 66 to 31 PS, succeeded by an as yet unnamed autarch; or he is ‘Appian the Elder,’ reigning from 66 to 1 PS. A sixty-five year reign might seem impossibly wrong (despite Hirohito’s reign of 64 years) but for the apparent natural longevity on Urth (Odilo I serves for more than 50 years, and even lifelong prisoner Lomer is 95 years old), possibly augmented by stellar-level technology available to the autarch, and the time distortions caused by riding a ship to Yesod. In addition, a long reign makes it more reasonable to think that, by the time of Severian, his name might have been hidden or forgotten, such that nobody in the country could know it but the senior (and needless to say, discreet) servants.

The crisis point in 30 PS, the point at which Appian is decided to be Elder or Lesser, is alluded to in Dr. Talos’s play, Eschatology and Genesis:

Prophet: “I know you for a practical man, concerned with the affairs of this universe alone, who seldom looks higher than the stars.”

Autarch: “For thirty years I have prided myself on that” (II, chap 24, 202).

The theatrical autarch, based in part upon Dr. Talos’s surprising knowledge of the reigning autarch, seems to indicate that he has ruled for thirty years–or that he has been a changed man, a man unconcerned with Yesod, for the same period. The latter suggests the time of the desexing. Another curious little mystery in or around 30 PS is the exile of Journeyman Palaemon, and it is intriguing to consider how this scandal could be related to the autarch’s failure in Yesod, or to the original idea for “The Feast of Saint Catherine.”

Palaemon is an odd duck: his name is both that of a saint and that of a classical god. This is an important signal, because throughout the Urth Cycle, followers of the New Sun are named after saints, while Enemies of the New Sun (Abaia, Erebus, Typhon) are named after mythological figures. Saint Palaemon is rather nondescript, but Palaemon the god bears some looking into: he was originally the mortal Melicertes, and became the marine god Palaemon when his mother Ino cast herself with him into the sea. Ino became Leucothea, the White Goddess who figures so prominently in Wolfe’s Soldier novels and There Are Doors. In any event, like Appian’s way to Yesod, Journeyman Palaemon paves a way for Journeyman Severian, a precedent for having him exiled rather than executed.

As solid as the evidence may be, Appian the Elder in no way addresses the particular elusive mystery of why the Autarch’s name is never written in Severian’s narrative, as Catherine the Weal at least attempts to do by answering “what is being hidden?” with “Severian’s mother is autarch.” Rather than assailing that vast and nebulous region, this paper will now endeavor to speculate upon a few minor mysteries, in the pioneer spirit of both Clute and Feeley, in an attempt to ascertain the hidden identities of Catherine, Thecla, and Juturna.

Catherine the teenage Pelerine

To begin with, let us assume that Catherine was born an exultant (if there is an exultant in Severian’s family tree, this appears to be the most likely spot), perhaps of the same family as Thecla and Thea. The historical Saint Catherine was also said to have been an aristocrat.

At a young age she joins the aristocratic Pelerines (‘professional virgins’ who accept primarily exultants), and travels with them, much as Cyriaca did (III, chap. 5, 37).

At the age of thirteen or fourteen she meets Ouen in Nessus, probably through the by-then defunct cloisonne shop which had sold crucifixes to the Pelerines (as Feeley proposes). Dorcas’s side of the family had made the crucifixes, and the doubtlessly had connections to the Order. Ouen’s mother Cas (aka Dorcas) had apparently died giving birth to him, but when her husband dropped her into the Lake of Endless Sleep, her eyes opened, an event both of them remember. This suggests that Dorcas was a victim of foul play on the part of the Enemies of the New Sun, who saw that her grandson would become vitally important and tried to interfere by putting Dorcas into a deathlike trance. So Dorcas died by drowning, and her husband was an unwitting murderer. The event made a Charon out of him and gave her an intense fear of water.

Catherine either leaves the Order for some unknown reason (as Clute and Feeley suggest), or she becomes pregnant by Ouen and then leaves under threat of expulsion. We are reminded throughout the Urth Cycle that an exultant teenage girl has the stature of a woman: Severian’s fever dream of Thecla at his height (around 6’1″) when she was thirteen or fourteen (IV, chap. 4, 24), and the scandal involving Chatelaine Sancha (14 years old) and Lomer (28 years old) provides a parallel for what might have gone on between Catherine (13 years old) and Ouen (20 years old).

She is taken into custody in order to protect the unborn Severian from the Enemies of the New Sun (who had so nearly gotten Ouen), rather than for any criminal activity on her part. She gives birth in the Matachin Tower, one of the most heavily guarded and secure places on the planet, which also happens to have easy, permanent access to the Atrium of Time. (The Atrium is as much a time traveling building as the Last House is.) The mother of the guild becomes the mother of the man.

After giving birth, Catherine lives in the Atrium of Time complex, coming out once every subjective ‘year’ for the feast day. This is why she is never seen on any other day, and why she never changes: she never ages, and while tall for a commoner she is perhaps below average height for an exultant teenager (in fact, she might be a khaibit). Valeria, Severian’s future bride, is unquestionably living in the Atrium complex, safe from enemies. Severian says of Valiera, “There was an antique quality about her . . . that made her seem older than Master Palaemon, a dweller in forgotten yesterdays,” and then that her family “had waited, at first, to leave Urth with the autarch of their era” (I, chap. 4, 34). Valeria’s family is likely to have entered the complex around the time of Ymar’s successor, a thousand years earlier.

Finally, when the deluge transforms Urth into Ushas, it is quite possible that Catherine takes to the corridors of Time, becoming the Holy Katharine tortured by Autarch Maxentius early on in the Age of the Autarch. She becomes her own sainted namesake, just as her son Severian goes through various ‘incarnations’ as Apu-Punchau, Conciliator, Autarch, and New Sun. The mother of the man becomes the mother of the guild.

While Catherine is the most elusive of all the women in Severian’s life, her namesake St. Catherine is one of the most popular saints of all time, despite the fact that she probably never existed. Like Palaemon, Catherine is a figure with Christian as well as pagan roots. Catherine of Alexandria is said to have been a maiden martyred in A.D. 310 under Maximus Daza, and legend has it that she argued with fifty pagan philosophers before she was to be put to death by means of an engine fitted with a spiked wheel. (She overcame them all, and on this account she is considered the patroness of philosophers.) Then the wheel broke (legend adds roses bursting forth) and she was beheaded instead. Her alleged relics have been enshrined for the last thousand years in the Orthodox monastery of Mt. Sinai, but in 1969 her name was dropped from the liturgical calendar.

For the pre-Christian Catherine, a closer examination of the rosy/fiery Catherine Wheel is in order. Roses and fire are iconically nearly identical (a fact that Wolfe is well aware of: note how Frog calls fire ‘red flower’ [III, chap. 19, 136], and at the original center of Catherine’s cult in Sinai, the Asiatic Goddess was once depicted as the Dancer on the Fiery Wheel at the hub of the Universe. In the 8th century A.D., a Greek convent of priestess-nuns at Sinai called themselves kathari, meaning ‘pure ones,’ but this name is also akin to the kathakali temple-dancers of India, who performed the Dance of Time in honor of Kali, Goddess of the Karmic Wheel. A group of medieval Gnostics known as Cathari had great reverence for the wheel symbol, and considered St. Catherine almost as a female counterpart of God. Catholic prelates made efforts to have St. Catherine eliminated from the canon in the 15th and 16th centuries, after the Cathari were exterminated. So if Saint Catherine has a hidden name, it might well be ‘Kali.’

Thecla the nocturnal huntress

Allusions have been made to the correspondence between Thecla and St. Thecla, but no note has been made of the fact that St. Thecla is one of the most spurious saints in the canon. The legend of St. Thecla comes from an apocryphal document, the Acts of Paul (c. A.D. 170). It says that she was converted to Christ by St. Paul. She broke off an engagement to marry and dedicated her maidenhood to God, whereupon she was subjected to much persecution, in the form of attempts to kill her by fire and wild beasts. She retired to a cave where she lived for many years (recall the mine at Saltus). At the age of ninety she was again persecuted, by local medicine men who were jealous of her healing powers; she was saved from their hands by being swallowed by her cave, ending her martyrdom.

‘Thecla’ (meaning ‘famous one’) was a title of the Maiden Moon Goddess Artemis at Ephesus (now western Turkey), where she was worshipped in her second aspect as Nymph, an orgiastic Aphrodite with a male consort. Her shrine in Seleucia (Mesopotamia) was a popular pilgrimage center in pagan times, and remained so even after the goddess was Christianized as a saint. Tertullian (3rd century Roman theologian) knew she was nothing but an epithet of the Great Goddess, and he denied the legend connecting Thecla with St. Paul, hinting that Paul might have been honored by the connection. So Thecla’s hidden name might be ‘Artemis,’ and with this in mind, the unbelievable trials of St. Thecla can be recognized as the same sort of goddess rites that Inanna, to give an early example, had to perform.

So in Wolfe’s Thecla, with her memories of hunting both beasts and humans (the attacks on the prisoners in the antechamber), we find another disguised goddess.

Juturna of the deep

A third mother-figure for Severian is the undine Juturna, and hers is the name of a Roman water-goddess, responsible for putting out fires. Her name gives no pretense at being anything but an Enemy of the New Sun (a mythological name and a water-related one as well), and as concubine to Abaia, Juturna’s motives for sporadically helping Severian are obscure: she gives rebirth to him at the beginning of The Book of the New Sun, but later tries to lure him into drowning. She seems unique among her kind in being able to travel the corridors of Time, and she survives the deluge: these two points may form her motive (i.e., she has seen the future and is picking the winner). Aside from a cameo in a corridors of Time episode (IV, chap. 4, 25), Juturna appears four times in the Urth Cycle: 1) rebirth of Severian in volume one, 2) attempted drowning in volume 2, 3) her warning of deluge in Urth, and 4) pointing out the way to Brook Madregot in Urth. From her point of view as a time traveler, the order should probably be rearranged as 2-3-1-4.

Juturna is important for showing the link between what might be too readily termed ‘Good’ and ‘Evil.’ Just as the Djinni of The Arabian Nights can convert to the True Faith, so can the Other People of Urth come over to the side of the New Sun. The undines claim that they can swim between the stars, which is just what the Hierogrammate Tzadkiel does. This should come as no surprise: devils are just fallen angels, after all.

Goddesses of Urth

Thus, Severian’s mother-figures form a trinity of goddesses, each one an aspect of the Great Goddess: Catherine, or Kali, the fiery one, the absent mother; Thecla, or Artemis, the nocturnal huntress, the teacher (a little bit of Athene, here) who becomes the indwelling goddess; and Juturna, the frightful aquatic guide. One could take this further, and consider the nine women with whom Severian is intimate (Thecla’s khaibit, Thecla, Dorcas, Jolenta, Cyriaca, Pia, Daria, Valeria, and Gunnie–Apheta in Yesod is not human) as nine muses or aspects of the Great Goddess, or add them to the trinity to form a solar calendar group of twelve goddesses, with Agia as the spurned, unlucky thirteenth member (like Eris/Hecate).

But that would be another essay.

A Timeline of Events (Chart)

Year Events
70 PS Autarch Maruthas closes roads (assuming Palaemon is 90 in 1 PS) (I, chap. 12, 102)
67 Reign of Appian. Scandal involving Lomer (28 years old) and Sancha (14 years old). Odilo I serves.
63 Sancha leaves (I assume at 18 years of age) for 50 years.
50 Winnoc born (IV, chap. 12, 74).
40 Dorcas ‘dies’ giving birth to Ouen, drowns in lake.
33 Catherine born?
30 Journeyman Palaemon exiled from guild over mysterious scandal (IV, chap 12, 89), whips Winnoc on his way out of Nessus (IV, chap. 12, 74). Old Autarch begins reign, or Appian changes his ways (II, chap 24, 188).
20 (roughly) Thecla born, Severian born, Merryn born, Old Autarch becomes criminal, Catherine in Matachin Tower.
16 Odilo II begins work. (Odilo I served for over 50 years. This compares nicely with St. Odilo, who served for 54 years.)
13 Sancha returns in third year of Odilo II’s service.
9 (roughly) Thecla sees Sancha alive (II, chap. 15, 108).
6 Sancha dies at age 75.
1 PS Events of The Book. Lomer is 95. Jader’s sister is around 10 years old.
5 SR Odilo II tells tale of “The Cat.”
10 Severian embarks on journey to Yesod. Eata returns from Xanthic Lands.
49 Dux Caesidius dies.
50 Severian returns. Jader’s sister 60+. Odilo III serving. Valeria around 70 (V, chap. 43, 302); (V, chap. 44, 313).

(PS = Prior to Severian’s reign)
(SR = Severian’s Reign)


Campbell, Joseph. Primitive Mythology, Viking Penguin, New York, 1987.

Clute, John. Strokes, Serconia Press, Washington, 1988 (paperback).

Feeley, Gregory. “The Evidence of Things Not Shown: Family Romance in The Book of the New Sun,” The New York Review of Science Fiction (#31 and #32), Dragon Press, New York, 1991.

Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper & Row, 1983.

Wolfe, Gene. The Shadow of the Torturer, SFBC edition, 1983.

–. The Claw of the Conciliator, SFBC edition, 1983.

–. The Sword of the Lictor, SFBC edition, 1983.

–. The Citadel of the Autarch, SFBC edition, 1983.

–. The Urth of the New Sun, Tor, 1987.

–. The Castle of the Otter, SFBC edition, 1983.


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  1. Aaron Singleton

    I enjoyed this article very much. Provides great insight into the whole Catherine issue, as well as Wolfe’s puzzlebox style. I mean, I cannot think of another SF work that is still being debated, analyzed, and discussed thirty years after its initial publication. Keep the great articles coming.

  2. Michael Andre-Driussi

    Hello there Aaron Singleton,

    Thank you for posting, and thank you for your kind words!


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